Lessons from The Poseidon Adventure…

Okay, I realize this movie dates me just a little. If you haven’t seen it then may I suggest you dig it up and watch it this weekend. (Hopefully you’ll see past some of the 70’s cheese, like Maureen McGovern singing, “There’s Got To Be A Morning After.” *Do not watch the re-make, it’s dreadful. The 1972 film is comprised of 15 academy award ‎winners – you can’t beat that!

This is one of those films that can be enjoyed on two levels. If you enjoy action packed disaster films then this one definitely delivers. It takes around 15 minutes or so to establish the characters, but after that, it never lets up. That’s level one. Beyond that is a story told on a thematic level. For those who are astute, the story is FULL of symbols and profound meaning. 

The story takes place on a luxury cruise-line. It’s New Year’s Eve – the one day each year we make promises to improve ourselves. Just after the strike of midnight a tidal wave hits Poseidon, and the ship is capsized. After the initial shock and devastation the survivors find themselves in two camps. There are those who wait in the banquet room, now on the bottom of the ship, listening to the promises of the Chaplain. He insists that they’ll all be rescued and gives instruction to sit and wait. The other group is persuaded and led by Reverend Scott, played by Gene Hackman. He believes the way out is to climb to the top – that which was once the bottom of the ship. Reverend Scott’s way is frightening, it’s the unknown and will require a physical and mental fight. A small group of people follow him.

Watch this 4 minute 55 second trailer to give you a flavor. Keep in mind that the actual movie is not as cheesy as this makes it look.


Those who chose to go with Reverend Scott find out, very quickly, that they made the right decision. The main characters each represent a type of person that we can identify with. Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) is a nay sayer, antagonistic, negative and questioning every step of the way. Reverend Scott (Gene Hackman) is positive, hopeful, and a fighter who won’t give up. Nonnie (Carol Lynley) is frightened, child like, anxious and resistant. Acres (Roddy McDowall) is warm, compassionate and a caretaker. He smoothes the way for Nonnie. Belle Rosen (Shelley Winters) is positive and brave. She battles on despite her weight, motivated by the hope of seeing her grandson. Manny Rosen (Jack Albertson) is a good and decent man who follows in faith. (Linda Rogo (Stella Stevens) cares only about her own survival and doesn’t care who she steps on along the way. There are also two children, a boy and a young teen. The boy, though slightly precocious, knows the way out because he was given a tour by the captain. You can imagine that Mike Rogo doesn’t like the idea of listening to some kid.

All in all, the movie is much deeper than you might imagine. The story is relevant on so many levels. I think it’ll stay with you for a long time if you open yourself to the greater meaning.