Posted January 24, 2011 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in Features

Top Ten Submerged Thrillers

The sea can be a tranquil, relaxing place, but it can also deadly, and unsurprisingly it’s been the setting for a multitude of exciting and nail-biting movies. Just look at Sanctum – released February 4th , the new 3D underwater adventure from Executive Producer James (Avatar, Titanic) Cameron in which a group of thrill-seeking divers get trapped in an uncharted underwater cave system. To mark its release, we take a look at best thrillers that take place beneath, on, just above, or even just bobbing around in the ocean.

Open Water

Open Water was marketed somewhat as “The Blair Witch Project in the sea with sharks”, and to be fair that not an inaccurate description. A couple fall off boat and bob around in the water, while sharks slowly start to circle them. That’s about it, but it’s unbearably tense and gripping for the whole of it’s brief 80 minute running time.


If Open Water was “The Blair Witch Project in the sea with sharks” then Adrift was “The Blair Witch Project in the sea without even the sharks”. It was even sold as a sequel to Open Water in some countries. This time it’s a group of friends and a baby that get stuck in the water, and it’s an equally nerve shredding piece of cinema.

The Abyss

James Cameron’s previous undersea adventure was revolutionary in its day, with computer generated effects that blew audiences away. Nowadays, however, it looks like a cut scene from a low budget Playstation One game. Yet Cameron is such a good film maker that the film still holds up today despite the dated effects, and is definitely worth seeking out if you’ve never seen it.

The Poseidon Adventure

Paul Gallico’s adventure novel about a capsizing ocean liner has been filmed several times, including a recent big screen version with Kurt Russell and a TV movie version with Steve Guttenberg! Yet it’s the star-studded 1972 version, headlined by Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine that remains the classic take on the tale, in all it’s 70s disaster movie glory.

The Big Blue

Ultra stylish French auteur Luc Besson directed this tale of the rivalry between two competing free divers in his native country, before hitting the big time with Leon and The Fifth Element, and unsurprisingly it looks absolutely beautiful. More of a slow burn thriller than a high octane action-fest, it presents one of the most transcend visions of the ocean ever seen on screen.


Based on the novel by Jurassic Park and Westworld author Michael Crichton stars Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L Jackson as members of an undersea research team who discover what appears to be an extra-terrestrial spaceship at the bottom of the ocean. It is basically Alien under the waves, and none the worse for it.

The Perfect Storm

Loosely based on a true story, The Perfect Storm sees George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg as fishermen who get caught at sea in a lethal thunderstorm. However, since no –one survived to tell the tale, many have questioned it’s “true story” credentials. It’s probably best best not to think about that and just enjoy it as the fantastic rip-roaring action film that it is.

Das Boot

Wolfgang Petersen’s epic tale of German U-boat and it’s crew in World War II was originally made for television and re-cut for a theatrical release in America, and due to it’s unorthodox origins it exists in several versions. However, even the shortest version is an epic 150 minutes, meaning that whatever version you watch it’s a gruelling, draining, claustrophobic experience, much like living on a U-boat must have been.


Ok, this one might be a little be of a cheat, as it’s only the climax of this Sean Connery-era Bond flick that’s set under the ocean, but you can’t really have a rundown of the coolest undersea action with having James Bond scrapping with evil SPECTRE frogman. In truth, Thunderball is nowhere near as good as its predecessor, the peerless Goldfinger, but it’s still a great slice mid-sixties cool none the less.


Executive Producer James Cameron goes back underwater for this nail-biting tale of thrill seeking divers who get trapped in uncharted underwater caves. The film uses the state of the art 3D technology that Cameron developed for Avatar, which makes the stunning scenery look absolutely incredible, and the third dimension gives the film a striking claustrophobic feel. It’ll have you on the edge of your seat and gasping for air.

SANCTUM is released February 4th

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.