The Perfect Storm (film)

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The Perfect Storm
Perfect storm poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWolfgang Petersen
Screenplay byWilliam D. Wittliff
Bo Goldman (uncredited)
Based onThe Perfect Storm
by Sebastian Junger
Produced byPaula Weinstein
Wolfgang Petersen
Gail Katz
CinematographyJohn Seale
Edited byRichard Francis-Bruce
Music byJames Horner
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • June 30, 2000 (2000-06-30)
Running time
130 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$120 million[1]
Box office$328.7 million

The Perfect Storm is a 2000 American biographical disaster drama film directed by Wolfgang Petersen and based on the 1997 non-fiction book of the same name by Sebastian Junger. The film tells the story of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel that was lost at sea with all hands after being caught in the Perfect Storm of 1991. The film stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, William Fichtner, Karen Allen, Bob Gunton, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and John C. Reilly. It was released on June 30, 2000, by Warner Bros. and grossed $328 million worldwide.


In October 1991, the commercial fishing boat Andrea Gail returns to port in Gloucester, Massachusetts, with a poor catch. Boat owner Bob Brown ridicules and taunts Captain Billy Tyne over his recent "cold streak". Desperate to redeem himself, Captain Tyne convinces the Andrea Gail crew to join him for one more late-season fishing expedition. The crew heads out past their usual fishing grounds on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, leaving a developing tropical storm behind them. Initially unsuccessful, they head to the Flemish Cap, where their luck greatly improves. At the height of their fishing, the ice machine breaks down; the only way to sell their catch before it spoils is to hurry back to shore. However, between Andrea Gail and Gloucester is a confluence of two powerful weather fronts and a hurricane, which the Andrea Gail crew underestimates.

As the crew of Andrea Gail battles the raging sea, a strong wind breaks the ship's radio antenna just as Hurricane Grace and the northern weather front merges with each other atop them. Bobby attempts to fix it but can only watch helplessly as the antenna breaks off and disappears into the sky. Shortly after, Captain Linda Greenlaw of sister ship Hannah Boden calls in a Mayday for the Andrea Gail. A New York Air National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter responds, but after failing to perform a midair refueling with an HC-130 Hercules, the helicopter crew aborts the mission and ditch their aircraft. All but one of the Air National Guard crew members are rescued by a Coast Guard vessel, the USCGC Tamaroa.

After Andrea Gail endures various problems, with 40 foot waves crashing onto the deck, a broken stabilizer ramming the side of the ship with a loose anchor, and two crew members briefly getting thrown overboard, the crew struggles to sail through pounding waves and shrieking winds, while friends and family worry and wait for news on the boat. Billy makes a successful attempt to turn the boat around. The vessel encounters an enormous rogue wave. They attempt to drive the boat over the wave, but it crests before it can get to the top and is overturned. Billy elects to go down with his ship, the rest of the crew are trapped inside the living quarters, and only one, rookie fisherman Bobby Shatford, manages to get out. He surfaces and watches as Andrea Gail rights herself before sinking stern-first into the depths of the Atlantic. Knowing that he has no chance of survival without a lifejacket, Bobby silently says his goodbyes to his loved ones as the rapidly rising swell carries him away.

There are no survivors; Linda reads the eulogy at the memorial. Later, as she heads out to sea again, she remembers Billy soliloquizing about what it means to be a ship captain.


