Time travel films always present an interesting ripple in the horror sci-fi crossover, with fascination on the topic of recent Happy Death Day (2017), fans honestly forget all the rest, among them Army of Darkness (1992), The Terminator (1984), the comical My Science Project (1985) and of course Back to the Future (1985), which filters into this mix that also includes at least 400 sci-fi and 80 horror movies. A few films rarely combine historical facts, but that’s exactly what director Don Taylor (Omen II: Damien [1978])) did with his final cinematic film, The Final Countdown from writers Thomas Hunter and Peter Powell, as well as David Ambrose (The Survivor [1981]) and Gerry Davis (Doomwatch [1972]). However what is even more interesting especially concerning horror fans, is one of the associate producers is none other than Lloyd Kaufman (Return to Nuke ‘Em High volume 1 (2013), yes what is truly shocking is that most of the film takes place on the real aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, with forty-eight actual navy personnel serving as extras in film.

A lot of people over the years and decades have discussed the possibility of time travel, always causing the what-if scenarios it’s a paradox that’s used to go back in the past to correct the errors or tragedies. However, here’s the main problem many don’t realize, how would one person, the average Joe, influence the captain of the Titanic to slow down, no you would have had to know of the possibility that the SS Californian could have saved countless lives but didn’t. Although the most common is the killing of Hitler, and once more the same rules need application, your position must fit properly into place. The film plays similar to episodes on The Twilight Zone, both the original and rebooted versions, it is estimated at least 40 of them exist, though the best is “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” (1961).

The movie opens with a civilian observer from Department of Defense Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen (The Believers [1987])) boards the U.S.S. Nimitz, while an unseen Mr. Tideman, very powerful and wealthy Air Force creator arrives to see him off, (we don’t see who it is). The ship encounters a mysterious storm, one that comes in and out of the visible spectrum, then Captain Matthew Yelland (Kirk Douglas (Saturn 3 [1980])) orders the remainder of the fleet to turn back to Pearl Harbor while they find themselves traveling through the storm portal. At first everything thinks it’s some sort of spy-op and testing themselves for their visitor, as the radio plays music and radio show of the 1940s, and then they can transmit to Pearl Harbor, but no one is responding on their frequency not even the White House. The radio broadcasts tell them that Germany and Russia are fighting and some incorrectly thinks its World War III, all leading to the Captain to order recon of Pearl Harbor all of it showing unusual shipping traffic and interaction with the U.S.S. Arizona (*1). During this informative side piece fighter jets encounter a perfectly maintained motorboat and two Mitsubishi-manufactured Japanese Zeros, a dog-fight ensues a no-contest battle. This is the writers’ slight at the lack of knowledge at the average youth and lowly crewman, not knowing that these super-power nations fought once before, hence his incorrect beliefs.

Here, enters the beginning of a subplot romance between Commander Owens (James Farentino, (The Possessed [1977])) and Laurel Scott (Katherine Ross (The Stepford Wives [1975])) picked up the sailing vessel. A few other details follow along with the understanding of where, when and the duty to defend America in all wars, history will change for everyone involved in their situation. The viewers simply accept the vortex portal as what it is, nothing more, there’s no science officer on deck, no explanation of why or how it happened, just that it did. Some critics point the unbelievable point that crew doesn’t question their leaders, that is an incorrect position, in the military one follows the orders of their commanders, not to question, simply obey unless it’s an immoral order and even then, one must be ready to defend themselves at a possible court-martial.

First, the footage aboard the aircraft carrier is phenomenal from the take-offs and landings, including a crash landing, it all provides how important the deck crews are to the fighters and pilots. A wonderful sequence showing the men preparing for war, hustling about the ship through hatches, securing sidearms, rifles, ready to defend the ship and their freedom. Actor Charles Durning (Bleeding Hearts [2015]) stars as Senator Samuel Chapman, as a man transported to 40-year advance war ship prepared to take on Japanese navy footage aboard the carrier is good. Meanwhile the cast shows the believability of the situation they find themselves in including the frustrations of Cdr. Dan Thurman, (Ron O’Neal (When a Strangers Calls [1979])) second in charge, trying to comprehend the right decision and the 3D dimensional chess playing out before them. Now modern audiences likely to find some displeasures of the movie, that lack of women in positions of power, and then the character name Black Cloud (Victor Mohica), who is the weather station officer which the captain states “doing an unauthorized rain dance.” In addition scenes of the attack on Pearl Harbor actually came from stock footage from 20th Century-Fox Studio film Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).  John Scott, known for his work on King Kong Lives (1976) and Satan’s Slave (1976) had an inspiring score for the movie (a soundtrack difficult to find) and cinematographer Victor J. Kemper an incredible filmography having worked on Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Coma (1978), gives a fine eye allowing the locations to speak volumes for themselves.

Not to exclude women viewers, but The Final Countdown is primarily a guy movie, it has themes of war, historical references to World War II, and it gives moments of action-packed sequences. All including time travel, layered with plenty of  what-if scenarios, that will last well pass the conclusion of the film, and likely arguments with the guys in a man cave. There are just enough splashes of scenes on the screen to both entertain and present the story in a straight-forward manner. A minor footnote my father enjoyed this movie very much, as it echoes back to his time as U.S. Marine and fighting the Japanese in World War II, it was one of the films we enjoyed watching together.


  • Trapped outside the boundaries of time and space… 102 aircraft… 6,000 men… all missing.
  • On December 7, 1980 — The nuclear carrier USS Nimitz disappeared in the Pacific…and reappeared December 7, 1941…the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor
  • “…this is the U.S.S. Nimitz…Where the Hell Are We?…”
  • Nothing in the world can prepare you for …


IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Baron’s Rating: 7.0/10



Footnote: (*1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Arizona_(BB-39) and https://www.nps.gov/valr/index.htm