36 user 2 critic

The Wave (1981)

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.


(as Alex Grasshoff)


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


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Cast overview:
... Ben Ross
... Lauree
... David
Johnny Doran ... Robert
Pasha Gray ... Amy
Wesley Pfenning ... Christy Ross (as Wesley Ann Pfenning)
Marc Copage ... Eric
Robert DeLapp
Matthew Dunn
Frank Lloyd
Danny Marmolejo
... Peter
Teri Ralston ... Mrs. Saunders
... Andrea
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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


TV-G | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 October 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Onda  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Originally produced as an ABC Afterschool Special, the network chose to instead debut this film in prime time as part of its 'ABC Theater for Young Americans' series. See more »


Ben Ross: [voiceover] Yes I remember the Wave, it was one of the most frightening classroom experiences I ever had. It all started when we were studying Nazi Germany.
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Remade as The Wave (2008) See more »

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User Reviews

Thought Provoking
23 August 2008 | by See all my reviews

I have just finished watching this movie on Google video. It was recommended to me by a friend of mine.My friend would not tell me what it was about but he said I should watch it because its a really interesting program. After watching I must say that I was greatly impressed.The Wave is a frightening study of group psychology.It was apparently based on an actual event in a high school in California over a one week period in April 1967.It is about a history teacher who conducts a psychological experiment on his students who are studying Nazi Germany.The movie delivers a very powerful message.It shows how easily people can be brain washed under the right conditions and if the right techniques are used.Nazi Germany was over 60 years ago but what this program shows is how easily the events that took place in Nazi Germany could be repeated.What makes it all the more frightening is that in the real case study the teacher had virtually the whole class brain washed inside of a week.A very thought provoking program that should definitely be shown in schools.

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