The Final Countdown (1980) Poster

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Having served on the Nimitz....
gold524 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film before I joined the Navy and again before I served on Nimitz (CVN 68). Kind of a nice feather in my cap experiencing the world's largest 'time machine' in person!

On to the movie... A very interesting premise which should have merited a more detailed analysis! Executed well enough for 1980, but could be remade into one hell of a motion picture today! I'd love to see it.

One thing the story does well is get one thinking about the 'what-if' scenario having the most modern carrier in the today's fleet taking on the Japanese Navy almost 40 years prior... Hmm. What a mismatch that would be in much the same way that **** SPOILER ALERT **** Combat Air Patrol (CAP) Tomcats rendered the 'Zeroes ' splashed handily! But, the very nature of Paradoxes would have rendered intervention potentially destructive to Nimitz and all aboard! (Which would have made profound changes to MY naval career as well.) And that was the dilemma faced; Do we change history because we feel a conscious duty to tilt the war in our favor (At least in the short term.)? Or do we choose to let nature take its course knowing full well the outcome if nothing is done? 4 more years of war and millions of lives? Or win a decisive victory and save all of the agony yet to come at the possible expense of destroying the fabric of space/time... or at the very least causing the U.S. and the Allies to lose in the long run because the U.S. would have delayed entering the war? Thorny, eh? As it turns out, history in this film was changed in a minor way but then again... was it? Possible predestination paradox, meaning events were supposed to happen the way they did.

***SPOILER ALERT*** If the Nimitz had stayed to fight, logistically it would have been possible... for a short time. Without access to spare parts, jet fuel and other means of support, the ship would have been nearly useless. True, this vessel class can steam for over 20 years on a fresh set of plutonium rods, but jets can't fly without fuel or spare parts! And just imagine trying to provision that ship with its crew of 5000 plus with 1940's technology! This ignores what the U.S. Government would have done once they got their hands on Nimitz and her technology back then! The debriefing would never end for those people! And imagine the changes to history then! (Could be a whole other movie!)

All in all, I think it was a great piece of science fiction and a very enjoyable 'what if'... I recommend anyone see it who can! It has its flaws and is dated but the concept is still very valid. The movie's big strength is not so much what is said, but what is not. The important stuff is left to the viewer's imagination, and this is what makes it very entertaining and provocative!

This is the movie that made the USS Nimitz a household word and I am very proud to have served on a piece of science fiction history (no pun intended)! The ship is very distinguished and far more impressive 'in the steel' than she is on film.

I give this film a 7.9/10. Mostly for the powerful premise.
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I really enjoyed it
Idocamstuf8 January 2005
This was a highly entertaining sleeper about a naval ship that happens to go through a time warp and end up at Pearl Harbor just hours before the attack in 1941. Realistic acting, special effects and air scenes really make this movie stand out from other similar movies. I'm really surprised that this film is not more popular, because this was a very unique and fascinating concept for a movie, especially back in 1980. I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a good science-fiction film. I'm also surprised that it has such a low rating, I was expecting it to be rated at least a 7. Ill give it an 8 out of 10. Well worth viewing.
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A Guilty Pleasure
Tomzone5 December 2001
There are great films ("Citizen Kane," eg), and there are "big films", like "ET" or "Star Wars." Then there are absolute crap films (eg, WAY too-many to list!). I propose another legitimate category: "Guilty Pleasure Films." These are movies that one can see over and over, through countless repetitions on cable and broadcast channels, and enjoy the experience every time.

For example, I have probably seen "Brighton Beach Memoirs" 40 times. I loved it during its first run, and I've loved it each of the 39 times I've seen it on the small screen. No, it's not a great movie, but it's one that brings me pleasure when I watch it. Same with (blush) "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure": the movie's stupid, but it just always entertains me!

Similarly, nobody is going to compare "The Final Countdown" to "2001: A Space Odyssey" as far as absolute quality, but "The Final Countdown" is a classic example of an unabashed "guilty pleasure" movie.

The story is intriguing--what would YOU do if you were commanding a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier full of supersonic jets, etc, when you were transferred through a time-warp (ref: a CHEESY looking laser and smoke effect storm!) to December 6, 1941?? Would you alter history, just to win a battle against those attacking Pearl Harbor? Or would you hold back because you'd change history if you did anything?

