Peak McTiernan (fresh off Die Hard and Predator). Real submarines for surface exterior shots and kickass models for underwater exteriors. A PG-rated film clearly made for grown-ups.
The classy animated title typography, rippling red from Cyrillic into Roman. (When my junior high social-studies class wrote to pen pals in the USSR, I asked mine to spell out “Red October” in Russian so I could scrutinize the letterforms.) Basil Poledouris’s score. (One of the few cassette tapes I owned at age 12.) And that poster! (I couldn’t find a copy to put up on my bedroom wall, so I settled for Crimson Tide.)
Sean Connery’s hair. Stellan Skarsgård’s glowering. Scott Glenn’s eyeglasses. Alec Baldwin’s everything.