Over at my place we’ve had a little fun listing the “best” movies involving the U.S. Navy.

My choice of the top 5 are (in no particular order):

  1. In Harm’s Way
  2. Mr. Roberts
  3. Destination Tokyo
  4. Operation Petticoat
  5. The Caine Mutiny

Others have offered up the Bridges of Toko-Ri (Steeljaw sayeth: “How could you pass on Bridges at Toko-ri? Straight decks, Panther jets, AND Grace Kelly to boot…???”), Run Silent Run Deep, The Enemy Below, They Were Expendable, The Sand Pebbles and several more.

Now, I know this is not budget talk or Insurv fun, but for a change of pace – what movies about the U.S. Navy (and thus, not “Das Boot“) make up your list? By the way, there are no votes yet for The Incredible Mr. Limpet . . . or for the alluringly titled The Kingsbury Thrust Bearing.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Navy

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  • Byron

    Enemy Down Below, Robert Mitchum, Kurt Jurgens

    The Bedford Incident, Richard Widmark

    Two movies which sort of set me up to be very good at ASW when I played Harpoon 🙂

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Oooh. A tough call. In “The Enemy Below”, Mitchum actually opened his eyes once or twice. But it is tough to beat Bogey. One not on the list is “The Hunt for Red October”. Not Navy-centric, but the portrayal of Jonesey the Sonar Tech makes it one of the best Navy movies ever.

    But I will admit I did like the McHale’s Navy movie.

  • Rogue

    Lots of great movies already listed…not one I don’t like.

    I haven’t been able to pass up Midway since I was a child. It always made me think of my uncle who was a Wildcat pilot later in the war.

    When it comes to fun Navy movies, don’t forget Down Periscope with Kelsey Grammer. That movie was later the subject of a Proceedings article and I used it for a grad school paper on leadership.

  • An obscure 1944 movie sometimes shown on Turner classic movies is A Wing and a Prayer with Dana Andrews and Harry Morgan. It has some neat model work for the day and probably the first recreation of the Battle of Midway.

    One of my all-time favorites is Captain Horatio Hornblower with Gregory Peck.

  • Scott Scheurich

    I like “Midway”, “They were expendable”, and “The Wings of Eagles”. How about a fun one like “Operation Petticoat” with Cary Grant. And I do like “Top Gun”.

  • JEB

    They Were Expendable — The Duke plays PT boat division commander Johnny Bulkeley.

  • Jay

    All good. I would add “Top Gun” — somewhat cheesy, but great cinematography, “In Which We Serve” — not US, but decent, showed some of the unsung heroes, prob the entire series of “Victory At Sea”. I like Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington;’s performance both, so add “Crimson Tide” — but the double mutiny is a bit much to swallow. “Master and Commander” is well done.

  • Andy (JADAA)

    Keeping it U.S. Navy-centric:

    “Sand Pebbles”
    “Harm’s Way”
    “They Were Expendable”
    “The Enemy Below”
    “Run Silent, Run Deep”
    “Mr. Roberts”
    “The Caine Mutiny”

    Honorable mention:
    “Down Periscope”
    “Crimson Tide” – The Navy Hymn over the putting to sea still moves me to the core

    Naval Aviation-themed:
    “Dive Bomber” (I was born and raised in Coronado and it was my first duty station, all-color pre-WWII naval air at North Island in its gaudy finest)
    “The Bridges at Toko-Ri”
    “Wing and a Prayer” (one of Don Ameche’s best roles ever)
    “Men of the Fighting Lady”
    “Top Gun”

    Honorable Mention:
    “Flight of the Intruder”
    “Wings of the Navy”

    Best naval themed films, regardless of nationality:
    “Das Boot”
    “In Which We Serve”
    “Corvette K-225”
    “Action in the North Atlantic”
    “Master and Commander”
    “Mutiny on the Bounty” (toss up between all 3 best known)
    “Billy Budd”

    Honorable mention:
    BBC’s “Hornblower” series
    “Sink the Bismarck”


  • In addition to many of the ones listed above, i like to add The Eternal Sea with sterling Hayden which according to the NYT, “The Eternal Sea is the biography of American admiral John M. Hoskins. Sterling Hayden delivers a superbly understated performance as Hoskins, who continued to serve throughout WW2 despite the loss of a leg in the early phases of the conflict. The admiral’s farsighted activities as commander of the aircraft carrier Princeton led to the development of the more sophisticated jet-aircraft carriers of the Korean War.”

