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Big Wednesday (1978)

PG  |   |  Drama, Sport  |  May 1978 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 4,324 users  
Reviews: 58 user | 33 critic

The lives of some California surfers from the early '60s to the '70s.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Matt Johnson
Jack Barlow
Leroy Smith
Sally Jacobson
Jim 'Waxer' King
Shopping Cart (as Hank Warden)
Joe Spinell ...
Sally's Husband
Mrs. Barlow
Dennis Aaberg ...


Matt Johnson, Jack Barlow, and Leroy Smith are three young California surfers in the 1960s. At first reveling in the carefree life of beaches, girls, and waves, they eventually must face the fact that the world is changing, becoming more complex, less answerable by simple solutions. Ultimately the Vietnam war interrupts their idyll, leaving them to wonder if they will survive until "Big Wednesday," the mythical day when the greatest, cleanest, most transcendent wave of all will come. Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A day will come that is like no other... and nothing that happens after will ever be the same See more »


Drama | Sport


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

May 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Summer of Innocence  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$11,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Jeff Bridges turned down the role of "Matt" that went to Jan-Michael Vincent. See more »


(at around 40 mins) Matt throws his raggy cloth at the oncoming car's windscreen. It misses and hits the top of the car's side window. In the next shot, the cloth is firmly across the whole bottom half of the car's front windscreen. See more »


Bear: That's the lemon next to the pie.
See more »


Referenced in A Deeper Shade of Blue (2011) See more »


Crumple Car
Written by Dennis Aaberg and Phil Pritchard
Performed by Dennis Aaberg
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Hollywood's Perfect Wave
28 June 2004 | by (Alliston, Ontario) – See all my reviews

"This movie is too good for surfers." Quentin Tarantino was asked about "Big Wednesday" once and this was his answer. Tarantino grew up in southern California and surfers, he says, were mean to him and his friends. Tarantino, however, knows a good movie when he sees one. This truly is Hollywood's "perfect wave", the only time the surf culture was portrayed accurately in a studio film. The surf community consistently refers to this film with reverence, citing it's depiction of the "soul" of surfing as being worthy of their hallowed endeavors in the water. After years of Frankie and Annette or, God forbid, Keanu Reeves, this is one they can be proud of. Writer-director John Milius was a surfer himself referring to it again in his most celebrated screenplay for "Apocalypse Now" ("Charlie don't surf!"). One of the keys to this film's authenticity is the fact that the three stars did a lot of their own surfing. Actually seeing their faces as they stand up for a ride is a bonus. William Kaat, Jan-Michael Vincent and Gary Busey (actually pretty big names from this era) were accomplished surfers, Busey learning for the role. The fine cast is rounded out by cuties Lee Purcell and Patti d'Arbanville and Sam Melville as the mystical mentor Bear. Keep your eyes peeled for legendary surfer Gerry Lopez, "Perry Mason"'s Barbara Hale, future Freddy creep Robert Englund, Larry Talbot from "Miami Vice" and Charlene Tilton and Steve Kanaly who both ended up on "Dallas". If you ever had a group of friends who did stuff together, you'll find this film has a lot of depth and soul. As Matt says after riding Big Wednesday "we drew the line". The three friends have validated the thing that consumed them as young men, that is riding waves and promising to be together when the big one hit. But they also acknowledge the need to embrace adulthood and put surfing where it should be. As Bear himself said "nobody surfs forever". Sad but true. It applies to all of us, no matter what we do.

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