  • George Clooney as Frank William "Billy" Tyne, Jr., captain of Andrea Gail, a swordfishing boat. Billy is a divorced father of two daughters, who is determined to undertake one last fishing trip before the end of the season to make up for a recent string of poor catches. Petersen asked Harrison Ford to play the role but declined, his second choice was Nicolas Cage who also turned it down, and Mel Gibson was offered the role but wanted too much money.[2][3][4]
  • Mark Wahlberg as Robert "Bobby" Shatford, the least experienced of the crew of Andrea Gail. Bobby is the son of Ethel Shatford, the owner of the Crow's Nest, and boyfriend to Chris Cotter. He enjoys commercial fishing, but his deepening relationship with Chris (coupled with her reluctance to let him sail again) creates conflict within himself and between the couple. Yet, he is compelled by the potential to earn more money at sea than he could make with a job on shore to sign on for one last trip.
  • Diane Lane as Christina "Chris" Cotter, girlfriend of Bobby Shatford. She does not want Bobby to go on the trip because of a bad feeling she has about it. She spends her time during the last fishing trip decorating an apartment she has rented as a surprise for Bobby to symbolize her commitment to him.
  • Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Linda Greenlaw, the captain of Hannah Boden. Linda and Billy both captain ships for the same owner and maintain a friendly rivalry. She is concerned about Billy and his crew's going out in what she considers dangerous weather. Linda is the last to speak to Andrea Gail.
  • John C. Reilly as Dale "Murph" Murphy, senior crewmember on Andrea Gail. Murph is a veteran fisherman who is divorced with a son with whom he's very involved. Murph has a rocky relationship with crewmember David "Sully" Sullivan that is eventually resolved during the trip.
  • William Fichtner as David "Sully" Sullivan, crewmember on Andrea Gail. He signed on for the trip at the last minute when another fisherman suddenly backed out. Sully and Murph initially have an antagonistic relationship that is fueled in part by Sully's past involvement with Murph's ex-wife, although the details are not made clear in the film. The relationship is eventually resolved during the trip.
  • Michael Ironside as Bob Brown, owner of Andrea Gail and Hannah Boden. Although Brown seems to harbor a deep-seated recognition of Tyne's skills at catching fish, he nevertheless pressures Tyne over the latter's recent inability to bring in larger hauls, resulting in an uneasy relationship between the two.
  • Bob Gunton as Alexander McAnally III, owner of Mistral, a yacht caught in the storm.
  • Karen Allen as Melissa Brown, crewmember on Mistral.
  • Cherry Jones as Edie Bailey, crewmember on Mistral.
  • Allen Payne as Alfred Pierre, one of the crew of Andrea Gail.
  • John Hawkes as Michael "Bugsy" Moran, a member of Andrea Gail's crew. Bugsy's somewhat comic inability to connect with women appears to change on the eve of the trip, when he meets Irene, a divorced mother at the Crow's Nest, who later comes to the dock to see him off. They hint at the prospect of a budding relationship that fatefully never materializes.
  • Rusty Schwimmer as Irene “Big Red” Johnson, a divorced mother of two children.
  • Janet Wright as Ethel Shatford, Bobby's mother.
  • Christopher McDonald as Todd Gross, a Boston meteorologist working for the WNEV-TV (the present day WHDH-TV).
  • Dash Mihok as Sergeant Jeremy Mitchell, a pararescueman on the New York Air National Guard rescue helicopter.
  • Sandy Ward as Quentin, a old timer.[5]

Historical accuracy[edit]

The Andrea Gail[edit]

Hurricane Grace on October 28, 1991, when the Andrea Gail went missing.

A ship similar to Andrea Gail, Lady Grace, was used during the filming of the movie.[6][7] Most of the names used were not changed for the fictional film, but in response two lawsuits were later filed by certain families of the crew members. The film only claims to be "based on a true story", and differs in many ways from the book starting with the fictionalization of the material into a "story". The events shown in the film after the Andrea Gail's last radio contact are pure speculation, as the boat and the bodies of the crew were never found.[8]

Contrary to the movie's storyline, Captain Linda Greenlaw says she did not place a distress call on behalf of Andrea Gail. "Without a distress call (directly) from the imperiled vessel, the Coast Guard will not initiate a search until the vessel is five days overdue in port," Greenlaw said.[9] She had also been 600 miles east of the Andrea Gail when she went down (not west as depicted), and stated "They never indicated they were in trouble. They just never came back."[10] The 1993 U.S. Coast Guard's investigative report said that Andrea Gail was experiencing 30-foot waves and winds from anywhere from 50 to 80 kn (58 to 92 mph) around the time of the last communication.[8] The conditions, though threatening, were probably not unfamiliar to Tyne, who had been a successful fisherman for about a decade on other vessels, taking trips to the Grand Banks and fishing off Florida, the Carolinas, and elsewhere.[9] The investigative report did however mention a buoy off the coast of Nova Scotia recording a record wave height of 100.7 ft (30.7 m).[8]