  • UltimaRatioReg

    How about “Away All Boats” with Jeff Chandler. A good one for those of the less glamorous but equally important support fleet.

  • SJBill

    1. When my daughter Marlene was 5 she took a liking to “The Gallant Hours.” How can I argue with her choice!
    2. & 3. “Hunt for Red October” soothes my ASW bones, as does “Enemy Below.”
    4. Ned Beach’s thriller, “Run Silent, Run Deep.”
    5. “Midway”
    6. “The Caine Mutiny.”
    7. “Bridges of Toko Ri”
    8. “Mister Roberts”
    9. “In Harm’s Way.”
    10. “The Fighting SeaBees.” (I have to have one John Wayne movie!)

  • QMC (SW) (ret)

    No one has mentioned Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid in “The Last Detail”?

    “I AM the motherf***ing shore patrol!”

  • lesser ajax

    I would just point out that not only is “Down Periscope” pretty funny, but it’s also a more accurate depiction of Navy culture than most people would like to admit.

  • Byron

    (Bangs head on keyboard) “Men of Honor”, the story of Master Diver Carl Brashear, with Cuba Gooding Jr. And if I’m not mistaken, there was a ship just named after Chief Brashear.

  • Andy (JADAA)

    @QMC (SW): d’oh!! One of the best ever; and not a shot was fired! (although threatened!)

    @lesser ajax: When I first saw “DP” the dialogue alone told me it had been written at least in part by someone who knew his stuff.

    @Byron: Another d’oh! I think because it was a “people” movie it didn’t fall into my view.


  • Colin (Wedge) Donovan

    Can’t fault any of the choices, though I am sentimentally partial to “The Fighting Seabees.” Having reported aboard the day after the wardroom watched this classic, in which the Duke plays LCDR. “Wedge” Donovan, I arrived with my nickname already assigned to me.

  • Rogue

    Holy cow, how did I miss Men of Honor? A great, great movie.

    Byron, a ship was named after Master Chief Brashear, T-AKE 7, USNS CARL BRASHEAR.


    http://hamptonroads.com/node/130671 – Virginia Pilot Story on his death

  • Byron

    BZ to Robert De Niro for showing up for the launch festivities! Gotta wonder though why the actor that portrayed Chief Brashear, Cuba Gooding Jr. didn’t make an appearance. It’s not often you see Hollywood rub shoulders with the military, and I’m damn glad that Mr. De Niro felt that he should be there.

  • FOD Detector

    Hmmm..I served with RADM Bulkeley when he was at INSURV. Colorful guy.

    No Way Out starring Kevin Costner with Don Rumsfeld as SECDEF and Scooter Libby as his aide.

  • Byron

    Did you mean to type “Gene Hackman”, or was it supposed to be satire? I’m far too unsophisticated to tell, especially in the midst of a light hearted discussion of our favorite Naval Movies.

    Maybe I’m just too dumb to get it?

  • FOD Detector

    Did I mention Dick Cheney played the Soviet spy handler?

  • FOD Detector

    There’s always On the Town starring Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and I think it was Alberto Gonzalez.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Hey FOD,

    You undoubtedly will be cordially invited to the commissioning of the USS Barney Frank. One o’ them brand-new Rostenkowski-class barges.

