Das Boot (German pronunciation: [das ˈboːt], German meaning “The Boat“) is a 1981 German epic war film written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, produced by Günter Rohrbach, and starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, and Klaus Wennemann. It has been exhibited both as a theatrical release and as a TV miniseries, and in several different home video versions of various running times.
Das Boot is an adaption of the 1973 German novel of the same name by Lothar-Günther Buchheim. Set during World War II, the film tells the fictional story of U-96 and its crew. It depicts both the excitement of battle and the tedium of the fruitless hunt, and shows the men serving aboard U-boats as ordinary individuals with a desire to do their best for their comrades and their country. The screenplay used an amalgamation of exploits from the real U-96, a Type VIIC-class U-boat.
Development for Das Boot began in 1979. Several American directors were considered three years earlier before the film was shelved. During the film’s production, Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, the captain of the real U-96 and one of Germany’s top U-boat “tonnage aces” during the war, and Hans-Joachim Krug, former first officer on U-219, served as consultants. One of Petersen’s goals was to guide the audience through “a journey to the edge of the mind” (the film’s German tagline Eine Reise ans Ende des Verstandes), showing “what war is all about”.
Produced with a budget of 32 million DM (about $18.5 million), the film was released on September 17, 1981 and was later released in 1997 in a director’s cut version supervised by Petersen. It grossed over $80 million ($190.2 million in 2009 prices) worldwide between its theatrical releases and received critical acclaim. Its high production cost ranks it among the most expensive films in the history of German cinema. It was the second most expensive up until that time, after Metropolis.