Das Boot (1981)



Critic Consensus: Taut, breathtakingly thrilling, and devastatingly intelligent, Das Boot is one of the greatest war films ever made.

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Das Boot is one of the most gripping and authentic war movies ever made. Based on an autobiographical novel by German World War II photographer Lothar-Guenther Buchheim, the film follows the lives of a fearless U-Boat captain (Jurgen Prochnow) and his inexperienced crew as they patrol the Atlantic and Mediterranean in search of Allied vessels, taking turns as hunter and prey. There's very little plot, so the movie's power comes from both its riveting, epic battle scenes and its details of the boring hours spent waiting for orders or signs of the enemy. With the exception of one staunch Hitler Youth lieutenant, none of the crew is particularly loyal to the Nazis, and some are openly hostile toward their Fuhrer; this allows viewer sympathy with the men as they perform their laborious, monotonous duties in cramped, filthy quarters, or await death as depth charges explode all around the sub. Prochnow is excellent as the nerves-of-steel commander, and many of the supporting actors -- all German -- are solid as well, although the characterizations border on war movie clichés (the young crewman who has left behind his pregnant girlfriend, the Chief Engineer whose wife is seriously ill). The real star, however, is cinematographer Jost Vacano, who makes the sub's grimy, claustrophobic interior come to vivid life, as his camera follows the crew through hatches, up ladders, into bunks, and under pipes, creating a palpable sense of claustrophobia while injecting it with movement. Originally edited by writer/director Wolfgang Petersen as both a two-and-a-half hour theatrical release and a six-hour German miniseries, Das Boot was re-released in a restored version in 1997 with nearly one hour of added footage which made it even more suspenseful than before.
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Columbia Pictures

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Herbert Grönemeyer
as Lt. Werner
Klaus Wennemann
as Chief Engineer
Hubertus Bengsch
as 1st Lt./Number One
Martin Semmelrogge
as 2nd Lieutenant
Heinz Hoenig
as Hinrich
U.A. Ochsen
as Chief Bosun
Erwin Leder
as Johann `The Ghost'
Bernd Tauber
as Chief Quartermaster
Martin May
as Midshipman Ullmann
Jan Fedder
as Pilgrim
Ralf Richter
as Frenssen
Joachim Bernhard
as Preacher
Oliver Stritzel
as Schwalle
Konrad Becker
as Bockstiegel
Martin Hemme
as Bruckenwilli
Roger Barth
as Thomas Boxhammer
Christian Bendomir
as Gunther Franke
Albert Kraml
as Norbert Fronwald
Peter Pathenis
as Jean-Claude Hoffmann
Christian Seipolt
as Arno Kral
Ferdinand Schaal
as Helmut Neumeier
Rolf Weber
as Wilhelm Pietsch
Lothar Zajicek
as Dirk Salomon
Rita Cadillac
as Monique
Otto Sander
as Thomsen
Günter Lamprecht
as Captain of the Weser
Edwige Pierre
as Nadine
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Critic Reviews for Das Boot

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (10)

Everything described in the film is authentic.

Full Review… | February 22, 2012
Top Critic

The film has no qualities beyond its formal polish.

Full Review… | December 9, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Agripping, impressively detailed account of one harrowing voyage by a German U-boat during World War II.

Full Review… | March 18, 2009
Top Critic

Petersen's shooting style displays a breathtaking, if impersonal and faintly academic, virtuosity comparable to that of Lean or Coppola.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Das Boot is yet another moving testament to the wastefulness of battle.

August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

The film reaches right out to grab us by the neck and squeeze hard.

February 2, 2002
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Das Boot

A tense, claustrophobic and intense film that makes us empathize with soldiers from the wrong side of an inglorious war, and what a a terrific cinematography and outstanding sound and sound design, especially considering that the whole movie was shot silent and later re-dubbed.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Speaking as a submarine veteran of both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, this is by far the grittiest, most realistic sub movie I've ever seen. Technically and emotionally stunning.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

An extraordinary well-made, politically savvy submarine movie concerning a group of German soldiers during WW2 who have doubts concerning the direction of the Nazi regime, but have no say in the matter when they are ordered to go out sea and search for enemy vessels. One has to give director Wolfgang Peterson a ton of credit for being so bold in attempting to get the audience on the side of a group of Nazis, a task which he does successfully through the use of subtly showing their doubts and uncertainty that they are fighting for the right cause. The twists and plotting that are on display here are something you could not script any better, as Peterson's shrewd camera work coupled with his ability to gauge when to hold his audience in suspense or deliver the excitement in bundles proves to be captivating. The final, devastating twist single-handedly pushes this movie into "elite" status, as it is one that is so emotionally ravaging and unexpected that it will leave you stunned upon conclusion. Without question one of the best foreign films constructed, and one that demands repeat viewings over one's lifespan.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

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