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On the Waterfront More at IMDbPro »

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104 out of 148 people found the following review useful:

Protecting All That's Tragic

10/10
Author: JFHunt from Manhattan
27 September 2005

"Im just a bum sitting in a motor home on a film set, Brando said, and they come looking for ZEUS".

I think Brando was a guy who was perfect in the moment. All his power and shortcomings can be revealed in a single sentence. Other's might have been great and still more will be. But there's just something about him.

For me, Brando has always been the ultimate male. Simply put, bruiting desire. Brando represents the very definition of method acting, even though he was said to have hated the phrase. Being able to reach inside yourself and pull something out that kicks everyone in the ass. He was truly one of a kind. They say sometimes beautiful people are born under a dark cloud. I think Brando was born under a rain of thunderbolts. He was powerful and tragic.

On The Waterfront is basically a showcase for Brando. Everything coming together. This film is truly one for the ages.

I guess the only thing really wrong with this life is time.

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67 out of 78 people found the following review useful:

Kazan's film constitutes an extraordinary tour de force of fluid direction and nervous, edgy acting…

10/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
4 May 2008

"On the Waterfront" is basically the story of one man, Terry Malloy, a young dock worker with a little, and unsuccessful, experience as a boxer but not much intelligence or purpose… He wastes his time around the docks, vaguely discontented about his life and revealing a tender trace in his otherwise tough manner as he tends his pigeons caged on the roof of his modest building…

His brother Charley (Rod Steiger), a suave opportunistic lawyer, works for the local dockers' union, headed by Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), the arrogant mob boss…

Friendly takes affectionate interest in Terry and tries to make things easy for him… He also takes advantage of Terry by involving him in the killing of an uncooperative docker… Unaware of their murderous intentions, Terry sets the trap for the man who is thrown from a roof top because he allowed himself to be interviewed by a crime investigating commission…

Terry's alienation from the crooked union leaders starts when he meets the dead man's sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint), and realizes the grief he has brought into her life… She asks his help in bringing the racketeers to justice, as does Father Barry (Karl Malden), a priest of complete goodness and rightness…

Brando's moral dilemma was superbly drawn in the film… He's an ordinary man finding the courage to stand up and be counted… As portrayed by Brando he is touchingly believable…

The rest of the cast is excellent:

Cobb is extremely good as the brute fury boss who intimidates the workers into silence, stopping at nothing to maintain his position of power on the docks...

Rod Steiger gives his finest performance as the clever and suave opportunistic lawyer who works for the local docker's union...

Eva Marie Saint manages to make the blood go through Brando's valves reviving and creating a heart that never existed before...

Karl Malden is hard and clear as the activist Catholic priest who continue encouraging other longshoremen to testify, inciting Brando to fight for his rights—regardless of the cost—rather than be a pawn in a ruthless system of bribes and killings...

"On the Waterfront" is one of the great American films, not only because it bravely spreads a strong light on the violation of justice, but because it is a powerful piece of cinema, which push forward a classic study of man's responsibility to his fellow man...

The film won eight Academy Awards...

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101 out of 151 people found the following review useful:

Powerful every time I see it

10/10
Author: jjh6519 from United States
3 October 2002

Back in the early 1950's, after a movie had run its course at the theaters, it did not go to video. Nor did it go on prime-time TV, as that concept came up many years later. Instead, they put it on afternoon TV, sometimes around dinner time. Well, that's when I'd come home from high school, and got to enjoy free black and white classics such as "High Noon" and "On the Waterfront".

It made a moviefan of me for life. I remember the effect of "On the Waterfront", as I remember thinking about Terry Malloy in that final scene, "Wow, that guy's got guts! I wish I could be like him." Being just a typical Midwestern teen, I didn't know who Marlon Brando was, but I just was fascinated by this life of these good and bad people, on the tops of buildings and in the cold, wet streets and alleys of this far-away place near the waterfront.