Interesting point! Kirk Douglas, as the ship's captain, looks like he's having a ball acting in this, and Martin Sheen does a great job as the "civilian consultant," Mr. Laskey.

No, this movie isn't an Oscar-winner, nor did it really deserve to be. But I'll put it this way. A local independant station showed "The Final Countdown" tonight at the same time TNN was showing "The Godfather 2" uncut.

I spent maybe five minutes on the Oscar-winning Godfather 2. Yes, it is an empirically great film, but I've seen it once before. But with American fighter jets dogfighting 1941 Japanese Zeros, I was FAR more entertained watching "The Final Countdown" for the 10th time!
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When the Propmaster is the Chief of Naval Operations
lawprof15 April 2004
Making a military movie without official cooperation can be difficult. If the story doesn't require major air or naval assets, a script disapproved of by the top brass can be convincingly brought to the screen. Two examples - both true stories that the Pentagon didn't want to support - are "Men of Honor" reflecting the epidemic racism of the not-that-long-ago Navy and "Sgt. Bilko," a film portraying what some noncoms do to earn extra income (trust me, it's a true story: a real Sgt. Bilko worked (officially but not actually) for me when I was an Army officer.

But when you need lots of planes and ships, you gotta have official help. And few movies have gotten more assistance than the producer, director and cast of "The Final Countdown," now available on DVD,a sci-fi recruiting spectacular that features - on loan at taxpayer expense - the huge carrier U.S.S. Nimitz complete with crew. Now that's cooperation!

Kirk Douglas skippers the supercarrier which is on Pacific Fleet maneuvers. On board as some sort of efficiency consultant is a young Martin Sheen, not yet ready for the West Wing. A mysterious and never explained weather phenomenon grips the mighty floating air base and to the unfolding amazement of captain, officers and crew dawns the realization that the Nimitz in sailing not that far from Pearl Harbor on 6 December 1941.

Meanwhile a U.S. senator, played by one of Hollywood's deservedly decorated war heroes, Charles Durning, is enjoying his yacht, also near Pearl, while dictating to his lovely secretary, Katharine Ross. A brace of Japanese Zeroes sink the yacht, killing two passengers which then prompts the carrier C.O. to order trailing F-14 Tomcats to "splash" the "enemy." Durning and Ross are rescued. Without a word, this talented actor's face does a comical double-take when introduced to the ship's executive officer who just happens to be black (in 1941 a black navy man could only serve as a steward in the officers mess. That was it. Period.)

The dilemma facing Douglas, of course, is a classic time-travel conundrum. To interfere with the course of history (the carrier's air wing can make instant teriyaki of the six Japanese carriers) or to let events take their known and disastrous course.

A chaste incipient romance between the nearly drowned damsel and the carrier's Commander Air Group competes with the white knuckle decision-making struggle of the C.O.

So much for the plot. What is on offer here is a demonstration of every aircraft type, fixed-wing and rotary, deployed on the vessel as well as demonstrations of shipboard activities ranging from retrieving a damaged jet to going to General Quarters name it. The technical advisers knew they had a film crew pliant to every suggestion. The result is a genuinely exciting show- a great warship going through its paces. And, unlike "Tora Tora Tora" it doesn't appear that any genuine sailors were harmed in the making of the movie.

There's one big problem. A science fiction story is usually utterly improbable, indeed impossible, but its internal logic is vital: it must be consistent. Spielberg understands that very well. Watch the first couple of minutes when Sheen is greeted by his employer's lackey and the last minutes when he debarks from the Nimitz. Something is very, very off-kilter. Could the CEO of a great military-industrial conglomerate have used top secret technology to send the carrier back to 1941 for...

So what. This is a beautifully filmed adventure story, not a great film. The cast probably relished taking over the carrier for a while and the real captain, never shown, surely wished that the Navy hadn't banned hard spirits from our ships in World War I. But all emerge unscathed in a genuinely entertaining romp through time.

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All-timer great movie, fantastic flying, top acting, themes for men & women
dc74717 March 2000
This film is one of the great ones. Having served on an aircraft carrier for 2.5 years, I'm familiar with aircraft carrier excitement. But the movie was more than just wonderful shots of the U.S. Nimitz. The cast was top drawer, and their acting was as good as it gets. Standing above all the great performances was a Japanese actor portraying a shot-down, highly competent, captured Japanese Zero pilot. While racism understandably raises its ugly head during wartime, with epithets and insults hurled in both directions, in fact this Japanese actor portrayed a Japanese warrior at his finest--someone whom Japanese viewers would be proud of. Played equally well were American military personnel, including some Marines. One of the candid themes of the movie is the tragedy of such fine people going to war against each other, whatever their race.

