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?


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


Laurie: It was incredible, everybody was saluting and repeating the motto, you couldn't help but get caught up in it. You know, really wanting to make it work.
Mrs. Saunders: Well I don't like it, Laurie, it sounds too much like brainwashing and mob psychology to me.
Laurie: No, Mom, it's nothing like that, honest, you just have to be there to feel the positive energy in class to really get what's going on.
Mr. Saunders: I am for whatever will make kids pay attention to anything these days.
Laurie: And that's really what it's doing. Even Robert ...
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Remade as The Wave (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

Frightening study in psychology
12 November 1999 | by (Eatontown, NJ, USA) – See all my reviews

Based on a real incident at an American high school in 1967, this short TV movie shows the horror of mob psychology and group pressure. The high school teacher gives his students a lesson in the history of Nazi Germany, not by having them read a chapter in a book but by turning them into Nazis -- without their even being aware that it is happening.

The film should be part of every school's curriculum. The tendency toward in-groups and gangs is strong amongst teens, and the tragic consequences can be seen periodically in the news headlines. This film is a warning of the potential that lurks within us all.

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