main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: The Hunt for Red October
Verify our range to target. One ping only.

In November of 1984, shortly before Gorbachev came to power, a Typhoon-class Soviet sub surfaced just south of the Grand Banks.
It then sank in deep water, apparently suffering a radiation problem. Unconfirmed reports indicated some of the crew were rescued.
But according to repeated statements by both Soviet and American governments,
nothing of what you are about to see...
ever happened.

The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 film adaptation of the novel of the same name. It stars Sean Connery, playing the Lithuanian captain Marko Ramius, and Alec Baldwin, playing Jack Ryan.

It's a Cold War tale of the fictional "Typhoon" class missile submarine Krasniy Oktyabr ("Red October"). The sub has an experimental magnetohydrodynamic propulsion system (more easily referred to as Caterpillar Drive), which allows it to run more quietly than any other ship at sea; effectively making it nigh-invisible to SONAR detection. On its first deployment, Captain Marko Ramius murders his political officer, taking his set of keys for the October's nuclear missiles. Conspiring with his senior officers, Ramius notifies his crew that they will be testing the ship by evading both the U.S. and Soviet navies to reach the eastern coast of the United States itself...

Not desiring to lose their sub or the secret of the Caterpillar Drive, the Soviets send their surface and attack-sub fleets after it, an amount of activity that's suspicious to the other side.

The Americans must find the sub before it is destroyed, assuming that CIA analyst Jack Ryan is right that the officers plan to defect — as opposed to just unilaterally launching their missiles...

The Typhoon-class submarine is real, and the largest submarine in the world. The submarine in the story, though, is quite considerably different to its real-life counterpart, to the point where they can't really be considered the same vessel, mainly because of its fictional "silent" propulsion system and due to a lot of details of the Typhoons having been classified at the time. On the other hand, the film maintains Plausible Deniability by specifically stating it to be a prototype variant of its class, and at least alludes to future Soviet political instability as a good reason why they never got around to producing more.