  • Byron

    FOD, one more thing: It must be really sad to see the long-hated and reviled Republicans out of power. You’ve lost so much. I truly feel sorry for you, it must be very hard not to have anyone to be bitter about.

    And in case you haven’t figured it out, you haven’t said a thing that anyone takes seriously anymore.

    We will now return you to our regularly scheduled discussion.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Ditto Byron’s comments. MUCH more interested in hearing about what it was like to serve with/under RADM Bulkeley. Without the ideological styrofoam peanuts you pack everything with.

  • Matt Hayball

    Serving under RADM Bulkeley, even as the Insurv addu head (and fan room) inspector when he was the PresINSURV (the Head Insurv Inspector),was an honor and a privilege.

    Reputedly the greatest fire eater in the WWII surface navy, in person he was the real deal, the personification of gentlemanly class with bottomless gravitas. Robert Montgomery caught a tiny piece of “Uncle John” when he reeled in John Wayne in the back of the C47 at the end of “They Were Expendable”.

    If it was 1600 on Monday and the board was on a bird farm, the old man had just worn out an airdale four striper. He climbed the mast to the truck on every carrier we inspected, with the CO in tow, and then literally went from stem to stern and down to the double bottom. He was in his sixties and looked like a stocky, white haired, retired civil engineer, or maybe railroad engineer. Dignified and weathered, with eyes that showed expertise and responsibility.

    His knowlege of ships was encyclopedic. A great naval officer and a great man. Should have been CNO and CJCS.

  • pk

    there used to be a little number entitled “installation and maintainence of mechanical seals”.

    any one who managed to stay conscious through the first four minutes then saw a considerable collection of XXX entertainment the high point of which was Carol Doda crawling out onto a stage and standing up.


  • Since I like history as well…30 seconds over Tokyo, Midway, Tora, Tora, Tora, not really a movie, but the PBS mini series Carrier was fairly well done, Men of Honor was excellent. If you think about it, there really have been a bunch of great Navy oriented films over the years. Since I said great, you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Pearl Harbor which I actually hated.

    I did DC when I was in, so I actually liked some of the training films we got to see like the one on the Forrestal fire and the Oriskany. There was one I saw in A School about the A Bomb tests that showed camera footage from onboard some of the test ships that was pretty cool.

  • Jay

    Now boys… can’t you ever play nice? Geez…

  • Men of Honor was an awesome movie!
    BTW, the Naval Institute captured Brashear’s Oral History and his first hand accounts are definitely worth the read.

  • sid

    Good little documentary played last night on TMC after “Ice Station Zebra” about the guy who filmed the real life action shots.

    ex-Photomate, John M. Stevens. He devised the camera container for all the sub shots (forgot which boat they had use of).

    He was also the one who set up all the filming in the cars for “Grand Prix.”

    In your face real life action stuff…

  • JohnM

    Seeing how George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Albert Sullivan have had 2 destroyers collectively named after them, DD537 & DDG68, The Fighting Sullivans deserves an honorable mention.

  • CSCS(SW), Retired

    Hi – Great list, many I had forgotten. Does anyone know the movie which, takes place on a carrier, and the subplot is a sailor who is lost and shows up in one scene to the next, carrying his seabag, and simply wants to find his rack? Thanks!

  • Platkin

    The best true to life Navy movie was “The Last Detail” Anyone who was in the surface fleet Navy in the 70’s should watch this. Lost in transit at NOB doing chaser duty. This was the real Navy!

  • Bill

    I’m not saying it’s the best Navy movie but “The Final Countdown” is one I like a lot. It was made during the 70s when I was in the Navy, QM2, USS Johnston DD-821, it has some great carrier ops footage, it was written by someone who knew the navy well and most of the enlisted characters were played by actual ships company. My vote it would be around 7-8 in the top 10.

  • AN Graham


  • Ronald E. Hendrixon AE1USN(retired)

    Top Gun is good sci-fi fantasy….stretches the truth about the smarmy little navy officers though….