On April 20, 2010, a blowout occurs on the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, leading to an explosion and fire. 11 crewmembers are killed, but Mike, Jimmy, Andrea, Caleb, Donald, and Robert are all rescued. Donald and Robert are indicted on manslaughter charges for their actions leading to the blowout, but the charges were eventually dropped. The blowout lasts for 87 days, spilling approximately 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the worst oil disaster in US history. Before the blowout, Mike was able to get a dinosaur tooth for his daughter and gives it to her after he is rescued and returns home.
The offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, run by Transocean on behalf of BP, is operating in the Gulf of Mexico near the southern coast of Louisiana. On April 20, 2010, several crewmembers are preparing to fly to the rig to work on it. Among them are Chief Electronics Technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), Offshore Installation Manager Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), and Dynamic Position Operator Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez). Prior to leaving for the rig, Mike’s daughter Sydney tells him the presentation she plans to give to her class about what he does (“he tames the dinosaurs”), and asks for a fossil to show the class as proof. Upon arriving at the rig, Jimmy learns from the departing crew that the cement quality check test that they were supposed to do didn’t get done. An upset Jimmy meets with the BP managers on site, Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Robert Kaluza (Brad Leland), and demands that a pressure test be done on the line to check the quality of the cement seal that connects the pipe to the ocean floor. This is the test that the previous crew should have done. They resist at first, citing the cost, but Donald eventually allows for the test to happen. While that is happening, one of Mike’s coworkers gives him a dinosaur tooth that got pulled up by the pipe. He then calls his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) on Skype and tells her he has Sydney’s fossil.
The test is a success, but nobody knows the cement seal is about to fail. Once Robert orders the pipe flow to resume, the seal fails and the result is a blowout. While the crew recovers from the blowout, methane gas begins to come up the pipe, increasing the pressure in the pipe until it fails, leading to a powerful explosion and fire on the rig. The explosion knocks Mike backwards, and he promptly ends the Skype call to help his coworkers. Mike finds a seriously injured Jimmy, and he tells MIke to take him to the bridge so he can assess the situation. While the crew desperately tries, but fails, to stop the blowout, Jimmy realizes the rig cannot be saved, and orders an evacuation of the Deepwater Horizon. Mike and another crewmember, Caleb (Dylan O’Brien), start taking Jimmy and the rest of the injured crew to the emergency lifeboats. Donald and Robert, as well as the rest of the BP employees, have already boarded the lifeboats, passing by the Transocean employees.
As night falls, the Coast Guard is getting emergency calls about an oil rig fire and they send ships and helicopters to assist in the rescue, but it will take a while to reach the rig. News of the fire has reached the mainland, with Felicia and other family members of the crew watching the news and calling each other to learn about their loved ones. Mike has now rescued Andrea and is taking her to the lifeboats, but they have already left the rig, leaving them behind. The Deepwater Horizon’s support ship is pulling the lifeboats on board, as well as crewmembers who jumped off the rig, and they see Mike and Andrea climbing up the rig. Because the water near the rig is also on fire, Mike and Andrea have to climb to the top of the rig so they can jump over the fire into the water. Once they reach the top, Andrea has a panic attack about jumping from a great height. Mike is able to calm her down, then they jump off, where the just now arriving Coast Guard is able to rescue them. The next day, after they received medical attention, the surviving crewmembers meet at a local hotel, and they are surrounded by media and family members. Mike is reunited with Felicia and Sydney, and he gives his daughter the dinosaur tooth.
The movie ends with video of the real Mike Williams, Jimmy Harrell, and Andrea Freytas giving their testimony to Congress concerning the events on the Deepwater Horizon, followed by title cards revealing their fates. Mike and his family live in Texas and he never returned to the sea. Andrea lives in California and no longer works in the oil industry. Jimmy still works for Transocean. Donald and Robert were indicted on manslaughter charges for their actions, but the charges were eventually dropped. The blowout lasted for 87 days, and approximately 210 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the worst oil disaster in US history. Before the credits, the pictures and names of the 11 crewmembers who were killed are shown.
