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Was The Hunt For Red October Filmed On A Real Submarine?

It's not an exaggeration to say that setting your film mostly on a submarine always increases the stakes for the characters. Not only are submarines often armed, but the fact that the ship is always fully underwater makes dangerous situations that much worse. After all, if something breaks or torpedoes get launched, there's now the serious risk that everyone on board will soon be dead.

This is vividly the case for the characters in "The Hunt for Red October," a 1990 adaptation of the best-selling Tom Clancy novel. The plot kicks off in 1984 when Soviet officer Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) takes command of Red October, a sub with a new stealth cloak that makes it undetectable to sonar. Ramius then unexpectedly takes Red October to the East Coast of the United States, raising alarm in the military over the submarine's nuclear capabilities. Young analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin), however, believes Ramius actually wants to defect and must prove his theory before a violent confrontation between the ship and the Navy begins.

The movie was praised by no less than critic Roger Ebert for its filmmaking skill, but fans may still be curious as to whether "The Hunt for Red October" was actually shot using a real submarine. Here's how the Soviet sequences were filmed.

The Hunt for Red October used sets instead of shooting in a submarine

As the Navy hoped "The Hunt for Red October" would serve as a recruitment tool — similar to what "Top Gun" did for the Air Force — they allowed the studio to use their submarines (per NavyTimes). The crew did use exterior footage of the USS Houston, but actively shooting inside the extremely enclosed submarines would have been impractical and likely extended production time. Thus, keeping with Hollywood magic, all the interior submarine sequences were shot on sets, albeit built as close to the real thing as possible. The team even installed hydraulic gimbals to make the cast feel like they were underwater, which resulted in Connery getting sick.

One other touch was added in the form of color schemes to tell the different submarines apart: green for the V.K. Konovalov, red for the USS Dallas, and (ironically) blue for the Red October. It wasn't necessarily true to life, but it was still a great filmmaking touch that clearly worked for the audience. In the end, "Red October" grossed $200 million on a $30 million budget (Box Office Mojo).

You can currently stream "The Hunt For Red October" on fuboTV and AMC+.