164 user 37 critic

On the Beach (1959)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi | 17 December 1959 (USA)
After a global nuclear war, the residents of Australia must come to terms with the fact that all life will be destroyed in a matter of months.



(screenplay), (novel)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Cmdr. Dwight Lionel Towers
... Moira Davidson
... Julian Osborn
... Lt. Peter Holmes
... Mary Holmes
John Tate ... Adm. Bridie
... Lt. Sunderstrom
Lola Brooks ... Lt. Hosgood
... Lt. Benson
... Lt. Cmdr. Farrel
Richard Meikle ... Davis
... Ralph Swain
Joe McCormick ... Ackerman
Lou Vernon ... Bill Davidson
Kevin Brennan ... Dr. King


In 1964, atomic war wipes out humanity in the northern hemisphere; one American submarine finds temporary safe haven in Australia, where life-as-usual covers growing despair. In denial about the loss of his wife and children in the holocaust, American Captain Towers meets careworn but gorgeous Moira Davidson, who begins to fall for him. The sub returns after reconnaissance a month (or less) before the end; will Towers and Moira find comfort with each other? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


IF YOU Never See Another Motion Picture In Your Life You Must See ON THE BEACH See more »


Drama | Romance | Sci-Fi


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

17 December 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das letzte Ufer  »


Box Office


$2,900,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Gregory Peck was a lifelong opponent of nuclear weapons, and made this film for this reason. He believed atomic weapons should not have been used during World War II, and the reason for Japan's surrender was the Soviet Union's declaration of war on 9 August 1945 and simultaneous invasion of Manchuria. He also stated there was no need for any invasion of Japan, as a naval blockade of the islands would have starved the country into unconditional surrender. See more »


The tow bar on the car that crashes into No. 31 for the flaming wreck is plainly visible on the car's left front. See more »


[first lines]
Dwight Towers: Prepare to surface.
See more »

Crazy Credits

and Introducing Donna Anderson See more »


Referenced in American Masters: A Conversation with Gregory Peck (1999) See more »


Waltzing Matilda
Original music by Christina McPherson, revised music by Marie Cowan and lyrics by A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson (as A.B. Paterson)
See more »

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User Reviews

No good
20 October 2007 | by See all my reviews

May I enter a minority report? I hate this film as much as Nevil Shute (author of the novel On the Beach) did.

Shute's biggest complaint was the film's distortion of the character of Commander Dwight Towers. In the novel, Towers' "coping mechanism" is an alternative reality: the conviction that "when all this blows over" he was going to return to his wife and family in Connecticut; he even buys them presents to take home. "You may think I'm nuts," he tells Moira, "but that's how I see it." Moira's greatest achievement is to enter into his alternative reality and to promise to visit him in Connecticut. Indeed, to Moira's sorrow, the two do not consummate their relationship; Towers will not, cannot, cheat on his wife. The mercenary Stanley Kramer would have none of this: the film, he decided, needed sex. Gregory Peck, to his credit, tried to argue Kramer out of this distortion, but Kramer wouldn't budge.

Like all Shute's novels, On the Beach is about ordinary people triumphing over an impossible situation. The characters in Shute's story talk of simple pleasures and go on with their lives, planting flowers and beautifying their homes, talking of "the situation" and "when it comes" in careful euphemisms, not in denial but quietly aware that soon and very soon they must make their plans about how they are going to spend the end. My favorite scene is in the furniture store, when Peter Holmes says "Can I pay with a checque?" The clerk answers in the affirmative, and they exchange their documents with dignity, like gentlemen, without bitter recriminations or snide end-of-the-world jokes and with no pathetic attempts to utter profundities. The movie, I fear, betrays the mood of the novel: in the movie, the characters do nothing from start to finish other than moping, moping and moping. This makes the film sentimental, corny and downright mushy. The novel has none of those qualities.

Kramer made the mistake of imagining this story to be about nuclear war, or the aftermath thereof. He's utterly wrong. The story is about the triumph of the human spirit over impossible odds.

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