Men of Honor


Men of Honor (released in the UK and Ireland as Men of Honour) is a 2000 American drama film directed by George Tillman Jr. and starring Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr. The film is inspired by the true story of Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear, the first African American master diver in the United States Navy.

Men of Honor
Men of honor ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Tillman Jr.
Written byScott Marshall Smith
Produced byBill Badalato
Robert Teitel
CinematographyAnthony B. Richmond
Edited byJohn Carter
Dirk Westervelt
Music byMark Isham
Fox 2000 Pictures
State Street Pictures
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 10, 2000 (2000-11-10)
Running time
129 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$32 million[1]
Box office$82.3 million[1]


Carl Brashear leaves his native Kentucky and the life of a sharecropper in 1949 by joining the United States Navy. As a crew member of the salvage ship USS Hoist, where he is assigned to the galley, he is inspired by the bravery of Master Chief Petty Officer Leslie William "Billy" Sunday who free dives to rescue a diver knocked overboard without an air line. Sunday develops an air embolism which prevents him from ever diving again. Brashear is determined to overcome racism and become the first black American Navy diver, even proclaiming that he will become a master diver. He eventually is allowed to attend Diving and Salvage School in Bayonne, New Jersey, where he arrives as a boatswain's mate second class. He finds that Master Chief Sunday is the head instructor, who is under orders from the school's bigoted commanding officer Mr. Pappy to ensure that Brashear fails. The other students, led by Dylan Rourke, refuse to bunk with Brashear.

Brashear struggles to overcome his educational shortcomings, a result of his leaving school in the seventh grade, in order to work on his family's failing farm. He receives educational assistance from Jo, a female medical student who works part-time in the New York Public Library in Harlem. Brashear proves himself as a diver by rescuing a fellow student when his dive partner, Rourke abandons him during a salvage exercise gone wrong. At Mr. Pappy's instruction, Rourke is awarded a medal for taking such heroic actions to save a classmate. After learning his father has died, Brashear encounters Sunday and the rest of the class at a Navy bar. When Sunday asks if Brashear thinks he is better than him, the two don diving gear that fills with water to see who can hold their breath longer. After 4 minutes, Sunday's nose starts to bleed and the students drain his suit, leaving Brashear the winner.

For their final evaluation, each student must assemble a flange underwater using a bag of tools. At the direction of Mr. Pappy, Brashear's bag is cut open to impede his passing. Brashear must take time to locate and gather his tools as the water temperature drops. Hours after the other students have finished, Brashear completes the assembly and graduates from diving school. Sunday is later demoted to senior chief by Mr. Pappy for allowing Brashear to pass.

The paths and careers of Brashear and Sunday diverge. Sunday continually loses his composure around officers who disrespect his accomplishments, until he is finally demoted to chief petty officer and relegated to menial duties. Brashear marries Jo and rises quickly through the ranks, even becoming a national hero in the 1966 Palomares incident for evading a Soviet submarine, recovering a missing hydrogen bomb and severing his left leg below the knee while saving the lives of Navy crewmen.

Sunday has become a brooding alcoholic displeased with his lowered rank and eventually forcibly held in an alcohol detox center. Brashear's feels that his only chance to return to active duty and a relatively normal life is for the leg to be amputated and replaced with a prosthesis. Until this time, no Navy man had ever returned to full active duty with a prosthetic limb. Brashear reunites with Sunday who helps him train and fight against the Navy's bureaucracy and the antagonistic Navy Captain Hanks (Brashear's and Sunday's former Hoist executive officer) in order to return to full active duty and fulfill his dream of becoming a master diver. After Brashear passes his readiness evaluation, his reinstatement hearing is held before the Chief of Naval Personnel in Washington DC. Hanks brings in the latest Navy technology, a 290 pound copper diving suit and tells Brashear he must walk 12 steps to qualify for reinstatement. Knowing his prosthesis cannot bear the extra weight, Brashear stands and takes all 12 steps with the full weight of his body and the suit on his right leg. Hanks declares that Brashear is reinstated to full active duty.

In the epilogue, it is noted that two years later Brashear becomes a master diver and was active for another nine years before retiring.


Carl Brashear (center) received an Outstanding Public Service Award in October 2000 from actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. and then-Defense Secretary William Cohen for 42 years of combined military and federal civilian service. Gooding portrayed Brashear in the 2000 film Men of Honor.
Producer Robert Teitel, Robert De Niro, and screenwriter Scott Smith in September 2008


The film features the classic US Navy Mark V diving equipment used by the Navy from 1915 until 1985. The equipment was custom made by DESCO, who manufactured the gear for the Navy along with three other makers. The helmets used were actually commercial helmets (which have larger glass windows or "lights") on Navy breast plates, allowing greater visibility of the actors. The divers wore equipment weighing about 200 pounds (91 kg).[citation needed]


The film opened at the third position at the North American box office behind Little Nicky and Charlie's Angels, which was on its second week at the top spot.[2][3]

Men of Honor was met with mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently has an approval rating of 42% based on 106 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The critics consensus states, "De Niro and Gooding Jr. manage to turn in performances that make this by-the-numbers inspirational movie watchable."[4] According to Metacritic, which compiled 30 reviews and calculated a weighted average score of 56 out of 100, the film received "mixed or average reviews".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[6] Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, calling it "an old-fashioned biopic" but criticized Theron's appearance in the film, calling it "professional but unnecessary to the picture".[7]

Historical accuracyEdit

While the film portrays a Wisconsin recruit as the only white recruit to remain in Carl Brashear's bunk, the actual individual was a Brazilian diver named Alberto José do Nascimento, who was also dark skinned. Alberto also helped Brashear save a fellow recruit who was trapped underwater during a training exercise.[8][9]


Mark Isham's soundtrack was released as an album in 2000.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Men of Honor at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Charlie's angels hold off Sandler's devils to remain No. 1". The Pantagraph. November 13, 2000. p. 35. Archived from the original on May 6, 2023. Retrieved May 6, 2023 – via  
  3. ^ "Domestic 2000 Weekend 45". Box Office Mojo. 12 November 2000. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Men of Honor (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 25 June 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Men of Honor Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  6. ^ "Home". Cinemascore. Retrieved 2023-01-31.
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (10 November 2000). "Men of Honor movie review & film summary". Archived from the original on 25 September 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  8. ^ "O brasileiro no filme 'Homens de Honra'". Poder Naval. 3 November 2019. Archived from the original on 18 June 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  9. ^ de Souza, Jorge (14 November 2019). "Desprezado por Hollywood, mergulhador lendário do Brasil morre aos 91 anos". HISTÓRIAS DO MAR. Archived from the original on 3 October 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020.

External linksEdit