The film contains examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene:
    • Between the crash on the aircraft carrier and Jack's harrowing arrival aboard the Dallas, there is the scene of Ramius talking about fishing when he was a boy.
    • Also during the first "Crazy Ivan" scene, the tense shots of the Dallas waiting to see if Red October hears them are intercut with a quiet conversation between Ramius and Borodin about their defection.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The British participation in the capture of the titular submarine is almost completely excised, and some parts from the movie aren't in the book, but overall the film maintains the spirit and general plot of the source novel.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the books Cathy Ryan is a blonde, not a redhead.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: When Ryan is trying to convince his superiors that Ramius is defecting to the United States, he mentions that, "today is the first anniversary of his wife's death," leaving it unexplained why this is significant. Putin also makes an offhand reference during his conversation with Ramius, with no further hint as to relevance. It's only in the book that we find out that Ramius's wife died during an operation by a drunken surgeon, who escaped punishment because his father was a high Party official. This led Ramius (in the book) to decide that "the State must be made to pay".
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Red October evades a Soviet sub hunter aircraft by dodging through an underwater canyon with a torpedo in pursuit.
  • Age Lift:
    • In the novel, Mancuso is said to be in his mid-thirties, young for a command of this level; Scott Glenn, however, was 48 at the time the movie was made.
    • Ramius was born in 1941 and so was at most in his mid-forties when the story begins; Sean Connery was pushing sixty when he played the character.
  • Almighty Janitor: "The cook. It's the Goddamned cook!"
  • Americans Are Cowboys: Ramius worries that his scheme won't work if the captain of the sub that meets them is "some short of buckaroo", then Mancuso shows up wearing his sidearm:
    (Ramius sees Mancuso's sidearm and says to Borodin that Mancuso is a бакару (sounds just like the English "buckaroo"). Ryan laughs.)
    Capt. Bart Mancuso: What's so funny?
    Jack Ryan: Ah, the Captain seems to think you're some kind of...cowboy.
  • Anti-Mutiny: There is a GRU mole aboard the Red October.
  • Asshole Victim: Political Officer Putin, according to 2nd. Lt. Victor Slavin.
  • As Himself:
    • An interesting variation. The USS Reuben James is played by... the USS Reuben James. What makes it interesting is that the movie takes place a year before she was even commissioned.
    • External scenes featuring USS Enterprise also depict the actual Enterprise, identifiable by her unique island design.
  • Audience Surrogate:
    • Seaman Beaumont early on. Seaman Jones is able to deliver quite a bit of exposition to the audience while training him.
    • Once they arrive on the Red October, Jack Ryan takes on this role, having the situation explained to him by Mancuso and Ramius.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: As a sonar operator, Jones is able to determine a lot from sounds.
    • When the Red October is engaged by the Konovalev:
      A torpedo passes by the sub just after Ramius and Mancuso share a handshake
      Russian Sailor (in English): Another torpedo. The Americans are shooting at us again!
      Seaman Jones: Pitch is too high. The torpedo's Russian.
    • Earlier, not only did Jonesy figure out both the means in which the Red October disappeared, but calculated her most likely heading and figured out a means by which to track her.
  • Badass Boast:
    Kamarov: Stop pissing, Yuri. Give me a stopwatch and a map, and I'll fly the Alps in a plane with no windows.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jack Ryan: CIA academic and retired Marine, with a doctorate in history. He also speaks Russian.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: Inverted. The film opens with a disclaimer to the effect that, according to American and Soviet authorities, it is absolutely not Based on a True Story. The audience is left to draw their own conclusions.
  • Batman Gambit: "How do you get a crew to want to get off a submarine? How do you get a crew to want to get off a nuclear subma--...?"
  • Big Damn Heroes: Dallas swoops in to drop a couple of decoys to draw off a torpedo that was targeting the Red October, saving it.
    Jones Way to go, Dallas!
  • Bilingual Backfire: When the Americans first meet Ramius and his crew, Ramius disparagingly refers to the Americans as "cowboys" due to the holstered pistols they're carrying. Ryan, who speaks Russian, laughs and explains to the Dallas crew members what was just said.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Ominous Russian Chanting backing the awesome reveal of the Red October.
  • Blatant Lies: Most of what the Soviet Ambassador tells the Americans, and vice versa.
  • Brick Joke: At the very end, Ryan finally falls asleep on a plane. In turbulence. With the bear he promised his daughter at the beginning.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Jack Ryan, first of Admiral Painter, then of Captain Ramius.
  • Burning the Ships: Ramius sends a letter to the CO of the Soviet Navy stating that he and his command staff are defecting. When his staff officers ask him why he did it, he cites the example of Cortes' destruction of his ships.
    "When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships. As a result, his men were well-motivated."
  • Captain Obvious
    Steiner: Hey, I think someone just shot a torpedo at us!
    Mancuso: No shit, buckwheat! Get the hell out of here!
  • The Cast Showoff: Alec Baldwin loves doing impressions, something he'd do more of in 30 Rock.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Marko Ramius quizzes Ryan about Ryan's books while a torpedo is homing in on their sub.
    Ramius: What books did you write?
    Ryan: Well, I wrote a biography of Admiral Halsey called The Fighting Sailor.
    Ramius: Oh, I know this book. Your conclusions were all wrong, Ryan. Halsey acted stupidly.
