From Sea to Silver Screen – Does Hollywood get America’s Navy right?
America’s Navy has the most-advanced tech and the best mission environments. It’s no wonder that Hollywood never gets tired of the Navy and its rich history at sea, in space, and even on land if you count the SEALs (damn right we’re counting the SEALs). Life at sea provides true comradery and is filled with adventure.
As for depicting real Navy life, Hollywood doesn’t come close. But five post-WWII movies get a few things right. (If you want the real thing, ask a Sailor.)
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
This submarine thriller is based on the 1984 bestselling novel of the same name. Set during the Cold War era, a rogue Russian naval captain wishes to defect to the United States—with a Soviet Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine. U.S. subs are among the most secretive of Navy vessels and only a select community of specialty trained professionals are honored to sail on them. The movie does a great job highlighting the teamwork of enlisted Sailors and officers, and the creative problem-solving skills required to operate deftly within the close confines of a submarine.
Flight of the Intruder (1991)
In this drama, an A-6 pilot and a navigator/bombardier on the USS Independence disobey orders and take it upon themselves to bomb Hanoi during the Vietnam War. The movie is based on a novel written by a former Grumman A-6 pilot, and attention to Navy detail is well-executed. Life on the flight deck is an intense place, with its cacophony of sounds, stiff winds, jet exhaust blasts, foggy steam and machinery– only Sailors get to experience the thrill.
Crimson Tide (1995)
Another submarine suspense-thriller, Crimson Tide takes place on the nuclear missile submarine, the USS Alabama. During an attempted coup, ultranationalists in Russia threaten to launch nuclear missiles at the United States. The Alabama gets an order to launch its missiles, but a follow-up order (countermanding the launch?) is lost during a sea battle. A clash of wills ensues between the new executive officer and the captain over what to do next. With the glaring exception of a dog being allowed on a sub, this movie gets the gist what life is like at sea and captures the intellect, resourcefulness, and strong-willed nature of the Sailors aboard.
Just kidding. This movie is hot garbage.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Stay with us on this one. According to the film’s creators and director, the traditions of the United Federation of Planets’ main military branch are drawn from its seafaring heritage. References to Navy custom appear throughout both films, with faithful naval parlance (“Mr. Sulu, you have the conn…”), scenes of living quarters, food prep areas, flag quarters and even a Navy boatswain’s call for visiting dignitaries (in this case, Klingons). It’s encouraging to know that in 300 years there will still be a Navy, a place that offers a full range of career opportunities from becoming a doctor to serving in the kitchen (Culinary Specialist). The USS Enterprise follows in the quintessential Navy tradition, reaching impossible speeds, depths, and distances—navigating from the sea to the stars.