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The Wave (2011)



Average Rating: 5.7/10
Reviews Counted: 17
Fresh: 11 | Rotten: 6

Based on a true story, though relocated to Germany, this thought provoking film has an interesting premise, but suffers through a lack of believability.

No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 3
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 1

Based on a true story, though relocated to Germany, this thought provoking film has an interesting premise, but suffers through a lack of believability.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 10,484

My Rating

Movie Info

Germany today. During a project week, high school teacher Rainer Wenger (Jurgen Vogel) comes up with an experiment in order to explain to his students how totalitarian governments work. A role-playing game with tragic results begins. Within a few days, what began as harmless notions, like discipline and community, builds into a real movement: The Wave. By the third day, the students start ostracizing and threatening others. When the conflict finally erupts into violence at an intramural water

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Latest News on The Wave

September 19, 2008:
Further Reading: Making Waves as Die Welle Arrives
Kim compares and contrasts two versions of the same story as a German version of the story prepares...


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All Critics (17) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (11) | Rotten (6)

"The Wave" feels overdetermined and ploddingly dramatized.

May 26, 2011 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Still, the quicksilver editing and thumping score mean it's zippily put together, and an undeniable willingness to engage with a youthful audience is admirably inclusive.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Seductive and horrifying at the same time...The film opens with a rush of energy and doesn't let up.

January 30, 2008
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The inclusion of an engrossing (yet expected) finale ensures that The Wave ends on an exceedingly positive note...

December 9, 2011 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

The Wave is top-heavy and light-footed, racing its winning idea-that fascism can still be attractive to some, even in modern Germany-past itself.

June 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

The Wave forces a confrontation with the seductive potential in all of us to abuse and be abused by the exercise of singular power in the name of good.

May 27, 2011 Full Review Source: New York Press
New York Press

Brilliantly written and directed, wonderfully performed by an ensemble cast, and haunting in its intensity

March 14, 2009 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

It's a strong film but in the end a rather obvious one.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Thought-provoking stuff.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Daily Mirror [UK]
Daily Mirror [UK]

A seductive, button-nudging probe of pack-frenzy mentality. Some credibility's lost in the rush to combustion point, but the brawny direction and convincing cast make this a gripping cautionary tale.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Nevertheless, as a disturbing indictment of the course that could be taken by disaffected youth, The Wave makes a big splash.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

As it bounds along with its pumping rock playlist, you start to realise that the movie is predictable and slightly scared, and that it doesn't really make sense.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Here is the winner of this week's No Shit Sherlock award: a prime example of the kind of film dead set on telling you what you know already.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Guardian

It's an interesting and provocative idea somewhat marred by wretched performances from several of the kids and the same whiff of sanctimony and naivety that made The Edukators, another tiresomely right-on film from Germany, such a trial.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

An intriguing premise, well performed by the actors and engagingly directed by Gansel, suffers from a script that tries to pack too much into a single week and an ending that feels forced and didactic.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

A fascinating notion, convincingly realised.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

The film is persuasive that fascism can take root in any environment. Strong performances all the way.

September 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Teletext

Audience Reviews for The Wave

Despite its jumpy stylistical choices, which clearly serve to appeal young viewers into the story, it deals with an extremely serious subject matter that will trigger very important social and moral discussions
July 22, 2013

Super Reviewer

Based on actual events. Although the actual experiment took place in Palo Alto, California, this film takes place in Germany. A teacher decides to undertake a project in his class where his students believe that a dictatorship can never happen in Germany ever again. For the week, the teacher declares himself dictator, and becomes the ruling leader of his newly established group. Before he knows it, however, his students have taken the project outside of school grounds, and extend fascism into the hands of unwilling participants. The project soon gets out of control. Although greatly exaggerated at times, one has to remember that the film is based from real events, and that is what makes the film powerful. The Wave is a study on how one charismatic leader can motivate a populus into doing his will. It is dictatorship on a very small scale, but the haunting part is that dictatorships always start from a small group of mind-washed individuals. I recommend checking this link out: explains the actual experiment. Really good film here!!
December 5, 2011

Super Reviewer

This German drama about a teacher's project of showing his class how easily people fall into fascism traps starts out somewhat slow, taking its time to establish the characters. And even once the experiments starts to get more and more out of hand, the drama is never taken too far and stays realistic. Only the ending feels a bit too over the top. The open minded viewer can certainly appreciate this cautionary tale, yet at the same time question the fact that the voice of reason against The Wave remains somewhat small. The acting and good direction make for an entertaining and important piece of film, that doesn't get too preachy. Still, I expected a little more, somehow.
April 11, 2011

Super Reviewer

It's a very interesting and important subject, but the film itself is very average.
To those who don't know, this experiment actually took place in California, in 1967, but imagine that it could have happened in Germany is really more scaring and worrisome.

January 11, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Rainer Wenger: Do you feel it? Thats the power of unity!
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
    1. Rainer Wenger: You think a dictatorship isn't possible today?
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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Foreign Titles

  • Die Welle (DE)
  • The Wave (Die Welle) (UK)
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