  • Character as Himself: Stanley the Teddy Bear is listed "as himself" in the end credits.
  • Chekhov's Gun: the rescue sub Ryan sees Skip working on in the beginning.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Cook's assistant Loginov, on whom the camera lingers just a bit too long during his first appearance, is actually the GRU mole.
  • Chromosome Casting: The only two women in the entire cast are Cathy Ryan and the airline stewardess at the very end, both of whom are viewed only briefly. Justified in that there were relatively few women in the military at the time, and none serving aboard submarines.
  • Coming In Hot: With the aid of anachronistic Stock Footage and Eject...Eject...Eject... instruction heard from the tower, an Enterprise air wing aircraft is shown coming in damaged from a scrap between American and Soviet aircraft.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The movie gets rid of the British role entirely, ditches the Feed the Mole sideplot and most of the fleet-level conflict between the U.S. and Soviets, and cuts out most of Clancy's rhapsodizing about the intricacies of sub warfare.
  • Cunning Linguist: Jack Ryan.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: An inconvenient political officer "slips on his tea."
  • Death by Adaptation: Borodin.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When the Dallas first picks up Red October, Jonesy reports "I think we've got a boomer coming out of the barn. Could be a missile boat out of Polijarny." A "boomer" is a designation for a missile boat, and "barn" was the US Navy's nickname for Polijarny. (The audio on the second sentence sounds slightly different, so it may have been added later for the audience's benefit.)
  • Description Cut: Ramius mentions to Borodin that a "buckaroo" will be sent to meet them — and we immediately cut to Ryan in the plane, bouncing about uncomfortably in the turbulence.
  • Eureka Moment: When Ryan figures out the last part of Ramius' plan. "How do you make a crew want to get off a nuclear subma..."
  • Everybody Smokes: Most of the Russian crew are shown smoking aboard the sub, especially Engineer Melekhin, who has a cigarette in his hand whenever he's not in the engineering sections.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Mancuso sends Morse messages to Ramius (watching by periscope) with a light blinker, asking for an active sonar ping to signal Ramius' agreement. It's at least discussed, as Mancuso says, "My Morse is so rusty, I could be sending him dimensions on Playmate of the Month."
  • Evil Is Not Well Lit: The Soviet subs have a lot more shadows and subdued lighting than the Dallas. Once Ramius completes his defection the radiation warning lights in the October's command centre are left on, resulting in it being considerably brighter.
  • Evil Virtues: The Cook is not only willing to sacrifice himself to prevent the missile sub from falling into enemy hands, but is resourceful enough to come very close to destroying the submarine with all of the conspirators aboard.
  • Expospeak Gag: Teaching Beaumont to use the sonar, Seaman Jones describes the contact he's found as a "biologic":
    Beaumont: A what?
    Jones: A whale, Seaman Beaumont, a whale. A marine mammal that knows a heck of a lot more about sonar than you do.
  • Forever War:
    • Sean Connery makes a speech to the sailors reminding them that their grandfathers had been going on patrol against the Americans just like them.
    • Later in his cabin, he gives Borodin his true thoughts, describing this as a war "with no monuments, no victories, only causalities."
  • Hand Signals: Chief Engineer Melekhin whistles and uses a hand-across-the-throat sign to tell his subordinate to shut down the caterpillar.
  • Heroic BSOD: While a few of the officers are bothered by Ramius killing Putin, they are, with one exception, shocked out of their minds when he reveals that he sent a letter to Admiral Pedorin telling him of their plans to defect.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Borodin takes a bullet from the saboteur. The saboteur himself, for that matter.
    • The crew of the Red October that had abandoned ship end up believing Ramius and the officers did a collective one since they were fooled into thinking that they got them off so they could scuttle the sub rather than have it captured.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Tupolev, thanks to a Misguided Missile. It was his own torpedo, cunningly baited to head right back towards him
  • Hyper Awareness: Seaman Jones, justified in that veteran sonar operators in Real Life really are that good, to the point of identifying individual ships by the sound of their engines.
    Russian Sailor (in English): Another torpedo. The Americans are shooting at us again!
    Seaman Jones: Pitch is too high. The torpedo's Russian.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Subverted — after the Red October evades a torpedo launched from a Soviet anti-submarine patrol plane, one of the crew asks "Why's our own navy shooting at us?" and is told by the first officer "If they were really shooting at us, we'd be dead."
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Ryan objects to being placed at a control station for the Red October, as he's not who he's dressed to look like.
    Ramius: Ryan, sit here.
    Ryan: I'm not a naval officer, I'm with the CIA!
    Ramius: CIA?
    Ryan: I'm not an agent, I just write books for the CIA!
    Ramius: ...whatever.
  • I Was Never Here: Admiral Greer, who deliberately detonated the American torpedo targeting the Red October: "Now understand, Commander: That torpedo did not self-destruct. You heard it hit the hull. And I... was never here."
  • Just Plane Wrong/Stock Footage Failure: During the Coming In Hot scene mentioned above, the footage of the "F-14 Tomcat" crashing on landing is actually of an F9F Panther, an aircraft that had been retired for almost 30 years at the time the film was set. The crash footage had also previously been used in a number of other films.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Adding to the comedy value of Ramius' advice that Jack be careful about where he aims his handgun, after The Mole fires on Ryan, he mutters,
