6.9/10
1,119
18 user 16 critic

Breaking the Sound Barrier (1952)

The Sound Barrier (original title)
Fictionalized story of British aerospace engineers solving the problem of supersonic flight.

Director:

Reviews

Watch Now

With Prime Video

Won 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Madeleine (1950)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

The middle-class family of a young woman cannot understand why she delays in marrying a respectable young man. They know nothing about her long-standing affair with a Frenchman.

Director: David Lean
Stars: Ann Todd, Norman Wooland, Ivan Desny
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

The Passionate Friends were in love when young, but separated, and she married an older man. Then Mary Justin meets Steven Stratton again and they have one last fling together in the Alps.

Director: David Lean
Stars: Ann Todd, Trevor Howard, Claude Rains
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Noel Coward's attempt to show how the ordinary people lived between the wars. Just after WWI the Gibbons family moves to a nice house in the suburbs. An ordinary sort of life is led by the ... See full summary »

Director: David Lean
Stars: Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, Amy Veness
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Henry Hobson is a successful bootmaker and tyrannical widower of three daughters. The girls each want to leave their father by getting married, but Henry refuses as marriage traditions require him to pay out settlements.

Director: David Lean
Stars: Charles Laughton, John Mills, Brenda de Banzie
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

This "story of a ship," the British destroyer HMS Torrin, is told in flash backs by survivors as they cling to a life raft.

Directors: Noël Coward, David Lean
Stars: Noël Coward, John Mills, Bernard Miles
Summertime (1955)
Romance | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A lonely American woman unexpectedly finds romance in Venice, Italy.

Director: David Lean
Stars: Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, Isa Miranda
Blithe Spirit (1945)
Comedy | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Adapted from a play by Noel Coward, Charles and his second wife Ruth, are haunted by the ghost of his first wife, Elvira. Medium Madame Arcati tries to help things out by contacting the ghost.

Director: David Lean
Stars: Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, Kay Hammond
Drama | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A man occupies a position of trust with a merchant in an East Asian port. He's sacked when he's caught stealing, but he pretends to commit suicide and a captain he befriended agrees to take him to a secret trading post.

Director: Carol Reed
Stars: Ralph Richardson, Trevor Howard, Robert Morley
Adventure | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.

Director: David Lean
Stars: John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Tony Wager
Adventure | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Cultural mistrust and false accusations doom a friendship in British colonial India between an Indian doctor, an Englishwoman engaged to marry a city magistrate, and an English educator.

Director: David Lean
Stars: Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Peggy Ashcroft
Oliver Twist (1948)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

An orphan named Oliver Twist meets a pickpocket on the streets of London. From there, he joins a household of boys who are trained to steal for their master.

Director: David Lean
Stars: Robert Newton, Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh
Certificate: GP Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Set in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising, a married woman in a small Irish village has an affair with a troubled British officer.

Director: David Lean
Stars: Robert Mitchum, Trevor Howard, John Mills
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
John Ridgefield
...
Susan Garthwaite
...
Tony Garthwaite
...
Philip Peel
...
Jess Peel
Joseph Tomelty ...
Will Sparks
...
Christopher Ridgefield
Jack Allen ...
'Windy' Williams
Ralph Michael ...
Fletcher
Edit

Storyline

Tony successful fighter pilot during World War II marries into the family of a wealthy oil magnate who also designs airplanes. The movie traces the company's attempt to break the sound barrier, as well as tensions between father and daughter. Lots of footage of early 50s jet aviation in Great Britain as well as shots of the Comet airliner, world's first jet passenger plane. Written by Henry Brugsch <henry@g0gku.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

They lived and loved, like the jets they flew - fast and dangerous! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

21 December 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Breaking Through the Sound Barrier  »

Box Office

Budget:

£250,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The role of Tony Gaithwaite was offered to a number of name actors but they rejected as being too small. See more »

Goofs

John tells Tony when they are in the observatory that the Andromeda galaxy is 700,000 light years away. In fact, it is 2.54 million light years away. See more »

Quotes

Tony Garthwaite: What's so ruddy peculiar about the speed of sound? We all know exactly what it is, don't we? 750 miles per hour at ground level. Now if we go slower than that we can hear ourselves going, and if we go faster we can hear ourselves coming. It's a mere matter of acoustics.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, immediately after the human actors, are listed four British aircraft: The de Havilland Comet, the Vickers-Supermarine Attacker, the de Havilland Vampire, and the Vickers-Supermarine Swift. See more »


Soundtracks

With Sword and Lance
(uncredited)
Music by Hermann Starke
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
"He came to a sticky end, but the world got fire"
4 April 2008 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

This mid-period David Lean picture is one of his most unusual – a drama woven out of a story of scientific exploration. Not an easy kind of picture to make, but one held together by Lean's refined direction, a great cast and a surprisingly good script by Terence Rattigan.

Although Lean was to make two small-scale pictures between this and Bridge on the River Kwai, this is perhaps more than any other a transition film between his early intimate dramas and the later massive epics he is now best known for. From the start Lean had always tried to photograph the psychological states of his characters, but The Sound Barrier is the first time he tells a bigger story through the personal experiences of individuals. This is the formula that has made Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia so popular and enduring. Like those later pictures, in the Sound Barrier the narrative switches to carry on the story through the eyes of other characters.

A story like this, concerning test pilots, engineering and scientific breakthroughs, will only work if there is a strong drama underlying it – otherwise it's only going to be of interest to techies. Lean seems totally aware of this and emphasises the human story behind the science. He directs with his editor's eye, composing action sequences with series of still shots, then throwing in the occasional sharp camera move to punctuate an emotional moment. He is moving away a little from the rather obvious expressionistic techniques of his earliest films towards a more straightforward yet effective style.

By the early 50s the golden age of British film was over, but there was still a good crop of acting talent on offer, and there are plenty of names to mention in The Sound Barrier. Ralph Richardson plays (as he often did) the overbearing father-in-law, and lends the film a touch of class. Ann Todd, who was Lean's wife and not an exceptional actress, here gives what is probably her best performance – she has the most difficult part in terms of emoting, but she carries it off brilliantly. This is also a great before-they-were-famous film, featuring a young Denholm Elliott (best known as Marcus Brody from the Indiana Jones films) and Leslie Phillips in his pre-Ding Dong days. The real acting treat here though is the rarely-seen John Justin, who failed to achieve stardom not through lack of talent, but through lack of interest on his part. His poignant final scene is one of the strongest in the whole picture.

Of course, it's not just the plot of The Sound Barrier that is a work of fiction – the science is complete nonsense as well, so don't go thinking that pilots really reverse their controls to get through the sound barrier. In many ways, this film reminds me of Dive Bomber, made ten years earlier with Errol Flynn and Fred MacMurray. That's also a test pilot drama, with a fair few plot similarities. One major difference though is that whereas Dive Bomber deliberately and bluntly disposes of any romantic angle, writing the female characters out of the story halfway through, in The Sound Barrier it is the pressures on the wives and sisters that is pushed to the fore. Ultimately, it is the way The Sound Barrier deals with loss and guilt that make it a strong and satisfying film.


16 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
An American version of the sound barrier colt8
An American version of the sound barrier colt8
Bad journey planning! Ambak
I think they took credit for German inventions. swojtak
Discuss Breaking the Sound Barrier (1952) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?