The Cruel Sea (1953)

Approved  |   |  Drama, War  |  19 August 1953 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 2,927 users  
Reviews: 51 user | 19 critic

The World War II adventures of a British convoy escort ship and its officers.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Stratton ...
John Warner ...
Bruce Seton ...
Liam Redmond ...
Julie Hallam (as Virginia Mc Kenna in closing credits)
Elaine Morell
June Thorburn ...
Doris Ferraby
Megs Jenkins ...
Tallow's Sister
Meredith Edwards ...
Yeoman Wells
Glyn Houston ...


At the start of World War II, Cmdr. Ericson is assigned to convoy escort HMS Compass Rose with inexperienced officers and men just out of training. The winter seas make life miserable enough, but the men must also harden themselves to rescuing survivors of U-Boat attacks, while seldom able to strike back. Traumatic events afloat and ashore create a warm bond between the skipper and his first officer. Atmospheric sea footage. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

escort | convoy | sea | u boat | survivor | See All (38) »


Monsarrat's brilliant best seller comes surging to life


Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 August 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Det grymma havet  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)| (Gaumont Kalee)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Stanley Baker fought for the part of Bennett, and actually replaced another actor who had originally been cast. See more »


Some depth charges are clearly labelled "INERT FILLED." See more »


Capt. Ericson: [after choosing a battle strategy that has cost lives] I had to do it!
Lockhart: Anyway, it's all in the report.
Capt. Ericson: It was my fault!
Lockhart: I... I identified it as a submarine. If anyone murdered those men, I did.
Capt. Ericson: No one murdered them - it's the war, the whole bloody war! We've just got to do these things and say our prayers at the end.
See more »


Featured in Fifties British War Films: Days of Glory (2013) See more »


The Chestnut Tree
or "The Spreading Chestnut Tree" (uncredited)
Author unknown, perhaps traditional song
Sung by the sailors in the raft to keep wake
See more »

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User Reviews

The definitive naval war movie
19 August 2000 | by (Bracebridge Ont) – See all my reviews

The Cruel Sea is a powerful film that puts you in the battle of the Atlantic. The black and white photography unintentionally conveys the gritty reality of a grim war.(Somebody has said that World War II was a war fought in black and white.) And although the special effects are primitive by today's standards, they are still pretty impressive. The film is an prime example of the post war school of British cinema before it was subsumed by Hollywood. It is a fine film, a fine war film and a fine piece of accurate history.

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