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The Last Wave (1977)

PG  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Thriller  |  January 1979 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 5,937 users   Metascore: 85/100
Reviews: 46 user | 49 critic | 5 from

A Sydney lawyer defends five Aborigines in a ritualized taboo murder and in the process learns disturbing things about himself and premonitions.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Olivia Hamnett ...
Chris Lee (as Gulpilil)
Frederick Parslow ...
Vivean Gray ...
Nandjiwarra Amagula ...
Walter Amagula ...
Gerry Lee
Roy Bara ...
Cedrick Lalara ...
Morris Lalara ...
Peter Carroll ...
Michael Zeadler
Athol Compton ...
Billy Corman
Hedley Cullen ...
Michael Duffield ...
Andrew Potter
Wallas Eaton ...
Morgue Doctor


A Sydney lawyer has more to worry about than higher-than-average rainfall when he is called upon to defend five Aboriginals in court. Determined to break their silence and discover the truth behind the hidden society he suspects lives in his city, the Lawyer is drawn further, and more intimately, into a prophesy that threatens a new Armageddon, wherein all the continent shall drown. Written by David Carroll <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Occult Forces. The Ritual Murder. The Sinister Storms. The Prophetic Dreams. The Last Wave. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

January 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black Rain  »

Box Office


AUD 810,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Katrina Sedgwick, who as a child, played one of the little Burton girls, is now the Director of the Adelaide Film Festival. This was Sedgwick's first feature film. See more »


When Chamberlin's character leaves his office and drives in the rain the windshield wipers are moving at a fast rate. When the shot changes to inside the car the wipers are suddenly moving at a slower rate. See more »


David Burton: We've lost our dreams. Then they come back and we don't know what they mean.
See more »


Referenced in Prisoner: Cell Block H: Episode #1.263 (1982) See more »

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User Reviews

Have lived alone in a cave on high ground, since the film's release!f
30 October 2001 | by (Longmont, Colorado) – See all my reviews

"Pretentious" seems a popular word amongst reviewers of this thought-provoking film. HOW I wonder would "they" have made it, given the opportunity? I am saved from further contemplation along these lines by the fact that Peter Weir made it.....and rather well, I hasten to add.

A worthy successor to PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK in as much as the viewer is left with his or her own interpretation of what they have just seen. Events occuring in an everyday environment but where the line between fantasy and reality is so blurred, no lens can be found to bring up a sharp focus. It is a disturbing film which highlights and pays homage to the Aboriginal dreamtime.

Chamberlain, in one of his best roles (made even better when you reminisce about the celluloid embarrassments BELLS, KING SOLOMON'S MINES and NIGHT OF THE HUNTER) plays a hot-shot Australian attorney (complete with DR KILDARE accent) who is called upon to defend a small group of Tribal Aborigines on what appears to be an "open and shut case" murder charge. Initially he finds his clients anything but co-operative and seemingly disinterested by the threat of the white man's legal system. Aspects of the case begin to disturb him and he is drawn into a world of ancient beliefs, symbolic half-lives, a very dimension that causes him to question his own comfortable existence and purpose. Central to his dreams is one of the Defendants (brilliantly played by Australian actor David Gulpilil) who appears existentially, perhaps a disembodied spirit (?), holding out to him a sacred stone with ancient cabalistic markings. He learns that the aboriginal man who was killed was the victim of tribal law and that he must not, cannot, intervene.

The nightmare spills over into rain, (we have already witnessed hailstones crashing into a tiny outback school from cloudless skies!) water prophetically leaking through his roof and cascading down the stairs. Visions of a great flood. He becomes obssessed with seeking the truth, not only of what is going on around him, but who he is? The scene where he confronts the Head Tribal Elder in his inner city squat is totally chilling. The viewer's own close and comfortable existence is challenged and put up for re-evaluation here.

Eventually and too late of course, he stumbles across the truth. But IS it? Has he been played for a fool? Has the audience? Much was made at the time of the film's release, that the final scenes were a total cop-out. I even thought as much myself at the opening night. Amazing what a almost a quarter of a century's personal development and insight can do for you. Like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, this film needs to be seen at different stages of your life to appreciate what Peter Weir knew and was trying to say in 1977.

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