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Fail Safe (1964)
"Fail-Safe" (original title)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  15 January 1965 (Finland)
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 14,086 users  
Reviews: 130 user | 33 critic

American planes are sent to deliver a nuclear attack on Moscow, but it's a mistake due to an electrical malfunction. Can all-out war be averted?



(screenplay), (from the novel by), 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Colonel Grady (as Ed Binns)
William Hansen ...
Russell Hardie ...
General Stark (as Russell Hardy)
Russell Collins ...
Nancy Berg ...
Frank Simpson ...
Hildy Parks ...


A series of human and computer errors sends a squadron of American 'Vindicator' bombers to nuke Moscow. The President, in order to convince the Soviets that this is a mistake, orders the Strategic Air Command to help the Soviets stop them. Written by KC Hunt <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The screen zeros in on the most suspenseful adventure drama of our age! See more »


Drama | Thriller


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Release Date:

15 January 1965 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

Fail Safe  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau; and one Oscar nominee: Dan O'Herlihy. See more »


At the beginning of the meeting in the War Room at the Pentagon, while everyone is milling around and providing "small talk", general Stark mistakenly calls general Black "Whitey", when his actual nickname is "Blackie". See more »


Defense Secretary Swenson: The President says he may have to order our fighters to shoot down Group Six. He wants our opinion.
Prof. Groeteschele: I oppose it, sir, on the grounds that it's premature. Our planes have not yet reached Soviet territory, they're still hundreds of miles away.
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: We've got to do it, and fast! Right now before it's too late!
Gen. Stark: It might be too late anyway. Those fighters swung away from the bombers when they got the all-clear signal, they've been flying in opposite directions.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The sounds of a bullfight crowd is heard in reference to Black's matador dream. Then, the squeal of the Russian ambassador's melted phone which the President stated would be heard when New York City was bombed. See more »


Referenced in The Walker (2007) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

How do you show your good will when your own bombers are about to mistakenly nuke Moscow?
17 February 2000 | by (Twin Cities, Minnesota) – See all my reviews

That's the biggest moral dilemma this movie puts in front of its characters. It falls to the President (ably played by Henry Fonda) to make the agonizing decision of how to handle the situation without causing a global thermonuclear war.

From the Soviet point of view, here's what happens. The hot line in Moscow rings. The premier picks it up to hear the American president explaining that three unstoppable bombers are on their way to obliterate Moscow. Oh, but it was an accident. We didn't mean to send them out, sorry. And we can't call them back, because they're beyond their fail safe position (and thus are trained to maintain complete radio silence and ignore any communication they may receive), and we can't shoot them down because they're way out of our range. Sorry. Our bad.

The pacing of the movie moves from a calm, cool tone while various media figures are shown around the facility in charge of all the bombers. Then it picks up a tiny bit as the facility detects a bogie over Hudson Bay. And this is where the situation begins that eventually leads to the erroneous deployment of a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Although it seems small at the time, this is the metaphorical horseshoe nail that loses the kingdom. ("For want of a nail....") From this point, the movie steadily increases the suspence as progressively more drastic measures are taken in the effort to stop these bombers, with the situation growing more desperate by the moment. I started out firmly positioned on my seat, but by the end I had moved further and further forward towards the edge of my seat until eventually I couldn't even sit still. Too much suspense.

There are quite a lot of technical errors in the film (for instance, due to the Air Force refusing to assist in the film, they had to resort to a fairly limited set of stock footage for the shots of aircraft, which are thus extremely inaccurate) but it remains a good movie. If you can ignore the errors in set design and stock footage and concentrate instead on the dialog (which is where the action is anyway), watching people rise to the challenge or snap under the pressure, this is a movie you will never, ever forget.

59 of 65 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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I don't buy one of the underlying premises in the film robert3750-92-607013
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