The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October Information

The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 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 film received highly positive reviews from critics and was one of the top grossing films of the year, grossing $122 million in North America and $200 million worldwide. The film won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing in 1991.


In 1984, Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius (Connery) commands Red October, a new vessel featuring a caterpillar drive rendering it undetectable to 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 orders, 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 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.

Red Octobers caterpillar drive fails at sea and sabotage is suspected. 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.

The Soviet Ambassador, who earlier claimed that Red October was lost at sea and requested U.S. assistance in a rescue mission, at this point informs the U.S. that the sub is a renegade and asks for U.S. help to sink it. An order to do this is communicated to the U.S. Fleet, including Dallas. Mancuso is conflicted about whether he should follow his orders, but Ryan convinces him to make contact and offer to assist Ramius in his defection.

Ramius, stunned that the Americans correctly guessed his plan to defect, 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. Ramius submerges and Ryan, Mancuso, and Jones come aboard via a rescue sub, at which point Ramius requests asylum in the United States for himself and his officers.

Thinking their mission is complete, Red Octobers skeleton crew are surprised by a torpedo attack from Konovalov, which has followed them across the Atlantic. As the two Soviet subs maneuver, Red October's cook Loginov (Arana), an undercover GRU agent, opens fire at the fire control, fatally wounding Ramius's first officer, Vasily Borodin (Neill) before retreating into the missile launch area, followed by Ramius and Ryan. Loginov shoots Ramius, 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, 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. Their subterfuge complete, Ryan and Ramius sail Red October to the Penobscot River in Maine.


  • Sean Connery as Captain 1st Rank Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius, Commanding Officer of the Red October and the film's main protagonist
  • Alec Baldwin as Dr. Jack Ryan, CIA intelligence analyst, author, Professor of Naval History at the United States Naval Academy and secondary protagonist
  • Scott Glenn as Commander Bart Mancuso, Commanding Officer of the USS Dallas
  • Sam Neill as Captain 2nd Rank Vasily Borodin, Executive Officer of the Red October
  • James Earl Jones as Vice Admiral James Greer, CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence (DDI)
  • Joss Ackland as Ambassador Andrei Lysenko, Soviet Ambassador to the United States
  • Richard Jordan as Dr. Jeffrey Pelt, National Security Advisor
  • Peter Firth as Senior Lieutenant Ivan Putin, Political Officer of the Red October
  • Tim Curry as Senior Lieutenant/Dr. Yevgeniy Petrov, Chief Medical Officer of the Red October
  • Ronald Guttman as Senior Lieutenant Melekhin, Chief Engineer of the Red October
  • Michael Welden as Captain-Lieutenant Gregoriy Kamarov, Navigator of the Red October
  • Boris Lee Krutonog as Senior Lieutenant Victor Slavin, Chief Helmsman of the Red October
  • Courtney Vance as Sonar Technician 2nd Class Ronald "Jonesy" Jones, Sonar Technician of the USS Dallas
  • Stellan Skarsgård as Captain 2nd Rank Viktor Tupolev, Commanding Officer of the V.K. Konovalov
  • Jeffrey Jones as Dr. Skip Tyler - U.S. Naval Academy Instructor/Naval Sea Systems Command consultant
  • Timothy Carhart as Lieutenant Bill Steiner, commander of the DSRV Mystic
  • Anthony Peck as Lieutenant Commander "Tommy" Thompson, Executive Officer of the USS Dallas
  • Larry Ferguson as Master Chief Petty Officer Watson, Chief of the Boat (COB) of the USS Dallas
  • Fred Dalton Thompson as Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Joshua Painter, Commander of the Enterprise Carrier Battle Group
  • Daniel Davis as Captain Charlie Davenport, Commanding Officer of the USS Enterprise
  • Sven-Ole Thorsen as Chief of the Boat of the Red October
  • Gates McFadden as Dr. Caroline Ryan, Jack Ryan's wife and an ocular surgeon
  • Tomas Arana as Cook's Assistant Igor Loginov, the Red October's cook, also a GRU agent.
  • Ned Vaughn as Seaman Beaumont, Sonar Technician (Jones' apprentice), USS Dallas
  • Peter Zinner as Admiral Yuri Ilyich Padorin, Chief Political Officer of the Soviet Navy
  • Peter Jason as Commander of USS Reuben James (uncredited)


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." After one and half years, 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. 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.

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. 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). The sub's crew all took "orders" from Glenn, who was being prompted by the actual commanding officer.

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.

Baldwin was approached in December 1988 but he 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. 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. Principal photography began on April 3, 1989 with a $30 million budget. The Navy lent the film crew the Houston, the Enterprise, two frigates (USS Wadsworth (FFG-9) and USS Reuben James (FFG-57)), helicopters, and a dry-dock crew.

Filmmaker John Milius revised some of the film's script, writing a few speeches for Sean Connery and all of his Russian dialogue. 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, the camera zooms in on actor Peter Firth's mouth as he casually switches in mid-sentence to speaking in English (on the word "Armageddon", which is the same in both languages), after which the Soviets' dialogue is in English. 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 and 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." 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.

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 H-3 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". 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.

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.


The original soundtrack for The Hunt for Red October comprises 10 melodies written by Basil Poledouris. The soundtrack 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.

The songs have a truly Cold War theme, and bear similarity to Russian Army band songs. The soundtrack is however, originally composed for the film.

  1. "Hymn To Red October"
    By far the most famous song in the soundtrack. It is often mistaken for an original Red Army song, and is sometimes referred to as the "Hymn of the Russian Navy"
  2. "Nuclear Scam"
  3. "Putin's Demise"
  4. "Course Two-Five-Zero"
  5. "Ancestral Aid"
  6. "Chopper"
  7. "Two Wives"
  8. "Red Route I"
  9. "Plane Crash"
  10. "Kaboom!!!"


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

Critical reception

The film received positive reviews from critics; it holds a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert called it "a skillful, efficient film that involves us in the clever and deceptive game being played," 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, notes, "The Hunt for Red October is a thrilling edge-of-your-seat trifle that has admirably withstood the test of time." It was the first of several films based on Tom Clancy's "Jack Ryan" technothrillers and it ushered in a new series of Hollywood-produced post-Cold War adventure films, including the 1995 film Crimson Tide. In contrast, however, Newsweeks 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."


The film won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing and was nominated for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing (Richard Bryce Goodman, Richard Overton, Kevin F. Cleary and Don J. Bassman).

The film received three BAFTA Film Award nominations, for Best Actor (Sean Connery), Best Production Design (Terence Marsh), and Best Sound.

The film was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.

Cold War implications

The film caused a minor sensation in the black projects / submarine warfare technology community. In one scene, where the USS Dallas is chasing the 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 s after it was first developed in 1973. Bell Aerospace later sold the technology to Bell Geospace, which uses it for oil exploration purposes.

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.

See also

  • The Hunt for Red October (video game)

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