Columbia Pictures | Release Date: July 28, 1954
8.7
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Universal acclaim based on 198 Ratings
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176
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Negative:
7
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9
MartB.Jun 18, 2006
They don't make 'em like this anymore.
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7
drlowdonJun 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 of articles that appeared a New York newspaper at the time it tells the gripping story of union violenceWinner 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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8
SpangleMay 3, 2017
Arguably director Elia Kazan's best known work, On the Waterfront features a career-high for both its director and its star Marlon Brando in this dramatic depiction of corruption, intimidation, and ambition. Set on the docks of New Jersey,Arguably director Elia Kazan's best known work, On the Waterfront features a career-high for both its director and its star Marlon Brando in this dramatic depiction of corruption, intimidation, and ambition. Set on the docks of New Jersey, the film shows the level of control possessed by mob boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). A terrifying presence, his shadow looms over inch of the waterfront, with him and his henchmen deciding who can actually work that day and who must go home. Corrupt and deeply involved in the criminal underworld, Friendly and his men seek to silence any possible "cheese eaters" by any means necessary. Part of the peripheral of their crew is former boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando). Working as a longshoremen, he is the young brother of Friendly's right hand man, Charley the Gent (Rod Steiger). This gives him ample opportunity at the docks, but also puts him in the crosshairs of the criminal case and, as such, finds himself getting squeezed by the cops. Starting a romance with pure girl Edie (Eva Marie Saint), Terry must decide whether he wants to remain loyal to Johnny or to himself.

Opening with one of the best first acts I have seen, in which Terry visits his friend Joey Doyle (Ben Wagner), On the Waterfront's opening sets the tone. Giving Joey a pigeon that he believes belongs to him, Terry is merely there to setup Joey. Professing later on that he thought that Johnny Friendly's men were just going to rough him up a bit and not kill him, this opening scene not only shows the vicious nature of the Friendly gang, but also sets up the conflict that will consume Terry's being. Feeling great remorse for getting his friend killed and then being unable to face Edie, Joey's sister, with the truth even when the two begin going together, Terry realizes his only way out is to rat. However, in doing so, everybody he loves will be put in danger. But, to not do so would be to become complicit in the continued exploitation of the longshoremen by the ruthless mobsters that run the union.

Through this tale of corruption and intimidation, On the Waterfront paints a frightening picture of blue collar America and how easily it can transform into lawlessness if a ruthless criminal gets their hands on it. Easily crushing all opposing forces due to the desperation in the area, Johnny Friendly is the gatekeeper between being broke and being able to work for a living. In essence, he is the man capable of ruining you or helping you. His brutal killings and beatings of those that step out of line only further establishes him as the head honcho in the area and not a man to be toyed with. Leaning on a local priest, Father Barry (Karl Maiden), for help and strength, Terry must overcome his own issues and fears to be able to stand up to this powerful man and tell the truth to the courts. Through this, the film becomes not just scary portrayal of crime and its influence on the poor, but also on the strength and courage it takes to stand up in the face of absolute adversity.

One of the more apparent themes at play in On the Waterfront is ambition and life goals. Having become hardened over time due to his exposure to the crime underworld, Terry has largely given up on his dreams. Once a promising boxer, he had to throw away his career to allow the mob to win its bet on the fight. Now, he opts to avoid having dreams to avoid future pain. As a result, he never reached his potential in life and is left wallowing as a longshoreman that is considered a bum by everyone around him, even Edie's father and often times, Edie herself. Having passed on every opportunity before him and throwing away his life in the name of supporting his brother and Johnny, Terry must finally work towards his own goals. No longer can he put everybody else ahead of himself. Being selfish is a quality he desperately needs to learn, as without it, he is being trampled on by all the men on the docks. He is a man who feels he has failed in life and by ratting on the crime bosses, he can finally live up to his own expectations for himself and not be such a disappointment. He can be more than a bum and not have to worry about becoming a beggar on the streets. He can live in the comfort of the knowledge that he did what was right and lifted the control of the docks away from criminals.

