The Perfect Storm (film)

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The Perfect Storm
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWolfgang Petersen
Screenplay byWilliam D. Wittliff
Based onThe Perfect Storm
by Sebastian Junger
Produced by
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]- $140 million[2]
Box office$328.7 million[3]

The Perfect Storm is a 2000 American biographical disaster drama film directed by Wolfgang Petersen and based on the 1997 creative non-fiction book of the same name by Sebastian Junger. The film was adapted by William D. Wittliff, with an uncredited rewrite by Bo Goldman, and 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.[4] 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, despite having a mixed critical reception.


In October 1991, the commercial swordfishing 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, Billy 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. After amassing thousands of pounds of fish, 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 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 merge with each other atop them. Rookie fisherman Bobby Shatford 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 ditches their aircraft. All but one of the Air National Guard crew members are rescued by a Coast Guard vessel, the USCGC Tamaroa.

The Andrea Gail endures various problems including 40-foot (12 m) 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 ship struggles to sail through pounding waves and shrieking winds, while friends and family worry and wait for news. Billy makes a successful attempt to turn the boat around. However, the storm turns its direction towards the boat, and 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, Bobby, manages to get out. He surfaces and watches as Andrea Gail rights herself before sinking stern-first into the depths of the Atlantic. Bobby silently says goodbye to his girlfriend and 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 sword (fish) boat 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 Ford declined; his second choice was Nicolas Cage, who also turned it down, and Mel Gibson was offered the role but wanted too much money.[5][6][7]
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • William Fichtner as David "Sully" Sullivan, crewmember on Andrea Gail. He signed on to replace crew member Douglas "Dougie" Kosco, who gave up his site after the last trip. 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.
  • 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.
  • Allen Payne as Alfred Pierre, one of the crew of Andrea Gail.
  • 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.
  • Karen Allen as Melissa Brown, crewmember on Mistral.
  • Bob Gunton as Alexander McAnally III, owner of Mistral, a yacht caught in the storm.
  • 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.
  • Josh Hopkins as Captain Darryl Ennis.
  • 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.
  • Cherry Jones as Edie Bailey, crewmember on Mistral.
  • Rusty Schwimmer as Irene “Big Red” Johnson, a divorced mother of two children.
  • Janet Wright as Ethel Shatford, Bobby's mother, who supports his relationship with Christina.
  • Todd Kimsey as Lieutenant Rob Pettit.

Other notable appearances include Joseph D. Reitman as Douglas Kosco and Sandy Ward as Quentin (The Old Timer), a retired fisherman.[8]

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.[9][10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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."[13] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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).[11]

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).[14] 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.[15] 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."[12]

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.[12]

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, Sullivan'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 Sullivan 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."[12]

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.[16] 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.[16] 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.[16]


Box office[edit]

The Perfect Storm was a box office success. On its opening weekend, it debuted with $41.3 million ahead of Sony's The Patriot.[17] At the time, The Perfect Storm scored the third-highest Fourth of July opening weekend, after Independence Day and Men in Black.[18] The film also had the second-highest opening weekend for a George Clooney film, behind Batman & Robin.[19] It 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.[20]

Critical response[edit]

The New York Times review was mixed: “This gusty oceanic epic...has lollapalooza special effects and gripping ensemble performances. But its quotient of human drama is finally too stingy for the personal stories of a group of New England fishermen battling “the storm of the century” to hit the emotional bull’s-eye.... When in its final scenes the movie desperately tries to churn up some of the celestial schmaltz of Titanic, it is too little too late and feels obligatory despite the abundance of heart and chemistry that Mark Wahlberg and Diane Lane bring to their roles of a wildly-in-love young couple....Mr. Clooney conveys a darkly heroic gravity, but his lack of even a trace of New England accent makes him seem socially out of place in a cast whose other members get the regional dialect more or less right.”[21]

The Perfect Storm received mixed reviews from critics, with a 46% approval rating on critic site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 137 reviews, and an average rating of 5.6/10, 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."[22] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[24]


The film was nominated for two 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.[25][26] It was also nominated for a Stinker Award for Most Intrusive Musical Score.[27]


The Perfect Storm was partially filmed in Gloucester, Massachusetts.[28][29]


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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Welkos, R.W. (May 7, 2000). "Prepare for Good, Sick Fun". Los Angeles Times. p. 4. Retrieved August 11, 2010.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "The Great Screenwriters: Part 22 – Bo Goldman". The Script Lab. November 29, 2018. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  5. ^ "29 Movies That Almost Starred Harrison Ford". July 13, 2017.
  6. ^ "The Perfect Storm". Entertainment Weekly.
  7. ^ "15 Things You Might Not Know About the Perfect Storm". June 30, 2015.
  8. ^ "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
  9. ^ "The Perfect Storm's Andrea Gail Comes Home to Massachusetts". Warner Bros. July 14, 2000. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  10. ^ Candus Thomson (June 23, 2000). "Ocean City boat sails off to stardom". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Ringle, Ken (July 4, 2000). "Reality Gets the Heave-Ho In Not-So-Perfect 'Storm'". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  14. ^ Collura, Chris. ""PERFECT" Storm Questions and Answers". Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  15. ^ "Meteorologists Say 'Perfect Storm' Not So Perfect". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  16. ^ a b c "Satori - Perfect Storm". Westsail Owners Association. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  17. ^ "George Clooney "Storms" Box Office". ABC News.
  18. ^ "'Perfect Storm' flattens rivals at box office". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 4, 2000. p. 32. Archived from the original on January 20, 2023. Retrieved January 20, 2023 – via open access
  19. ^ Karger, Dave (December 11, 2001). "Ocean's Eleven topples Harry Potter". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 22, 2022.
  20. ^ "The Perfect Storm". Box Office Mojo.
  21. ^ ”Instant Calamity: Just Add Water” [Film Review]. New York Times, 30 June 2000.
  22. ^ "The Perfect Storm". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
  23. ^ "The Perfect Storm" – via
  24. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 2023-08-25.
  25. ^ "Oscar: Crowe, Roberts named best actor, actress". Detroit Free Press. March 26, 2001. p. 6. Archived from the original on September 21, 2022. Retrieved September 21, 2022 – via open access
  26. ^ "The 73rd Academy Awards (2001) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on 2014-09-24. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
  27. ^ "Past Winners Database". January 5, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-01-05.
  28. ^ "The Endicott Estate in Dedham, Massachusetts". British Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ "Court Revives 'Perfect Storm' Lawsuit". St. Petersburg Times Online. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  31. ^ 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.

External links[edit]