Rickover: The Birth of Nuclear Power

 (422)
5.71 h 55 min20147+
Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was a flamboyant maverick and a unique American hero. When few thought it possible, then-Captain Rickover harnessed the power of the atom, ultimately transforming the Navy and changing the course of America's technological development.
Directors
Michael Pack
Starring
Tim Blake Nelson
Genres
Documentary
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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Producers
Michael Pack
Studio
PBS
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4.5 out of 5 stars

422 global ratings

  1. 77% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 12% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 3% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 5% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

WilliamBReviewed in the United States on September 15, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
Flawed but worthwhile documentary
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This is a piece of history worth telling and worth learning. Only disappointment: inattention to detail on the part of the writers. Sloppy writing about a man who would not tolerate sloppiness is a kind of insult. Aside from the Naval uniforms and other Navy details, the program starts out with the wrong terminology about what was being created by Rickover. The script says it would be the first true submersable. Wrong Wrong Wrong. All the submarines up until this time WERE submersables. This was about the first true submarine.

One great truth exposed here is the danger of bureaucracy in anything. The Navy that ignored Rickover is the same Navy that took three years into WW2 before it had a working submarine torpedo, taking the word of bureaucrats who had never tested their work over that of submarine commanders who missed target after target due to torpedoes that ran deep or expoded prematurely or were duds. People who think and do are enemies of the world of forms and procedures.

If you can overlook the flaws, this is a 5-star documentary. The flaws knock it down to 4 for me. In spite of its shortcomings, this was a worthwhile production.
18 people found this helpful
Stephanie SullivanReviewed in the United States on August 24, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Very Interesting Man Who Got His Objectives Done: His Way!
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When I was young I didn’t fit in well. Even today not so well I think. Rickover’s story isn’t new to me and his way of working around expectations to achieve great things inspired me to go into engineering when that was not a career path most women would ever consider. I’m not saying I’m like Rickover. Not at all, but his willingness to tackle objectives that were thought impossible or against the popular views were inspiring and why I was very interested in seeing this documentary.

I learned a lot about Rickover that I didn’t know and details about some things I did like Jimmy Carter’s experience with him. I had a sense of the myth of the man but did not know who he was. Now I feel I have a better picture of the man.

The documentary does jump around a lot. Kind of starting in the middle of his timeline, then going back to his origins, and then jumping to the political destruction and eventual passing. While I usually prefer a more linear timeline I think this worked well for Rickover.

There is a mix of historical footage with narration and dramatic acted scenes. Tim Blake Nelson’s performance won over my respect with what seemed a pretty faithful presentation consistent with the video of Rickover himself. Well done. The mix works well and the presentation and packing of the story are well done keeping it interesting and holding my attention throughout.

I enjoyed this documentary of Hyman G. Rickover a lot and feel it gives a pretty balanced perspective on the live and legacy of a unique leader in the advancement of nuclear technology. I think this deserves 5 solid stars. Time well spent.
7 people found this helpful
Richard A. ColeReviewed in the United States on March 27, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Why!?
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Such a force of nature and a visionary Adm. Rickover was. He is the main reason that no U.S Sub has ever had a major nuclear accident. Very high safety standards and high standards and attention to detail, are what endures.
A shame that we don't build things with the same care and high standards the Admiral brought into the building of those subs.
I can't get past the fact that it was the greedy, lazy and jealous and the back-stabbing politicians who were the ones who had no honor or character to do what was right, and hold the crooks accountable, just as Rickover had been saying. We see it time and time again with our crooks in Washington, I am afraid we won't have honorable people in DC again.
This was a great historic film on a subject and a man that many do not know about. Sadly we may never know such an intelligent and forward seer again, because people fear them.
It would be nice to hear of his life prior to getting into the Naval Academy, it is no small feat getting in, and much more so by an immigrant who didn't speak English until 6 years old. That would be a great story I am sure.
Watch this movie and teach your kids about a man who valued human life and quality work over all other things. Be an inspiration to our children....
4 people found this helpful
GSReviewed in the United States on January 7, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
the movies was a very good movie. It somehow however did not fully get ...
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As a former "Qualified in Submarines" nuclear trained Nautilus sailor and having "survived" a Rickover interview at Naval Reactors, the movies was a very good movie. It somehow however did not fully get across how respected and feared the "KOG" (Kindly OLD Gentleman") was within the nuclear submarine force OR how iconic Rickover was. I will never forget my interview with him. He shouted at me and out of nervousness I shouted back. This is likely the reason I got the job.
42 people found this helpful
ScottReviewed in the United States on April 7, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Not Perfect, but good & entertaining. Five stars so that people will watch & learn about Rickover.
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This is an entertaining documentary that should not be ignored because of its imperfections. It might be the only information that many people ever learn of Admiral Rickover. And it does a satisfactory and entertaining job of giving people a basic overview of the man. If nothing else, this documentary makes it clear that Rickover was a man that stood firm in his convictions. He never let money, fame, or power compromise his principles. In fact, his unbreakable commitment to doing what he believed was right severely limited his career and professional prospects his entire life.

