20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

20000 leagues under the sea poster 1954 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Still looks great for its age and interesting characters

Story gets a bit long

Movie Info

Movie Name:  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Studio:  Walt Disney Productions

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Family

Release Date(s):  December 23, 1954

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


It’s the “monster”!

A monster is attacking ships in the seas and all the shipping lines are threatened.  Professor Pierre M. Aronnax (Paul Lukas) and Conseil (Peter Lorre) are out to disprove the existence of the “monster” and find passage upon a ship trying to stop the attacks.  When their ship is sunk, Aronnax, Conseil, and a sailor named Ned Land (Kirk Douglas) find themselves aboard a submarine with a madman named Nemo (James Mason) whose ideas of sea life and man are warped.  Now prisoners, Conseil and Ned want to escape, but Aronnax finds himself enthralled with the intelligence of Nemo and the hope he could provide for the future of mankind.


Yes, I’m well aware that leagues are used to measure distance and not depth…

Directed by Richard Fleischer, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea adapts the classic 1870 science-fiction novel of Jules Verne.  It was one of Disney’s earliest live action films and also one of its few science fiction films.  The film was well-received and one of the biggest moneymakers of the year.  The film became the basis for a popular ride in Disney’s parks and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing but won the Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is classic adventure.  The story is relatively faithful to the original story in concept, but streamlines the story a bit to give it more of a conclusion.  The film and the book are considered to be an early version of steampunk with the Nautilus being much more technologically advanced than the Victorian period in which the story is set.


I have a whale of a tale to tell!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is nice wholesome family fun.  The story isn’t afraid to get dark at points and still is a challenging enough character study of Nemo that adults can enjoy watching the film to understand what is going on between Nemo and Aronnax.  The movie bases its plot around the fun anti-hero that despite being crazy does have a magnetic personality.

The acting in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is also quite good.  While Douglas is the headliner, he shares the film with three other great performances…plus a sea lion.  Douglas is good as the brash Ned Land and also gets the job of having to be the comic relief in many scenes including the classic song “A Whale of a Tale”.  Mason is great as Nemo is seems teetering on the edge of insanity…he does a great job having Nemo make a lot of sense but still seem made.  Paul Lukas’ infatuation with Nemo seems legitimate, and Lukas and Mason have a good chemistry.  I always love Peter Lorre and his character as someone who can easily switch sides seems appropriate.


Hi…I just wanted to give you a hug!

Visually, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea excelled at the time it was made.  The Nautilus feels real and this reality helps the film.  The great battle with the giant squid does have some fakeness to it, but the movie’s style helps make it work.  At points the film shows its age, but it also has a nice charm to it.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a classic and still a lot of fun.  The movie is a bit long and kids might get bored…but Disney even realized the value of a sidekick by adding Esmeralda the Sea Lion for the kids.  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has been made multiple times and a new version of the film always seems to be in the works…but this version still remains the best.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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