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John Wayne, the Duke, is an essential part of any ranking of the best naval films ever made. As the account of “Rock” Torrey, captain of a US Navy ship in a strangely romanticized version of the Pacific War, In Harm’s Way is a gripping read.
In order to rank naval films, it is really difficult. Having too many people to choose from is not the problem. The problem is that there are only a few bad movies about high-seas battles to go around. On Hollywood’s behalf, thank you. So, if you’re cooped up at home due to the coronavirus, here are ten of my personal favorites for you to enjoy while you wait for the virus to pass. What are the criteria for selection? What matters most in art are the characters, not the spectacular effects or staged combat scenes. In these films, human drama is explored in the confined confines of ships at sea or in the depths of the ocean. Once the ship’s lines have been released, the captain is king. In a crowded room, people with different personalities clash. Authors like as C. S. Forester, Patrick O’Brian, and Herman Wouk have inspired many of these works. Real-life historical personalities are depicted in several of these works. According to my own whims and desires:
1. Horatio Hornblower: The Wrong War (1999)
A&E produced a series of Hornblower films in the late 1990s, and I’m going to start by recommending them all. To get a sense of how the series works, read the first installment, The Duel. The Wrong War, on the other hand, is the best of the lot. Anglo-French expedition against Napoleonic France is the subject of this book. To overthrow Napoleon III and restore the Bourbon family to the throne, Hornblower’s skipper Sir Edward Pellew of the frigate HMS Indefatigable commanded a flotilla of royalist troops to land along the French coast. Hornblower and Major Lord Edrington, a British Army officer, lead a Royal Navy contingent ashore. This gripping story is surrounded by tensions between the British army and navy, British social classes, and the British and their French allies.
2. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
My personal favorite of all time. Fictional British warship HMS Surprise, ordered to capture an enemy French frigate in the South Atlantic during Napoleonic Wars, was the subject of a novel. How can Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey’s “Surprise” crew take on an enemy that is faster, better-equipped and more powerful? When it comes to high-seas adventure, Master and Commander is everywhere, as is the story of friendship and leadership. Luigi Boccherini and Ralph Vaughan Williams are two of the composers whose works are featured in the soundtrack.
3. The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Furthermore, this film is regarded as the best of its kind. Archetypes of American naval officers are said to exist in every wardroom through the characters in The Caine Mutiny. If this is the case, it’s a sobering depiction of real life in fiction. USS Caine’s officers remove Captain Queeg from command after a string of mishaps on the warship’s minesweeper mission during World War II. This is evident when it comes to “Halsey’s typhoon,” a ferocious storm that battered the Third Fleet during the final months of World War II. Officers accused of mutiny are brought to court-martial by Queeg. It’s a sad story of Queeg’s mental frailty that slowly comes out during the trial. The Caine Mutiny is a courtroom drama as well as a seafaring tale.
4. Mister Roberts (1955)
The genre’s most frequently amusing entry. Lt. Commander Morton of the USS Reluctant, better known as “The Bucket,” chafes at the tyranny of his crew. Aboard a destroyer or cruiser in the Navy, Lieutenant J.G. Roberts, the protagonist, acts as an intermediary between the ship’s captain and the rest of the crew. His diplomacy efforts are fascinating to watch. Roberts and Morton agree to a deal in which Morton will no longer seek a transfer and the captain will grant the crew their first time off in months. Misadventures are the inevitable outcome. Meanwhile, the film’s comic relief, Ensign Pulver, is slowly gaining the courage to stand up to the captain’s excesses. It’s a lighthearted show on an unattractive old tub that’s doing an unattractive job.