Now, every time I watch it, years later, I still love it. Yes, there is definitely an attempt to make Terry into a Christ-figure at the end. That's no coincidence that he stumbles from having been beaten to a pulp, to walk and carry a hook on his shoulders, to lead others to a better life. (In the book by Budd Schulberg, by the way, Terry disappears after testifying and what is thought to be his body is found floating in a barrel of lime. But he has become a legend on the waterfront.) I love the powerful Elmer Bernstein score (glaring for our present tastes, but back then, exactly what people expected to hear during a drama -- you've got to wonder what a future generation will say about the constant replays of fairly irrelevant pop and rap songs as themes during most movies today, dramatic or comedy).

And being raised in a Catholic home, I found Father Barry to be a great dramatic figure, one of the only times I saw a priest portrayed as a gritty, brave, heroic person, not afraid to mix it up with the common folks in the parish. He smoked, drank and slugged it out. And he was not afraid to die for the right reason. Folks, that's true Christianity at work. And that's powerful.

A classic. A must-see. 10/10

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71 out of 117 people found the following review useful:

Still Packs A Wallop

10/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
1 February 2006

Still powerful after all these years, it's easy to see why this film won so many awards. Even though it isn't classified as "film noir," it might as well be, as it has the earmarks of one: gritty, downbeat with a feeling of dread, magnificent black-and-white cinematography, etc.

It's certainly not a "fun" movie but if you appreciate great film-making, you have to rate this near the top of the list Not only is the direction (by one of the all-time greats, Elia Kazan) superb and the photography striking, the acting also is top-rate.

Marlon Brando was just riveting to watch in here and deserved all the accolades he received for his performance. Talk about a guy with mixed emotions and a tormented soul! Eva Marie Saint, as Brando's "conscience" and love interest, proved to be worthy in her role.

The rest of the characters were angry people, always shouting it seemed, always upset at someone. Even the priest, played by Karl Malden, was that way although one of his passionate speeches was remarkable to hear. How many films does one hear about Jesus Christ being everywhere men are? None I can recall, offhand. He, like Saint's character, also influenced Brando to do the right thing.

Lee J. Cobb filled his bill as the angriest of them all, the labor boss who would have anyone killed who dare speak out against his illegal practices, and Rod Steiger was his normal intense self as Brando's older brother. Hey, almost everyone was intense in this film. It gets you involves and wears you out by the end.

Steiger and Brando's conversation in an automobile fairly late in the film ("I couda been a contenda") is one of the most famous scenes in movie history, but I found many memorable scenes in this movie....too many to recount here.

Suffice to say if you are looking for a hard-nosed drama with great acting and photography, a film that still looks and sounds up-to-date in many respects, don't be afraid to give this "oldie" a look. You'll see why it's considered one of the best movies of all time.

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24 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

A classic for all the right reasons

9/10
Author: ExpendableMan from United Kingdom
31 March 2008

Watching On The Waterfront nowadays, two scenes stand out head and shoulders above the rest. First is the impassioned speech by Father Barry (Karl Malden) to the gathered dock workers in the hull of a ship where he tries to rally them against the mobsters running their lives. Second is the confrontation between Terry and Charlie Malloy (Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger) in the back of a taxi which ends in one brother pointing a gun at the other and Brando's now legendary "contender speech." Both of them are sequences where the characters do nothing but talk but each is a fine example of what makes On The Waterfront the undeniable classic it is; acting, scripting, cinematography, music, everything fits into one cohesive whole and the end result is a welcome addition to any film collection.

The story here concerns Terry Malloy, a New York shipyard worker who finds his conscience bothering him when one of his friends is murdered. Terry at first is a tough guy with a grim outlook ("you know my philosophy on life, give it to 'em before they give to you") who despite his inner turmoil refuses to confess anything to the Police as it would make him a "rat." However, the arrival of Malden's headstrong Preacher and the victim's innocent sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint in her debut appearance) throws his deaf and dumb world into chaos. Soon, Terry finds himself falling for Edie and the Preacher's words hit home, leaving the angry young dockworker to question what's really right. The mob meanwhile aren't too happy about Terry's UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP and begin to pile on the pressure, especially his older brother Charlie who's torn between loyalty to his boss and looking out for his younger sibling. Before anyone can put a lid on things, the dockyard becomes a very tense place to be.

