Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney) of the Andrea Gail has returned to Gloucester, Massachusetts with a poor catch. It's September 1991 and the fishing season is coming to an end. He is desperate for money as are most of his crew. Money is tight in the fishing business but you see it's all these men know what to do. Men like Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg), Dale "Murph" Murphy (John C. Reilly) and David "Sully" Sullivan (William Fichter). These men were raised on the sea as their fathers had been and their grandfathers too.
The boat travels farther out than they normally do and at first don't really catch much. Their luck changes and because their ice machine fails them they have to head back shore or risk losing their valuable catch. Between them and shore is a hurricane and 2 weather fronts, in other words the perfect storm. They fight waves that are 40 feet high. No matter what they try to do they just can't seem to out run the storm.
The Air National Guard sends a chopper out to try and rescue them but in turns ends up going into the sea, losing several crewmen.
Back on shore women like Christina Cotter (Diane Lane), Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and Melissa Brown (Karen Allen) can only sit and wait. Storms like the one in 1991 are few and in between but when they come they are meant to be respected. Weather in this part of the country can be very volatile and dangerous and many fisherman have lost their lives over the centuries.
Director Wolfgang Petersen brings us a tale of greed and desperation. He tells us of men who tried every year to put food on the table for their families. He brings us a tale that now marks the Andrea Gail and her crew in the annuals of Gloucester and the Perfect Storm that overtook her.