The deep blue sea is the last unchartered component of the Earth. The inky blackness of the Marianna Trench and the aqua majesty of the Caribbean beaches hide secrets in their mysterious and beautiful waters. The allure of a sailboat out on the open water with nothing but fish below and blue skies above is the stuff of legends. In the middle of the ocean, surrounded by nature is one of the most vulnerable places. That’s why space and sea are perfect settings for horror movies. Whether it is ghosts, creatures, or psychopaths with grudges there are plenty of truly scary movies set on boats. Here are the 20 Best Horror Movies Set On Ships or Subs. Many of these you can get for free on Tubi. Click here for the Best Horror On Tubi Right Now.
The crew of a trawler fights for survival against a parasite after they become marooned at sea.
This stunning Irish film is as beautiful as it is fun. Part fantasy, part science fiction, and part straight-up horror movie this is a film anyone would like. Even those not into horror movies will appreciate the interesting take on the sea and the secrets she holds. We were lucky enough to catch it at Fantastic Fest this past fall and it was easily one of the buzziest films to come out of the fest. The performances are all believable and the creature is incredible. For fans of the idea that the ocean calls to some of us like a siren waiting to slaughter us, Sea Fever is the real deal. It is an excellent example of eco-horror. Read our full review here and prepare for some time well spent.
In a remote region of the Bering Sea, a boat salvage crew discovers the eerie remains of a grand passenger liner thought lost for more than 40 years. But once onboard the eerie, cavernous ship, the crew of the Arctic Warrior discovers that the decaying vessel is anything but deserted. It’s home to something more deadly and horrific than anything they’ve encountered in all their years at sea.
The opening scene of Ghost Ship solidifies it as one of the 20 Best Horror Movies On Ships. If you haven’t seen this gem you will be blown away. If you have seen it, you know exactly what I am talking about. Many of the scenes were shot on the Queen Mary which has its own real history of creepy stuff happening which adds another element of fun to this horror at sea classic. If you liked director Stephen Beck’s other horror great Thir13en Ghosts you will like this one. They have a similar vibe.
Rae Ingram (Nicole Kidman) and her husband, John (Sam Neill), struggle to overcome the sudden death of their young son. In an attempt to move past their loss, the couple take their yacht out for an extended vacation trip. While far out at sea, they come across a sinking schooner and rescue the ship’s sole survivor, Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane). Hughie claims the crew of the ship died from food poisoning. Though Rae is empathetic towards Hughie, John is suspicious of his story.
Wow, Billy Zane and Sam Neill together in the same movie. My middle-aged horror heart is all aflutter. This suspenseful great is easily one of the best feminist thrillers of our time. Nicole Kidman who was only 20 years old, delivers a star-making performance. Director Phillip Noyce lets the superb minimalist cast and setting shine and the film is better for it. Everyone loves a good yuppie in peril film and this one is better than most. Plus, the payoff at the end is fun.
Yacht passengers encounter mysterious weather conditions that force them to jump onto another ship, only to have the odd havoc increase.
This is one of my favorite mind benders out there. There is gore, tension, and a whole lot of head-scratching. Melissa George is very good and the twist when revealed is excellent. George brings a slick mix of vulnerability and strength that makes her protagonist role that much more intriguing. This is a smart movie that is as scary as it is intelligent. There are symbols everywhere so make sure you are paying attention because this is the kind of movie where every moment matters. It took writer Christopher Smith two years to write the script as a result of all the complexity. There are a lot of moving pieces that all need to fall into place by the end. The fact that they do is nothing short of miraculous. This is a quality film, nuff said!
When a young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island, police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches, but mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) overrules him, fearing that the loss of tourist revenue will cripple the town. Ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and grizzled ship captain Quint (Robert Shaw) offer to help Brody capture the killer beast, and the trio engage in an epic battle of man vs. nature.
The classic ocean movie from the novel by Peter Benchley is still good. Yes, the shark doesn’t hold up in every scene but the acting and the score are beyond reproach. It is impeccably paced and continues to make people question their safety while swimming in the ocean. No matter how many times you have seen it, there’s always time for one more watch.
Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some issues to work out. They are drafted to assist a gung-ho Navy SEAL (Michael Biehn) with a top-secret recovery operation: a nuclear sub has been ambushed and sunk, under mysterious circumstances, in some of the deepest waters on Earth.
The Ed Harris vehicle is technically not on a ship but it’s so darn good I’m willing to fight for it. The aliens are gorgeous at least below water and the liquid oxygen scene is so cool it’s worth watching for that alone. Director James Cameron was willing to do just about anything to make this movie including abuse his actors if the rumors are true. I certainly don’t condone mistreating the talent but the end result is amazing.
When attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) knowingly withholds evidence that would acquit violent sex offender Max Cady (Robert De Niro) of rape charges, Max spends 14 years in prison. But after Max’s release, knowing about Sam’s deceit, he devotes his life to stalking and destroying the Bowden family. When practical attempts to stop Max fail, Sam realizes that he must act outside the law to protect his wife and daughter in Martin Scorsese’s remake of the classic 1962 thriller.
One of the rare exceptions to the remake rule, the 1991 mulligan is an Oscar winner’s delight. So many performances worth mentioning from top to bottom come together to make one terrifying movie. De Niro is one of the most iconic psychopathic killers of all time. He manages to be both subtle and over the top at the same time which is all but impossible but he manages somehow. He and Juliet Lewis entirely ad-libbed the scene in the high school showcasing their collective talent. Light on gore it is heavy on scares.
A newly unveiled ocean liner, the Argonautica sets out on its first cruise, only to encounter dangers both on board and in the ocean depths. While the beautiful thief Trillian (Famke Janssen) attempts to steal riches from the boat’s wealthy passengers, the ship encounters major problems, most notably a giant murderous sea creature with tentacles. Eventually, a boat captained by John Finnegan (Treat Williams) comes across the Argonautica, and everyone struggles to survive the monster.
It’s a guilty pleasure to be sure, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a place on the 20 Best Horror Movies On Ships list. The monster effects took over a year to complete but the end result is worth it. This is one of those rare films where there aren’t really any good guys as the humans are all thieves and the creature is, of course, a bloodthirsty monster. Deep Rising is silly fun, but it is tons of that!
Seven people meet in a night club in Spain and decide to continue the party on a luxury yacht. However, when one of them dies in an accident, the others contemplate how to explain the death, and soon they all find themselves in danger.
Donkey Punch is exactly what you think it will be brutal and disturbing. The dudes in question are massive dicks and everything wrong with toxic masculinity. There are a few pacing issues that make the film drag towards the middle. It’s about ten minutes too long. Aside from that, the tension is high, the behavior ugly, and the setting gorgeous.
Hired by Martin (Meg Foster), the head of a major corporation, a crew including geologist Steven Beck (Peter Weller) descends to the ocean’s depths for a mining project. When the undersea explorers find a sunken ship and investigate, they inadvertently bring a malevolent life form on board their vessel. The creature kills some crew members and causes them to mutate, resulting in a battle for survival against an unknown force far below the surface of the ocean.
There was a glut of these underwater horror movies released in 1989 and they all shared similar plots. With the exception of The Abyss, none of them were box office hits but most of them are worth a watch. This one is no exception. The chimera creature is a cool mix of recognizable and totally not, physiology which makes it more successful than some underwater beasts. The final product is a massive needle toothed monster who is capable of borrowing parts of his victims for his own anatomy. Kind of like The Thing, gross…
A group of U.S. Navy engineers, led by Capt. Laidlaw (Taurean Blacque), are building an underwater base when they inadvertently disturb the lair of a gigantic creature. The monster attacks, and the crew, including lovers Collins (Nancy Everhard) and McBride (Greg Evigan), tries to evacuate, but the facility is badly damaged. After the exterior is breached, the increasingly desperate people become separated from one another, and the creature begins to pick them off one by one.
This is another one not technically on a ship but whatever. Another of the 1989 ocean movies, this one was the first to be released. It’s much better than the critic ratings indicate and next to The Abyss, is the best of the time frame. Kane Hodder who all horror fans know as Jason Vorhees in the Friday the Thirteen franchise was the stunt coordinator for this underwater exploration gone very wrong film. DeepStar Six is a very underrated film with quality performances by a largely small budget cast.
A “National Geographic” film crew is taken hostage by an insane hunter, who forces them along on his quest to capture the world’s largest – and deadliest – snake.
Jon Voigt is fantastically creepy in this big snake film. The ship in question this time is floating down the Amazon river but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. The only thing scarier than the insanely large snake is the uber villainous Voigt who plays megalomaniac better than anyone. The cast is great in addition to Voigt with JLo, Owen Wilson, Ice Cube, Eric Stoltz, and Kari Wuhrer all pulling their weight. It meanders a bit and there is no real sense of urgency towards the end but it remains the best big ass snake movie out there.
A family sailing in isolated waters discovers the ship they bought holds terrifying secrets.