Hurricane Grace is exaggerated in the movie when it is referred to by a weather forecaster as a "category 5" storm, which has winds sustained at over 137 knots (≥ 157 mph).[11] In reality, the hurricane had already peaked at category 2 intensity and ocean buoy monitors recorded wind gusts at 65 knots (75 mph) around the time Andrea Gail sank.[12] In the movie, Tyne and his crew agreed to head into the dangerous storm in order to save their fish from spoiling. Greenlaw acknowledged that Tyne did mention having ice problems, but that was not unusual. "My one gripe about [the] movie was how Warner Brothers depicted Billy Tyne and his crew as making a very conscious decision to steam into a storm that they knew was dangerous," said Greenlaw. "That is not what happened. Andrea Gail was three days into their steam home when the storm hit. Whatever happened to Andrea Gail happened very quickly."[9]

An Air National Guard helicopter was dispatched from Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base on Long Island, New York, but not in response to the Andrea Gail or Satori (Mistral in the movie). The helicopter departed mid-storm on a mission to help save a lone Japanese fisherman from a sinking sailboat 250 miles off the New Jersey coast. Unsuccessful and running low on fuel, the Air National Guard Sikorsky HH-60G helicopter was compelled to attempt a mid-flight refueling maneuver. The zero-visibility conditions thwarted their efforts, however, and lacking enough fuel to make the flight back to the Long Island base, the crew were forced to ditch the helicopter. After a search by Tamaroa, four of the HH-60's crew were picked up; one was never seen again. The Japanese yachtsman was later rescued by a Romanian cargo ship.[9]

When asked about the portrayal of "Sully" in the movie, Cathy Sullivan Mustone, an older sister of David "Sully" Sullivan, said she was disappointed. "They made my brother's character out to be a hothead," she said. "I guess every movie needs a villain, but my brother was a funny guy with a loud laugh and a big smile. He had a lot of guts and he loved fishing." In fact, David's bravery and quick thinking made headlines on a different boat—Harmony. One night during a winter fishing trip, Harmony began taking on water while tied to another boat. The crew of Harmony yelled for help, hoping to wake the nearby crew. No one woke, so David dove into the icy water, pulling himself on the ropes that tied the boats together. As a result of his bravery, Harmony's crew was saved. Mustone said, "At least in the movie, they did represent my brother's bravery in a water rescue scene. He was a good man. And I just know he is at peace in heaven, safe with our Dad."[9]

The Satori[edit]

The crew members of Satori (renamed Mistral in the movie) were not rescued by an Air National Guard helicopter, but rather by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. The helicopter was changed in the film after the Air National Guard had issues consulting with the movie producers. According to the owner's son, Satori never made a 360° roll, although it had two knockdowns, during which it lay on its side for about 30 seconds.[13] In response to requests by the crew, Captain Ray Leonard permitted the two crewmembers to make a position report over radio, during which they made an unauthorized Mayday call. One of those crewmembers reported that she was so convinced that she was going to die that she wrote her name down and put it into a plastic bag duct-taped to her stomach so her body could be identified.

There is controversy over whether the Captain was drunk, as charged by the women in the book, with Leonard objecting to this characterization. Out of compassion for the expected loss of his boat, the Coast Guard did not test his blood alcohol levels at the time. The Coast Guard declared the voyage manifestly unsafe and ordered everyone off-board, including the unwilling skipper.[13] The Coast Guard first tried to take them on board via an inflatable boat, but after it was damaged when trying to approach Satori they sent a helicopter, which is a much riskier approach, as a rescue swimmer must jump into dangerous seas. The Coast Guard helicopter did not try to lower rescue gear onto the yacht (as shown in the movie, where it gets entangled with the mast), but rather asked the crew of Satori to jump overboard to meet a rescue swimmer in the water. Leonard eventually complied with the request.