Brando of course puts his heart and soul into his performance. Terry by his very nature isn't one to carry his heart on his sleeve and so the great Method Actor is left to convey his turmoil through body language alone. It is a testament to how good he is that you can tell exactly what Terry is feeling even though he hardly ever expresses it verbally. Instead his shoulders hunch with resigned indignation and his eyes spark with anger, Brando playing the part so well he more or less disappears into the character completely. While he may have taken a lot of the credit however, he is far from the only strong presence in the film as Karl Malden's rock hard Preacher is just as compelling, his depiction of the dignified man of Christ who isn't afraid to drink beer and smoke cigarettes with the Wharf rats being a refreshingly positive portrayal of a Catholic leader. Eva Marie Saint meanwhile puts in a convincing portrayal of Edie, but she is hamstrung a little by some old fashioned writing. Her pursuit of her brother's murderers give her some powerful moments but there are a couple of instances where it becomes all too clear that the part was written by a man. However, she still gives us one of the most touching moments in the film, a confrontation with Terry where most of their chat is disrupted by a tug horn that is achingly sad despite the absence of dialogue.

Acting is only one half of the equation of course and needless to say, the story remains constantly gripping. The murder that opens the film leaves an instant grip on the viewer's attention and as Terry spirals further into an intricate web of half truths, things get incredibly dark. The New York tenement blocks that tower over the proceedings provide an imposing sense of claustrophobia while the rooftops are a smoke laden jungle of chimney stacks and TV aerials. However, if you look closely it becomes apparent that the crew still had some fun with the material and there is some subtle humour to be had - a wedding party degenerating into a brawl and a bar full of panicked customers emptying into the streets followed by a shot of one isolated individual desperately jumping into the bathroom.

All in all therefore, On The Waterfront is a film that is thoroughly deserving of its reputation. Brando excels in his role and heads up a highly talented cast giving it their all. Most of all though, it's an engaging and captivating story of urban paranoia, filled with tough guys spitting out slang in barking New York accents. Think you're a big shot, do ya? Huh? Well do us all a favour and check this one out. Ah enough a youse guys, ged outta here.

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24 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Magnificent statement about the power of one

10/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
6 February 2007

"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.

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65 out of 116 people found the following review useful:

Quite simply a classic

10/10
Author: Wayne Malin (wwaayynnee51@hotmail.com) from United States
16 October 2003

Gripping, powerful drama of corrupt unions for dock workers and how one man Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) fights back.

This movie is a definite must-see. The story is pretty simple and has been done before but the script is superb and all the actors are at the height of their powers. Brando is unbelievable as Malloy--he portrays his innocence and hurt so easily--I actually started to get a lump in my throat when he comes to grips about the corruption. Rod Steiger is great in a small role as his brother. The taxicab sequence between him and Brando has become a legend--rightfully. Lee J. Cobb is frightening as the leader of it all. Eva Marie Saint (in her first theatrical role) is gorgeous and just great as a woman who falls in love with Brando. The scenes between them are incredible. There's also superb direction by Elia Kazan--this is possibly his best work. The only debit here is Karl Malden as the priest--he overplays it way too much and got on more nerves. But that's about it.

This movie is one of those rare instances where everything clicked together perfectly. A HUGE hit in its day. Don't miss this one!

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60 out of 107 people found the following review useful:

My extended review of the film

Author: sol- from Perth, Australia
9 August 2005

My comments here are written in light of having watching the film for a second time. While I liked 'On the Waterfront' a lot the first time round, I appreciated it even more the second time. There are some slight negative points - the music is at times overbearing and the religious side it tries to bring forth does not quite work - but there is not anything significant that I would flaw the film on.

