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)
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 Onda  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Originally produced as an ABC Afterschool Special, the network chose to instead debut this film in prime time as part of its 'ABC Theater for Young Americans' series. 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

Horrifying! Educational, but horrifying!
28 August 2002 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

I normally try to avoid TV movies. I certainly would not have watched this one if it wasn't for the fact that it was for a class and that I'm probably going to be tested on it in a couple of weeks. I've just gotten back from my Social Problems class, the professor had us watch this movie. As soon as it was over I had to come back here and comment on it. The movie may have been at B-level but the impact was pretty solid. It was rather shocking how quickly the students in that class conformed over to the Wave and how they began acting like the people of Germany when Hitler was in power, but probably what shocked me the most was at the end when they said that it was based on a true story! I have to admit I did learn from this movie. I learned how easily history can repeat itself, how not to just follow anybody, and to be an individual and not just go along with everybody else.

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