The film is undeniably top drawer, far more mature than than "Top Gun," with even better flying scenes. So I've often wondered why it isn't widely known and not kept in stock in widescreen format. Perhaps the answer is today's wimpy trend towards "politically correct" dialog. In one scene, Kirk Douglas refers to the captured Japanese pilot as a "yellow bastard." In the video version, this was sanitized. However, sanitized or not, the original racial comment, by itself, may have doomed the film from greater video distribution.

I saw the film when it came out in wide-screen format and saw it several times before it left town. Thereafter, the only other versions available in video were "fit-to-TV-screen" size. That was tragic! Though still exciting in "box" format, the widescreen original was breathtaking. I cannot imagine why producers haven't released this in DVD in original wide-screen format. It makes a huge difference with this film! (Aircraft carriers are huge!)

One interesting comment to add about the F-14 flying scenes. I was awed by one particular F-14 maneuver, which I didn't think airplanes were capable of doing. A couple of years later, I talked with a Navy fighter pilot and brought this up. He was very familiar with that scene and personally knew the pilot who flew the F-14 in the movie. He told me that the F-14 almost crashed in that scene, stalling while trying to fly too slow, diving for the ocean to pick up speed, and barely recovering just above the wave tops. This near-accident was caught on film and added immensely to the exhibition of flying skill. An exception had been granted to the Navy's policy of not allowing "dissimilar aircraft" to fly together in movie scenes. The result of that granted exception was almost the loss of an F-14.

This is an incredibly good drama. I found that the various twists and turns, and particularly the call-it-off ending, all contributed to the drama and moral dilemmas. This is a fine, great movie. Like others who commented here, it seems tragic that this film is not available in widescreen DVD format. Everyone I've shown it to loves it, male and female. Feminism and romance are included, along with a collie dog for the kids.
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I like it even more 18 years later
bmcclain15 December 2000
I first saw this film when I was right out of high school, and I wasn't surprised to see the lobby-card poster hanging in a Navy recruiter's office a few months later when I dropped by. And that's entirely appropriate; the film is, among other things, a love letter to the modern Navy. I mean that as high praise: Where lots of military movies (and plenty of recruiting commercials) overdo the martial aspects of their characters with a gung-ho Sergeant Rock style, the byplay in this movie provided glimpses of the the Navy (and the Marine Corps too, God bless 'em), honestly and simply, as people taking pride in a demanding, sacrificial profession.

To this day I wonder which, if any, sailors and Marines I saw were actual service people. If any were, Don Taylor and his second-unit directorial crew got excellent small performances from them. Here's an example: In a brief scene that probably barely survived the final cut, there's interaction among some sailors: "Christ, Chief, all we wanna know is what's going on," asserts one mildly exasperated rating. "If you need to know, you'll be told," replies the Chief Master-at-Arms curtly. The people who spoke this dialogue definitely weren't Screen Actors Guild types; they looked and sounded pretty much like sailors I've known. And that's a little detail that's done right so seldom that I hardly notice anymore that I'm deliberately overlooking it.

The aerial sequences set a standard that wouldn't be touched until /Top Gun/ hit the screen. To be sure, both movies relied to some extent on stock footage of naval-aviation ops, but as with /Top Gun/, this film's flying was spectacular -- and, in the last of the years before CGI took hold, REAL. (Compare this film's or /Top Gun/'s exteriors of aircraft with, say, /Air Force One/, and you'll see what I mean.

The "name-actor" ensemble of Kirk Douglas et al. performed, perhaps not brilliantly, but serviceably in a film that certainly was more plot-driven than character-focused. The story -- revealed by plenty of other comments here -- though implausible, is still capable of holding one's interest. But after you catch this flick on the tube for the second or third time, pay attention to the enlisted pukes doing their jobs -- to me, they're the real stars.

