56 user 72 critic

The Last Wave (1977)

A Sydney lawyer defends five Aboriginal Persons in a ritualized taboo murder and in the process learns disturbing things about himself and premonitions.


Peter Weir


Peter Weir (screenplay), Tony Morphett (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Chamberlain ... David Burton
Olivia Hamnett Olivia Hamnett ... Annie Burton
David Gulpilil ... Chris Lee (as Gulpilil)
Frederick Parslow Frederick Parslow ... Rev. Burton
Vivean Gray Vivean Gray ... Dr. Whitburn
Nandjiwarra Amagula Nandjiwarra Amagula ... Charlie
Walter Amagula Walter Amagula ... Gerry Lee
Roy Bara Roy Bara ... Larry
Cedrick Lalara Cedrick Lalara ... Lindsey
Morris Lalara Morris Lalara ... Jacko
Peter Carroll ... Michael Zeadler
Athol Compton Athol Compton ... Billy Corman
Hedley Cullen ... Judge
Michael Duffield Michael Duffield ... Andrew Potter
Wallas Eaton Wallas Eaton ... Morgue Doctor


A Sydney lawyer has more to worry about than higher-than-average rainfall when he is called upon to defend five Aboriginals in court. Determined to break their silence and discover the truth behind the hidden society he suspects lives in his city, the Lawyer is drawn further, and more intimately, into a prophesy that threatens a new Armageddon, wherein all the continent shall drown. Written by David Carroll <davidc@atom.ansto.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A haunting masterpiece of supernatural suspense. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Of the three main films that then Australian child actor Greg Rowe starred or appeared in for the South Australian Film Corporation, Storm Boy (1976), The Last Wave (1977) and Blue Fin (1978), all three films featured storms and bad weather. See more »


When Chamberlin's character leaves his office and drives in the rain the windshield wipers are moving at a fast rate. When the shot changes to inside the car the wipers are suddenly moving at a slower rate. See more »


Prosecutor: Now, you mustn't permit the sorry history of conflict between the aboriginal and European cultures to cloud your judgment. Your verdict must not in any way reflect the sympathy we all feel for the few unhappy survivors of the original inhabitants of this land who operated until the arrival of the white man under a system of tribal laws. Your verdict must be based upon the laws it prevails today over and for the protection of all Australians.
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Referenced in Gulpilil: One Red Blood (2002) See more »

User Reviews

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6 April 2008 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

You know the people in the movie are in for it when king-sized hailstones fall from a clear blue sky. In fact, the weather stays pretty bad throughout this atmospheric thriller, and only lawyer Chamberlain has the answer. But he's too much the European rationalist, I gather, to get in touch with that inner being that only reveals itself through dreams.

Darkly original mystery heavy on the metaphysics from director-writer Peter Weir. Already he had proved his skill at flirting with other dimensions in Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Here it's the arcane world of the Australian Aborigines that confronts that the tightly ordered world of the predominant whites. Something strange is going on inside the Aborigine community when they kill one of their number for no apparent reason. Yuppie lawyer Chamberlain is supposed to defend them in a white man's court. But the more he looks into things, the more mysterious things get, and the more interested a strange old Aboriginal man gets in him. And then there're those scary dreams that come and go at odd times.

Well structured screenplay deepens interest throughout. One reason the movie works is the background normalcy of Chamberlain's wife and little daughters. Audiences can readily identify with them. And when their little world runs into forces beyond the usual framework, the normalcy begins to buckle, and we get the feeling of worlds beginning to collide. Chamberlain underplays throughout, especially during the underground discovery tour where I think he should have shown more growing awareness than he does. After all, it's the picking up of the mask that holds the key (I believe) to the riddle, yet his reaction doesn't really register the revelation.

Of course, the notion of nature striking back has a certain resonance now, thirty years later. In the film, the notion is wrapped in a lot of entertaining hocus-pocus, but the subject itself remains a telling one. One way of bringing out a central irony is the symbolism of the opening scene. A big white SUV barrels past an aboriginal family, leaving them in the historical dust. The terrain looks like an interior tribal reservation of no particular importance to the coastal fleshpots where industry dwells. Yet, it's also a region most likely to survive anything like a destructive last wave. Perhaps there's something about past and future to think about here.

Anyway, this is a really good movie that will probably stay with you.

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English | Italian | Aboriginal

Release Date:

January 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Black Rain See more »


Box Office


AUD810,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$495, 2 December 2001

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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