The acting is definitely the film's strongest point. Marlon Brando gives and intense and realistic performance. It is not just because of the famous car scene, or the well-known scene in the bar with Saint, that makes his performance great. It is everything that he does throughout, in particular the facial expressions that he captures on his face. Towards the end there is a scene in which he stands alone and just stares at his fellow workers. His expression is unflinching without being unrealistic. Eva Marie Saint is quite good too, also giving off a performance in which her face is central. However, there is less to talk about with her than there is about the supporting actors.

When I first viewed the film, it was Karl Malden's acting that stood out the most to me. His performance and character are powerful, however on a second viewing it seems a bit over-the-top, as does the whole religious side of the film in which he is involved. On the other hand, Lee J. Cobb is brilliant as Johnny Friendly, providing a fierce performance while not letting his character turn into a stereotype of evil. Then there is Rod Steiger, whose acting, after only one viewing of the film, I did not take much notice of. He is hardly there, and until the point when he instructed to talk with Brando, he does not have much to do. Indeed, Rod Steiger has very few good scenes in the film, however he is excellent in those scenes. It is incredibly realistic acting, the way he interacts with his brother, and the way he is torn between the mob and his family.

The next thing to mention is that this film could never be as effective in colour. The bleakness of the black and white prints is used well by Kazan. There are many shots of the characters, which just show their heads against a white sky: a bleak white sky. We cannot even see if it is cloudy or sunny day. The sky is as plain and as barren as what the future holds for each of the characters. Leonard Bernstein's music deserves a mention too. It is an electrifying score and often fits the actions very well. It is at times a tad overbearing (note the scene where Brando goes to Saint's house) as it has a tendency to over-ride the dialogue and the action. However, this does not subtract much from the overall picture.

The sound recording is very realistic. The dock noises can often be heard, which helps to set up the waterfront atmosphere, and there is one scene in which the noise of a ship plays a key element in a conversation between Saint and Brando. In that conversation it is metaphoric, and it could even be argued that it is only heard through perceptual subjectivity. The other noises are sharply recorded too, such as banging at the basement of the church. The photography is excellent, using shadows very well to set up the atmosphere, all of which is captured well with some glides and tilts.

One can praise a film for many different reasons, but it is not worth much unless one can explain what the film is about. I would say that 'On the Waterfront' is a drama about struggling against the restrictions of society, and of what it takes to stand up for what one believes in. However, I also see it as an exciting thriller about fighting corruption and the harshness of stevedore life in a community that is effectively run by gangsters. Perhaps it is about love and how relationships develop, and the events that help them to grow strong. I think different viewers will take some different out of it. And it is perhaps that, more than the artistic and cinematic qualities of the film, which makes it a great piece of cinema.

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24 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

More and more, the Rolled-out Dough will crook the Rolling Pin

8/10
Author: Cihan Sean Victorydawn Vercan (CihanVercan) from Ottawa, Canada
19 September 2008

Terry lives in the shadow of his smart brother Charley the Gent working for a double-handed businessman of the underworld. He had his best times of his life during his boxing career, and has brought his dimes in for his brother. Charley's boss named Johnny Friendly is the man who is behind Terry's fame, but he is also the same man who nibbled his dimes from boxing.

The curtain opens with Terry working for Johnny Friendly to be participated in a murder. He does his duty and the murder takes effect. The victim was a labor, whose labor leader also works for Johhny Friendly. Terry turns gloomy when he finds out that the victim has been only seeking his rights when he became a rebel. Especially when Terry meets with the victim's sister his suspects grew. She reasons with him that there are two opposite sides: Johnny Friendly's rich and still-growing syndicate versus the dependent and needy workers who are driven into Johnny Friendly's punitive sanctions. Provided that Terry finds a third side: His own.

