The Hunt for Red October (film)

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The Hunt for Red October
The Hunt for Red October movie poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn McTiernan
Produced byMace Neufeld
Screenplay by
Based onThe Hunt for Red October 
by Tom Clancy
Music byBasil Poledouris
CinematographyJan de Bont
Editing by
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 2, 1990 (1990-03-02) (United States)
Running time134 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$200,512,643
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The Hunt for Red October
The Hunt for Red October movie poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn McTiernan
Produced byMace Neufeld
Screenplay by
Based onThe Hunt for Red October 
by Tom Clancy
Music byBasil Poledouris
CinematographyJan de Bont
Editing by
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 2, 1990 (1990-03-02) (United States)
Running time134 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$200,512,643

The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 American action thriller film based on Tom Clancy's novel of the same name. It was directed by John McTiernan and stars Sean Connery as Captain Marko Ramius and Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan. The fictional story is set during the Cold War era; involving a rogue Russian naval captain who wishes to defect to the United States, and an American CIA analyst who correctly deduces that circumstance, and must prove his theory to the U.S. Navy to avoid a violent confrontation between the two nations. The ensemble cast features Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones and Sam Neill.

The film was a co-production between the motion picture studios of Paramount Pictures, Mace Neufeld Productions, and Nina Saxon Film Design. Theatrically, it was commercially distributed by Paramount Pictures and by the Paramount Home Entertainment division for home media markets. Following its wide release in theaters, the motion picture was nominated and won a number of accolades including the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing in 1991. On June 12, 1990, the original motion picture soundtrack was released by the MCA Records music label. The soundtrack was composed and orchestrated by musician Basil Poledouris.

The Hunt for Red October received mostly positive reviews from critics and was one of the top grossing films of the year, generating $122 million in North America and over $200 million worldwide in box office business. The film spawned a set of sequels throughout the years involving the fictional character of Jack Ryan. However, for the role of Ryan, a number of different actors were cast for the subsequent reincarnations of the film saga; including Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine.


In 1984, Soviet submarine Captain First Rank Marko Ramius (Connery) commands Red October, a new heavy-class nuclear sub featuring a caterpillar drive rendering it undetectable to passive sonar. Ramius leaves port on orders to conduct exercises with the submarine V.K. Konovalov, commanded by his former student Captain Tupolev (Skarsgård). Once at sea, Ramius kills political officer Ivan Putin (Firth), the only man aboard besides himself who knows the sub's orders. He then burns the orders, replaces them with counterfeit ones, and commands the crew to head toward America's east coast to conduct missile drills. The American submarine USS Dallas, on patrol in the North Atlantic, briefly detects Red October but loses contact once Ramius engages the silent drive.

The next morning, CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin) briefs government officials on the departure of Red October and the threat it poses. Officials in the briefing, learning that the bulk of the Soviet Navy has been deployed to sink Red October, fear Ramius may plan an unauthorized strike against the United States. Ryan, however, hypothesizes that Ramius instead plans to defect, and leaves for the North Atlantic to prove his theory before the U.S. Navy is ordered to sink Red October. Meanwhile, Tupolev, though unable to track Red October, guesses his former mentor's route and sets a new course across the Atlantic.

Typhoon-class submarine, the same type as the fictional Red October.

Red October's caterpillar drive fails during a deep sea maneuver. No longer silent, the submarine comes under attack by Soviet forces and begins risky maneuvers through undersea canyons. Petty Officer Jones (Vance), a sonar technician aboard Dallas who has discovered a way to detect Red October, plots an intercept course. Ryan arranges a hazardous mid-ocean rendezvous to get aboard Dallas, where he attempts to persuade its captain, Commander Bart Mancuso (Glenn), to contact Ramius and determine his intentions.

A Soviet Ambassador informs the U.S. that the sub is a renegade and asks for their help to sink it. An order to do this is communicated to the U.S. Fleet, including Dallas. However, Ryan is convinced Ramius plans to defect and convinces Mancuso to make contact with Ramius and offer assistance. Ramius, stunned that the Americans correctly guessed his plan, accepts their cooperation. He then stages a nuclear reactor emergency and orders the bulk of his crew to abandon ship, telling the doctor Petrov (Curry) that he and the other officers will scuttle the sub rather than let it be captured. After Ramius submerges Red October, Ryan, Mancuso, and Jones come aboard via a rescue sub, at which point Ramius formally requests asylum in the United States for himself and his officers.

