The Perfect Storm (film)

Last updated
The Perfect Storm
Perfect storm poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Produced by Paula Weinstein
Wolfgang Petersen
Gail Katz
Screenplay by William D. Wittliff
Bo Goldman (uncredited)
Based on The Perfect Storm
by Sebastian Junger
Music by James Horner
Cinematography John Seale
Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
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, John Hawkes, William Fichtner, Michael Ironside, John C. Reilly, Diane Lane, Karen Allen and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. [2] 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. Desperate for money, Captain Billy 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. After debating whether to sail through the building storm or to wait it out, the crew decides to risk the storm. However, between Andrea Gail and Gloucester is a confluence of two powerful weather fronts and a hurricane, which the Andrea Gail crew underestimates.

After repeated warnings from other ships, Andrea Gail loses her antenna, forcing Captain Linda Greenlaw of sister ship Hannah Boden to call in a Mayday. 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 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, the crew struggles to sail through pounding waves and shrieking winds, while friends and family worry and wait for a ship that never comes home. 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 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 Atlantic. As Bobby silently says his goodbyes to his loved ones, 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.


Historical accuracy

The Andrea Gail

Hurricane Grace on October 28, 1991, when the Andrea Gail went missing. Hurricane Grace (1991).JPG
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. [3] [4] 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. [5]

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. [6] 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." [7] 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. 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. [6] Hurricane Grace is exaggerated in the movie when its referred to by a weather forecaster as a "category 5" storm, which has winds sustained at over 137 knots (≥ 157 mph). [8] 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. [9] 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." [6]

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. [6]

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." [6]

The Satori

The crew members of Satori (renamed Mistral in the movie) were not rescued by an Air National Guard helicopter, but rather 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. [10] 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 so that her body could be identified when it was finally found.

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. [10] 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. [10]


The Perfect Storm received mixed reviews from critics, with a 47% approval rating on critic site Rotten Tomatoes 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." [11]

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. [12]

The film was nominated for 2 Academy Awards, Best Visual Effects (Walt Conti, Stefen Fangmeier, John Frazier and Habib Zargarpour) and Best Sound (John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, David E. Campbell and Keith A. Wester), but lost both to Gladiator . [13]


The movie was partially filmed in Dedham, Massachusetts. [14] [15]


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. [16] In 2005, 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. [17] 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. [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>The Perfect Storm</i> (book) nonfiction book written by Sebastian Junger

The Perfect Storm is a creative nonfiction book written by Sebastian Junger and published by W. W. Norton & Company in 1997. The paperback edition (ISBN 0-06-097747-7) followed in 1999 from HarperCollins' Perennial imprint. The book is about the 1991 Perfect Storm that hit North America between October 28 and November 4, 1991, and features the crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail, from Gloucester, Massachusetts, who were lost at sea during severe conditions while longline fishing for swordfish 575 miles (925 km) out. Also in the book is the story about the rescue of the three-person crew of the sailboat Satori in the Atlantic Ocean during the storm by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa (WMEC-166).

Cape Ann Region of Massachusetts in the United States

Cape Ann is a rocky cape in northeastern Massachusetts, United States on the Atlantic Ocean. It is about 30 miles northeast of Boston and marks the northern limit of Massachusetts Bay. Cape Ann includes the city of Gloucester and the towns of Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport.

USCGC <i>Tamaroa</i> (WMEC-166)

USCGC Tamaroa (WAT/WMEC-166), originally the United States Navy Cherokee-class fleet tugUSS Zuni (ATF-95), was a United States Coast Guard cutter. Following the U.S. Coast Guard custom of naming cutters in this class of ship after Native American tribes, she was named after the Tamaroa tribe of the Illiniwek tribal group.

F/VAndrea Gail was a commercial fishing vessel that was lost at sea with all hands during the Perfect Storm of 1991. The vessel and her six-man crew had been fishing the North Atlantic Ocean out of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her last reported position was 180 mi (290 km) northeast of Sable Island on October 28, 1991. The story of Andrea Gail and her crew was the basis of the 1997 book The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, and a 2000 film adaptation of the same name.

