126 user 82 critic

The China Syndrome (1979)

2:03 | Trailer
A reporter finds what appears to be a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant.


James Bridges
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Jane Fonda ... Kimberly Wells
Jack Lemmon ... Jack Godell
Michael Douglas ... Richard Adams
Scott Brady ... Herman De Young
James Hampton ... Bill Gibson
Peter Donat ... Don Jacovich
Wilford Brimley ... Ted Spindler
Richard Herd ... Evan McCormack
Daniel Valdez ... Hector Salas
Stan Bohrman Stan Bohrman ... Pete Martin
James Karen ... Mac Churchill
Michael Alaimo Michael Alaimo ... Greg Minor
Donald Hotton ... Dr. Lowell
Khalilah 'Belinda' Ali ... Marge (as Khalilah Ali)
Paul Larson Paul Larson ... D.B. Royce


While doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources, a reporter, Kimberly Wells, witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant. Wells is determined to report the incident but soon finds herself entangled in a sinister conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident a secret. Written by Dave Jenkins <david.jenkins@smallworld.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


People who know the meaning of "The China Syndrome" are scared. Soon _you_ will know. See more »


Drama | Thriller


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Actor-producer Michael Douglas had read hundreds of scripts before an original screenplay by Chicago documentary filmmaker Mike Gray riveted his attention. While Gray had caused a sensation in the court-rooms of Chicago and the screening rooms of the Cannes Film Festival with his Black Panther documentary feature, The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971), in Hollywood, Gray found few established producers who would read a script by, no less meet with, a new writer in town with no agent. Douglas stated: "I think my biggest asset as a producer is having good instincts. I really loved the story. My other asset is tenacity. I just hung in there until it all finally came together". See more »


When Jack arrives at the power plant while being chased by the blue car, it clearly isn't him driving up to the front gate. The stuntman behind the wheel has much longer hair or is wearing a bad wig. See more »


Churchill, Mac: Richard, I want that goddamn film.
Richard Adams: You can kiss my ass!
See more »

Crazy Credits

The end credits run in total silence. See more »


Featured in The '80s: The Decade That Made Us: Lift Off (2013) See more »


Somewhere In Between
by Stephen Bishop
See more »

User Reviews

Places and people on the verge of meltdown...
22 May 2007 | by Howlin WolfSee all my reviews

All the right elements seemed to conspire here to make this a memorable thriller for years to come. You have the stellar cast - Michael Douglas in an uncharacteristic 'free-spirit' role that pretty much launched his movie career, Fonda playing her typical forthright female doing her bit for womens lib, and Jack Lemmon as assured as ever showing us a man with a crisis of confidence. Give them a hot-button topic about big business being duplicitous, and that's encouraging for a kickoff, but to have life imitating art so soon after is a marketing man's dream.

The script is impressively taut, intelligent but mercifully keeping the jargon to a minimum, and there is a genuine sense of sustained tension brought in play by the director as our three protagonists race to beat the clock. If you like 'whistle blowing' dramas, then this is not quite as good as "The Insider", but the whole thing is more than nervy enough.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

16 March 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Misuse Of Power See more »


Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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