36 user 2 critic
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.


Alexander Grasshoff (as Alex Grasshoff)


Johnny Dawkins (teleplay), Ron Jones (short story)
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview:
Bruce Davison ... Ben Ross
Lori Lethin ... Lauree
John Putch ... David
Johnny Doran Johnny Doran ... Robert
Pasha Gray Pasha Gray ... Amy
Wesley Pfenning Wesley Pfenning ... Christy Ross (as Wesley Ann Pfenning)
Marc Copage Marc Copage ... Eric
Robert DeLapp Robert DeLapp
Matthew Dunn Matthew Dunn
Frank Lloyd Frank Lloyd
Danny Marmolejo Danny Marmolejo
Michael Pasternak ... Peter
Teri Ralston Teri Ralston ... Mrs. Saunders
Jamie Rose ... Andrea
Larry Keith 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

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TV-G | See all certifications »






Release Date:

4 October 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Wave See more »

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 1967. See more »


David: That film really got to you, huh?
Laurie: Yeah, it upset me, doesn't it make you angry?
David: Laurie, it was a long time ago, we can't change what happened.
Laurie: I know, still upsets me though.
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Edited into ABC Afterschool Specials: The Wave (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

21 October 2001 | by dtucker86See all my reviews

I have so many fond memories of those great Afterschool Specials that ABC used to make. I think they did such a great service to kids becuase they dealt realistically with social issues in a tasteful manner. The Wave is the best special they ever made because it is one of those few tv shows that really required you to think about the message. I think that it is such a shame that people remember Bruce Davidson as the star of Willard because he is outstanding, not to mention chilling, here as a social studies teacher who, to put it mildly, gets carried away when he encourages his students to act like Nazis. It is even more chilling when you think about the Germans during WWII who so blindly ignored what Hitler was doing. We need to remember the Holocaust for this reason and this brilliantly written and superbly acted film should be seen by every decent person who prays that the terrors of Nazi Germany may never happen again!

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