110 user 38 critic

On Golden Pond (1981)

PG | | Drama | 12 February 1982 (USA)
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)
4,117 ( 109)

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Won 3 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 23 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
William Lanteau ...
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?


The number of times that the Thayers had spent at "Golden Pond" was 48 with this film depicting their forty-eighth summer vacation there. See more »


Pieces of mail change between shots; in particular, there is no printed advertising flyer or newspaper in the first shots, and there is never a padded envelope containing Norman's meds included in the sheaf of envelopes that the postman delivers; after pulling out the letter from Chelsea and handing it to Ethel, he says himself that there is nothing else besides "bills and junk mail". See more »


Ethel: Don't be such an old poop!
See more »


Referenced in And the Oscar Goes To... (2014) 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

A treasure
9 January 2000 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

Cinematically, "On Golden Pond" is a breathtaking movie. The enveloping surrounds of the woods, the shimmering gold of the pond at dark, the loons, the details of the water plants. Rarely I have seen such a eye captivating piece of film. And set to the gentle, breezy thought provoking music makes it nothing short of perfect.

Reduced to a single plot line, this movie would sound rather silly. It is one of those films in which the lead actors already supercede the brilliance of the writing. This of course could be expected from two of Hollywood's best loved veterans. There were things in the movie I could see coming due to experience, but the amount of plot turns was amazing. There was also enough direction, good in the sense the director achieved getting what he wanted, but without interfering too much with the performances.

Henry Fonda, in his final performance as the cranky, lovable Norman, made me sit up and take notice in his only Oscar deserved role. I had seen him previously in earlier films like "The Grapes of Wrath" and "12 Angry Men", but I disliked both of them. His pivotal performance in the interaction of the 13 year old Billy was incredibly funny, moving and something that many people could relate to because of the generation gap.

The film truly captured the spirit of Katharine Hepburn, not very much unlike the loving, cheerful Ethel herself. At least twice in her legendary career she was passed over for two Oscars she deserved, for "The Philadelphia Story" and "The African Queen". It was great of the Academy to hand Kate her last well deserved award.

The other support actors managed to do a pretty great job. The exception was Jane Fonda for her performance as Chelsea. It may or may not have been her fault, but her acting was pretty weak, regardless of the script.

Underneath it all, there are messages. Things that we could help mend but with our continued prejudiced beliefs never happen. The example of this was the tense relationship of Norman and Chelsea, a problem staring them in the face but could have been solved if only there were a little faith. In real life, we don't have to look much further than our front door to find these things.

"On Golden Pond" has taken its place as one of my favourite movies. The nominations and Oscars it received that year was well deserved. I love the movie mostly through the fact that violence and special effects are not needed to drive it, too typical of movies right now. It was made at a time when these things were too sadly emerging, so it was really a breath of fresh air amongst sameness. The movie was wholesome indeed, but it had something else. It was compelling drama, and real to life honesty and humanity are all that is needed to make it a movie great. And its all these elements for which it should be credited.

Rating: 9/10

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