Breaking the Sound Barrier (The Sound Barrier) (1952) - Rotten Tomatoes

Breaking the Sound Barrier (The Sound Barrier) (1952)

Breaking the Sound Barrier (The Sound Barrier) (1952)

Breaking the Sound Barrier (The Sound Barrier)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Breaking the Sound Barrier juxtaposes the history of jet aviation with an intensely personal fictional story. Ralph Richardson plays a wealthy aircraft manufacturer, stubbornly determined to develop a jet that will travel faster than the speed of sound. Richardson's seemingly cavalier attitude toward the pilots who have died on behalf of his dream--including his own son (Denholm Elliott)--has turned his daughter (Ann Todd) against him. When the daughter's fighter-pilot husband (Nigel Patrick) agrees to test Richardson's jet, he too loses his life. The daughter walks out of her father's life and sets up residence with the wife (Dinah Sheridan) of another pilot (John Junkin). Richardson approaches this pilot as well with his challenge--and this time the "sound barrier" is successfully broken without anyone being killed. Reconciled to the fact that her father's apparent coldbloodedness was in the interest of scientific progress, the daughter and her newborn child are reconciled with Richardson. The first independent project of director David Lean, Breaking the Sound Barrier was a huge success, persuasively scripted by Terence Rattigan and beautifully photographed by aerial specialist Jack Hildyard. The film's original British title was simply The Sound Barrier, but the American distributor apparently didn't want filmgoers to think the movie was about the record industry. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Romance, Classics
Directed By:
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 27, 2008


Ralph Richardson
as John Richfield
Ann Todd
as Susan Garthwaite
Nigel Patrick
as Tony Garthwaite
John Justin
as Philip Peel
Dinah Sheridan
as Jess Peel
Joseph Tomelty
as Will Sparks
Denholm Elliott
as Christopher Ridgefie...
Jack Allen
as Windy Williams
Ralph Michael
as Fletcher
Donald Harron
as ATA officer
Jolyon Jackley
as Baby John
Anthony Snell
as Peter Makepeace
Leslie Phillips
as Controller
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Breaking the Sound Barrier (The Sound Barrier)

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (5)

The aerodynamic issues in the movie may now be antiquated, but the excitement and beauty of early jet aviation are still irresistible.

Full Review… | May 1, 2013
New Yorker
Top Critic

This must be said about this picture: it soars far above its clumsy tag and it comes pretty close to being the most exalting of contemporary films.

Full Review… | May 1, 2013
New York Times
Top Critic

Unfortunately, Terence Rattigan's script, while solidly structured, never probes beyond the basic conceit that an obsession which works towards the glory of mankind in general may wreak havoc on private lives.

Full Review… | May 1, 2013
Time Out
Top Critic

Public excitement over jet travel helped make David Lean's 1952 British feature a big hit, though its science doesn't wash and its majestic aerial sequences are uneasily wedded to a starchy familial drama.

Full Review… | May 1, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Technically, artistically and emotionally, this is a topflight British offering.

Full Review… | February 23, 2012
Top Critic

It's an interesting scientific-military soap opera, acted with stiff upper-lip restraint by a great cast, but Lean's visual sense really comes into play in the aerial sequences.

Full Review… | May 1, 2013
Empire Magazine

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