The film is based on the fate of the brigantine Albatross, which sank on 2 May 1961, allegedly because of a white squall. The film relates the ill-fated school sailing trip led by Dr. Christopher B. Sheldon (Jeff Bridges), whom the boys call "Skipper". He is tough and teaches them discipline. He forms a close connection with all-American Chuck Gieg (Scott Wolf), troubled rich kid Frank Beaumont (Jeremy Sisto), shy Gil Martin (Ryan Phillippe), and bad-boy Dean Preston (Eric Michael Cole). When a white squall threatens their ship, the boys must use what Skipper has taught them to survive the horrific ordeal.
Part of the film was shot using a horizon tank in Malta, with a full-sized ship, the Eye of the Wind used to depict the Albatross. Maurice Jarre was originally slated to compose the original score, but was replaced by Hans Zimmer's protégé Jeff Rona. Zimmer was set to replace Jarre, but due to time difficulties failed to commit.
The film holds a 62% based on 34 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus stating: "Though it gets occasionally bogged down by touchy-feely sentiment, White Squall benefits greatly from Jeff Bridges' assured lead performance and Ridley Scott's visceral, exciting direction". White Squall, like Scott's previous film, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, was a box office disappointment.
Roger Ebert gave it three stars. In his review he said "I enjoyed the movie for the sheer physical exuberance of its adventure."
- Jeff Bridges as Christopher "Skipper" Sheldon
- Caroline Goodall as Alice Sheldon
- John Savage as McCrea
- Scott Wolf as Chuck Gieg
- Jeremy Sisto as Frank Beaumont
- Ryan Phillippe as Gil Martin
- Eric Michael Cole as Dean Preston
- Julio Oscar Mechoso as Girard Pascal
- Balthazar Getty as Tod Johnstone
- Jason Marsden as Shay Jennings
- David Lascher as Robert March
- Ethan Embry as Tracy Lapchick
- David Selby as Francis Beaumont
- Jordan Clarke as Charles Gieg, Sr.
- Zeljko Ivanek as Capt. Sanders
- James Rebhorn as Lt. Tyler
- Jill Larson as Peggy Beaumont
- Lizzy Mackay as Middy Gieg