Star Gary Oldman deserves a look if nothing else. This haunted ship story is not the scariest of the group but it is something that you could show to the whole family. Mary is a slow burn Bermuda Triangle style film that takes full advantage of the claustrophobic setting. You could find far worse movies to watch.
The submarine U.S.S. Manta had a perfect record until the mysterious death of its captain. The next-in-command, Lt. Richard Brice (Bruce Greenwood) is determined to steer his disheartened crew back to safety. But after three battle survivors board the sub, bizarre and frightening things begin to happen. As the tale unfolds, and crew members begin to disappear, Ensign Douglas O’Dell (Matthew Davis) must piece together the puzzles of the submarine’s past before it is too late to resurface alive.
Darren Aronofsky of the super bleak Requiem For A Dream, Mother!, and Black Swan co-wrote this film and was slated to direct but chose Requiem instead. The USS Silversides was towed out into the middle of Lake Michigan for many of the scenes which lent a real sense of authenticity to the film that drives the tension throughout. Below is a super slick historic horror film that largely flew under the radar. It’s a shame because it is a fantastic movie that deserves a spot on the 20 Best Horror Movies On Ships list.
Caught in a typhoon, a tugboat commanded by Robert Everton (Donald Sutherland) comes across a mysterious near-deserted ship. Excited to find a vessel that could be sold for as much as $30 million, Everton and his crew board and prepare to move the craft, despite the warnings of sole survivor Nadia Vinogradiya (Joanna Pacula). When a malevolent alien presence begins killing off the crew, navigator Kit Foster (Jamie Lee Curtis) tries to convince the rest of them to leave before it’s too late.
The original Scream Queen herself Jamie Curtis stars alongside legendary Donald Sutherland. That alone should warrant a watch. It’s sci-fi horror cheesiest at its best. A successful mix of Alien and the X-Files this film doesn’t take itself to seriously, without completely forgetting its scary movie roots. There are Russians and robots and bone-chilling cold. What more could you want?
When psychologist Norman Goodman (Dustin Hoffman) wrote a report for the government on how to deal with extraterrestrial life forces, he didn’t expect his recommendations to be used. Now that a secret government agency is investigating what may be an alien spaceship that has been discovered partially buried on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, Norman finds that the plan he outlined is being put into effect and that the team he named in his report has been assembled.
Sphere isn’t a boat or a sub but it is one of the all-time best underwater sci-fi horror movies ever. Psychological horror mixed with incredible science fiction concepts make this one a must-see. Michael Chrichton writes novels that are as thought-provoking in their humanity as they are in futuristic concepts. Sphere is one of his best and when combined with acting talent like Samuel L. Jackson, Dustin Hoffman, Liev Schreiber, and Sharon Stone those characters spring off the screen. It is an incredible film that is intriguing no matter how many years have passed.
Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) is yachting on the Spanish coast with three companions when a freak storm causes their boat to founder on the rocks. Paul goes to a nearby village to get assistance, as two of his friends have been trapped in the boat’s wreckage. He notices that the locals seem odd, and their behavior grows increasingly strange. When Paul begins seeing a mermaid (Macarena Gomez) who has appeared in his nightmares, he realizes that the fearful world of his dreams is now a reality.
Lovecraftian beasts are a personal favorite. Dagon is based on the novel The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The otherworldly nature of cosmic horror speaks to the great unknown in a way that will forever scare us. This was one of those direct to video films that got lost in the sea(pun intended) of questionable horror. It is unexpectedly good with really slick creature work. Watch it and then go to landlocked Lovecraftian horror with the beautiful Color Out Of Space.
A crew of aquatic researchers work to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory. But the crew has more than the ocean seabed to fear.
A huge budget film with stellar performances and awesome creature work converge to make one hell of a good time. Kristen Stewart delivers a very Ellen Ripley underwater sort of performance that is fun to watch. This is another film with a Lovecraft influence. Director William Eubank has confirmed the creature was designed with Cthulhu the quintessential Lovecraftian monster in mind. Read our full review here.
A group of scientists exploring the Marianas Trench encounter the largest marine predator that has ever existed – the Megalodon.
The book by Steve Alton is arguably better source material than the Jason Statham led film but don’t let that deter you. This is one massive shark and the effects support the terror of that however remote possibility. It is high action, big stunts, and lots of claustrophobic tension. In fact, Statham did all his own swimming stunts as IRL he’s an expert swimmer. He represented England in the 1990 Commonwealth Games in diving. Pretty and talented, what more could you ask for?
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.