Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Movie Poster Image
Campy sci-fi undersea adventure features mild peril.
  • NR
  • 1961
  • 105 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea espouses positive messages about composure under pressure, heroism, and the duty to protect one's country at any cost.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many characters are loyal, honest, science-minded folks who aim to solve problems, help their country, and protect their shipmates. Others are superficially drawn -- the religious fanatic, the hotheaded sailor, the overzealous captain -- but overall their focus is to save the planet from harm.


The film is consistently perilous as the submarine and crew deal with the threat of rising temperatures on Earth and the possible destruction of the planet. In a few instances, swimmers battle a giant squid and an octopus and electrocute and/or stab it. A woman falls into a shark tank and screams and is ostensibly eaten (but it's not shown). A few men are shown drowning and are then presumed dead. A man holds everyone captive with a bomb threat. Explosions, fires, and gas rock or otherwise disrupt the submarine, either from natural causes or saboteurs. The sky glows red with fire. Crew members suffer from heat, gas, or smoke exposure or inhalation. A small submarine explodes on contact, careening through a water minefield. Two sailors throw a few punches until they're separated. 


A man and woman kiss. Several shots focus specifically on a woman's behind, legs, and body.


No profanity, but some gendered comments, such as referring to the submarine as a "demanding lady" and, true to the early 1960s time period in which this film is based, referring to a woman scientist as a "lady physicist" or "lady psychiatrist." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Casual cigarette and cigar smoking is shown throughout, typical of the era.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is an early 1960s sci-fi adventure film (which later had a TV show of the same name) with a doomsday/apocalyptic plot anticipating Earth's demise. It features some casual cigarette smoking, some old-fashioned references to women, and a few obviously zoomed-in shots on the female body. There is peril throughout, and a few deaths occur on-screen, though the violence is largely implied, inexplicit, or campy.

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What's the story?

Admiral Nelson (Walter Pidgeon) is taking his new submarine, the Seaview, on diving trials when they discover that the Van Allen radiation belts are heating up Earth's temperature by two degrees every 24 hours. Nelson and his crew, including his secretary, Lieutenant Cathy Connors (Barbara Eden), and her fiancé, Captain Crane (Robert Sterling), must act fast, and as time wears on and destruction is nigh, crew members are tested, and it isn't helping that there appear to be one or more saboteurs on board. If they can't find a way to stop the broiling "sky fire" and identify the traitors, Earth has only three weeks to live -- or faces cremation.

Is it any good?

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA is a campy, funny sci-fi movie of its era. The special effects are neat (giant squid, octopus) and the cast is all-star for its day. Some of the deep-blue-sea and fiery-sky shots and wrestling with giant sea creatures are fantastic for the time, and the other era-specific tells -- the casual smoking, the zoom-in on a shaking behind -- could be interesting conversation starters about changing attitudes over the past half-century toward both women's bodies and cigarettes. Other attitudes have only slightly shifted: Women won't make up 20 percent of crews serving on submarines until 2020.

For kids interested in submarines, science fiction, and old movies, this is a pretty tame introduction to those genres, and parents (or grandparents) of a certain age can still swoon over Barbara Eden and Frankie Avalon or laugh about the advancements we've made in understanding our own universe.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about apocalyptic scenarios in films. How does this film compare to other movies you've seen with a doomsday scenario? Is it realistic? Why, or why not?

  • The film centers on concern for the Van Allen radiation belts, at the time considered a real concern. What do we know now about the Belts that filmmakers at the time did not? Visit NASA to read more about these invisible particles.

  • Visit the Navy's FAQ to read more about what life is really like on a submarine, including when women can serve on them.

Movie details

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For kids who love science fiction

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