On the Beach (1959)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi  |  17 December 1959 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 8,847 users  
Reviews: 152 user | 38 critic

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.



(screenplay), (novel)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Tate ...
Harp McGuire ...
Lola Brooks ...
Ken Wayne ...
Richard Meikle ...
Joe McCormick ...
Lou Vernon ...
Kevin Brennan ...


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


Drama | Romance | Sci-Fi


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

17 December 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La hora final  »

Box Office


$2,900,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to Philip R. Davey, author of the book "When Hollywood Came to Melbourne: The Story of the Making of Stanley Kramer's 'On The Beach'", director Stanley Kramer experienced many problems with the thousands of bathers who stood in shoulder-deep water to watch the proceedings, and who applauded the cast after each take. Their enthusiasm was gratifying in this respect if not in others, such as when thousands of people began crowding forward to get a closer look at Ava Gardner, they repeatedly moved into camera range, thus necessitating many frustrating retakes. See more »


At the Holmes' party, Dwight asks Moira about Julian, saying, "I take it that he's English and that he's here on some kind of scientific job", and later on, during the sub's cruise, Julian tells Peter he'd been in San Francisco "once on the way down", presumably from England. All this makes it appear that Julian has not been in Australia long and had not intended to stay before the war broke out. But why then does he appear to be friends of long standing with so many people (such as the party guests), not to mention his having had an apparently long-ended love affair with Moira? See more »


[first lines]
Dwight Towers: Prepare to surface.
See more »

Crazy Credits

and Introducing Donna Anderson See more »


Referenced in Fist of the North Star (1995) See more »


Onward, Christian Soldiers
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by Sabine Baring-Gould
See more »

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User Reviews

We are all on that beach, on the thin line between life and death.
28 July 2003 | by See all my reviews

And the essence of our lives is expressed in the way we treat each other under the implacable threat of imminent mortality. As Ava Gardner's character says, at the penultimate moment of love's farewell, "It's been nice, Dwight Lionel. It's been everything." And what she says on her beach is true for every last one of us, on ours.

The primary power of this great movie to me is how well it conveys the idea that for us, on this beach, love and tender kindness are all that matter in the end, and the end is always near. The sheer kindness that Ava and Gregory's characters express for each other is surely the key element of their triumphant relationship.

The moment in which their relationship most completely triumphs, of course, occurs at the Narbethong Hotel. "On The Beach" achieves a cinematic moment of genius when the chorus singing "Waltzing Matilda" changes from a rowdy crowd of drunks to a magnificently harmonious group of fine male voices. As the sheer beauty of the music overwhelms us, it also overwhelms our characters, and we all unite together in a sublime moment of awareness that true love and kindness give us our only victory over imminent death. "You'll never take me alive," says the ghost.

The way Gregory Peck's character shifts from fumbling with the fire to turning toward Ava as the music inspires transcendence, and the way Ava smiles at him, make this scene unforgettably great.

Nearly as wonderful is the scene in which Ava's character learns that the Sawfish will be leaving, with her captain at the helm. She will have to face her death alone. She doesn't waste a moment in argument or recrimination, but expresses the fullness of her love for him and her great courage when she accepts his decision and thanks him: "..it's been everything." And then: "oh, I'm so frightened." This moment is one that I take to heart. It shows the love and courage I wish to have "when the time comes."

There is still time, brothers and sisters. But we are all on the beach.

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