On the Beach (1959) - Rotten Tomatoes

On the Beach (1959)

On the Beach (1959)

On the Beach




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

On the Beach Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Although there'd been doomsday dramas before it, Stanley Kramer's On the Beach was considered the first important entry in this genre when originally released in 1959. Based on the novel by Nevil Shute, the film is set in the future (1964) when virtually all life on earth has been exterminated by the radioactive residue of a nuclear holocaust. Only Australia has been spared, but it's only a matter of time before everyone Down Under also succumbs to radiation poisoning. With only a short time left on earth, the Australian population reacts in different ways: some go on a nonstop binge of revelry, while others eagerly consume the suicide pills being issued by the government. When the possibility arises that rains have washed the atmosphere clean in the Northern hemisphere, a submarine commander (Gregory Peck) and his men head to San Diego, where faint radio signals have been emanating. The movie's all-star cast includes: Peck as the stalwart sub captain, Ava Gardner as his emotionally disturbed lover, Fred Astaire as a guilt-wracked nuclear scientist, and Anthony Perkins and Donna Anderson as the just starting out in life married couple.~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guidemore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Classics, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: Jim Barrett, John Paxton, James Lee Barrett
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 15, 2001
United Artists


Gregory Peck
as Cmdr. Dwight Lionel ...
Ava Gardner
as Moira Davidson
Fred Astaire
as Julian Osborne
Anthony Perkins
as Lt. Peter Holmes
Donna Anderson
as Mary Holmes
John Tate
as Adm. Bridie
Lola Brooks
as Lt. Hosgood
Lou Vernon
as Davidson
Ken Wayne
as Benson
Harp McGuire
as Sundstrom
Jim Barrett
as Chrysler
Basil Buller Murphy
as Sir Douglas Froude
Keith Eden
as Dr. Fletcher
John Royle
as Senior Officer
Frank Gatliff
as Radio Officer
Paddy Moran
as Portman
John Casson
as Salvation Army Capta...
Kevin Brennan
as Dr. King
Peter Williams
as Prof. Jorgenson
Joe McCormick
as Ackerman
Katherine Hill
as Jennifer Holmes
Peter O'Shaughnessy
as Jorgenson Associate
Rita Pauncefort
as Elderly Woman at Hol...
Elwyn Peers
as Jewellery Salesman
Mayne Lynton
as Cadogan
Cyril Gardner
as Official
Ronald Fortt
as Williams
Paddy Fitzallen
as Trumpeter
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for On the Beach

Critic Reviews for On the Beach

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (4)

A tiresome, talky 1959 film.

Full Review… | November 7, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Fine photography, but the script is a typically numbing affair, and the cast, aside from Peck and Meillon, seem totally out of their depth.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The great merit of this picture, aside from its entertaining qualities, is the fact that it carries a passionate conviction that man is worth saving, after all.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

The scenario - one of the best in Stanley Kramer's filmography - is uniquely human in the annals of post-nuclear cinema.

Full Review… | December 17, 2012
Antagony & Ecstasy

Gloomy doomsday film that is more talky, melodramatic and numbing than imaginative.

Full Review… | March 6, 2008
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for On the Beach

Most certainly my fav Kramer film, this almost forgotten cautionary tale of the last days of suicidal humanity has its drawbacks ... but
that might sum up humanity, no? Overall, the spirit to find the best of us while fully submerged in the worst drives this tale that looks at the ragtag few remaining survivors facing certain extinction at the end of the world. Peck et al lend undeserved honor to the race and Fred Astaire proves he didn't only need to be dancing to be worth attention. Ernest Gold's score, variations on "Waltzin' Matilda", will leave you soaked in an bittersweet Australian stew for days to come. Have plenty of Coopers Pale Ale on hand.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

A spooky Cold War classic about those MAD years, when the complete ruination of the world through nuclear war seemed a real possibility. Once again, Gregory Peck carries a film with his performance - I'm starting to think he's one of the all-time best - and it's the humanity of these characters and their attempt to retain hope when all seems lost. It's a pushing to the extreme of a feeling in that was in the air at the time, but it also seems unfortunately easy to relate to. An important and uncomfortable film to see.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

This movie has a lot of stars, and it's a pretty intense drama, I liked it.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

On the Beach Quotes

Peter Holmes: By the way, I invited Captain Towers for the weekend.
Mary Holmes: Oh Peter you didn't.
Peter Holmes: I had to really, we had lunch together and he started asking questions about how we lived and all. Mary, I'd have looked an awful clod not to have asked him. He'll be alright I think.
Mary Holmes: Was he married do you know?
Peter Holmes: Two kids.
Mary Holmes: And they're gone?
Peter Holmes: Yes, they were in America.
– Submitted by Kevin R (3 years ago)
Admiral Bridie: I've got an assignment for you. You care for some of this miserable muck which passes for coffee these days?
Peter Holmes: No thank you sir.
Admiral Bridie: It's a reasonably important assignment as things go these days. That's going to be quite a phrase isn't it, these days? Do you find yourself using it?
Peter Holmes: Yes sir, I'm afraid I do.
– Submitted by Kevin R (3 years ago)
Mary Holmes: Peter, they must be giving you a ship of your own.
Peter Holmes: No darling, they don't give ships to Lieutenants.
Mary Holmes: Then why would it be Admiral Bridie himself? If you were just to replace someone who was ill or something, that wouldn't mean seeing Admiral Bridie himself would it?
Peter Holmes: I don't know, you don't quite know what to expect these days.
– Submitted by Kevin R (3 years ago)

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