Featuring a career-best performance from Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront may be a bit too melodramatic at times with a poor-to-mediocre romance given too much screentime, but on the back of excellent direction from Kazan and Brando's bravado, it lives up to its classic billing. Brando's authenticity as an actor and his committed performance as Terry really bring the film to life and make it feel akin to something out of the Italian neo-realism due to its intense focus on the harsh reality of life. Now, a lot of this is due to Kazan to be sure, but Brando brings truth to this representation of life. He is Terry Malloy. Terry Malloy is him.
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9
Compi24Apr 16, 2013
Sincerely complex and immaculately-acted characters accentuate the gripping thematic ideas at hand in "On The Waterfront," another stone-solid testament to Elia Kazan's perfect directorial skill.
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9
chwJun 14, 2015
On the Waterfront is one of Marlon Brando's best movies and makes one of his best performances (the best at the time of the release, since The Godfather came out 18 years after). It is definitely a must-see.
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10
sharathegde1995Dec 23, 2017
On the Waterfront is and will always remain Marlon Brando-Elia Kazan's quintessential masterwork
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9
InstaFlickaSep 6, 2010
The InstaFlicka Index 4.67/5 ----- The InstaFlicka Podcast Doing our part to help you by watching the NetFlix Instant Queue until our eyes bleed. http://instaflicka.squarespace.com/
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4
Trev29Sep 3, 2012
I know it is a classic, blah, blah...it still was not interesting and boring. Some fine acting and well known lines isn't going to make someone fall in love with the movie.
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8
lasttimeisawDec 30, 2013
This 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 merelyThis 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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10
VinceRocks123Jul 5, 2015
a awesome film about American patriotism against corruption and organized crime, its a film most people don't make anymore, no holds barred.

Marlon Brando stars in a spectacular performance that even outshines his iconic performance as
a awesome film about American patriotism against corruption and organized crime, its a film most people don't make anymore, no holds barred.

Marlon Brando stars in a spectacular performance that even outshines his iconic performance as Vito Corleone, as Terry Malloy an ex-boxer and part time loser who is convinced by his superiors to testify against the murderous mafia who are using the harbors for illegal drug trade.

featuring masterful direction from Elia Kazan, and Brando's tough and emotional star power, in the famous scene where he successfully stands up against his own brother Charlie (Rod Steiger) "I Could Have been a Contender" its a movie men in america of all ages young or old must see to make them more of a winner again than a loser.

undeniably its the greatest American film classic of the early 20th century and winner of 8 academy awards!
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10
scarfakeDec 27, 2015
best marlon brando's performance after vito corleone
                                                                                            
and won 8 academy awards
best marlon brando's performance after vito corleone
                                                                                            
and won 8 academy awards
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10
BitashJan 30, 2021
Unbelievable acting, you forget you are watching a movie...it’s so real I feel it’s happening right in front of me and it real. No weak link, everyone is authentic and casted so well. Even the gangsters look like real mob. No one over acts,Unbelievable acting, you forget you are watching a movie...it’s so real I feel it’s happening right in front of me and it real. No weak link, everyone is authentic and casted so well. Even the gangsters look like real mob. No one over acts, everyone’s is just believable.
I knewBrando can act but wow, one his best performance.
I can see why they say “ they don’t make like this anymore”
No glitz, glamour or CG......all in the acting, screenplay and directing.
Must watch.
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7
amheretojudgeDec 6, 2018
Kazan's one-more-round attitude for this fist to fist challenge is blatantly grant.

On The Waterfront Kazan's one-more-round attitude for this fist to fist challenge is blatantly grant. It defines cinema at its finest. All the genres, from
Kazan's one-more-round attitude for this fist to fist challenge is blatantly grant.

On The Waterfront

Kazan's one-more-round attitude for this fist to fist challenge is blatantly grant. It defines cinema at its finest. All the genres, from drama to thriller and from romance to politics, the tone fluctuates like never before and still remains persistent like always before. The conversations between Brando and Marie Saint does spark romance. The anticipated qualifications for the equations to move forward as the story enfolds ought to be convincing and is delivered thoroughly in here with gripping screenplay. One of the primary strength of the feature is its ferocious pace, leaping from one sequence to another, each moment is a pure delight.

Blending it all in, the huge cast, high pitched dramatic sequences, complex relationship, morality conflicts and a vital message, all wrapped up in an envelope, this is as cinematic as the cinema can be. And since it fiddles with multiple characters, it has to and does offer each of them a moment to stand alone and factor in effectively. The priest, the antagonist and the protagonist, each of them has something to say and Kazan gives them the stage an actor always aspires for. Brando as a troubled complex guy seeking his voice fabricates his performance with power and vulnerability to appear more human and welcoming host to its audience.

It is definitely one of the best performance of his life and supporting him all the way is a great cast like Malden as a bratty king with the crown and Marie Saint as the love affair and the inner voice of Brando. Kazan's neat and clean vision of street gangster's is more lethal than Scorsese's in here. On The Waterfront is clearly a film ahead of its time and it has managed to keep us busy and electrified even after decades.
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9
FilipeNetoNov 3, 2020
"On The Waterfront" is a classic that instills respect in any cinema lover. The way the film explores the dialogues and interpretive skills of the cast is the best it has: the actors have excellent material and were brilliantly directed by"On The Waterfront" is a classic that instills respect in any cinema lover. The way the film explores the dialogues and interpretive skills of the cast is the best it has: the actors have excellent material and were brilliantly directed by Elia Kazan. The result is evident: a film that is a work of art and a piece of culture and memory, which won eight Oscars at that time (Best Film, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Black-and-White Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Editing), which is always an achievement.