If it's on the shelf, rent it. If it's on TV again, watch it. At the least, it's an entertaining story. At its best, it's a good study in style and pacing.
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Great fantasy war drama
RNMorton28 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I love this movie. Every time I hit it channel-surfing I think I'll watch it for just a minute and I end up watching the whole damn thing. Some of the best movies take one or two freak things and then play them out absolutely straight (e.g., Big, Back to the Future, Groundhog Day). Modern aircraft carrier encounters bizarre storm and finds itself between the Japanese fleet and Pearl Harbor a day before the infamous attack. What to do, what to do... What happens (which isn't actually much) takes a back seat to 1) an Oscar-caliber performance by Kirk Douglas as ship captain, and also fine performances by Sheen, Durning and others; and 2) the wonder of tactical operations on a modern carrier. For war buffs just the idea of the U.S.S. Nimitz prowling near the Jap fleet with Douglas at the helm is enough. Enchanting musical score and satisfying wrap. 10 out of 10
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One of my old favorites!
XJoey6 October 2004
This movie deals with time-travel on a large scale... And like most sci-fi films, it is easy to pick their theories apart (especially after almost 25 years). I think that many of us have a tendency to over-analyze these types of movies, when, in fact, we should just sit back and enjoy the experience.

I first saw this movie at a drive-in (remember those?!?!), and during one scene in particular, the entire crowd actually cheered. This is not a reaction I'd expect from a large crowd during a "bad" movie. If you like sci-fi, aircraft, and time-travel movies, then ignore the nay-sayers and watch this movie! It's one of my all-time favorites.
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Great Film, would love to see even several times!
bcanieso13 December 2004
I saw this film way back in college with my close classmates & friends in the aeronautical engineering field. Mind you that most of us love airplanes and during that time where plastic modellers. The excitement of watching this movie prove to be awesome for most of us during that time. We watch it again twice in a span of three weeks that it was shown in the theaters. In the later years, I saw it again in Laser Disc format and it still amaze me that time that I rented that title almost 10 times. The scenes of the carrier operations was the most fascinating scenes that I repeat viewing that specific part several times. As I discover in your web that it has been released this year in DVD format, I'll be waiting for it in the store to come out here in the Philippines. It is still one great movie that I will never forget. Remember Pearl Harbor as we remember Bataan and Corregidor, as brave Americans and Filipinos fought bravely in World War II.
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Saw it during my Carrier days...
Douglas_Holmes12 July 2002
I saw this in the theater when it first came out. I was stationed onboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) while it was being overhauled at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wa. I loved every minute of this film.

I know that this will sound trite and maudlin, but I remember going up on the flightdeck one morning after working the night shift, shortly after I saw this film. The USS Bonhomme Richard was at the pier near us- painted with zinc, all closed up, its gunmounts covered, doorways sealed-up, bridge windows shuttered, its flightdeck silent save for the screeching of seagulls. Looking at that old wooden-decked warhorse through the rain and mist, I felt a new appreciation for it and the other vessels in mothballs.

I felt as if I were looking through time itself.
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just gets better with age
Giaus2324 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I think the first time I saw this movie was when it first made the cable circuit, I think I was seven or eight at the time. My father was an ex-navy carrier rat and loved any movie with planes and boats. I enjoyed them too, but not as much as he did, I was a sci-fi geek. So imagine my reaction when my father was goading me into watching another Navy movie. "Sure dad, yes dad, I'll watch your movie with you because you say it's gonna be cool." My attitude changed drastically after the storm swept them back to December6,1941! There it was the ultimate father son bonding experience. He got his boats and planes, and I got my sci-fi.