    Ryan: I have to be careful what I shoot at?!
  • Large Ham: Richard Jordan as the National Security Advisor. It is a very odd scene indeed where Joss Ackland (Soviet Ambassador) is the quiet, reserved one.
  • Layman's Terms: Jones explains "biologics" are animals, in this case whales.
  • Married to the Job: Ramius regrets he figuratively widowed his wife the day he married her.
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam: Ramius and the Americans pull a huge one to trick the Soviets.
  • Meaningful Background Event: After the Soviet Bear bomber drops its torpedo,note  the co-pilot looks towards the pilot with a horrified look on his face.
  • The Medic: Doctor Petrov (Tim Curry!), naive but caring about his men, as well as a good officer who keeps order when the Red October is being evacuated.
  • Membership Token: The Captain of the USS Enterprise takes a dislike to Jack Ryan disguising himself as a naval officer, until the carrier battlegroup's commanding admiral points out his Naval Academy graduate ring, going on to explain how Jack was in a helicopter crash while at the Academy, and had to finish his studies while in the hospital for his entire last year.
  • Military Maverick: Ramius repeatedly demonstrates this, unnerving even his fellow officers with his highly unconventional tactics.
  • Misguided Missile: Thanks to some clever maneuvering and disengaged torpedo safeties, and a bit of help from Dallas, the Red October manages to string around a pursuing torpedo so that it hits the very attack sub that fired it.
  • Mr. Exposition: Jones while explaining all sorts of basics of sonar and sub tactics to Beaumont, some of which anyone on board a sub ought to already know.
  • Nausea Dissonance: Ryan hates flying because of turbulence. When he's on a turbulent flight to the Enterprise, the navigator goes into excruciating detail about a really rough ride on his last mission, mentions he vomited, and then offers him a bit of the candy bar he's been munching on.
  • The Navigator: Kamarov, who guides Red October through Red Route One.
  • Nerves of Steel: Marko Ramius quizzes Ryan about Ryan's books while a torpedo is homing in on their sub.
  • Non-Action Guy: Downplayed. Jack Ryan is a CIA Analyst, an office mouse type who hates flying, takes poorly to being shot at, and spends much of the movie out of his depth as he hitches rides on various warships and submarines. As it is eventually revealed, he is also a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and commissioned in the Marine Corps before being discharged due to his injuries in a helicopter crash.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: The setting. But in this specific point it is dangerously close to turning lethal.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Most of the actors playing the Russian characters, but especially Sean Connery.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Admiral Painter does this to Ryan, though it's justified. At the moment Ryan comes to him, they're trying to recover a damaged fighter.
  • A Nuclear Error: In order to heighten tensions and give a deadline for the affair, the movie never explains what the book did about the range of SS-N-20s or Soviet safeguards against rogue launch.
  • Obscured Special Effects: The underwater shots of the subs never take place in shallow or well-lit water so the CGI could be masked.
  • Of Course I Smoke: Jack Ryan makes a point about how he doesn't smoke, repeatedly turning down cigarettes. However, after arriving aboard the Red October, he accepts a cigarette from one of the Russian officers. Ryan's coughing amuses the Russians, and helps to ease the tension between both sides.
    Melekhin: [in Russian, a few moments after Ryan lights up] He's turning green!
  • Oh Crap:
    • Subverted. Tupolev's second officer, when he finds out that their torpedo is now going to hit them instead, he doesn't freak out, but simply points out to his captain how much of an arse he had been.
    • Played straight when the Red October is overflown by "a low altitude multi-engine turboprop." when it launches a torpedo, the officers know that they were overflown by a Soviet Tupolev Tu-142 and not an American Lockheed P-3 Orion.
    • Ryans expression when he finds out that Red October was spotted by a satellite leaving the Polijarny Inlet, two days after he found out of its existence.
  • Old Master: Captain Ramius's nickname? The Vilnius Schoolmaster. He trained many of the Soviet navy's sub skippers, including Tupolev.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Or, in the case of "Hymn to Red October", the movie's theme song, Ominous Russian Chanting.note 
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Gates McFadden, from her short scene as Caroline Ryan, as starts with a British accent before going to an American accent.
  • Opening Scroll: Contains a Suspiciously Specific Denial.
  • Politicians Kiss Babies: NSA adviser Jeffrey Pelt tells Jack Ryan "I'm a politician, which means that I'm a cheat and a liar. And if I'm not kissing babies, I'm stealing their lollipops.".
  • Precision F-Strike: From the scene briefing the President:
  • Punch Clock Villain: Putin. "I am only doing my job, it is my responsibility!"
  • Refuge in Audacity: When Tupolev fires torpedoes at the Red October, Ramius orders the crew to make the submarine close with the torpedoes at full speed. He correctly deduces that by getting close to the torpedoes shortly after they've fired, he can catch them while their safeties are still on and ram them with minimal damage. All the while calmly asking Ryan what kind of books he writes.
  • Reporting Names: For simplicity, the Soviet subs are only referred to by their NATO designations, even though the Alfa-class was known as the Lira-class in Russian.
  • Retirony: "I would have liked to have seen Montana."
  • Rousing Speech: At the start of the mission, Captain Ramius delivers a one so magnificent that it prompts the sailors to chant the national anthem. It's rife with Badass Boast, talking about how they'd slip in past the SOSUS sonar network, listen to commercial radio broadcasts from New York City, and conduct missile drills off the American coast before sailing on to Cuba.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The first word when Russians start speaking English is "Armageddon" (which is the same in both languages), hinting at the reason Ramius did what he did.
