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 »


Robert: Laurie Saunders is a threat. She must be stopped.
Student: Don't worry. David and I will take care of it.
See more »


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

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User Reviews

Thought Provoking
23 August 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

I have just finished watching this movie on Google video. It was recommended to me by a friend of mine.My friend would not tell me what it was about but he said I should watch it because its a really interesting program. After watching I must say that I was greatly impressed.The Wave is a frightening study of group psychology.It was apparently based on an actual event in a high school in California over a one week period in April 1967.It is about a history teacher who conducts a psychological experiment on his students who are studying Nazi Germany.The movie delivers a very powerful message.It shows how easily people can be brain washed under the right conditions and if the right techniques are used.Nazi Germany was over 60 years ago but what this program shows is how easily the events that took place in Nazi Germany could be repeated.What makes it all the more frightening is that in the real case study the teacher had virtually the whole class brain washed inside of a week.A very thought provoking program that should definitely be shown in schools.

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