The acting was top notch, with brilliant performances by Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen. The dog fight scenes between tomcats and zeros was excellent, although if I remember right the Zero's were actually dressed up T-6's LOL! But it all paled in comparison to the story and the history of those days just before the attack. The moral, and ethical dilemmas facing a captain of the most powerful destructive force in 1941 just hours before the sneak attack. Should he stop it and save Pearl Harbor and all of those lives that will surely be lost, and possibly negate his own existence? Or simply ignore it and let history take it's course? All these years later this is still one of my favorite movies, and I will drop everything I'm doing at the moment just to watch it whenever it is on. I watch, remember, and smile. Thanks dad!
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Well Done!
geoff3325 January 2002
A man takes a strange trip with an aircraft carrier and lives an amazing nightmare with a bizarre twist. Time travel, moral sensibilities and harmful consequences are explored when the crew is confronted with a chance to change history. Trying to control the political impact of altering history, the captain makes a painful decision that ultimately leads to a happy ending. This one has sadness, irony and moments where ones wants to say, "how stupid can they get?" Overall, just a great Sci-Fi Thriller that will leave an impression.
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A classic science fiction time travel paradox flick.
Skybird112516 June 2004
This is a really great fun film that deals with some of the aspects of time travel into the past. If one does anything to alter the past while there, what will be the effects on the future you knew? No hint of an explanation is give as to what could have caused the, I guess you could call it, 'time storm.' But the film does have has some very interesting twists and a cool ending. Not only that, but the flight sequences of the F-15s and the dogfights between them and Mitsubishi Zeros are just plain fun (from a modern day American perspective). Someone said that they are the best shots of an F-15 in action prior to Top Gun. Ever since I was a youngster, I wondered what would happen if you could transport a battleship or aircraft carrier back to say, the Revolutionary War era. Final Countdown comes about as close to playing with that idea as I expect to see.
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What a fabulous movie!
daria-2126 January 2006
This movie was such a surprise the first time I saw it. I'd never heard of it, but the cast seemed fabulous so I watched it. Wow, was I engrossed. It has some of everything: Bermuda-triangle-like mystery but in the Pacific, time travel exceptionally portrayed, historical intrigue (what IF we change things?), war action, romance, a great dog, great acting, great leadership, great flying, great story telling, and great visual effects! What more can you want? Personally, I spent hours thinking about the potential incongruence of being in two places at the same time. And the end is just perfect. I can watch this one many times over.
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Perhaps most realistic carrier film
oldsalt95 December 2004
The film is overall excellent. Good candid image of carrier life at the time. Much footage shot onboard. On the other hand, many details are wrong, most obvious is the wrong base on the wrong side of the U.S. The time travel paradox WRT Tideman is pretty interesting. I disagree with an earlier reviewer WRT this. Quantum theory allows for Tideman to exist in two states at one time since he is not observed at the beginning. The image of carrier life is especially good. I had several close friends who were officers on the Nimitz at the time it was filmed. Much better than most Hollywood movies such as "Top Gun." An interesting aside is that several Navy people got fried because of this film. This was before the "Top Gun" mentality, and Navy Brass were not too thrilled about the level of access given for this film. It was claimed that mid level officers gave approval for use of the Nimitz for this film without proper authority. This was before the Navy woke up to the recruiting potential of such films, so use of the Nimitz was regarded as fraud, waste and abuse. Acting is tacky in many cases...the ship and the aviators are the stars. Most of the effects were shot using real aircraft, again a controversial issue at the time. One of my best friends was a pilot in the "Black Panther" A-6 squadron shown. It really makes one think how average people would react if thrust into a similar situation. In short, there will likely never be a movie like this made again. It's kind of analogous to Frankenheimer's "Grand Prix" where the filmers were permitted to enter their own cars into the races. The staggering expense of producing such films makes them rare. It's too bad that some people suffered professional punishment for making Navy resources available to make this film when the Navy rewarded people involved in "Top Gun," in many ways a much less realistic film.
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The U.S.S Nimitz carrier trapped in a time warp goes back just time before the bombing Pearl Harbor
ma-cortes8 March 2011
Fantastic film about a weird , powerful storm winds up throwing USS Nimitz into past world during WW2 . Caught outside the boundaries of time and space, all mission , 102 aircraft, 6,000 men , are transported back to 1941. On December 7, 1980 the nuclear carrier USS Nimitz disappeared in the Pacific and reappeared December 7, 1941 ,the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour . The events go wrong , causing an USS naval battleship to disappear in Pacific Ocean by means of a warp time. The motley crew as Wing Commander Richard Owens (James Farentino) , Lasky (Martin Sheen), Cmdr. Dan (Ron O'Neal) commanded by Captain Matthew Yelland (Kirk Douglas) find themselves thrown into a temporary hole . Then they find in the past world of 1941 and they can change the course of history but also to generate a cataclysm that threatens to destroy it.