I am deeply offended and disgusted by people that think he was a narcissist. He was eccentric, demanding, difficult, and uncompromising, but he was not narcissistic even if he had fleeting moments of narcissism, as we all do. When he made clear his qualifications, it was not to boast; it was to impress upon people that he was a person that should not be ignored even though his lack of ingratiation to others generally made him a man that "important" people could easily ignore. His greatest weakness, as a person, not as an engineer, his greatest weakness was a lack of compassion. It was the result of his early life and the lack of compassion shown to him due to the institutionalized prejudice and discrimination of the world and of The United States of America. He lacked compassion and understanding and, therefore, demanded near perfection, no matter the personal cost because that is what the world required of him and he did not find it fair to demand less from others than what was demanded of him.

This documentary should be watched, not only to learn of a good man, but to learn morals that every one of us should strive to embody. And with that learning we should come to know that great things are accomplished through hard work, dedication, and principle. The greatest accomplishments of The United States of America are the result of good men and women that cared more about the results than the rewards. We have forgotten our history and our strengths as Americans, thus, out of bias and ignorance, our country has been diminishing. Under its current leadership that is focused on self, greed, and power we are languishing as a country. This leadership where sycophants and parasites hold the power, and use that power for self-aggrandizement, this leadership that deflects responsibility and blame upon the weak and powerless, this leadership that masterfully uses propaganda to prey upon the weak to support its corruption and power is destroying what it America was and is.

This documentary teaches us of Admiral Rickover, a great man that chose to do great things for great reasons. A man that respected his country, The United States of America, and strove to repay the debts that he felt he owed to his country. A man that cared more about doing what he felt was right than doing what he knew would help himself. He is a man we should learn of and not forget. And for this reason I have given this documentary 5 stars so that others might watch and learn of a good man that did not receive many professional accolades, but from the people that knew him he earned sincere gratitude and respect. If you do not know of Rickover, then please watch this documentary and learn.
One person found this helpful
CA TurnerReviewed in the United States on November 13, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
This generation Has Forgotten About Real Integrity, Responsibility and Work Ethic
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I never knew anything about Admiral Rickover and the tremendous impact he had on America. I watched this movie with a degree of sadness because I know, as a great many now know, that the current generations have lost the personal self management skills, the character ethics and the expectations that himself and others need to be doing their job and holding themselves to the scrutiny of community with true integrity, responsibility and observable work ethic. The skills that are learned over a lifetime that could help us overcome and solve the problems in America are gone forever. As my grandparents and parents passed and I, a boomer, has been pushed to the front of that line, America will loose that strength. Our models for behavior and professionalism will dwindle to those few whom can be written about or featured in videos. The current generation has no desire to incorporate examples of conduct, education or critical problem solving into their own personal ethics. Like myself, the best we could do was try to pass this ideology to our children and then they would pass it on to grandchildren. I am deeply saddened that the best efforts on our parts did not take root.
ShyamReviewed in the United States on August 14, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
What A Wasted Opportunity!
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This might have been an extraordinary production...but, it wasn't. In fact, it totally stunk. They took an exceptional story about one of the most intriguing figures of the 20th century and applied terrible writing, a super-low budget, cheesy cinematography, uninspired direction, and the third-rate cast. YES...that includes Tim Blake Nelson... whom I have always admired. I'm not sure whether it was a matter of the bad script, bad direction, or possibly that Tim Blake Nelson just botched it, but his portrayal of Hyman Rickover just left me shaking my head. His portrayal was so mono-tone, exaggerated, and ranting that there were times when it felt like a comedy skit. Honestly...it was like watching an old episode of Second City TV with Dana Carvey, Rick Moranis, or Martin Short wearing a bad-fitting hairpiece and doing an over-the-top Rickover parody. Some parts of this stinker were just so painfully tacky that you would cringe. Probably the worst scene was near the end when Rickover met with Reagan in the White House. It was the sloppiest, most fake-looking chroma-key effect I've ever seen! I would normally advise you do not see this P.O.S. But, actually, it is worth a look...just to see how awful it is. Think of it in the same way you think of Plan 9 From Outer Space. Ironically, Tim Blake Nelson was in a movie about that, too!
Kristin LeeReviewed in the United States on August 2, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
This was a great documentary on who I see was a great man with incredible focus.
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I see Rickover as having either close to zero social skills or he just did not have the patience of having to cut through the "normal" social obstacles of every day life. I believe the latter as he proved he was competent socially with the congressmen he befriended. I don't necessarily see him as being "mean spirited" as some had mentioned, I see him as someone with incredible focus who had no patience for appeasing people (when not necessary).
I have seen comments that state that anyone in the Navy or interested in the Navy, or interested in nuclear submarines should watch this movie. I would take this a step further and say that every American should watch this documentary or learn about this man. I would dare to say that with all the BS in the world that needs to be cut through, that maybe every person (American or not) would benefit from learning about this man.
14 people found this helpful
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