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On the Waterfront (1954)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 22 June 1954 (Japan)
1:35 | Trailer

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An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.



(screenplay), (based upon an original story by) | 1 more credit »
3,457 ( 319)
Top Rated Movies #126 | Won 8 Oscars. Another 21 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pat Henning ...
Kayo Dugan
Tony Galento ...
Tami Mauriello ...
John F. Hamilton ...
'Pop' Doyle (as John Hamilton)
John Heldabrand ...
Rudy Bond ...
Don Blackman ...
Arthur Keegan ...
Abe Simon ...


Terry Malloy dreams about being a prize fighter, while tending his pigeons and running errands at the docks for Johnny Friendly, the corrupt boss of the dockers union. Terry witnesses a murder by two of Johnny's thugs, and later meets the dead man's sister and feels responsible for his death. She introduces him to Father Barry, who tries to force him to provide information for the courts that will smash the dock racketeers. Written by Colin Tinto <cst@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Tender love...terrifying conflict! See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

22 June 1954 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Bottom of the River  »

Box Office


$910,000 (estimated)


$9,600,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The scene where Eva Marie Saint drops her glove and Marlon Brando picks it up and puts it on his hand was unplanned. Saint dropped her glove accidentally in rehearsal and Brando improvised the rest. Elia Kazan loved the new business and asked them to repeat it for the take. See more »


Inside the taxi Terry's jacket zipper jumps about between shots. See more »


[first lines]
Johnny: [to Terry] You take it from here, Slugger.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits are shown over a bamboo-type mat background. See more »


Referenced in 21 Jump Street: Christmas in Saigon (1987) See more »


Here Comes the Bride
Written by Richard Wagner
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Magnificent statement about the power of one
6 February 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke) The evil in 1954's "On the Waterfront" is the union bosses, brilliantly portrayed by Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger and their thugs. They are allowed to do business because of the fright, intimidation, and passiveness of an entire group of longshoremen, who either work or don't while the big shots take kickbacks and steal from them. Then Joey Doyle, who had agreed to testify against the union bosses, is set up by a clueless Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) and thrown off of a roof. His sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) is determined to find out what happened. But no one will talk. She shames Father Barry (Karl Malden) into taking more of an interest in what is happening on the docks, and he does. Still, no one's talking. Terry falls in love with Edie but still can't do the right thing. Another man is killed. When the killing finally affects Terry, he realizes something has to change.

"On the Waterfront" is one of the most amazing films ever made, directed by the great Elia Kazan. There were three Oscar nominations (Malden, Cobb and Steiger) in the Best Supporting Actor category, and the film took home the top acting awards, Kazan as director, and best film, best screenplay, best editing, best cinematography, best art direction. There was a nomination for Leonard Bernstein's fantastic score, and it's difficult to understand how he could have lost the award. This is the only film for which he wrote incidental music. It is fantastic, particularly in the tender moments between Terry and Edie.

"On the Waterfront" has the classic performance of Marlon Brando, a man who is loyal to his brother Charlie (Steiger) even though Charlie ruined Terry's fight career and now is part of the union corruption. Brando is sensational as a tortured young man (based on whistle-blower Anthony DiVincenzo) who knows what he should do, but the price is too high. It's his love of Edie that gives him a conscience. She's from another world and hasn't been jaded by life yet. It's impossible to believe that this role was offered to Grace Kelly, but it was. Why Kazan thought her cold beauty and finishing school accent would have fit into this scenario is beyond me. Saint is perfect - warm, strong, gentle and most importantly, comes off as the kind of girl who lives in a blue collar neighborhood.

Lee J. Cobb as Johnny Friendly (based on real-life mobster Albert Anastasia) gives a bombastic, violent, and scary performance; Karl Malden is letter-perfect as the priest who fights for Terry's soul; and Steiger is excellent as Charlie, a weak man who has taken advantage of his brother to feather his own nest. Karl Malden's character of Father Barry was based on the real-life "waterfront priest," Father John M. Corridan, who operated a Roman Catholic labor school on the west side of Manhattan. Father Corridan was interviewed by screenwriter Budd Schulberg.

The saddest thing in the film is the attitude of the young boy who helps Terry take care of Joey's pigeons. He's already been inculcated with the "D&D" (deaf and dumb) policy of the longshoremen.

The cloudy, rich atmosphere of the story is captured by the Hoboken, New Jersey locations - although this is a fictionalized version of events on the New York waterfront.

The end of "Raging Bull" is a homage to "On the Waterfront." The end of "On the Waterfront" will give you goosebumps.

Evil only triumphs when good men do nothing. When those same men stand up for what they believe in, they show evil for what it really is - cheap, lousy, and dirty.

25 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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