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On Golden Pond (1981)

PG | | Drama | 12 February 1982 (USA)
1:47 | Trailer

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Norman is a curmudgeon with an estranged relationship with his daughter Chelsea. At Golden Pond, he and his wife nevertheless agree to care for Billy, the son of Chelsea's new boyfriend, and a most unexpected relationship blooms.



(screenplay), (based on his play)
Won 3 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 23 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
William Lanteau ...
Christopher Rydell ...
Sumner Todd (as Chris Rydell)


The loons are back again on Golden Pond and so are Norman Thayer, a retired professor, and Ethel who have had a summer cottage there since early in their marriage. This summer their daughter Chelsea -- whom they haven't seen for years -- feels she must be there for Norman's birthday. She and her fiance are on their way to Europe the next day but will be back in a couple of weeks to pick up the fiance's son. When she returns Chelsea is married and her stepson has the relationship with her father that she always wanted. Will father and daughter be able to communicate at last? Written by Dale O'Connor <daleoc@interaccess.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis






PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

12 February 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Am goldenen See  »

Box Office


$119,285,432 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


There was and still is a boathouse on the Thayer's property but the film crew filmed around it so that it wasn't shown. See more »


When Ethel and Norman first drive to Golden pond it's supposed to be early spring, but there is a close up of Queen Anne's lace, which is a flower that blooms in late summer. See more »


Norman: [Looking at an old family photo of himself, his wife and daughter] Who the hell is that? Who in the hell is in this picture here?
See more »


Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Robin Williams/James Taylor (1988) See more »


Happy Birthday to You
(1893) (uncredited)
Written by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill
Sung by all for Norman's birthday
See more »

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User Reviews

Hold Them With All Your Strength
7 August 2015 | by (Kneeling In The Light) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

Let's get the objections out of the way shall we? Did Rydell make the movie too mawkish, yes? Is Jane Fonda showing off for her work out tapes here, yes? Why does a sour, misanthropic philosopher adore this movie? Because it shows a couple going through the hardest part of life: dying. It explains to younger people why older people are so grumpy or angry: they are afraid, death is near. The love between the two, Ethel and Norman, has such a moving power to it. The depiction of his losing his faculties, take it from someone who cared for dementia relatives for twenty years: this is quite well done. It does terrify them; she hangs on to Norman giving him the strength he needs to keep fighting. When he gets lost, looking for strawberries, Fonda does such a great job with this scene. My favorite scene is where Hepburn tells him that he will get back up on that horse and together they will go go go. The movie models not only Norman's battle with imminent death and his terror of it, but also the hidden story, to be a caregiver of the dying. She is such a fortress of strength to him; he draws so much solace and comfort within her loving arms. It has such a line I use, when people get on my nerves,"He is trying, just like you, to find his way," the movie deserved every award that it won.

The hardest thing for the old and dying is what you hear Billy Jr. say,"He creeps me out, what if he dies?" The ones I cared for, all their friends and family flee from them. They carry death now, and no one but no one wants to be near death. Rydell puts plenty of humor in this sad film. Do not run away from it, it is not the depressing Going In Style from the 70s. The movie has great warmth, love and deals with a subject most repressed within our hedonistic culture: death. It shows you, within its cute little story, how to care for a dying loved one. Ethel is patient with his fury towards everyone and everything about him, even the mail man. Fonda will surprise you with his comic ability. "A dentist huh, want to see my teeth?" Rydell works hard to put lots of great funny dialog mainly from grumpy old Norman's mouth. There is wonderful symbolism with the loons. The two together like Ethel and Norman. Later, when Billy catches a dead one; look at the horror on Norman's face.

The compassion for the unwanted Billy with Norman getting to be with Chelsea again, vicariously, through Billy, is also a beautiful touch. This is what Ethel tries to explain, futilely, to Chelsea, underneath all that fear is a very good, loving man. She just cannot see him through the covering of terror of approaching death. Yes, it is sentimental, but as someone who took care of three people, all dead now, I can tell you it depicts this part of life very well. Two of the three had dementias and Norman's terror at his fading mind is not maudlin. I love the movie, despite all its flaws, because it models the hardest of all the duties of love: hanging on when you will want to flee. Ethel stays with Norman, this is the depth of her love for him. The flight of everyone from them is the hardest for them to bear, nobody calls or visits anymore. Ethel is all he has, Norman clings to her and she makes the path much less dark. A Beautiful Movie That Models The Greatest Love Of All.

"Greater Love Hath No Man Than He Lay Down His Life For Another." Christ

24 of 39 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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