Universal acclaim - based on 10 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 10
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 10
  3. Negative: 0 out of 10
Watch On
  1. 100
    The acting and the best dialogue passages have an impact that has not dimmed; it is still possible to feel the power of the film and of Brando and Kazan, who changed American movie acting forever.
  2. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    The chance to watch a four-star classic the way it was meant to be seen -- fresh print, big screen -- is so rare as to be worth the trip.
  3. 100
    As unspoiled in its key elements as the day it was made, "On the Waterfront" is indisputably one of the great American films, its power undiminished. Even more today than half a century ago, it demands to be seen.
  4. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    A draining experience from beginning to end, relentless in its portrayal of inhumanity.
  5. 88
    On the Waterfront may have baggage, but that doesn't prevent it from being one of the great American productions of the mid-20th century.
  6. It's hard to deny that Marlon Brando's performance as a dock worker and ex-fighter who finally decides to rat on his gangster brother (Rod Steiger) is pretty terrific.
  7. Reviewed by: A.H. Weiler
    Moviemaking of a rare and high order. (Review of Original Release)
  8. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    Under Elia Kazan's direction, Marlon Brando puts on a spectacular show, giving a fascinating, multi-faceted performance.
  9. 80
    Like many cult films, it is also less than the sum of its parts.
  10. Brando made one of his most indelible impressions in this relentlessly dramatic, ever-controversial tale of loyalty and betrayal in the world of working-class unions.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 67 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 7
  2. Negative: 0 out of 7
  1. MartB.
    Jun 18, 2006
    They don't make 'em like this anymore.
  2. Dec 30, 2013
    This Kazan-Brando collaboration (after A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, 1951 9/10) finally granted both an Oscar along with a sweeping 8 winsThis Kazan-Brando collaboration (after A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, 1951 9/10) finally granted both an Oscar along with a sweeping 8 wins including BEST PICTURE out of 12 nominations. The prestige of this monochromic magnum opus is merely indisputable so as to my sheer expectation could not be more intrigued.

    It is a forthright story, a bum longshoreman’s awakening to his conscience and takes on a venal union boss and his heavy minions. There are several incentives for his self-morphing into a better person, his love to a girl who in turn elicits his true grit, the demise of his brother (a pretty slow-witted move to put the final nail in the coffin to urge a man at his wits’ end to go to the opposite of the line), and a religious influence from a virtuous priest, whose righteous homily is spirit-lifting but cannot deliver the huddled mass from numb apathy. Against the grain, it is also an indictment of the repressed workers who is suffer from crowd conformity psychology and cowardice, the most abhorrent thing is one of the sidekick child massacres all the pigeons just to demonstrate an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth when Brando finally musters his courage to be a key witness in a murder case against the boss, it feels blatantly inexplicable and rather far-fetched. The same can be referred to the ending, a battered-up Brando (with horrible bloodstain make-up) struggles to stand up and walk towards the gate so rest of the longshoremen can be convinced that they should follow suit and disregard whatever reasons hold them back. It is a too-well calculated victory.

    Bad-mouthing about some uneasiness while watching this picture aside, Brando emanates a tremendous air of competence as the young loafer stranded in the underbelly of the dock, his two-hander with Eva Marie Saint comes well-handled, alternately romantic and endangered, and Saint’s film debut is also a fortuitous triumph for her, a borderline leading part nabbed BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS trophy. Wondrously, the film also holds the record of securing three slots as BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR nominees (but no win), Kazan’s longtime workmate Malden emotes a paragon crime-defender as the priest, J. Cobb is the pure evil as the ringleader while his henchmen are completely imbecile and a young Steiger is the in-between as the ill-fated brother, an ambiguous image betrays great empathy in the illustrious conversing scenes inside the taxi with Brando.

    ON THE WATERFRONT also manifests Kazan’s top-notch deployment of the camera, with DP Boris Kaufman, the close-ups and fixated angle shots run fluently without tampering the rhythm of its grim reality. Leonard Bernstein’s accompanying score adheres firmly to the vascular impulse of the predictable diegesis. Thus, it is a fine piece of filmmaking and reminisces of the Golden Age with a touch of working-class bashing which may leave a small number of its modern audience nonplussed.
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  3. Jun 7, 2013
    Winner of no less than eight Oscars at the 1954 Academy Awards On the Waterfront is quite rightly considered a classic. Based on a series ofWinner of no less than eight Oscars at the 1954 Academy Awards On the Waterfront is quite rightly considered a classic. Based on a series of articles that appeared a New York newspaper at the time it tells the gripping story of union violence and corruption amongst longshoremen on the docks of Hoboken, New Jersey.

    For a film that is now close to sixty years old On the Waterfront has aged remarkably, largely thanks to Brando in what must still be amongst the greatest ever screen performances. There are a few signs of the films era, such as the slightly intrusive music, and as with many early Hollywood movies it is a little slow in places. None of this can detract from the overall quality of the film however and it remains an example of 50's Hollywood cinema at its best.
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