5. In Harm’s Way (1965)
John Wayne, the Duke, is an essential part of any ranking of the best naval films ever made. As the account of “Rock” Torrey, captain of a US Navy ship in a strangely romanticized version of the Pacific War, In Harm’s Way is a gripping read. Admiral Husband Kimmel is clearly referred to as “CINCPAC A,” but Chester Nimitz is referred to as “CINCPAC B.” Rather than place the fighting in real campaigns, why create South Pacific islands? However, the story isn’t harmed by these outlandish choices. Torrey, who had fallen out of favor after the attack on Pearl Harbor, regains it and is promoted to the rank of rear admiral, where he is in charge of amphibious and surface operations against Japan. A politician-cum-admiral and a heroic commander whose failed marriage leaves him in a very dark place, two archetypes reminiscent of The Caine Mutiny, make appearances. They Were Expendable, a gripping account of patrol torpedo boats in the Pacific, is an honorable mention in John Wayne navy films.
6. The Enemy Below (1957)
Submarine warfare has an allure that can’t be denied. If confined to a ship on the surface causes strained interpersonal relations, try setting a story in a submerged vessel. “The Enemy Below” tells the tale of a US Navy destroyer’s pursuit of a German U-boat during World War II. To date, I’ve not come across a better visual primer on how to find an underwater adversary, track it down, and then attack it. In addition, the psychological aspect is acute. During their lengthy encounter, the American and German captains grow to admire and respect one another. It’s a common misconception that the US Navy’s World War II story revolves around the oceans of the Pacific. Reminding the United States that it couldn’t fight in Europe without defeating the U-boats, The Enemy Below Storytelling that has a point to make.
7. Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
For the most part, this film combines the obsession and factionalism of Moby Dick and The Caine Mutiny into a single narrative. “Bungo Pete,” a Japanese destroyer ace who has sunk four U.S. Navy submarines in the Bungo Strait, including Richardson’s last boat, is the target of American submarine skipper P. J. Richardson’s vengeance. New command: Richardson persuades quiet-service leaders to give him a new role. As his lieutenant-commander, Lieutenant Commander Bledsoe, resents the fact that the skipper is obsessed with Bungo Pete, and that he doesn’t have a boat of his own. After being ordered to return to the strait, Richardson takes command of his submarine and returns to the water. Underwater battles erupt when a Japanese destroyerman reveals his unconventional tactics.
8. Crimson Tide (1995)
If you’re a purist, you’ll want to know if the US Navy’s regulations allow for sea officers to relieve their captain of duty in certain situations. In other words, what do you think? Let them argue. During the turbulent period between the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation, Crimson Tide is a fast-paced tale. Russian ultranationalist military units seize part of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and threaten nuclear war with the United States during an attempted coup. Nuclear-powered ballistic submarine Alabama is sent out on patrol by the U.S. Navy’s top brass as a form of deterrence. During a torpedo duel with a Russian Navy attack sub, communications with home are cut off. Preemptive strikes against Russia may have been ordered prior to the attack, but that cannot be confirmed. Captain Ramsey and Lieutenant Commander Hunter, the sub’s executive officer, square off over what to do in the absence of complete orders. Hunter refuses to agree to the release of nuclear weapons. Factions of the crew battle for control of the vessel. A gripping tale with apocalyptic overtones that will keep you on your toes.
9. The Admiral (2014)
The Admiral is here to dispel any misconceptions you may have about sailing. As Korea’s national hero, Admiral Yi Sun-sin put on one of the most impressive displays of martial prowess ever seen. The film depicts Admiral Yi’s repeated victories over the Japanese navy off the coast of Korea during the Imjin War (1592-1598), when Japan invaded the peninsula in an attempt to conquer the known world. Amidst court factionalism he was betrayed, only to return and re-establish a fleet for the Battle of Myeongnyang. The battle pitted a depleted Korean fleet against a numerically overwhelming Japanese fleet, a result of Yi’s absence. Thirteen ships took on a fleet of more than three hundred, and they prevailed! Heihachiro Tsushima, one of history’s most accomplished commanders and victor in the Battle of Tsushima (1905), argued that it was Yi, not Tsushima, who was Asia’s greatest naval hero.