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On the Waterfront (1954)



Average Rating: 9.1/10
Reviews Counted: 56
Fresh: 56 | Rotten: 0

With his electrifying performance in Elia Kazan's thought-provoking, expertly constructed melodrama, Marlon Brando redefined the possibilities of acting for film and helped permanently alter the cinematic landscape.


Average Rating: 8.6/10
Critic Reviews: 11
Fresh: 11 | Rotten: 0

With his electrifying performance in Elia Kazan's thought-provoking, expertly constructed melodrama, Marlon Brando redefined the possibilities of acting for film and helped permanently alter the cinematic landscape.



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Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 49,946

My Rating

Movie Info

This classic story of Mob informers was based on a number of true stories and filmed on location in and around the docks of New York and New Jersey. Mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) rules the waterfront with an iron fist. The police know that he's been responsible for a number of murders, but witnesses play deaf and dumb ("plead D & D"). Washed-up boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) has had an errand-boy job because of the influence of his brother Charley, a crooked union


Drama, Romance, Classics

Budd Schulberg

Oct 23, 2001

Sony Pictures

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All Critics (56) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (56) | Rotten (0) | DVD (17)

On the Waterfront has a script that is a work of love and shows it.

February 18, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Under Elia Kazan's direction, Marlon Brando puts on a spectacular show, giving a fascinating, multi-faceted performance as the uneducated dock walloper and former pug, who is basically a softie with a special affection for his rooftop covey of pigeons.

January 30, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's hard to deny that Marlon Brando's performance as a dock worker and ex-fighter who finally decides to rat on his gangster brother (Rod Steiger) is pretty terrific.

December 12, 2006 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's pretty electrifying.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You miss this, you're buyin' a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

March 3, 2005 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Indisputably one of the great American films, its power undiminished.

December 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

On the surface it's an extremely well-crafted and entertaining drama, but peel away some layers and you'll discover an apologia for informing.

February 12, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

A powerful watch, thanks largely to an incredible cast, Leonard Bernstein's strong score, and a handful of iconic scenes, none better than the moving "I coulda been a contender" sequence.

March 7, 2013 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

a watershed moment in cinema history; it remains one of the greatest films of the 1950s

February 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

An astounding drama that's still a contender almost 50 years on.

February 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Allow me to suggest On the Waterfront is one such 'classic' that holds up; a declaration that deserves only one, dismissive response: "No duh."

February 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Quickflix

Raises important issues about the nature of power.

December 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

A strong morality tale about corruption and redemption, On the Waterfront is a timeless classic that features two masters at the top of their craft.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Matt's Movie Reviews
Matt's Movie Reviews

Elia Kazan's seminal American classic.

November 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

Marlon Brando is outstanding as a former boxing champ torn between family and duty in the magnificent On the Waterfront

November 8, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

The film is shot on location in black-and-white, semi-docu style, which suits the realistic subject and commonplace characters, particularly Terry Malloy, the passive dock worker forced to become a crusader-fighter, splendidly played by Brando.

July 15, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

This movie has to be considered one of the very best of all time.

July 5, 2005 Full Review Source:

Do the politics make it bad? Not at all. It's a fictional story, not a soapbox.

June 27, 2005 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

The difference between pre- and post-1950s cinema - before and after Brando - is as pronounced as moving from black and white to color.

March 11, 2005 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star

What makes On the Waterfront resonate so powerfully all these years later? There's the titanic work of Marlon Brando -- it's his definitive screen performance -- as boxer-turned-longshoreman Terry Malloy.

December 17, 2004
Boston Herald

Audience Reviews for On the Waterfront

It has class! It's a contender! And my, is it something!

Stay tuned at for the full review.
September 1, 2013

Super Reviewer

Marlon Brando steals the show with a pulse-pounding performance as Terry, a man who has never been trusted ever since his departure from world-class fighting. He is now living on the streets with no real home, falling for a woman and trying to earn respect from everyone else. As this woman's brother dies, she seeks Terry for help after realizing he has nothing left to lose. There are very tight moments of dialogue and the chemistry between each character interaction is phenomenal. This is one of the best crime films I have ever seen, because instead of focussing on the blood and guts of the real crime, it focusses on the mystery of it and the subtlety of the aftermath and recovery/revenge. "On the Waterfront" is brilliantly acted, stupendously directed, and filmed to perfection. I Love this film!
June 3, 2013
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

A couple heavy-handed moments in the ending are my only nit-picks with this absolute masterpiece.
May 28, 2013
Kevin Cookman

Super Reviewer

An undisputed classic concerning a former boxer (Marlon Brando), seeking a fresh start as he works along the shore for a crooked mob boss, but suffers a moral crisis after he becomes attached to the sister (Eve Marie Saint) of someone he knows was killed in cold blood by the mob. One of the best melodramas ever, with a legendary, gripping performance from the great, great Brando, that carries this movie from start to finish with effortless grace. Its powerful message is handled deftly by director Elia Kazan, and the ending packs a literal and figurative blow. As said, this movie is all about Brando's character, and the film does an excellent job coloring his character in a variety of ways and attempting to place you in his shoes and understand the moral quandary he is in. An excellent film that should be seen by everyone, especially movie lovers.
April 18, 2013
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

    1. Charley Malloy: You know, it's time to think about getting some ambition.
    2. Terry Malloy: I always figured I'd live a bit longer without it.
    – Submitted by Edward A (5 months ago)
    1. Charley Malloy: You're getting on. You're pushing 30. You know, it's time to think about getting some ambition.
    2. Terry Malloy: I always figured I'd live a bit longer without it.
    – Submitted by Travis F (9 months ago)
    1. Terry Malloy: If I spill, my life ain't worth a nickel.
    2. Father Barry: And how much is your soul worth if you don't?
    – Submitted by Ivan J (23 months ago)
    1. Father Barry: Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary. They better wise up! Taking Joey Doyle's life to stop him from testifying is a crucifixion. And dropping a sling on Kayo Dugan because he was ready to spill his guts tomorrow, that's a crucifixion. And every time the Mob puts the pressure on a good man, tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen, it's a crucifixion. And anybody who sits around and lets it happen, keeps silent about something he knows that happened, shares the guilt of it just as much as the Roman soldier who pierced the flesh of our Lord to see if he was dead.
    – Submitted by Filipe M (2 years ago)
    1. Terry Malloy: You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley.
    – Submitted by Achoo S (2 years ago)
    1. Johnny Friendly: Stop breathin' that clam juice on me.
    – Submitted by Debbie V (2 years ago)
View all quotes (8)

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Foreign Titles

  • Die Faust im Nacken (DE)
  • On the Waterfront (1954) (UK)
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