The story is very interesting and revolves around the control that a small group of criminals have over a New York dockers' union: after the murder of a docker, young ex-boxer Terry Malloy begins to distance himself from the mob boss Johnny Friendly and, greatly encouraged by Father Barry, chooses to denounce what is happening to the authorities, aware that he will pay the consequences.

The strongest point of the film is its excellent story, and the eloquent and excellent way in which the cast worked and performed, reinforced by memorable and extremely high quality dialogues. The film is full of quotes worth mentioning and anthological moments, such as the great and tense dialogue between Terry and Friendly in the back of the taxi or Terry's suffering and pain-filled walk, even in the final part of the film. I have always said that a good story and capable actors are the key to making a great film, and "On The Waterfront" is proof of my idea: without artifices, effects and decorations, it focus on the essential things and get everything it want.

The great cast is excellently directed by Kazan, who achieved with this film one of the most impressive and remarkable works of his career as a director. Marlon Brando is a good actor and achieves stardom with this film, where he was still far from the roles of the sunset of his career. Lee J. Cobb is very good in the role of mobster: discreet, he gave the character a personality that swings dangerously and quickly between sympathy and brutality. Eva Marie Saint is extremely effective in her role, although the film is poorly tailored for female characters and she appears only to be the love interest of Brando and the sister of the dead docker. Karl Malden brings to life the most human and most influential character in the entire film: a Catholic priest who does not shy away from using the pulpit to fight what he believes to be evil and wicked, even if he eventually has to suffer.

Technically, it is an extremely discreet film. There are no visual or special effects that go far beyond the most basic. The cinematography, in black and white, is very good and is loaded with a very welcome elegance. The sets and costumes are equally good and are in accordance with the period, the environment and the social context. The soundtrack is not particularly impressive, but bets on elegant and pleasant enough jazz themes.
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9
KenRSep 21, 2021
Bud Schulberg’s hard-hitting story and screenplay were destined to become an instant hit and in the directorial hands of craftsman, Elia Kazan was turned into a worldwide phenomenon. Schulberg’s writings covered a curious variety of topicsBud Schulberg’s hard-hitting story and screenplay were destined to become an instant hit and in the directorial hands of craftsman, Elia Kazan was turned into a worldwide phenomenon. Schulberg’s writings covered a curious variety of topics from corruption within the fight game ‘The Harder They Fall’ to the plunder of bird plumage in ‘Wind Across the Everglades’ - even taking a serious shot at Media and the promotion of corrupt charlatans as ‘hero’s’ with ‘A face In The Crowd’. In his early war years, Schulberg also gathered evidence for the Nuremberg trials - not one to hold back on the trail of inhuman activities. Adding immeasurably to the power of ‘Waterfront’ were the towering talents of Composer Leonard Bernstein - creating a haunting musical soundscape that gave life to the settings and soul-searching torment of its characters. Performances, guided by Kazan, were career cementing for Brando, Eva Marie Saint (introducing), and Karl Malden, along with a hand-picked cast of powerhouse support players all destined for solid careers. The violence portrayed within this picture was not simply sensationalistic, as it was for many that tried to copy ‘waterfront’ but rather to make a statement against violence, in an effort to bring justice into a corrupt institution. It still packs a wallop today as it did 70yrs ago. Boris Kaufman’s striking B/W cinematography (‘Patterns’ 56) adds considerable visual power. The Columbia DVD features a good image and sound transfer and I see it has since been remastered in HD. Expand
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10
SakataOct 11, 2018
Simply a movie that marked the history of cinema. Marlon Brando delivers a masterful performance as Terry Malloy. And their co-stars Eva Marie-Saint, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger are not far behind, especially Cobb, in the skin ofSimply a movie that marked the history of cinema. Marlon Brando delivers a masterful performance as Terry Malloy. And their co-stars Eva Marie-Saint, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger are not far behind, especially Cobb, in the skin of the great villain Johnny Friendly. With a sensational script, a instrumental soundtrack by Leonard Bernstein and impeccable direction by Elia Kazan, "On the Waterfront" is simply a classic not to be missed. Expand
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10
AMH04Aug 4, 2020
Brilliantly acted and smartly directed. This film is a must watch for film lovers.
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