The film opens with actual recorded audio of a hearing from Mike Williams’ testimony following the real-life aftermath of events that inspired this film.
Mike (Mark Wahlberg) wakes up to hear his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) describe a dream she has in which a large rabbit is mimicking her every move. She believes the rabbit was her mother, whom Mike doesn’t seem to have liked. After the two get dressed, they listen to their daughter Sydney’s (Stella Allen) presentation on Mike that she is set to do for her class. Sydney talks about her dad working on an oil rig and that he “tames the dinosaurs”. She asks her dad to bring her back a dinosaur tooth so she can back that statement up.
Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) is on her way to work, but her car won’t start. She tries to fix it, but the engine craps out on her. Her boyfriend gives her a ride on his motorcycle.
Mike and Andrea arrive at a base to be taken to the offshore oil well, Deepwater Horizon. Joining them are a number of men, including Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell). The whole crew is brought to the well, just as another team is leaving after they were supposed to be doing a cement log. The main crew isn’t happy with the other team’s departure.
While everyone does their job, one of Mike’s co-workers presents him with a real dino tooth to bring home to Sydney. He is extremely thankful.
Jimmy meets with the bosses, Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Robert Kaluza (Brad Leland), to discuss the other team leaving before completing the cement log. Jimmy wants to do a negative pressure test on the rig to make sure things are running smoothly. They let him proceed after much back-and-forth.
The crew working by the drill perform the test on the drill pipe, resulting in a pressure of 1395. Don then has them do a test from the kill line this time, with significantly safer results. The crew then starts to pump out the mud from the system. A large buildup of mud gathers into the pipe, causing it to burst and push the crew off their feet with the blowback. The technicians manage to stop the mud from spewing. However, moments later, the earth shakes and another burst of mud spews through the hole. Methane gasses begin to rise and add pressure until the pipe can’t take it anymore, and the result is a powerful explosion that sets fire to the whole rig. Jimmy is injured while taking a shower, and Mike gets knocked backwards after talking to Felicia on Skype.
The drill crew work frantically to try and contain the situation, but some of the men are killed from the explosion. Mike works with one technician, Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien), in getting the men out of the rig and onto a lifeboat. Off the rig, Andrea tries to call a mayday, but she is reprimanded for her actions without authorization.
The coast guard is alerted to the situation, while Felicia learns about the fire, and she begins to worry for her husband’s life.
Mike finds Jimmy severely injured with a beat-up eye and a bad foot after a huge shard of glass got stuck in it. Mike carries him upwards to safety, but the lifeboat is full and has taken off without them. Luckily, the coast guard has arrived and has started taking the remaining crew members with them, but another explosion prevents Mike and Andrea from making it with them. They have to climb to a higher level amid the flames in order to jump and make it safely to the boat. Andrea is too terrified to make the jump, even as Mike tries to get her to go. With no choice, he grabs Andrea and pushes her off the rig with her life jacket on. Mike jumps afterwards as well. The two are pulled to safety. The crew is then taken away as the rig continues to burn and sink.
The survivors are given medical treatment. Mike is swarmed by reporters outside a hotel, and he is shoved against a wall by a distressed man asking him if his son got off the rig. Mike goes up to his room and breaks down as he tries to take a shower. Felicia and Sydney enter the room to hold him tight. Mike gives Sydney the tooth. Afterwards, Mike and his family leave as he watches Andrea and Caleb reunite with their loved ones, while Jimmy walks in on crutches. Mike and Felicia hug him too.
We see actual footage of Mike Williams, Andrea Fleytas, and James Harrell giving testimonies in the aftermath of the disaster. Williams never returned to sea and lives in Texas with his family. Fleytas lives in California and no longer works in the oil industry. Harrell continues to work for Transocean. Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza were indicted on manslaughter charges, but they were later settled. The resulting oil spill lasted 87 days and spilled over 210 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico, making it the worst oil disaster in history. 11 crew members were reported dead, and the film concludes by paying tribute to those men.