The Wave (1981)

TV Short  |   |  Short, Drama
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An experiment in an American High School where students learn how easy it is to be seduced by the same social forces which led to the horrors of Nazi Germany. Based on a true story.


(as Alex Grasshoff)


(teleplay), (short story)
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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview:
Lori Lethin ...
Johnny Doran ...
Pasha Gray ...
Wesley Pfenning ...
Christy Ross (as Wesley Ann Pfenning)
Marc Copage ...
Robert DeLapp
Matthew Dunn
Frank Lloyd
Danny Marmolejo
Teri Ralston ...
Mrs. Saunders
Larry Keith ...
Mr. Saunders


To explain to his students the atmosphere in the 1930's Nazi-Germany, history teacher Burt Ross initiates a daring experiment. He declares himself leader of a new movement, called 'The Wave'. Inspired, he proclaims ideas about Power, Discipline and Superiority. His students are strikingly willing to follow him. Soon the entire school is under the spell of 'The Wave'. Anyone who refuses to be a part of the Movement, faces threats or worse. Ross himself gets carried away by his own experiment. Or has it turned into something more than an experiment? A climax is unavoidable, resulting in a hard lesson for both Ross and his students... Written by Diederik B.A. Rep

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Drama





Release Date:

4 October 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A hullám  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Based on the real experience of a high school class in Palo Alto, California in April 1969. See more »


Christy Ross: How's that class experiment going, Dr. Frankenstein? Have they turned on you yet?
See more »


Edited into ABC Afterschool Specials: The Wave (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

scary stuff
25 March 2002 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

I saw this movie when I was in my teens, so it might be cheesy if I saw it now. Part of some after-school special. Have not seen it since. I remember it though, vividly. I just went through "diversity training" at work. We got to do a bit of talking..."Hi, I'm Taj, and I'm not yet diverse..."

I think it was some sort of cynical effort by my company, to avoid lawsuits, but, whatever, it was manditory. There were a few things that got my attention. We saw two films, both of which were disturbing. one had a teacher who conducted an experiment in the 1960's (right after Martin Luther King's assasination). She had blue-eyed students as the alpha-group the first day, and the brown-eyed students the second day. These kids got a first-hand view of discrimination at its finest, and it changed their views radically by the end of the experiment. The second film had two friends(one black, one white) uproot from a major metro area to a small town and the film crew trailed them for a bit to see how they dealt with day-to-day transactions. The results were frightening and pathetically sad. I had to rethink some of my own ideas. I would like to think that growing up in the east-coast, in major cities, that some stereotypes would be dead and buried. But, unfortunately, I'm no longer think that is the case. I wish I could see this movie again, I haven't seen it in a long time, but I remember it. The whole mob mentality thing stuck with me.

I'm sure I would find it cheesy now, but for some reason, I keep thinking about it every once in awhile. And I wish it wasn't a true story.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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