A run of the mill plot of the mid-20th century. Everybody is pretty much familiar with labor union issues. Mainly the subject gives nothing more than workers seeking out their rights. However, consider that it's Elia Kazan who ushers a new era of actors who rage the whole scenes and turn out heroes out of bums. On the Waterfront has surely inspired millions. For instance, in Robert De Niro's "Raging Bull", a prize-fighter like Terry Malloy turns out to be a stage actor and affirms Terry's speech of reproach to his brother, where no other words could describe his situation he fell into.

Marlon Brando's can-do attitude created an inspirational movement, imprinting our memory, that "If Terry Malloy can do this, yes; I can do this, and yes; everybody can do this". Subsequently movie makers began to deliver efforts and accomplishments to the silver screen in order to catch viewers' appreciations. On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando are those to remember together in the motion picture history.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Powerful portrait of N.Y. docks , being stunningly performed and excellently directed by Elia Kazan

8/10
Author: ma-cortes
4 May 2012

This compelling and dynamic drama is set on New York's dock where mobsters control the Union and stevedores . An ex-prize fighter named Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando who deservedly won an Academy Award) turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses (Lee J Cobb) and is embroiled in violence . Malloy faces the dilemma of whether or not to turn informer . While his brother (it was originally offered to Lawrence Tierney , but he asked for too much money so the role went to Rod Steiger who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance) is a crooked lawyer and he meets a beautiful ex-nun (Eva Maria Saint , Grace Kelly turned down the role of Edie Doyle, deciding to make Rear Window instead) and falls in love for her .

This interesting and thought-provoking film contains intense drama with pungent lines , emotion , wonderful performances , memorable final , magnificent direction and classic musical score by the maestro Leonard Berstein . Marvelous acting by entire casting . The taxicab scene , one of the most famous scenes in the cinema, in which Brando began to improvise some dialogue, surprising Rod Steiger ; after a while, Elia Kazan told Brando to "knock it off". The problem Brando had with the scene, as he explained to screenwriter Budd Schulberg and Kazan, was that he felt he would have difficulty trying to talk reasonably with his brother with a gun at his ribs , at this, Kazan agreed and told Brando to improvise ,Kazan maintained that he did not direct Brando nor Steiger in this scene, he simply stood back and let the two actors direct themselves. The idea for the film began with an expose series written for The New York Sun by reporter Malcolm Johnson , the articles won him a Pulitzer Prize and were reinforced by the 1948 murder of a New York dock hiring boss which woke America to the killings, graft and extortion that were endemic on the New York waterfront. Budd Schulberg was captivated by the subject matter, devoting years of his life to absorbing everything he could about the milieu. He became a regular fixture on the waterfront, hanging out in West Side Manhattan and Long Island bars, interviewing longshore-union leaders and getting to know the outspoken priests in Hell's Kitchen. The leading characters were based on real people: Terry Malloy was based on longshoreman and whistle-blower Anthony De Vincenzo; Father Barry was based on waterfront priest John M. Corridan; Johnny Friendly was based on mobster Albert Anastasia. On the Waterfront is widely known to be an act of expiation on the part of Elia Kazan for naming names to HUAC during the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts of the 1950s. What is less widely reported is that Kazan intended it as a direct attack at his former close friend Arthur Miller who had been openly critical of Kazan's actions. Specifically, it was a direct response to Miller's play The Crucible.

This trend-setting film has a gritty portrait of N.Y. waterfront and stand up well nowadays and resulted to be a huge financial hit , as from a budget of just under $1 million, the film went on to gross ten times its production costs in its initial release. Film debuts of Michael V. Gazzo, Pat Hingle, Martin Balsam, and Eva Marie Saint. The last gave a debut performance that won her the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. It's a winner all the way , winning eight Academy Award , including : Best Picture , Direction (Kazan) , Cinematography (Boris Kaufman) , Art Director (Richard Day) . Rating : Very good , above average , and a real must see . Well worth watching .

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