<i>The Guardian</i> (2006 film) 2006 film by Andrew Davis

The Guardian is a 2006 American action-adventure drama film directed by Andrew Davis. The film stars Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher and Melissa Sagemiller. The title of the film refers to a legendary figure within the film which protects people lost at sea: "the Guardian". The film focuses on the United States Coast Guard and their Aviation Survival Technician program. The Guardian was released on September 29, 2006.

1991 Perfect Storm Noreaster and Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 1991

The 1991 Perfect Storm, also known as The No-Name Storm and the Halloween Gale/Storm, was a nor'easter that absorbed Hurricane Grace, and ultimately evolved into a small unnamed hurricane itself late in its life cycle. The initial area of low pressure developed off the coast of Atlantic Canada on October 29. Forced southward by a ridge to its north, it reached its peak intensity as a large and powerful cyclone. The storm lashed the east coast of the United States with high waves and coastal flooding before turning to the southwest and weakening. Moving over warmer waters, the system transitioned into a subtropical cyclone before becoming a tropical storm. It executed a loop off the Mid-Atlantic states and turned toward the northeast. On November 1, the system evolved into a full-fledged hurricane, with peak sustained winds of 75 miles per hour (120 km/h), although the National Hurricane Center left it unnamed to avoid confusion amid media interest in the precursor extratropical storm. It later received the name "the Perfect Storm" after a conversation between Boston National Weather Service forecaster Robert Case and author Sebastian Junger. The system was the twelfth and final tropical cyclone, the eighth tropical storm, and fourth hurricane in the 1991 Atlantic hurricane season. The tropical system weakened, striking Nova Scotia as a tropical storm before dissipating.

<i>Deadliest Catch</i> television program

Deadliest Catch is a reality television series that premiered on the Discovery Channel on April 12, 2005. The show follows crab fishermen aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea during the Alaskan king crab and snow crab fishing seasons. The Aleutian Islands port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska is the base of operations for the fishing fleet. Produced by Original Productions for the Discovery Channel, the show's title is derived from the inherent high risk of injury or death associated with this line of work.

<i>Captains Courageous</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by Victor Fleming

Captains Courageous is a 1937 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer adventure film. Based on the 1897 novel by Rudyard Kipling, "Captains Courageous: A Story of the Grand Banks", it had its world premiere at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles. The movie was produced by Louis D. Lighton and directed by Victor Fleming. Filmed in black-and-white, Captains Courageous was advertised by MGM as a coming-of-age classic with exciting action sequences.

<i>Survival Island</i> 2005 film by Stewart Raffill

Survival Island, also known as Three, is a 2005 erotic thriller film written and directed by Stewart Raffill and starring Kelly Brook, Billy Zane and Juan Pablo Di Pace.

USCGC <i>Spencer</i> (WMEC-905)

USCGC Spencer (WMEC-905) is a United States Coast Guard medium endurance cutter. Her keel was laid on 26 June 1982 at Robert Derecktor Shipyard Incorporated, Middletown, Rhode Island. She was named for John Canfield Spencer, United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1843 to 1844 under President John Tyler and launched on 17 April 1984 and was commissioned into service on 28 June 1986. In March 1991, Spencer towed a disabled U.S. Navy frigate, a ship twice Spencer's size, to safety. Spencer participated in the search for a missing Air National Guard paratrooper during the 1991 Perfect Storm. In 1999, Spencer was the on-scene command vessel for the EgyptAir Flight 990 crash off Nantucket, controlling both U.S. Navy and Coast Guard assets in the search and recovery efforts.

FV Pelican was a party boat, or head boat, operating out of Montauk, New York, which capsized on September 1, 1951, killing 45 passengers and crew, including the captain Eddie Carroll.

Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod US Coast Guard base near Sandwich, Massachusetts, United States

Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod is a United States Coast Guard air station located on Joint Base Cape Cod formerly known as Otis Air National Guard Base in Sandwich, Massachusetts. It operates from New York City to the Canada–US border. It was founded in 1970 as a replacement to Coast Guard Air Station Salem.

L'Acadien II was a Canadian-registered fishing vessel that capsized and sank on March 29, 2008. The vessel was being towed by Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Sir William Alexander off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia at the time of the incident. Two of the crew of six were rescued and four men died in the incident. Recovery efforts have not located the sunken trawler nor the missing crew member who is now presumed dead. Canadian authorities have launched independent investigations into the incident.

