Fail-Safe (1964)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  15 January 1965 (Finland)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 8.0/10 from 14,185 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 »
0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

3 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Fail Safe (TV Movie 2000)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Cold War tensions climb to a fever pitch when a U.S. bomber is accidentally ordered to drop a nuclear warhead on Moscow.

Director: Stephen Frears
Stars: Walter Cronkite, Richard Dreyfuss, Noah Wyle
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A Jewish pawnbroker, victim of Nazi persecution, loses all faith in his fellow man until he realizes too late the tragedy of his actions.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters
The Hill (1965)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

In a North African military prison during World War II, five new prisoners struggle to survive in the face of brutal punishment and sadistic guards.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A British agent sets out to uncover the hidden facts behind a British government employee's suicide.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: James Mason, Maximilian Schell, Simone Signoret
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A New York City narcotics detective reluctantly agrees to cooperate with a special commission investigating police corruption. However, he soon discovers that he's in over his head, and nobody can be trusted.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Treat Williams, Jerry Orbach, Richard Foronjy
Vu du pont (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn longshoreman is unhappily married to Beatrice and unconsciously in love with Catherine, the niece that they have raised from childhood. Into his house come two ... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Raf Vallone, Jean Sorel, Maureen Stapleton
Drama | Romance | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

United States military leaders plot to overthrow the President because he supports a nuclear disarmament treaty and they fear a Soviet sneak attack.

Director: John Frankenheimer
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March
The Sea Gull (1968)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Film adaptation of Anton Chekhov's story of life in rural Russia during the latter part of the 19th century. An aging actress Arkidana pays summer visits to her brother Sorin and son ... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: James Mason, Vanessa Redgrave, Simone Signoret
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Author Eugene O'Neill gives an autobiographical account of his explosive homelife, fused by a drug-addicted mother, a father who wallows in drink after realizing he is no longer a famous ... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards
Lovin' Molly (1974)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Spanning nearly 40 years from 1925 to 1964, two Texas farm boys; straight-arrow Gid and laid-back Johnny fight over the affections of the beautiful and headstrong Molly Taylor, who ... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Anthony Perkins, Beau Bridges, Blythe Danner
Drama | Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

In 1944, Kay and Jane travel on an overnight train from Miami to New York, accompanied by Harry. Kay is the mistress of "The Man", a rich industrialist, whom they are to meet so that they ... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Sophia Loren, Tab Hunter, Jack Warden
The Group (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

It's 1933, and eight young women are friends and members of the upper- class group at a private girl's school, about to graduate and start their own lives. The film documents the years ... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Candice Bergen, Joan Hackett, Elizabeth Hartman


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


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

15 January 1965 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

Fail Safe  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The "computer-generated" image on the control-room screen (including the map of the world, the planes and the explosions) was entirely drawn and animated by hand. See more »


At the very beginning of the first scene in the White House, look closely at the President, his secretary and the 2 other men: they're all standing perfectly abreast of each other at the end of a hallway, as if they were just standing there waiting for the director to yell "Action!". If they really had just come around the corner (which is the only place they could have come from, since the hallway dead ends on a window), they should be jumbled more closely together, being able to walk abreast of each other only after 3 or 4 steps. See more »


[last lines]
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: The Matador, the Matador... me... me
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 What's My Line?: Episode dated 13 September 1964 (1964) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Serious As a Crutch
9 April 2007 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Interesting that both Failsafe and Dr. Strangelove both came out in 1964 the year that Barry Goldwater and his candidacy brought up the nuclear issue. After seeing both those films together with the flip comments Goldwater made about nuclear war, he was never to be anything other than a Senator from Arizona.

Everyone remembers Stanley Kubrick's black comedy Dr. Strangelove about a nuclear exchange. Failsafe which is as serious as a crutch is less remembered. Still viewed today it still has an important message, maybe more important now than when it was a bi-polar world. At least everyone then seemed to be on one side or the other.

My favorite performer in this film is Frank Overton who worked mostly in television. On the big screen he's probably best known as the small town sheriff in To Kill A Mockingbird. Though he did a lot of television work until he died in 1967, Failsafe turned out to be his last big screen performance. Overton does a great job as the general in charge of the Strategic Air Command in Omaha who is very reluctantly trying to help the Russians shoot down SAC bombers who've had one squad of them accidentally given the go ahead for nuclear war.

Henry Fonda is the beleaguered president of the United States who is issuing commands from a deep underground bunker beneath the White House with only Russian interpreter Larry Hagman there. The whole claustrophobic atmosphere adds to the desperation of Fonda's performance. By the way note the large closeups of Fonda as he's trying to order the SAC bombers back from their mission.

You might also note in a tiny role at the SAC command center Dom DeLuise in a very serious role as a sergeant. This may be the only time DeLuise ever had a serious part.

At the Pentagon is Defense Department consultant Walter Matthau also in a serious role as a Herman Kahn type, looking to 'win' a nuclear exchange. He's one frightening fellow.

The world is no longer bi-polar, but the lessons of Failsafe have yet to be learned.

19 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
I don't buy one of the underlying premises in the film robert3750-92-607013
Dan O'Herlihy: harmless old man, or left-wing nut? Bob_Schuka
What does 'I hear you five by five' mean? Lukerdog
Would YOU sacrifice New York City ...? blubb06
Did he pick New York because they did not vote for him? sprinter1610
The speed of light is pretty darn fast lanlguy
Discuss Fail-Safe (1964) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page