White Squall (1996)

PG-13  |   |  Adventure, Drama  |  2 February 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 17,319 users   Metascore: 53/100
Reviews: 88 user | 37 critic | 21 from Metacritic.com

Teenage boys discover discipline and camaraderie on an ill-fated sailing voyage.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
McCrea, Albatross Crewman / English Teacher
Francis Beaumont
Girard Pascal, Albatross Cook (as Julio Mechoso)
Coast Guard Capt. Sanders
Jordan Clarke ...


A true story about a group of American teenage boys who crew a school sailing ship to gain experience, discipline, or whatever their parents feel they lack. The voyage is a true adventure for them all but it has its downs as well as ups. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

ship | sailing | sail | squall | storm | See All (63) »


The strongest force in nature is the will to survive. See more »


Adventure | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and a traumatic shipwreck | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| |

Release Date:

2 February 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

White Squall - Reißende Strömung  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$38,000,000 (estimated)


$10,300,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Many sailors claimed no line squall existed. The derecho line thunderstorm that struck the USA Eastern Seaboard on 29 June 2012 is the kind of "line squall", that wrecked the actual sailboat on which the plot of the film is based. See more »


According to the timelines shown on screen, the story starts in 1960 and ends in 1961. However, in one of the scenes on the ship, in the background you can hear JFK's speech about the Cuban Missile Crisis from October 1962. See more »


Captain Christopher "Skipper" Sheldon: You can't run from the wind. You trim your sails, face the music, and keep going.
See more »


Edited into Kingdom of Heaven (2005) See more »


South Australia
(a.k.a. "Bound for South Australia")
19th Century British sea shanty
See more »

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User Reviews

could've been corny and preachy but is actually rousing and tough and formidably directed
20 August 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

White Squall is based on a true story; ultimately tragic but also of the 'inspiring' sort we get often at the movies. It could've been the kind of corny 'this is what I learned and now I'm blah blah' kind of storytelling that gets excruciating after a while in Hollywood movies. Apparently, thankfully, Ridley Scott knew this and took on White Squall as a challenge: take a character ensemble, the kind of 'male camaraderie' picture that with a few alterations (i.e. reduce some sexual content) could have been produced in the 50s or 60s with a Burt Lancaster or other as the lead, and make it mostly tough and sentimental only in that rugged John Ford sort of sensibility. He succeeded admirably as his film is what it wants to be, which is surprising considering the "it's Dead Poets Society at sea" criticisms I had read online. It's fairly old-fashioned in some ways, but its presented in all the ways that matter.

What's also impressive is seeing Scott attempt an ensemble based around character and, up until the last quarter of the picture, not really based on plot. He's done other pictures that have been ensembles, in fact a lot of them, but mostly they're wrapped around the story as it unfolds. In White Squall a lot of things happen, and characters come and go and lessons are learned and there are even a few tears, but it's based around character and it's fascinating to see Scott work with this nearly loose structure. Certainly his cast is a big help, as Jeff Bridges makes an equally formidable lead as the Skipper of the Albatross, the ship for a group of young men going for many months out to sea to "become men", or rather take the SATs and become a stronger community on a ship. While we only see snippets of how excellent he can be as an actor throughout until the final agonizing scenes during and after the ship wreck, the rest of the cast holds up just as well (Scott Wolf, Balthazar Getty, Ethan Embry, a really good Jeremy Sisto in an unpredictable 'rich kid' role, and John Savage as the older 'intellectual' type).

It goes without saying sometimes White Squall does run into some hokey or just some territory that is almost put in as an intentional INSPIRATION scene (in caps), like when the boys are at the remote island and run around up the hill to sign that buried book. Yet it's not what doesn't work but what does that makes the film impressive, and it holds up extremely well against its counterparts that don't have a keen eye for the facts in the story as well as making the characters not simply cardboard cut-outs. It's pretty conventional, but in the finest way imaginable, and has a pretty amazing climax out at sea with the title event (maybe not Perfect Storm but without computers all the more impressive).

4 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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