The lives of some California surfers from the early 1960s to the 1970s.


John Milius
2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Jan-Michael Vincent ... Matt Johnson
William Katt ... Jack Barlow
Gary Busey ... Leroy Smith
Patti D'Arbanville ... Sally Jacobson
Lee Purcell ... Peggy Gordon
Sam Melville ... Bear
Darrell Fetty ... Waxer
Gerry Lopez ... Gerry Lopez
Hank Worden ... Shopping Cart (as Hank Warden)
Joe Spinell ... Psychologist
Steve Kanaly ... Sally's Husband
Barbara Hale ... Mrs. Barlow
Fran Ryan ... Lucy
Dennis Aaberg ... Slick
Reb Brown ... Enforcer


Matt Johnson, Jack Barlow, and Leroy Smith are three young California surfers in the 1960s. At first reveling in the carefree life of beaches, girls, and waves, they eventually must face the fact that the world is changing, becoming more complex, less answerable by simple solutions. Ultimately the Vietnam war interrupts their idyll, leaving them to wonder if they will survive until "Big Wednesday," the mythical day when the greatest, cleanest, most transcendent wave of all will come. Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Three friends. Twelve Turbulent Years. And One Day We All Must Face. See more »


Drama | Sport


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


George Lucas and Steven Spielberg thought this film would be the American Graffiti (1973) of surfing films - that it was destined to be such a hit that they famously traded profit points on their next two films, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) with director John Milius. This trade would earn Milius millions of dollars while his own film would flop at the box office. See more »


Jack's induction notice says he is to serve in the United States Marine Corps. When he comes home from Vietnam he is an Army Green Beret. See more »


Narrator, Fly: Stay casual, Barlow.
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Alternate Versions

ABC edited 31 minutes from this film for its 1985 network television premiere. See more »


Crumple Car
Written by Dennis Aaberg and Phil Pritchard
Performed by Dennis Aaberg
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User Reviews

Good Vibes
12 August 2002 | by YaMon-2See all my reviews

I can't believe this movie has finally been released to DVD! This is one of two or three VHS movies in my extremely large vault of VHS tapes that I'll still dust off and view on my trusty old VCR. Not everyone will dig this movie. You either have to be a fan of one of the actors or John Milius, had seen it when it was released, are an avid surfer with respect for the sport and its rich history, or you saw it at a time in your life that much like a familiar smell or an old song, it transports you back to a unique period of your life. Having grown up on the beaches of Southern California with a crew of friends, it's hard not to think that this film was a collection of polaroids of our own lives. This film is supposedly a very personal and semi-autobiographic story of John Milius'. His characters, settings, and music create an atmosphere that you feel you can swim through. This film is very nostalgic, and is a perfect coming of age story. There are so many peripheral characters that surround the three main leads, that it's hard not to identify with one or many of them. I think everyone has been, or has grown up with, these characters. The crazy guy, the rebellious guy, the guy that is wise beyond his years, the mentor, the guy that everyone looks up to, the new girl, the popular girl, etc. Kind of like Dazed and Confused, and its multitude of characters. The film itself is very dated and is rather hokey if none of what I've written thusfar relates to you. But I will say that this movie has one of the best party/fight scenes of any movie I've ever seen (I have a BA in Film from SFSU, so I've seen a lot of them). The Vietnam draft scene is a classic. And watch for many early career cameos by Frank McRae and Robert Englund (yep, that's Freddy with the keg tap). Also note the sweet wave riding of some of surfing's greats; Gerry Lopez, J. Riddle, Peter Townend, and Jacki Dunn. John Milius has succeeded in recreating a time and place in surf history that can never be visited again; the innocence (and perhaps the naivete) of the time, the adventurous spirit of youth, the comraderie and adventures/misadventures of friends, and the pursuit of surfing for surfing (not for labels, social status, intimidation, or because "it's cool"). This film should be required viewing for anyone surfing, or learning to surf today. The beach, the waves, the environment should be a sense of therapy for life. Growing up in Southern California, I know that no matter what kind of garbage life may throw my way; I still can drive down PCH and and mother ocean will be right there to make everything right again.

Everytime I pop this film in and hear the soothing guitar picking, watch the friends cruising down the beach and surfing all day long, or tearing up a parent's house with a party, I think of that same period of my life and look back with content.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

26 May 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Big Wednesday See more »

Filming Locations:

La Libertad, El Salvador See more »


Box Office


$11,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

A-Team See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

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