The film premiered in theaters in the United States on June 5, 1992 and spent two weeks as the No. 1 film, grossing $178,051,587 in worldwide box office business. The next installment in the film series, Clear and Present Danger, also starred Ford and Archer.
Retired CIA analyst Jack Ryan is on vacation with his family in London. They witness a terrorist attack on Lord William Holmes, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Ryan intervenes and is injured, but he kills one of the assailants, Patrick Miller, while his older brother Sean Miller looks on. The remaining attackers flee, as Sean is apprehended by the police. While recovering, Ryan is called to testify in court against Miller, who is part of a splinter cell of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Miller is later convicted for his crimes.
While being transferred to Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight, Miller's escort convoy is ambushed by his comrades, including Kevin O'Donnell, who execute the police officers, and coordinates an escape. Miller and his companions flee to North Africa to plan another kidnapping attempt on Lord Holmes. Miller also persuades several members of the group to accompany him to the U.S. to kill Ryan and his family.
Ryan survives an assassination attempt orchestrated by Annette and an accomplice outside the U.S. Naval Academy. Later, Miller and a henchman attack Ryan's wife and daughter on a busy highway, injuring them both. Enraged over the attack on his family, Ryan decides to go back to work for the C.I.A., having earlier rejected the appeal of his former superior, Vice Admiral James Greer.
Ryan concludes that Miller has taken refuge in a training camp in Libya. A Special Air Service team attacks and kills everyone in the camp while Ryan looks on through a live satellite feed. Unbeknownst to Ryan, Miller and his companions had already fled the camp and were on their way to the U.S. to stage their next attack.
Lord Holmes decides to visit Ryan at his home to formally present his KCVO (a British order of knighthood). With the aid of Lord Holmes' traitorous assistant, Miller's group tracks Holmes to Ryan's house in Maryland. They kill the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service agents and state troopers guarding the residence, and make an attempt to kidnap Lord Holmes. Ryan leads Holmes and his family to safety while he attempts to lure Miller and his companions away from the home.
The FBI's Hostage Rescue Team scrambles to pick up Holmes. Ryan develops a ruse to leave his family and Lord Holmes behind near a shoreline while racing away from the coast on a boat. Miller, O'Donnell and Annette follow suit, and chase him in a secondary boat. Upon realizing that Ryan is leading them away from Holmes, O'Donnell and Annette try to persuade him to turn around. But an enraged Miller kills them both and continues his pursuit of Ryan. Miller reaches Ryan's boat, jumps aboard, and attacks Ryan. Ryan impales Miller on an anchor, killing him.Harrison Ford as John Patrick "Jack" Ryan
Anne Archer as Caroline Catherine "Cathy" Ryan
Patrick Bergin as Kevin O'Donnell
Sean Bean as Sean Miller
Thora Birch as Sally Ryan
James Fox as Lord William Holmes
Ellen Geer as Rose
Samuel L. Jackson as Lieutenant Commander Robby Jackson
Polly Walker as Annette
J. E. Freeman as Marty Cantor
James Earl Jones as Vice Admiral Jim Greer
Richard Harris as Paddy O'Neil
Alex Norton as Dennis Cooley
Hugh Fraser as Geoffrey Watkins
Alun Armstrong as Sgt. Owens
David Threlfall as Inspector Robert Highland
Andrew Connolly as Charlie Dugan
The actors who played Jack and Caroline Ryan in The Hunt for Red October, Alec Baldwin and Gates McFadden, were unavailable. Baldwin had committed to perform in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. In 2011, Baldwin says he did not appear because of "sleazy Hollywood tools."
Filming also took place at Aldwych underground station for a sequence later in the film. The numerous changes between the film and the novel caused Clancy to distance himself from the film production. Harrison Ford accidentally hit Sean Bean with a boat hook while shooting the final scene; Bean has a scar over his eye as a result.
On June 9, 1992, the original motion picture soundtrack was released by the RCA Records music label. The film's musical score was composed by James Horner and contains musical references to works by Aram Khachaturian (Adagio from "Gayane" Suite) and Dmitri Shostakovich (Symphony No. 5, 3rd mvt.). A music video is shown in an early scene featuring Clannad's song "Theme from Harry's Game", originally made for an ITV drama about The Troubles in 1982. All other vocal performances featured on the soundtrack were performed by Maggie Boyle.
In 2013, a 2-disc expanded soundtrack album was released by La-La Land Records. Limited to 3000 copies, the album contains over 50 minutes of previously unreleased music (including cues by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and John Philip Sousa).
Despite receiving generally positive reviews, the film garnered a lot of controversy during its release, from Tom Clancy disowning the film, to critics complaining it was too different from the book. The film has earned a 75% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Roger Ebert called it "absorbing" while also commenting how actor Harrison Ford "once again demonstrates what a solid, convincing actor he is". Chris Hicks of the Deseret News mentioned how director Noyce gave the film "flourish and tension" while star Harrison Ford injected "a commanding sense of decency and humanity to the role of CIA analyst Jack Ryan, making it his own."
The film was a financial success, debuting at the number one position for the weekend of June 5, 1992. During that weekend, the film grossed $18,511,191 in business showing at 2,365 locations. The film's revenue dropped by 39.5% in its second week of release, earning $11,208,134. For that particular weekend, the film remained in 1st place with an increased theater count of 2,396. Patriot Games went on to top out domestically at $83,351,587 in ticket sales and $94,700,000 in foreign business for a worldwide total of $178,051,587 through an initial 9-week theatrical run. For 1992 as a whole, the film would cumulatively rank at a box office performance position of 14.