After the storm, Leonard searched for the Satori, hoping to find her still afloat, but in spite of his attempts she was found a few days later washed ashore on a Maryland beach, a bag of personal belongings still on deck. Leonard paid for a 60-foot fishing vessel to drag her off the beach, helped by a channel dug by Park Rangers who had been guarding the boat. He continued to sail the boat until he sold her to a new owner in 2000.[13]


The Perfect Storm received mixed reviews from critics, with a 47% approval rating on critic site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 135 reviews, and an average rating of 5.59/10, with a consensus of, "While the special effects are well done and quite impressive, this film suffers a lack of any actual drama or characterization. The end result is a film that offers nifty eye-candy and nothing else."[14] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[15]

The Perfect Storm was a box office success. On its opening weekend, it debuted with $42 million ahead of Sony's The Patriot and eventually brought in over $182.6 million in the United States, and $146.1 million around the world to a total of $328.7 million worldwide.[16]

The film was nominated for 2 Academy Awards, Best Sound (John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, David E. Campbell and Keith A. Wester), and Best Visual Effects (Walt Conti, Stefen Fangmeier, John Frazier and Habib Zargarpour) but lost both to Gladiator.[17] However, it was also nominated for a Stinker Award for Most Intrusive Musical Score.[18]


The movie was partially filmed in Gloucester, Massachusetts.[19][20]


After the film was released, the families of two crew members sued the film makers for the fictionalization of events which happened prior to the loss of Andrea Gail.[21] In May 2002, the Florida Supreme Court ruled against the family of Captain Tyne by a 6–2 vote. Some unnamed families also sued the producers in federal district court, claiming that their names were used without their permission, and that facts were changed.[22] The district court, which is also located in Florida, dismissed the case, as in their opinion the defendants' First Amendment right to freedom of speech barred the suit. The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which could not decide how to interpret the Florida law at issue and certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court. In the end, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the district court's interpretation of Florida law, and thereupon the 11th Circuit affirmed the prior decision to dismiss the case.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Welkos, R.W. (7 May 2000), "Prepare for Good, Sick Fun", Los Angeles Times, p. 4, retrieved 11 August 2010
  2. ^ "29 Movies That Almost Starred Harrison Ford". 13 July 2017.
  3. ^ "The Perfect Storm".
  4. ^ "15 Things You Might Not Know About the Perfect Storm". 30 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Sandy Ward: Respected Character Actor over 50 years". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. March 20, 2005. p. 187. Retrieved January 16, 2022 – via open access
  6. ^ "The Perfect Storm's Andrea Gail Comes Home to Massachusetts". Warner Bros. July 14, 2000. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  7. ^ Candus Thomson (June 23, 2000). "Ocean City boat sails off to stardom". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  8. ^ a b c "Investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the F/A Andrea Gail" (PDF). United States Coast Guard. January 28, 1994. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e Terry Weber (October 29, 2011). "What really happened to the Andrea Gail?" (PDF). Gloucester Daily Times. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  10. ^ Ringle, Ken (July 4, 2000). "Reality Gets the Heave-Ho In Not-So-Perfect 'Storm'". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  11. ^ Collura, Chris. ""PERFECT" Storm Questions and Answers". Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  12. ^ "Meteorologists Say 'Perfect Storm' Not So Perfect". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  13. ^ a b c "Satori - Perfect Storm". Westsail Owners Association. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  14. ^ "The Perfect Storm on RT".
  15. ^ "The Perfect Storm" – via
  16. ^ "The Perfect Storm". Box Office Mojo.
  17. ^ "The 73rd Academy Awards (2001) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-19.
  18. ^ "Past Winners Database". January 5, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-01-05.
  19. ^ "The Endicott Estate in Dedham, Massachusetts". British Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  20. ^ Lichtenstein, Bill (June 12, 2012). ""The American Revolution" Documentary Film Shoots at Historic Endicott Estate - Iconic Boston Media Figures Interviewed for High-Profile Film on WBCN-FM at Dedham Mansion". Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  21. ^ "Court Revives 'Perfect Storm' Lawsuit". St. Petersburg Times Online. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  22. ^ a b Unger, Howard M. (2002-05-31). "Judge sinks 'Perfect Storm' lawsuit". Sarasota Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2007-11-06.

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