This is a far-fetching but acceptable story about an U.S nuclear-powered aircraft carrier traveling forward in time to just to discover famous incidents and change the world. It is developed with intrigue, suspense , thrills and noisy action with interesting screenplay by Thomas Hunter. Familiar but satisfying and agreeable Sci-Fi yarn , including a surprisingly final . Just amusement enough to cover production gaps and some flaws. Fine special effects by the time and liking acting by the leads manage to keep this one afloat. Nice performance of Kirk Douglas as Captain Matthew who must face the ultimate decision , leave history intact or stop the known events . Good support cast as Charles Durning as the Senator, Soon-Tek Oh as a Japanese pilot , Ron O'Neal , among others and early appearance of Lloyd Kaufman , subsequently producer of B films with Troma Productions. Colorful cinematography by Victor J. Kemper and atmospheric , spectacular musical score by John Scott. The picture achieved big success at Box office and had ripoffs and imitations , being followed by ¨Philadelphia experiment¨ and inferior sequel titled ¨Philadelphia experiment II . The motion picture is professionally directed by Don Taylor. He was an actor and director as TV as cinema and an expert on adventures genre as ¨Adventures of Tom Sawyer¨ , Terror as ¨Damien : Omen 2¨ and science fiction as ¨Island of Dr. Moreau¨, ¨Escape from Planet of Apes¨, and of course ¨The final of countdown¨. Rating : 6,5 . Acceptable and passable fantasy fare although better viewed in big screen .
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Best "time travel"-movie of all time!
Dressed30 July 2009
This is not a war-movie, but a movie about traveling through time. And the best of its kind in my opinion.

So other recommendations should rather be sci-fi movies of the same kind, and not just war movies.

The great thing about this one in the genre of time travel, is that its made in a so epic and serious way.

I know first time seeing it on the screen and it looked to be a huge drama, action-thriller or something in the beginning, and then suddenly the most unexpected thing happens. It was awesome.

I never get tired of this movie. Only wish there had been much more of it.
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To watch, or be apart of history.
lost-in-limbo25 February 2008
The title of the movie might be that of a super-cheesy song, with that highly catchy chorus by the band Europe in the 80s. Forget it because this came first, nor does it submit to cheese/silliness in what could've been a nonsensical premise. Gladly it doesn't, however for a fantasy / Sci-fi film that's impressively ambitious, and grand in scope. Talk about a cop-out for an ending! Or was it? The novelty of the concept flourishes with intelligence and vision, but it felt like something you would find in an episode of "The Twilight Zone". Maybe it would've been better suited so. The story begins with a freak storm transporting a modern American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier back to 1941, just before the Japanese fleet bombed Pearl Harbour. Now the question is should they get involved, and fear changing the face of history. Tough call. Too bad the film doesn't really take up that challenging stance with much aplomb, and somewhat takes an easy way out.

On an ethical note, the question raised is do we really have the right to change what has already happened. The paradox brings up many interesting possibilities, and drums up unimaginable suspense. It's an anxious waiting game for the decision, and that's what its all about. After deciding, it suddenly changes and leaves you hanging there with what could've been. The final note to me, made it all the forgettable. The material might not have been wholly satisfying, but technically it mainly came off with dazzling results. What was spectacularly done was the work they managed to get while filming on the actual U.S.S Nimitz. It feels, and looks authentic… because it is. They filmed at sea on the boat, at certain intervals. The background features at times seemed to be more interesting, than the actual story. Watching the crew going through their manoeuvres was magnetically displayed. Also the aircraft scenes were remarkably done, and excitingly high powered. The special effects are dated, but managed to be atmospherically eerie and moodily colourful.

Figure heads Kirk Douglas (in a durably solid turn), Martin Sheen and at a lesser extent Charles Dunning give the film some stalwart class. Also showing up in the profound cast were Katherine Ross, James Farentino and Ron O'Neal. John Scott's heavy handed music score, was hit-and-miss, but Victor J. Kemper's expansive cinematography was professionally executed. Don Taylor's direction feels automatic, but breezy.

This boy's own adventure is an enjoyably, attention-grabbing "what if" predicament.
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An extremely memorable movie, one of the best I've seen.
Conrad-1416 May 1999
I saw this movie several years ago, and it is one of the few that has 'stuck'. I would recommend this to anyone interested in a different type of plot to the normal 'run of the mill' stuff.

