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Expedition: Bismarck (2002)

An underwater expedition to the German battleship Bismarck and digitally reconstructs events that led up to the ship's sinking during World War II.

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 5 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lance Henriksen ... Narrator (voice)
James Cameron ... Himself
Karl Kuhn Karl Kuhn ... Himself - Bismarck Survivor
Heinz Steeg Heinz Steeg ... Himself
Walter Weintz Walter Weintz ... Himself - Bismarck Survivor
Holger Herwig Holger Herwig ... Himself - Bismarck Historian (as Dr. Holger Herwig)
Mike Cameron ... Himself
Adrian Paul DeGroot Adrian Paul DeGroot ... Himself - ROV Technician (as Adrian Degroot)
David J. Bercuson David J. Bercuson ... Himself - Bismarck Historian (as Dr. David Bercuson)
Genya Chernaiev Genya Chernaiev ... Himself - MIR 2 Pilot (as Genya Cherniaev)
Lori Johnston Lori Johnston ... Herself - Expedition Scientist
Curt Lowens ... Walter Weintz (voice)
Richard Doyle ... Karl Kuhn (voice)
Kai Wulff ... Heinz Steeg - Bismarck Survivor (voice)
Blake Sutton Blake Sutton ... Young Walter Weintz


It was WWII's most fearsome ship. A ship so powerful, it sank the pride of the British fleet with a single salvo. Hearing the news, Winston Churchill saw no choice. He sent nearly the entire Royal Navy to hunt and destroy the Bismarck. But what really happened to this German legend? Was she sunk? Or was she scuttled? Now Titanic director James Cameron returns to the high seas to tell the tale and search for the truth. Leading a team of explorers, historians and Bismarck survivors, Cameron examines the wreck three miles down and discovers the answers that may finally end the debate. With revolutionary production techniques and high-tech Remotely Operated Vehicles, Cameron lights up this dark world and gives us the first glimpse inside the Bismarck in more than 60 years. Stunning high-definition footage shows underwater images with cinematic clarity. And cutting-edge animation and ultra-realistic reenactments bring the survivors' stories to life. Join the expedition and relive the ... Written by Unlucky Man666

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Official Sites:

Discovery Channel




English | German | Russian

Release Date:

8 December 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

James Cameron's Expedition: Bismarck See more »

Filming Locations:

Hamburg, Germany See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The recreations of the Bismarck were filmed aboard the USS North Carolina, a decommissioned World War II battleship. The ship now serves as a museum in Wilmington, North Carolina. See more »


Referenced in Capturing Avatar (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Enjoyable documentary, worth a look despite some flaws
23 November 2008 | by SqueeleSee all my reviews

In a nutshell: director James Cameron and his crew (among them his engineer brother Mike, German WWII veterans, DP Vince Pace and a bunch of equally brilliant scientists and historians) join a Russian research ship in order to film the wreckage of battleship Bismarck, a ginormous Nazi cruiser sunk by the British (or was she?) in May 1941 off the coast of France, or as the commentary by Lance Henriksen dubs her: "the Death Star of her time".

This is a docu-fiction type of documentary. Phenomenal archive footage and stunning present-day images are blended (sometimes not flawlessly) with CGI schematics as well as stiff period dramatization. As much as I love Jim Cameron's movies (I truly think he's one of the most important filmmakers working today, even his lesser efforts in the fiction domain being better than 95% of their rivals IMHO) I wasn't introduced yet to his documentary work. Now that I've seen "Expedition: Bismarck" I honestly can recommend it to anyone interested in history, underwater filming, or just documentaries altogether. That being said, some of Cameron's flaws or shortcomings as an artist were more visible here than in his previous work, and it prevented me to completely dive into it.

Cameron's brand of tech-heavy obsession transpires logically more here than in any other film. There is a strong emphasis on engineering aspects and basic underwater physics. As much as it's portrayed efficiently with much pedagogic concern, it might be a bit hard to follow for the younger - or less tutored - audience. The first 30 minutes skip quite bizarrely through the historical facts, the Bismarck being portrayed in such a hammy manner than its sinking in comparison seems like a mere footnote. As much as this choice pays off later on, I still found the intro quite unbalanced and suffering from a poor dramatization that looks like a cheap A&E biography.

Another annoying aspect was the historical theories submitted by the film. Much like another Cameron-produced documentary (you know, that obnoxious movie about the tomb of Jesus?) some established historical theories are being challenged here by the filmmakers. And even if I don't believe in any bias on their end, the way they present their "discoveries" is way too rushed or opaque to be credible. Sometimes James Cameron and his mates sound like smug, arrogant tomb raiders jumping to conclusions while said conclusions are neither really explained nor sustaining their arguments. Nothing in this movie shows a lack of good faith from the filmmakers, but the way they mistake themselves for History detectives is totally out of place.

That being said, these flaws are quite forgettable compared to the astounding undersea filming. This is truly the most breathtaking marine film since Louis Malle and Jacques Yves Cousteau's groundbreaking 50's film "Le monde du silence". And more importantly, the usual criticism toward Cameron's work (a so-called coldness and lack of emotion) is here negated by the very moving story of two 80 year-old men who survived the sinking. The genuine emotion from those two German WWII vets not only humanizes the story, but shows how young spirits could've been brainwashed by the Nazi propaganda. Yesterday's enemies being today's friends gives this movie a well-earned upbeat ending that never feels staged or stolen.

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