The China Syndrome

1979, Mystery & thriller/Drama, 2h 2m

38 Reviews 5,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

With gripping themes and a stellar cast, The China Syndrome is the rare thriller that's as thought-provoking as it is tense. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

A news reporter (Jane Fonda) and her cameraman (Michael Douglas) are unintentional witnesses to a SCRAM incident, an emergency core shutdown procedure at a nuclear power plant in California. The crew prevents a catastrophe, but the plant supervisor (Jack Lemmon) begins to suspect the plant is in violation of safety standards, and tries desperately to bring it to the attention of the public, fearing that another SCRAM incident will produce an atomic disaster.

Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for The China Syndrome

Audience Reviews for The China Syndrome

  • Aug 08, 2016
    An effectively tense thriller that must have been even more terrifying when it came out, when fear of nuclear power was greater, and it is very well directed (the car chase scene is nerve-wracking) and has three amazing performances from its leads, especially Jack Lemmon.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 06, 2010
    A fantastic true to life film, with great actors, and intense suspense. I loved this movie and I highly recommend it.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Jun 13, 2009
    Jack Lemmon plays a shift supervisor at a nuclear power plant who narrowly averts a core meltdown while being surreptitiously filmed by Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas' visiting TV news crew. When Lemmon's superiors pooh-pooh his reservations about the safety of the plant in their haste to get back into production, he turns whistle-blower. <I>The China Syndrome</I>, which with uncanny prescience was released just 12 days before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, is a hybrid of two of the genres most closely associated with the 1970s, the paranoid conspiracy thriller and the disaster movie. Intelligent, suspenseful and brilliantly acted, especially by Lemmon in one of his great 'straight' roles, my only reservations are that it hasn't aged especially well, and Michael Douglas drives me crazy every time he says the word 'nuclear'. It's not 'nucular', you asshole!
    Stephen M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 13, 2009
    interesting foray into corporate corruption and cover up. as relevant today as it was in 1979 as big companies will never stop trampling all over the small fry workers or the general populace. for once michael douglas isn't in an erotic thriller and he does okay, but i was more impressed with jack lemmon as the disheartened employee, whereas jane fonda got to play a role she probably really enjoyed
    Sanity Assassin ! Super Reviewer

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