  • Running Gag:
    • Whenever Jack is doing something unpleasant or dangerous;
      Ryan: Jack, next time you get a bright idea, write a goddamn memo!
    • Various people asking Jack when the last time he slept was.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: One of Ramius' motivations for defecting.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Tupolev.
  • Shout-Out: As Ramius speaks about his deceased wife, he says "I widowed her the day I married her.", which was what Captain Ahab also said about his wife in Moby-Dick.
  • Silent Running Mode: Submarines are of course designed to do this from the very start. Red October is a particular example in that its caterpillar drive makes it unusually quiet even for submarines.
  • Sleazy Politician: A National Security adviser hangs a Self-Deprecation lampshade after a staff meeting.
    Jeffrey Pelt: Listen, I'm a politician, which means I'm a cheat and a liar, and when I'm not kissing babies, I'm stealing their lollipops. But it also means that I keep my options open.
  • Smug Snake: Capt. Tupolev.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Lt. Kamarov takes the bullet from The Mole in the novel and is killed, but survives in the film.
    • Also the eardrums of Red October's sonar officer (in the book, he doesn't remove his headset in time during one of the torpedo explosions and winds up temporarily deafened.)
  • The Stoic: Engineer Melekhin, the only officer who doesn't share in the Heroic BSOD. In fact, despite the extremely tense situation surrounding him the entire movie, the only event that gives him any visible distress is the sabotage to the caterpillar drive, as it was the first sign that they had a genuine saboteur onboard.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In the Opening Scroll, which bothers to remind you that this movie is totally fictitious. Honest.
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: When Ryan, Captain Mancuso and Seaman Jones arrive aboard the eponymous sub, there is dead silence as the Americans and Russians stare at one another. But when Ryan accepts a cigarette from one of the Russian officers, he coughs while smoking (earlier, he'd explain that he doesn't smoke, repeatedly turning down cigarettes), which amuses the Russians and soon eases the tensions between both sides.
  • Translation Convention:
    • The first part of the film is entirely in Russian, until the Political Officer reads from The Bible's "Book of Revelation". Mid-read, the camera zooms in on his mouth, where he begins speaking English, then pulls back again. The language switch is done on "Armageddon", a word pronounced the same way in both Russian and English.
    • Once the Americans meet them, they switch back to subtitled Russian, as only Ryan can understand it and Ramius speaks English.
  • Understatement: "Most things in here don't react too well to bullets." Even more amusing when you hear it in Sean Connery's voish, and then Alec Baldwin's imitation.
    Ryan: "Mosht things in here don't react well to bulletsh." Yeah, like me ... I don't react well to bullets.
  • Victorious Chorus: The main theme, the "Hymn to Red October".
  • War Is Hell: Ramius, speaking about the Cold War:
    Ramius: "I miss the peace of fishing like when I was a boy. Forty years I've been at sea. A war at sea. A war with no battles, no monuments... only casualties. I widowed her the day I married her. My wife died while I was at sea, you know."
  • The Watson: Seaman Beaumont is basically only there so that Jonesy can tell the audience what's going on.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Tupolev and his old teacher, Ramius. Subverted, in that Tupolev believes they were friends and holds Ramius in high regard, while Ramius appears somewhat disdainful of Tupolev.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Twice, in the same scene:
    • The assassination of The Political Officer. When the rest of the command crew bring this up to Ramius over dinner, Borodin defends Ramius's action, saying "Did you think he would just go away and sulk while we carried out our plans?" Only one of them objects on the basis of murder being wrong; the rest are worried the crew will find out and mutiny.
    • When Ramius reveals he told Russian fleet command that they're defecting. Even Borodin, who respects Ramius greatly and waits until the others leave to voice his own objection, is shocked.
    Kamarov: In the name of god, why?
    Ramius: When he reached the new world, Cortez burned his ships. As a result, his men were well-motivated.
    Kamarov: You have signed our death warrants.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The DSRV Mystic, Mancuso tells its operator to "Get the hell out of here", and we never see or hear from it again.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Jack Ryan broke his back in a helicopter crash when he was a Marine, and spent over a year in the hospital recovering from his injuries. He is shown early in the movie being entirely unable to sleep on airplanes (before the helo crash is brought up in the film). Later, he has to ride in the back of a small airplane getting bounced around in order to get to the Enterprise. And then, he has to ride in a helicopter in order to link up with the Dallas. Even once he's on board the sub, he seems to find its initial dive disquieting. However, by the end of the film, due to fatigue and being forced to confront this fear so many times the final scene shows him sleeping peacefully in broad daylight on his plane journey home.
  • Worthy Opponent: Capt. Tupolev; also the Russian mole aboard the Red October.
  • Zipping Up the Bodybag: Early in the film, we see Political Officer Putin being zipped up as Captain Ramius expresses his regret over the unfortunate death from slipping on some spilled tea.

Right full rudder!
HardwareFilms of the 1990sI Come in Peace
The Human ConditionMilitary and Warfare FilmsThe Hurt Locker

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy