The Hunt for Red October (1990) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • In November 1984, the Soviet Union's best submarine Captain in their newest sub violates orders and heads for the U.S. Is he trying to defect or to start a war?

  • The Soviets create a new nuclear submarine that runs silent due to a revolutionary propulsion system. The Russian sub Captain defects. His goal is taking it to the U.S. to prevent the Russians from using the sub to cause nuclear war against the U.S.

  • This film tells the story of Captain Marko Ramius, the skipper of the Soviet Union's newest nuclear sub. Jack Ryan of the CIA gets involved in a tense, tangled hunt for this sub, when Ramius defects, taking the "Red October" with him. The story is an action packed techno-thriller.

  • Marko Ramius is a senior Lithuanian sub Captain, whose plans to defect are met with strong opposition by his own Soviet Navy, and American misconceptions of his intentions. C.I.A. analyst Jack Ryan, the one man who sees the defection, must convince most of the U.S. Navy he is correct. The action climaxes with an amazing naval battle, but who will win The Hunt for Red October?

  • A new, technologically-superior Soviet sub, the Red October, is heading for the U.S. coast under the command of Marko Ramius. The U.S. government thinks Ramius is planning to attack. C.I.A. analyst Jack Ryan has a different idea. He thinks Ramius is planning to defect, but he has only a few hours to find him and prove it, because the entire Russian naval and air commands are trying to find him, too.

  • The Red October is a new Soviet submarine. When the Americans are given photographs of it, they are extremely curious as to why is it so special. C.I.A. analyst Jack Ryan consults with a friend, who deduces that it's equipped with a new engine that can make it run virtually silent, and with such a device, they can position themselves on the outskirts of any coastal city and launch their missiles and not give their target any warning. Marko Ramius, the sub's Captain, kills their political officer after they open their orders, which basically has them conducting routine maneuvers, but he kills him and burns their orders and replaces it. He then tells the crew that they are going to test their new engine by positioning themselves by New York City and run missile drills. Ryan is then called by his boss to attend a briefing that concerns the Red October. It is at this briefing, that they discover that Ramius sent a letter to high ranking Soviet official, who after reading the letter went to meet with the Soviet Premier, and it was shortly after that meeting that the Soviet Navy was deployed to find the Red October and sink it. Everyone assumes that Ramius has turned rogue, but Ryan, who once did research on Ramius, assumes that he might be trying to defect. While everyone dismisses him, the National Security Adviser tells Ryan to go out there and find out for sure if he is right, because once Ramius is in position to fire his missiles, they have take him out. Ryan reluctantly goes and is not use to fieldwork, and is having a hard time coping with the sea. At the same time, someone in the Red October crew knows that Ramius has deviated from his assignment and is doing what he can to stop him.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • 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 film opens with a pan of a hilly, snow-covered landscape surrounding a bay, which is observed by Marko Ramius- who we see close up on the eyes briefly.

    Polijarny Inlet, North of Soviet Sub Base, Near Murmansk

    Ramius and his colleague Vasili Borodin (Sam Neill) discuss the cold - and hard - morning before an accompanying tugboat sounds a horn. Borodin, using binoculars to scout, notifies Ramius that it is time. The submarine prepares to submerge.

    The film changes scenes to a room in a building (in London) and scans books and artifacts (as the opening credits roll) as Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) packs for a trip. His daughter, Sally, stands nearby - claiming that Stanley (her stuffed teddy bear) "keeps waking her up". Ryan promises Sally he will buy Stanley a "baby brother" before he and his wife leave for Heathrow airport.

    Upon arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport, Ryan is met by two CIA agents who escort him to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He meets with Admiral Greer (James Earl Jones) who he shows photographs from British Intelligence of the Red October a Typhoon-class submarine which is 12 meters longer than a standard Typhoon sub and three meters wider. He also reveals that he wrote a bio on Ramius during the previous year, who captained the lead submarine of each new class for the last ten years, has fairly good political connections and trained most of the Soviet attack boat skippers. Ramius is known as Vilnius Nstavnic (Vilnius Schoolmaster). Greer notices strange doors on the Red October, which both Ryan and the British do not know the purpose of. Ryan wishes to share the pictures with Skip Tyler (Jeffrey Jones), a sub driver who lost his leg to a drunk driver and is doing teaching at the Naval Academy and consulting with Navy laboratories at Top Secret clearance minimum. Greer calls his assistant and orders a car for Ryan within 10 minutes - revealing that the was caught by satellite in Polyarny Inlet.

    USS Dallas, Los Angeles Class Attack Sub, 100 Miles Northwest of Polyarny Inlet

    The sub passes overhead and the film a monitor sonar pingings showing on it, scanning around the room where Seaman Jones (Courtney B. Vance) (nicknamed "Jonesy") tutors a younger seaman on the Signal Algorithmic Processing Systems only to find a whale. Chief of the Boat Watson (Larry Ferguson) interjects and persuades Jones to talk about a story about Pavarotti. The story is interrupted by a new contact signal, which Jones reports to the Conn. Captain - Cmdr Bart Mancuso (Scott Glenn) acknowledges.

    The film switches to the interior of the Red October, where Borodin notifies Ramius that it is time to open the orders and that the Political Officer, Putin (Peter Firth) is in the captain's cabin. Ramius becomes suspicious and hands over Conn to Borodin and investigates to find Putin reading a book about the end of the world, which Putin objects to Ramius owning such a book. Ramius responds that it belonged to his wife and he keeps it for sentimental value. Putin suggests opening the orders. Ramius opens a vault (which requires two keys - which Ramius and Putin carry) and reveals an envelope. The orders are to rendezvous with the Alfa-class submarine Konovalov captained by Tupolev (who was a student of Ramius), where they will test the Caterpillar drive while Tupolev hunts him. They are to return to Polyarny following the test. Putin ambitiously requests permission to post the orders and inform the crew of the mission himself which Ramius reluctantly grants. As Putin turns to leave, Ramius slams him against the table and kills him, telling him that he cannot follow the captain's path. He spills tea on the floor next to Putin's body and calls the doctor to his cabin, while producing a concealed set of orders and burning the original orders.

    Graving Dock #4, U.S. Naval Shipyards, Patuxent, Maryland

    Ryan enters a large bay housing an attack submarine with cranes overhead. A worker nearby tosses him a hard hat before he finds Tyler directing work on a DSRV that is being mated with a generic docking collar that is to mate with any sub from any navy force. Ryan shows Tyler the pictures. Tyler quickly recognizes the doors as the caterpillar drive - a "magneto-hydrodynamic" propulsion system that renders the submarine silent by mimicking seismic anomalies. Tyler reminisces about the Cuban missile crisis and mentions that the sub can launch missiles at Washington and New York without anyone noticing.

    Dr. Yevgeniy Petrov (Tim Curry) checks on Captain Ramius as crew members carry Putin's body out of the captain's cabin, worried that Ramius is blaming himself for the "accident". Ramius calls a cook over to witness (along with Petrov) the captain removing the political officer's missile key and keeping it for himself. Petrov objects - suggesting that they report to Red Fleet Command (he also thinks Ramius should return to Polyarny to replace Putin - which Ramius objects saying missions are not canceled because of accidents), but Borodin, handing Ramius a set of orders, mentions that is impossible as orders are for strict radio silence. Ramius dismisses the cook and the doctor - who is unnerved and thinks he should carry the second key to prevent Ramius from arming the missiles on his own. Ramius promises Petrov that he will try to forget the doctor's comments when presenting his report. The cook looks on in suspicion.

    Jones and Mancuso investigate the new sonar contact, which is identified as a new Typhoon submarine. Mancuso calls "Typhoon 7" (They do not recognize that this is the Red October. The captain orders his XO, Lt Cmdr Thompson (nicknamed "Tommy") (Anthony Peck), to work Dallas in closer to the sub.

    Ramius announces the Red October's orders to the crew - and orders the caterpillar drive engaged and the propeller shut down. Announcing that they will "lay off [the U.S.'s] largest city" before sailing to Havana. The crew sings the Soviet national anthem as the caterpillar engages, resulting in the contact being lost from the Dallas sonar. Ramius orders a course toward 250 and the Sonar officer reports a contact with a Los Angeles submarine. Ramius asks the officer if the sub is attempting to follow to which the officer responds that the sub continues at course 310. Borodin worries about the singing being heard, but Ramius lets the crew enjoy the moment.

    Mancuso is shocked to find the Dallas lost the Red October and asks for diagnostics on the sonar. Jonesy confirmed that the sonar is working and nervously reports that he thought he heard singing.

    Red Fleet Political Directorate, Varposki Prospect, Moscow

    A man, Admiral Yuri Padorin (Peter Zinner), walks along a hallway and several Russian military officers stand up to acknowledge as he passes by. He ignores and frustratingly waves them off. His orderly greets him, takes his coat and hat, sets up the tea and notifies him that a letter is on his desk from Marko Ramius. The admiral happily opens the letter and picks up his tea, then slowly drops and spills his tea as he reads the letter.

    At the shipyard archive, a phone rings until Ryan answers it as Tyler looks on. A quick switch is made to a car dropping Ryan off at the White House where he greets Greer who tells Ryan that the project is no longer about research. Greer reveals he already knows what the doors on the Red October are when Ryan reports the intelligence to Ryan's amazement. He mentions that the captain of the sub (the Dallas) reported it disappearing right in front of them. They are heading to an official briefing of Jeffrey Pelt (Richard Jordan), the President's national security adviser, which Ryan is to give. Ryan stands in shock at the assignment, but Greer reassures him that he is the only one that knows the material. Ryan begins the briefing by describing the Red October and that additional Soviet subs and surface ships are preparing to sail at about the time of the Dallas' loss of contact with the Red October. He also talks about Ramius' history. He believed that the Red October is possibly a first strike weapon. Greer believes this may be an exercise but says there the data but a Joint Chief general objects thinking that this may be a move against NATO. Judge Moore reports sensitive information indicating that Ramius posted a letter to Padorin prior to sailing. Ryan recognizes Padorin as an uncle of Ramius' wife. Moore stated that after reading the letter (contents unknown), Padorin ordered the Soviet fleet to sink the Red October. Ryan realizes that Ramius might be trying to defect, but the Army general vehemently objects to this, saying that as an analyst Ryan has no idea what Ramius has in mind. Ryan asserts that because he knows Ramius as a legend and a maverick and that he actually met him. Greer holds him back as Pelt dismisses the Joint Chiefs but asks Ryan to remain. Pelt offers Ryan an opportunity to prove his theory correct and sends him off to make contact with Ramius and capture the Red October while disguising the operation as an inspection.

    Aboard the Konovalov, Tupolev awaits the arrival of the Red October. He finds a new set of orders and realizes what happened. He orders the crew to set course to intercept the Red October as quickly as possible.

    Jones listens to sonar recordings to find out what happens to the Red October

    Petrov is conversing with the Red October's chief engineer in the officer's mess. Ramius glares at him, then silently orders Borodin to escort the talkative doctor out of the room to fetch the latest batch of radiation tests. Borodin locks the door and the remaining officers sit down. Victor Slavin, the Red October's diving officer, requests information on what happened to Putin, but is ignored by Ramius and confronted about his tone. The officers discuss the risk of defecting and what impact on the crew when Ramius announces the letter he dispatched to Padorin announced their intention to defect. The officer's are shocked at this - objecting and realizing that Padorin will hunt down the Red October. Ramius dismisses the officers. Borodin expresses his disagreement about informing Moscow, but Ramius says that it is not Moscow he's worried about, but encountering an American "Buckaroo".

    Ryan is flying aboard an aircraft encountering severe turbulence that lands on an aircraft carrier while another crewman talks about what happened on a previous flight he had been on.

    USS Enterprise, The North Atlantic, East of Nova Scotia

    The aircraft touches down on the flight deck. Ryan follows the Enterprise Captain Charlie Davenport who is escorting him to the cabin of fleet commander R. Adm. Josh Painter (Fred Dalton Thompson) and lets him know that the "Gentleman" is here to see him. Ryan apologies for the uniform, explaining that it was Greer's idea of a low profile. Painter asks what all the "hubbub" is all about.

    Tommy and Jonesy propose an idea to Mancuso aboard the Dallas about something Jonesy heard after the Red October disappeared, what the computer called a "magma displacement". Jonesy plays the sound at ten times normal speed and mentions his belief that the sound is definitely man-made and mechanical. He shows a chart with points on it showing it headed toward Thor's Twins - the entrance to "Red Route One" around Iceland. He convinces Mancuso to plot a course toward the end of the route.

    Ryan, Painter and Davenport discuss Ryan's plans and idea that Ramius is defecting and Davenport protests heavily. Painter also believes the idea of a few days inspection will not work. He asks what they are to do with the crew and what Ramius' plan is, both of which Ryan doesn't know. Once things settle, Painter offers a place to sleep. After Ryan leaves Davenport protests the idea of Ryan wearing the uniform. Painter responds by explaining that Ryan had been a marine who survived a helicopter accident and ultimately left the corps on a medical discharge. Painter felt the Soviets would find the sub first.

    The Red October begins its navigation of Red Route One. Borodin calls Ramius to report first turn when Ramius himself enters the control room and orders an increase of speed to 26 knots. A shocked Borodin relays a re-computation order to Kamarov, the ship's navigation officer and Slavin protests quietly to Borodin - who ignores him. The Red October successfully navigates the next turn while maintaining the high speed. An explosion rocks the sub - which turns out to be the cryogenic plant failing. Borodin investigates and orders Lt Melekhin to disengage the caterpillar. He calls the captain and states the ship will have to stop to make repairs. Ramius instead orders main engines started at 20 knots - despite the protests of the lack of stealth movement.

    Soviet ambassador Andrei Lysenko (Joss Ackland) is confronted by Pelt, and denies any knowledge of Soviet naval activity. Pelt - concerned about a war breaking out - explains exactly what is happening to the Soviet Ambassador - who admits that the Soviets have lost one of their submarines and are trying to find it because several officers are sons of high party officials. Pelt offers assistance, which Lysenko replies to by saying they are in control of the situation.

    Bear Foxtrot #692, Soviet Anti-Submarine aircraft, South of Iceland

    The weapons officer of #692 notices a sonar pingback and radios to the plane's captain.

    Ramius is explaining to Melekhin about the loss of the caterpillar exposing them to the entire fleet (He does not mention which fleet) when the sonar operator interrupts him with the notice of a turboprop (BF692) flying overhead and the dropping of sonar buoys. Ramius order's battle stations be manned. A torpedo is released from BF692 and acquires lock on the Red October. Ramius ignores the turn at the Neptune Massif and uses it as a shield to avoid the torpedo from destroying the sub. Slavin protests all the way, drawing a relief from duty order from Ramius. A scared crew member asks why the BF was shooting at the Red October and has to be held back by Petrov and calmed by Borodin. Ramius looks around to find concerned looks on all crew members in the conn. Melekhin finds out that someone had intentionally sabotaged the caterpillar by tearing out the buffer circuit and reports to Ramius and Borodin. Realizing the presence of a saboteur, Ramius changes his plans for getting the crew off the sub.

    Aboard the Enterprise, Ryan ponders what Ramius is planning, wondering how he would have to get a crew to want to get off a nuclear submarine. The word "nuclear" gives him his answer. He tells Painter he knows, but Painter is not ready to listen. Davenport, now at ease with Ryan's uniform, explains the situation that is taking place and the deployment of both Soviet and American ships. A line of Soviet attack subs have lined up along the U.S. east coast, ready to intercept the Red October while Soviet ships and planes are trying to drive Ramius to them. Ryan notices a sub off by itself by Iceland - which Painter explains is the Dallas. Ryan realizes that the sub made contact with the Red October and requests transport to it. The request is difficult at best. Painter and Ryan witness an F-14 crash into the carrier's flight deck after a confrontation with a Bear Foxtrot that damaged the F-14. A helicopter - which was stripped down and turned into a "flying gas can" carries Ryan toward the Dallas.

    The Dallas reacquires contact with the Red October using Jonesy's theory and follow it. Aboard the Red October, Borodin reports to Ramius in the captain's cabin that they emerged from the turn and have reactivated the caterpillar. The crew now knows of the saboteur and is afraid. Routine clearing of the baffles (also known as Crazy Ivans) are initiated, causing the Dallas to go into silent running. Borodin and Ramius converse plans for their future after handing over the sub to the Americans while both crews endure the first Crazy Ivan. Ramius orders Guards posted in engineering to protect against the Saboteur. Mancuso orders end of silent running after the Red October reemerges in front of them. The radio officer hands orders to him notifying of Ryan's arrival.

    The Dallas surfaces to meet the helicopter, which lowers Ryan to the sub, but the high wind and rain prevent an easy transfer and injuring Tommy as a result of a collision between him and Ryan. As the helicopter aborts, Ryan disconnects from the tether and falls into the water. Mancuso dispatches a diver to recover him

    Lysenko demands audience from the U.S. President requesting assistance to destroy Red October saying that Ramius suffered a mental breakdown and the letter he sent to Padorin announced his intention to fire missiles upon the United States.

    Mancuso learns from Ryan that what he found is the Red October before receiving orders to sink her from central command. The Dallas rigs for red and orders battle stations manned - and reacquires contact with the Red October. Ryan realizes that the Soviets invented the story because they couldn't sink the Red October without any assistance and attempts to convince Mancuso otherwise, nearly being taken prisoner for it. Ryan guesses that the next Crazy Ivan will be to Starboard because he knows Ramius always does so in the bottom half of the hour. Ramius does exactly that, and Mancuso orders a reversal of the engines despite protests from Jonesy that the Red October will hear them. Now that they have "unzipped their fly", Mancuso orders weapons ready and outer tube doors open. The Red October responds equally, except for opening the tube doors. The Red October heads up to Periscope depth. The Dallas follows alongside.

    Both captains look through their periscopes. Mancuso sends a message to Ramius crafted by Ryan that the U.S is notified of his "intentions" according to Soviet officials and that he should not approach the U.S. or risk attack. Ryan offers the opportunity to discuss options. This confuses Ramius, who orders a single verification ping sent toward Dallas. Mancuso realizes Ramius' true intention and awaits Ryan's next message. Ryan suggests that if Ramius intends defection he should plot a course to south of the Grand Banks. Ryan also admits he didn't know that Ramius would Crazy Ivan to Starboard. Mancuso also bluffs Ryan by saying his Morse is so rusty that he might be sending dimensions on the playmate of the month. Ramius slams the periscope arms in shock - realizing that the Dallas has discovered his true intent. He orders another ping. Mancuso asks what this is about, to which Ryan responds that they will have to ruse the sinking to get the soviets off the Red October's back. Ramius orders a course to the Grand Banks.

    The Grand Banks, Just north of the Laurentian Abyssal, 20 Hours later

    Red October's alarms sound and vents spew gas into every room. Melekhin explains that a leak in the primary coolant tube forced shutdown of the caterpillar and ventilation has been disabled. Petrov strongly suggests getting the men outside. Ramius tries to deny sabotage until Borodin agrees with the doctor. Ramius orders surface and evacuation. Borodin stands watch with Binoculars and spots an American frigate to the west of them. The frigate orders the Red October to not submerge or risk being fired upon. Ramius orders Petrov to join the crew while he and the officers dive and scuttle. The frigate fires a warning shot, then launches a helicoptor which drops a torpedo into the water. A hand presses the self-destruct button for the torpedo 300 yards behind the Red October. Greer informs Lt Cmdr Mike Hewitt (William Bell Sullivan) that the torpedo hit Red October and he was never present. Tyler orders Dallas to get the DSRV over to the Red October.

    As Mancuso mutters about the CIA being involved and pointing out "a contradiction in terms", he boards the DSRV, joining Jonesy and Ryan - who gives Mancuso a deadpan look as Mancuso asks how the coffee was. The rescue sub transfers to the Red October while the Ruben James rescues the Red October's crew. After docking, Mancuso, who had readied his own sidearm en-route, offers a gun to Ryan, who reluctantly accepts, believing that Ramius won't change his mind about defecting. Anatoli, the Red October's sonar chief, greets Mancuso and welcomes him, Jonesy and Ryan into the sub's interior, escorting them to the Conn, where Ramius and his officers await them.

    Borodin orders Melekhin to disarm the flashing lights in the radiation alarm. Ryan asks for a cigarette from Melekhin and smokes it, drawing the ire of both the Soviets and Mancuso. Ramius realizes his worry of a buckaroo after glancing at Mancuso's sidearm - Ryan laughs, explaining to Mancuso such. Ramius asks Mancuso why he fired on the Red October despite no such mention in the message. Ryan explains that this was necessary to maintain the illusion for the Red October crew. He realizes that Ryan sent the signal but asks how Ryan knew that the reactor accident was false. Ryan said it was a logical guess. Tensions relax a bit between the Soviets and the Americans and Ramius requests asylum for him and his officers which Mancuso accepts. A torpedo flies overhead, interrupting them. A Soviet officer believes that the Americans are shooting again, but Jonesy says that the torpedo is Russian because the pitch is too high.

    Tupolev wonders why the missile did not detonate, and orders adjustment and another torpedo launch. Beaumont reports aboard the Dallas the presence of the new contact, an Alfa-class Soviet submarine (The Konovalov. Ramius engages power on the Red October and the DSRV off the hull. Jonesy and Borodin discover the Konovalov 8000 yards to starboard. Tupelov launches another torpedo. Tommy, now in command of the Dallas, orders battle stations manned of the COB, his acting XO. Aboard the Ruben James, Steiner explains what happens to Greer and Tyler. Ramius orders the Red October to turn into the torpedo's path, closing the distance to prevent arming and eventual break-up. Ramius orders a firing solution, but the saboteur, which stowed aboard during evacuation, shot at and destroyed the fire control, killing Borodin in the process (Borodin took a bullet meant for Ramius). Mancuso returns fire to drive off the traitor. The Saboteur enters the missile bay and begins to rig a missile for self-destruct. Ramius leaves Mancuso in command and goes to intercept. Mancuso offers his sidearm to Ramius and sends Ryan with him.

    Ramius is injured by the saboteur and Ryan continues his advance to intercept the traitor in the missile bay.

    Tupolev orders safety ranges set to zero and fires another torpedo. Jonesy recognizes that the torpedo will hit, but the Dallas intercepts the missile and does an emergency surface to save the Red October and drive the torpedo off course.

    Ryan finally finds the saboteur, discovering him to be the same cook Ramius encountered during the Putin investigation. The cook has no intention of surrendering and Ryan kills him.

    Ramius and Ryan return to the Conn as the torpedo reacquires the Red October. Mancuso plots a collision course with the Konovalov and plays "chicken" with her, turning just in time to allow the torpedo destroy the Konovalov.

    Back in Washington, Pelt explains to Lysenko that recovery is difficult and return of the crew to the Soviets. Lysenko explains that the Soviets lost a second sub (The Konovalov). Pelt responds with mock surprise at the news.

    Penobscot River, North of Searsport, Maine

    Ramius, Ryan, Mancuso and Melekhin stand on the Bridge of the Red October reminiscing about the past and future and hide the Red October in the Penobscot River, 100 miles from the nearest base. It was in an area that Ryan grew up. Ramius queries Ryan on why he didn't ask why this happened. Ramius intended to take away a first-strike weapon from the Soviets.

    Ryan flies back to London, having bought Stanley's "brother" and sleeps peacefully despite the turbulence.

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