7.3/10
10,246
160 user 44 critic

On the Beach (1959)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi | 17 December 1959 (USA)
After a global nuclear war, the residents of Australia must come to terms with the fact that all life will be destroyed in a matter of months.

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (novel)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
John Tate ...
...
Lt. Sunderstrom
Lola Brooks ...
...
Lt. Benson
...
Lt. Cmdr. Farrel
Richard Meikle ...
Davis
...
Ralph Swain
Joe McCormick ...
Ackerman
Lou Vernon ...
Bill Davidson
Kevin Brennan ...
Dr. King
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Storyline

In 1964, atomic war wipes out humanity in the northern hemisphere; one American submarine finds temporary safe haven in Australia, where life-as-usual covers growing despair. In denial about the loss of his wife and children in the holocaust, American Captain Towers meets careworn but gorgeous Moira Davidson, who begins to fall for him. The sub returns after reconnaissance a month (or less) before the end; will Towers and Moira find comfort with each other? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Biggest Story Of our Time! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

17 December 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das letzte Ufer  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,900,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$11,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first of three consecutive films in which Stanley Kramer cast the biggest former MGM musical stars in unexpected dramatic roles: Fred Astaire in this film, Gene Kelly in Inherit the Wind (1960), and Judy Garland in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). See more »

Goofs

Near the end of the film when Moira is watching the Sawfish leaving Port Phillip Bay, the speed of the boat in the tight shots from the top of the sail doesn't correlate with the speed of the boat in the wide shot, seen from Moira's perspective from ashore. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Dwight Towers: Prepare to surface.
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Crazy Credits

and Introducing Donna Anderson See more »

Connections

Featured in Australian Movies to the World (1983) See more »

Soundtracks

Waltzing Matilda
Original music by Christina McPherson, revised music by Marie Cowan and lyrics by A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson (as A.B. Paterson)
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User Reviews

 
Perfectly paced and well acted, it keeps melodrama minimised
4 May 2000 | by See all my reviews

In an era (1959) and on a topic (nuclear war) that usually demands melodrama, "On the Beach" resists. In fact, the all-star principal cast and director Stanley Kramer seem to treat the topic as a stage play, focussing on the individual. And that is how such a story should be treated. Life on the northern hemisphere has been destroyed a defence mistake by one of the (then) two superpowers. Gregory Peck's nuclear-powered submarine was submerged at the time (they stayed under water for a hell of a long time in those days). The sub heads for Melbourne, Australia, which is one of the only places in the world not yet affected by radiation. But the radiation will come, and this is where the truth of the piece comes out.

The inhabitants of 'the end of the world' go through what you would expect: denial, anger, clinging to the thinnest hope, and finally, resignation. As I said at the start, this is clearly a story about the individual. Kramer knows this, and the cast of Ava Gardner, Tony Perkins, John Meillon and Fred Astaire play it with a reality that is all too rare. Even recent films like Final Impact fail to deliver on this count. The real joy of the film is the pacing, which gives the cast the chance to play it like it should be played. Astaire proves he is an actor, and only once slips into his raised eyebrow 'top hat and tails' mode. It is a well thought out movie without the Hollywood ending, but such is the art of Kramer that the ending is a good resolution, not just a funeral. The camera work is exceptional throughout, starting with the continuous shots in Peck's submarine. I don't know about the Waltzing Matilda music at the start, however. But it does work later in the piece, and makes it worthy of the Academy Award nomination it received.


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