The technical effects are awesome, considering that the movie was produced in the early 1980's.
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the final letdown
HelloTexas1116 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
There are a few problems with 'The Final Countdown,' the main one being that it's too real. Let me explain. The film was shot almost entirely on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz with the Navy's full cooperation. Now one might think that was quite a coup for the filmmakers, but on viewing the finished product, it seems very constrictive. Sure, there is plenty of footage of navy jets taking off and landing that's fun to watch, in and of itself. But too often such footage seems to be at the expense of the movie itself, and its plot, and having anything really interesting happen. For instance, early on, one of the jets returning to the carrier reports trouble with its landing hook, which is supposed to grab a tether when it lands on deck. So the order is given to raise the emergency barrier to prevent the plane from going off the other end of the deck into the ocean. This is done and the jet lands safely. That's it. It has nothing to do with any part of the plot. In fact, it's like watching a training film for navy recruits. Far too much of 'The Final Countdown' IS like watching a navy training film, unfortunately. The actors and the film's story seem like intruders aboard the Nimitz. Many scenes are unambitiously cut short. The reality of the ship sinks the believability of the story. We never for one minute believe Kirk Douglas is really the captain of the Nimitz. It's obvious too, that many of the ship's crew were used as extras. Here the problem is just the opposite. They have zero screen presence. One of the reasons you hire professional actors for movies is they ARE professionals and have spent a great deal of time learning their skills at projecting a character and speaking lines of dialogue effectively. Whoever it is that says, "Captain on bridge," and "Captain off bridge" about thirty times has obviously never acted in his life. A shame too, since the story idea is a good one, albeit one straight out of Time Travel 101. What if a modern day aircraft carrier was somehow transported back in time to the day before the Pearl Harbor attack? Even though it's not a terribly original premise, there are so many ways one can have fun with the idea, so many possibilities. But all 'The Final Countdown' can do is nibble around the edges. The requisite questions are asked: What if I meet my own grandfather and he dies? Or, what if someone who was meant to die, survives? What if the captain warns Washington? What if the Nimitz attacks and defeats the Japanese fleet? Unfortunately, again, the questions as phrased above are about as far as 'The Final Countdown' gets in playing with any of the tantalizing might-have-beens. One begins wishing for even a long, drawn-out conversation between two of the characters about those various possibilities. But the screenwriters cannot so much as bring themselves to do that, and such scenes are cut short as well. The brutal truth is that nothing much of anything happens in this movie and at the end, one is left with a huge 'so what?' kind of feeling. 'The Final Countdown' should have been titled 'The Final Letdown.'
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Wonderful movie!! Just wish I could purchase the video.
granny-1017 July 1999
The movie is very believable and the cast does a fantastic job. It is a wonderful blend of sci-fi and reality. This is a must film for anyone that enjoys history as well as possible future ventures through space!
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I would like to see it reissued for purchase or viewing
granny-1028 June 1999
It was wonderful!! The acting was great and the idea very believeable. It was historical and entertaining combined and I enjoyed watching it with my teenage children.
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Great movie, one of my all time--time travel movies
niulan19 June 2000
I have enjoyed this movie ever since I first saw it in 1980. Just wish the laser disc or the video where still available. Also if you can find the paperback the last two chapters will clear things up for you or will confuse you even more.Check it out. If someone has any knowledge of where to obtain a laser disc or vhs video PLEASE post the place on the message board.
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Totally awesome ... Hollywood never makes movies like this anymore
macrini17 April 2001
In the past 2 decades, the only film that's come close to this sort of freaky "what if" coolness (respectable military sci-fi), is possibly 1994's "Stargate" (Roland Emmerich's best work)... but even that comparison is a stretch. This long-lost, underappreciated, almost forgotten classic really deserves full-feature deluxe DVD treatment.

The producers of FINAL COUNTDOWN were able to team up a stellar cast of quality Hollywood actors with a full Navy crew and full Pentagon participation, thanks to an enthralling storyline that raises all sorts of daunting issues, yet deals with those challenges in a sincere and reverent fashion that tickles the mind and emotions.

FINAL COUNTDOWN is flawed and in some ways seems dated now (i.e. cheesy, slow, not glossy enough). But its heart is in the right place and that makes up for any contemporary imperfections. (John Scott's luxurious orchestral score also helps.)

I never saw FINAL COUNTDOWN til I was in 5th grade when it came on TV, so I'm not sure how much money it made in its theatrical run*, or if United Artists still owns the rights (enabling MGM to release a Special Edition DVD with remastered 5.1 soundtrack and interviews with the makers). (* = The producer only made movies for a short period, and none of his others were successes, so it seems that Final Countdown must have been financially mediocre since his career was so brief.)