Thinking their mission is complete, Red October's skeleton crew are surprised by a torpedo attack from Konovalov, which has followed them across the Atlantic. As the two Soviet subs maneuver, one of Red October's cooks, Loginov (Arana), an undercover GRU agent who has hidden himself on board, opens fire, fatally wounding Ramius's first officer, Vasily Borodin (Neill) before retreating into the missile launch area, followed by Ramius and Ryan. Loginov shoots Ramius, wounding him, but Ryan shoots Loginov before he can detonate a missile and destroy the sub.

Meanwhile, with help from Dallas, Red October makes evasive maneuvers, causing Konovalov to be destroyed by one of its own torpedoes. The evacuated crew of Red October, about to be taken on board a U.S. Navy rescue ship, witness this explosion and, not knowing that there is a second Soviet sub, assume it was Red October that was sunk. Their subterfuge complete, Ryan and Ramius sail Red October to the Penobscot River in Maine.


Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, who portrayed commanding officer Tupolev of the Russian submarine V.K. Konovalov.



Producer Mace Neufeld optioned Tom Clancy's novel after reading galley proofs in February 1985. Despite the book becoming a best seller, no Hollywood studio was interested because of its content. Neufeld said, "I read some of the reports from the other studios, and the story was too complicated to understand."[2] After a year and a half he finally got a high-level executive at Paramount Pictures to read Clancy's novel and agree to develop it into a film.

Screenwriters Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart worked on the screenplay while Neufeld approached the U.S. Navy for approval. They feared top secret information or technology might be revealed. However, several admirals liked Clancy's book and reasoned that the film could do for submariners what Top Gun did for the Navy's jet fighter pilots.[2] Captain Michael Sherman, director of the Navy's western regional information office in Los Angeles, suggested changes to the script that would present the Navy in a positive light.[3]

The Navy gave the filmmakers access to submarines, allowing them to photograph unclassified sections of Chicago and Portsmouth to use in set and prop design.The Louisville was used for the scene in which Baldwin is dropped from a helicopter to the submarine. Key cast and crew members rode in subs, including Alec Baldwin and Scott Glenn doing an overnight trip in USS Salt Lake City. Glenn, who played the commander of Dallas, trained by assuming the identity of a submarine captain on board the Houston (which portrayed Dallas in most scenes).[2] The sub's crew all took orders from Glenn, who was being prompted by the actual commanding officer.[2]


Alec Baldwin, the first actor cast in the late 1980s to portray the character of Jack Ryan in the film series.

Glenn had been a U.S. Marine. Baldwin also learned to steer a Los Angeles-class submarine. Some extras portraying the Dallas crew were submariners, including the pilot of the DSRV, Lt Cmdr George Billy, commander of the DSRV. Submariners from San Diego were cast as extras because it was easier to hire them than training actors. Crew from USS La Jolla, including Lt Mark Draxton, took leave to participate in filming. According to an article in Sea Classics, at least two sailors from the Atlantic Fleet-based Dallas took leave and participated in the Pacific Fleet-supported filming. The crew of Houston called their month-long filming schedule the "Hunt for Red Ops." Houston made over 40 emergency surfacing "blows" for rehearsal and for the cameras.[2]

Baldwin was approached in December 1988, but was not told for what role. Klaus Maria Brandauer was cast as Soviet sub commander Marko Ramius but two weeks into filming he quit due to a prior commitment.[2] The producers faxed the script to Sean Connery who, at first, declined because it didn't make sense. He was indeed missing the first page. He arrived in L.A. on a Friday and was supposed to start filming on Monday but he requested a day to rehearse.[4] Principal photography began on April 3, 1989 with a $30 million budget.[4] The Navy lent the film crew the Houston, the Enterprise, two frigates (Wadsworth and Reuben James), helicopters, and a dry-dock crew.[3]

Filmmaker John Milius revised some of the film's script, writing a few speeches for Sean Connery and all of his Russian dialogue.[5] He was asked to rewrite the whole film but was only required to do the Russian sequences.[6] Rather than choosing between the realism of Russian dialog with subtitles, or the audience-friendly use of English (with or without Russian accents), the filmmakers compromised with a deliberate conceit. The film begins with the actors speaking Russian with English subtitles. But in an early scene, actor Peter Firth casually switches in mid-sentence to speaking in English on the word "Armageddon", which is the same spoken word in both languages. After that point, all the Soviets' dialogue is communicated in English. Connery continued using the heavy Russian accent he perfected for the motion picture. Only towards the end of the film, once the Russian and American submariners are interacting together, do some of the actors speak in Russian again.


Filming in submarines was impractical. Instead, five soundstages on the Paramount backlot were used. Two 50-foot square platforms housing mock-ups of Red October and Dallas were built, standing on hydraulic gimbals that simulated the sub's movements. Connery recalled, "It was very claustrophobic. There were 62 people in a very confined space, 45 feet above the stage floor. It got very hot on the sets, and I'm also prone to sea sickness. The set would tilt to 45 degrees. Very disturbing."[3] The veteran actor shot for four weeks and the rest of the production shot for additional months on location in Port Angeles, Washington and the waters off Los Angeles.[3]

The USS Reuben James, where a number of flight deck scenes were filmed.

Being made before sophisticated CGI in order to achieve the film's opening, impressive, long pull-out reveal and show the immense (and accurate) size of a real-life Soviet Typhoon-class sub (the type that Red October was meant to be) a nearly full scale above-the-water-line mockup was constructed, consisting of two floating barges welded together. Each country's submarine had its own background color: Soviet submarines, such as Red October and Konovalov, had interiors in black with silver trim. American ships, such as Dallas and Enterprise, had grey interiors. However, during one scene when Dallas goes to a higher alert status it was flooded with red light. Early filming was aboard USS Reuben James in the area of the Juan de Fuca Strait and Puget Sound in March 1989. The ship operated out of U.S. Coast Guard Station Port Angeles. The SH-60B detachment from the Battlecats of HSL-43 operated out of NAS Whidbey Island, after being displaced by the filmcrew. Most underwater scenes were filmed using smoke with a model sub connected to 12 cables, giving precise, smooth control for turns. Computer effects, in their infancy, created bubbles and other effects such as particulates in the water.

By February 1990, just before the film's theatrical release, the Soviet government announced that the Communist Party was no longer completely in charge, effectively ending the Cold War. Set during this period, there were concerns that with its end, the film would be irrelevant but Neufeld felt that it "never really represented a major problem".[4] To compensate for the change in Russia's political climate, an on-screen crawl appears at the beginning of the film stating that it takes place in 1984 during the Cold War.[4] Tony Seiniger designed the film's poster and drew inspiration from Soviet poster art, utilizing bold red, white and black graphics. According to him, the whole ad campaign was designed to have a "techno-suspense quality to it". The idea was to play up the thriller aspects and downplay the political elements.[4]

The film caused a minor sensation in the black projects‒submarine warfare technology community.[7][8] In one scene, where the USS Dallas is chasing Red October through the submarine canyon, the crew can be heard calling out that they have various "milligal anomalies". This essentially revealed the use of gravimetry as a method of silent navigation in US submarines. Thought to be a billion dollar black project, the development of a full-tensor gravity gradiometer by Bell Aerospace was a classified technology at the time. It was thought to be deployed on only a few Ohio-class submarine after it was first developed in 1973. Bell Aerospace later sold the technology to Bell Geospace for oil exploration purposes.[9] The last Typhoon-class submarine was officially laid down in 1986, under the name TK-210, but according to sources was never finished and scrapped in 1990.[10]


The Hunt for Red October (Music from the Motion Picture)
Film score by Basil Poledouris
ReleasedJune 12, 1990
LabelMCA Records
Jack Ryan soundtrack chronology
The Hunt for Red October
Patriot Games

The musical score of The Hunt for Red October was composed by Basil Poledouris. A soundtrack album composed of ten melodies was released on June 12, 1990.[11] The album is missing some of the musical moments present in the film, including the scene where the crew of Red October sings the Soviet national hymn. The soundtrack is limited due to the fact that it was originally compiled to fit the Compact Cassette. Later, it was remastered for the CD. An expanded version was released in late 2013 by Intrada Records. It features 40 additional minutes of the score, including the so far-unreleased end titles.[12]

The Hunt for Red October (Music from the Motion Picture)
1."Hymn to Red October (Main Title)"  5:08
2."Nuclear Scam"  7:18
3."Putin's Demise"  0:55
4."Course Two-Five-Zero"  0:22
5."Ancesteral Aid"  2:15
6."Chopper"  2:55
7."Two Wives"  2:42
8."Red Route I"  3:30
9."Plane Crash"  1:50
10."Kaboom!!!"  3:15
Total length:
The Hunt for Red October (2013 Intrada Expanded Score)
1."Never Happened"  0:41
2."Hymn to Red October (Main Titles)"  5:08
3."Putin's Demise"  1:04
4."Tyler's Office/Ramius and the Doctor/Dallas Listens"  2:44
5."Course Two-Five-Zero/Interlude/Two-Five-Zero/Padorin Reads"  1:25
6."Ryan's Wheels" (original version)0:39
7."Ryan's Wheels (revised)/Tupolov/Buckaroo"  3:17
8."The Line/Red Route I"  4:15
9."Ancestral Aid"  2:16
10."Plane Crash"  1:51
11."Ryan Lifts Off/Emergence"  1:35
12."Two Wives"  2:45
13."Chopper"  4:09
14."Submarine Dive/Necessary Force"  2:50
15."Outer Doors"  2:14
16."Nuclear Scam"  7:22
17."Mini-Sub/Contact"  3:18
18."Tupolov's Torpedo/Torpedo Hits"  3:29
19."Kaboom!!!"  6:21
20."End Title (Ancestral Aid/Hymn to Red October [Main Titles]/Nuclear Scam)"  4:36
21."Putin's Demise" (album version)1:03
22."Red Route I" (album version)3:33
23."Necessary Force" (alternate mix)2:23
24."The Anthem of the Soviet Union" (vocal)1:06
Total length:


Box office[edit]

The Hunt for Red October opened in 1,225 theaters on March 2, 1990, grossing $17 million on its opening weekend, more than half its budget.[1] The film went on to gross $122,012,643 in North America with a worldwide total of $200,512,643.[1]

Critical response[edit]

It's the kind of movie in which the characters, like the lethal hardware, are simply functions of the plot, which in this case seems to be a lot more complex than it really is.

Vincent Canby, writing for The New York Times[13]

The film received positive reviews from critics; it holds a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 44 critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, The Hunt for Red October received a score of 58 based on 17 reviews.[14]

Roger Ebert called it "a skillful, efficient film that involves us in the clever and deceptive game being played,"[15] while Gene Siskel commented on the film's technical skill and Baldwin's convincing turn as Jack Ryan. Nick Schager, for Slant magazine's review, noted, "The Hunt for Red October is a thrilling edge-of-your-seat trifle that has admirably withstood the test of time."[16] In contrast however, Newsweek's David Ansen wrote, "But it's at the gut level that Red October disappoints. This smoother, impressively mounted machine is curiously ungripping. Like an overfilled kettle, it takes far too long to come to a boil."[17]


The Hunt for Red October was nominated and won several awards in 1991. In addition, the film was also nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.[18]

1991 63rd Academy Awards[19]Best Sound EditingCecelia Hall, George Watters IIWon
Best Sound MixingRichard Bryce Goodman, Richard Overton, Kevin F. Cleary, Don J. BassmanNominated
Best Film EditingDennis Virkler, John WrightNominated
1991 44th British Academy Film AwardsBest ActorSean ConneryNominated
Best Production DesignTerence MarshNominated
Best SoundCecelia Hall, George Watters II, Richard Bryce Goodman, Don J. BassmanNominated
1991 BMI Film Music AwardsBMI Film Music AwardBasil PoledourisWon
1991 Motion Picture Sound Editors AwardsBest Sound Editing — ADR————Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Hunt for Red October". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Thomas, Bob (March 2, 1990). "High-Tech Novel Took Five Years to Reach Screen". Associated Press. 
  3. ^ a b c d Donohue, Cathryn (March 2, 1990). "Red October Surfaces as a Movie". The Washington Times. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Kilday, Gregg (March 2, 1990). "Reds Sail Into the Sunset". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  5. ^ Plume, Ken (May 7, 2003). "An Interview with John Milius". IGN. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  6. ^ Segaloff, Nat, "John Milius: The Good Fights", Backstory 4: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1970s and 1980s, Ed. Patrick McGilligan, Uni of California 2006 p 308
  7. ^ "Hunt for Red October Article" 53. CIA. Summer 2009. p. 24. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  8. ^ "Gravity Gradiometry Article". Scientific American. June 1998. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  9. ^ "Bell gradiometer history". BellGeospace. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  10. ^ Podvodnye Lodki, Yu.V. Apalkov, Sankt Peterburg, 2002, ISBN 5-8172-0069-4
  11. ^ McDonald, Steven. "The Hunt for Red October [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]  – Overview". AllMusic. All Media Network, LLC. Retrieved February 2, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Hunt for Red October, The". Intrada Records. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  13. ^ "Reviews/Film; Connery as Captain of a Renegade Soviet Sub". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  14. ^ "The Hunt for Red October". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 2, 1990). "The Hunt for Red October". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  16. ^ Schager, Nick (2003). "The Hunt for Red October". Slant. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  17. ^ Ansen, David (March 2, 1990). "The Hunt for Red October". Newsweek. 
  18. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
  19. ^ "The 63rd Academy Awards (1991) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-20. 

External links[edit]