The Big Valley was a 92-foot crabber boat. The vessel capsized and sank Saturday, January 15, 2005, in the Bering Sea in an area 70 miles (110 km) west of Saint Paul Island, Alaska. Only one member of the crew survived: Cache Seel, 30. Skipper Gary Edwards, 46, of Kodiak, Alaska; Danny Vermeersch, 33 of Belgium; Josias Luna, 48, of Anchorage, Alaska; Aaron Marrs, 27, of Louisville, Kentucky; and Carlos Rivera, 35, of Uruguay all perished.

Linda Greenlaw is a best-selling author of books with maritime themes and the only female swordfishing boat captain on the East Coast of the United States. She was featured in the 1997 book The Perfect Storm and the film The Perfect Storm.

Coast Guard Station Gloucester United States Coast Guard station in Gloucester, Massachusetts

United States Coast Guard Station Gloucester is a United States Coast Guard station located in Gloucester, Massachusetts. It is located on Harbor Loop on the Mainland. The first successful US Coast Guard Air Station was located on Ten Pound Island in Gloucester Harbor.

<i>Swords</i> (TV series) television series

Swords: Life on the Line was a reality television series produced by Original Productions for the Discovery Channel. The series documents the events aboard New England fishing boats fishing for Swordfish. See Longline fishing.

CCGS <i>Cape Hearne</i>

CCGS Cape Hearne is one of the Canadian Coast Guard's 36 Cape-class motor lifeboats. She as christened in 2005, at the Canadian Coast Guard station at Kingston, Ontario. According to Peter Milliken, the local member of Parliament: "Kingston, with its long-standing history with fishing, maritime trade and recreational boating fully understands the clear need for search and rescue capacity on our Great Lakes. Assigning these new state-of-the-art lifeboats to coastal communities demonstrates the federal commitment to providing the highest levels of safety to ensure the ongoing prosperity and enjoyment of our aquatic riches."

Operation Dawn of Gulf of Aden Military operation

Operation Dawn of Gulf of Aden was a naval operation by the Republic of Korea Navy against Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. The operation was spurred by the pirates' seizure of the South Korean chemical tanker Samho Jewelry. In response, the South Korean government sent a destroyer and 30 naval commandos to retake the ship and rescue its crew. After trailing the tanker for several days and fighting a preliminary engagement that neutralized four of the pirates, the South Korean forces retook the ship by force on January 21, 2011 in a successful boarding action that resulted in the death of eight and the capture of five out of thirteen pirates.

The FV Margaret Jane was a Canadian stern trawler based out of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Built in 1965 at Snyder's Shipyard in Dayspring, she was owned by fishing company Adams & Knickle.


  1. Welkos, R.W. (7 May 2000), "Prepare for Good, Sick Fun", Los Angeles Times, p. 4, retrieved 11 August 2010
  2. Berardinelli, James, The Perfect Storm Film Review –, 2000 (Retrieved on 2007-01-25)
  3. "The Perfect Storm'sAndrea Gail Comes Home to Massachusetts". Warner Bros. July 14, 2000. Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  4. Candus Thomson (June 23, 2000). "Ocean City boat sails off to stardom". The Baltimore Sun . Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  5. "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.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Terry Weber (October 29, 2011). "What really happened to the Andrea Gail?" (PDF). Gloucester Daily Times . Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  7. Ringle, Ken (July 4, 2000). "Reality Gets the Heave-Ho In Not-So-Perfect 'Storm'". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  8. Collura, Chris. ""PERFECT" Storm Questions and Answers". Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  9. "Meteorologists Say 'Perfect Storm' Not So Perfect". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  10. 1 2 3 "Satori - Perfect Storm". Westsail Owners Association. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  11. "The Perfect Storm on RT".
  12. "The Perfect Storm".
  13. "The 73rd Academy Awards (2001) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-19.
  14. "The Endicott Estate in Dedham, Massachusetts". British Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 2006-11-29.
  15. 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.
  16. "Court Revives 'Perfect Storm' Lawsuit". St. Petersburg Times Online. Retrieved 2010-02-17.
  17. 1 2 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.