When the commercials for FINAL COUNTDOWN's TV airing revealed the movie's story concept, every kid at school was freaked out, so we knew we had to watch. But I remember being so upset when I looked at the clock and realized there was only 15 minutes left, and therefore there was no way the movie could possibly contain a full satisfying epic dogfight battle over Pearl Harbor while still returning the characters to their rightful places in time for a happy ending and final credits. So when the actual ending arrived I was phenomenally disappointed. "Aawww, man!" It seemed like such a cheat.

Then again, not every movie can afford a budget of Star Wars-level special effects, so perhaps this movie did the best it could. After all, real-life veterans groups probably would have complained if the movie had actually dared to rewrite WWII and provoke a scenario glimpsing at a world in which America had successfully nailed the Imperial Japanese fleet, thus enabling the US to stay out of the war... What would the movie have hinted at as the aftermath of this alteration of history? Would Hitler have conquered Europe, or would the Allies have been able to hold off the Axis powers without American help? It's comic-book fantasy obviously, but at least on that level it's still spooky.

Still, the younger boy within me still fantasizes about the "unmade" version of Final Countdown, featuring a climactic spectacle of heavily-armed F-14 Tomcats surprising the you-know-what out of "primitive" Zero squadrons over Honolulu while American soldiers on the ground look up at this sight in frightened befuddlement wondering what the heck is going on.
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Sleek f-14s in hot fetish fun!
iago-610 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this movie a few times in the theater in 1980, when I was 12, and at the time it was pretty much utterly awesome. However, as we are forced to face again and again, what is awesome when one is 12 is not the same as what is awesome when one is over 30.

This movie forces us to look inside ourselves and ask: "What would happen if a state-of-the-art (for 1980) aircraft carrier were transported back in time to the eve of Pearl Harbor?" Then there are all the regular questions about the Prime Directive, the ethics of using advance knowledge and advanced technology, blah blah blah. The situation is the hook of the movie, a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it's also the only thing the movie has to offer.

After some exposition that gets top military whiner Martin Sheen on the boat, and some unrelated techo-fetishism about the way those sweet F-14s land, a mysterious storm that looks a lot like a laser and a fog machine appears in the sky and causes the sailors to hold their heads. When it goes away, they are in 1941 (the year, not the movie), and they have to grapple with many philosophical questions about whether they should whup the Japs' asses but good.

A good 35% of the movie is just flat-out recruiting-film military techno fetishism. It's kind of cool for a while, as you watch planes swoosh and dive, and it reminds you of the days when the prospect of going into the military meant you were going to fly cool planes and do cool things instead of simply being sent to a desert to be killed. But it gets tiresome after awhile, though it does remain quite visible, so you can fast-forward without fear of missing anything.

There's a small bit of derisive laughter as the crew (during the LONG period in which they are coming to accept that they have traveled back in time) compare a photo that was apparently taken an hour ago by one of their planes to a photo that was taken 40 years previously by another plane. The cast bravely pretends not to notice that they are THE EXACT SAME PHOTO. Amazing coincidence! There's another movie right there.

The performances fit the material. Kirk Douglas is actually quite charming as the captain. He projects authority, yet is warm and approachable, and isn't afraid to say he doesn't know what's going on. Martin Sheen appears to be on hand simply to deliver speeches about how very morally complex it all is. Former Superfly Ron O'Neal is around as eye candy for me. Katherine Ross is in full "do I have to do anything except stand around and be dewy?" mode, but she will always get props from me for ensnaring gravelly man-hunk Sam Elliott in her wicked web.

This movie is a bit like those alternative history novels, which are usually about "what if the South won the Civil War," which translates as;"what if we'd kept the blacks in their place." This one, I think, is about redressing the perceived imbalance that occurred when the US was caught unawares. But how could we be caught unawares… we're the United States! I think the enjoyment of this movie for some people is in floating the fantasy that we could show them Japs once and for all.

This movie is also notable as a likely influence on 80s rock group Europe's cheesy hit of the same title.

SPOILERS>>> The end of this movie cops out by having the mysterious storm appear at the PRECISE moment that the US is just about to attack the Japanese fleet. The aircraft carrier is transported back to the same time it left, everyone shrugs and goes "Huh," and they go about their average workday. It makes the movie somewhat unsatisfying at the end, but you know… not any more unsatisfying than it was up until that point.

--- Hey, check out Cinema de Merde, my website devoted to bad and cheesy movies. You can get the url from my email address above...
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