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The Formula (1980)

R  |   |  Crime, Thriller  |  19 December 1980 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.6/10 from 1,818 users  
Reviews: 30 user | 15 critic

A detective uncovers a formula that was devised by the Nazis in WW II to make gasoline from synthetic products, thereby eliminating the necessity for oil--and oil companies. A major oil ... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lt. Barney Caine LAPD
Adam Steiffel, Chairman Titan Oil
Lisa Spangler
Dr. Abraham Esau, Director Reich Energy
Arthur Clements
Kay Neeley
General Helmut Kladen / Frank Tedesco
John Van Dreelen ...
Hans Lehman, Prefect of Police Berlin
Robin Clarke ...
Major Tom Neeley
Geologist #1
Dieter Schidor ...
Werner Kreindl ...
Gestapo Captain
Franz Tauber, Swiss businessman


A detective uncovers a formula that was devised by the Nazis in WW II to make gasoline from synthetic products, thereby eliminating the necessity for oil--and oil companies. A major oil company finds out about it and tries to destroy the formula and anyone who knows about it. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


What happens when the oil runs out? Two men know. They both want... The Formula. See more »


Crime | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| |

Release Date:

19 December 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La fórmula  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Final film for Marlon Brando before his self-imposed retirement from acting. Brando did not appear in another feature film until A Dry White Season (1989), a gap of almost a decade. See more »


Just as Barney is about to board his plane to leave Germany. His German counterpart has to explain to a woman (in German) at the gate, about his trip and his needs. But after they find out the formula he was carrying is a fraud. Barney begins talking a rapid and agitated manner to the same woman. And now the woman not only seems to understand English very well. But she speaks it as well. See more »


Hans Lehman, Prefect of Police Berlin: I must advise you, we may require some more questions at a later date.
Lisa Spangler: You may require questions? You bring me here at a time of sorrow asking questions. Stupid questions. While my uncle is murdered in a public place. I have only contempt for you and your so-called profession.
See more »


Referenced in The Big Box: The Body Shop (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

" Want to know why fuel is so high, don't ask me, I'm only a customer "
21 September 2012 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

Steve Shagan wrote this novel long before the film emerged and became a prophetic warning to the world. After reading the story, I concluded the book is much more informative and a hell of a lot more more interesting. Still, the power of George C. Scott makes for a good understanding of the world's fuel problems and the greedy men who neatly arrange for it's sale and distribution. John G. Avidsen directed this film and although he used the star power of Marlon Brando to attract a large audience, he fail to capitalized on the combination of his leading men. The story as found in the novel begins with the murder of a retired LAPD police officer and assigned to Lt. Barney Caine (George C. Scott). Although evidence suggests the dead Officer died from Cocaine, Caine suspects it was blatant murder. With a gut feeling and growing suspicion of multiple involvement by others, Caine travels to Europe to learn who was behind the killings in America. This eventually leads to Adam Steiffel (Marlon Brando) a very rich and powerful Oil Executive based in the US who explains where and how the world works. A Plethora of Hollywood stars including John Gielgud, Marshall Thompson and Wolfgang Preiss, makes for a solid movie, but one wonders why Brando is only given minimal screen exposure. Still, with name recognition alone this will become a Classic George C. Scott milestone. ****

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Totally Underrated..... concord_trimming
Strip Club Scene nygfan
Formula no secret SeldonRL
Technical first? tcliffton
Brando's teeth... kegan-3
If you liked 'The Formula', see '3 Days of the Condor'. tcliffton
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