Movie Review: On the Waterfront


For a movie that’s supposed to be incredible, it’s not talked about much where I come from and that’s a shame. Even in the above picture, it looks like Terry’s thinking, “C’mon, why haven’t you seen this? After all, I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender and all that.” That you were Terry, that you were.

Terry Malloy is witness to a murder and is pressured into revealing information that can destroy his life.

I saw a lot of me in Terry, right down to the flannel. He tries so hard to figure out what the right thing to do is that it leads him to the climatic battle on the waterfront. He may not have been the smartest man on the docks but he had the guts to do what he needed to do. I was cheering for him all the way, something I don’t usually do.

It’s really cruel what the boys do to the pigeons after Terry attends the hearing. I thought i saw something fly by the screen rather quickly and the movie allowed us to see what that something was: a dead pigeon. Why would anyone kill a pigeon, especially one that was taken care of? Sure a pigeon is just a pigeon but Terry cared for them. Kids can be so cruel sometimes.

The “Contender” speech in the back seat was something I looked forward to. The delivery of the line, the emotion, everything that was going on within the world of the waterfront showed how hurt Terry was and we feel that pain. Because of his past actions, he has resigned to the fact that he will always be a bum and with that, no ambition to do anything. Whatever he does now is not seen as impactful, according to Terry. It is up to him to do something about it.

When I said this film isn’t mentioned much, I really mean it. Aside from “I coulda been a contender” and the occasional puzzle clue, it seems forgotten. That’s not good for a film that netted eight Oscars, including Best Picture. I suppose I need to get my own copy, preferably Criterion if I can afford it.

Good job Terry, good job.


1001 MYMSBYD selection

IMDB Top 250

AFI Top 100 (1997): #8

AFI Top 100 (2007): #19

400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 for both years

Winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Story and Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction-Set Direction Black-and-White, Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), and Best Film Editing

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: On the Waterfront

  1. I’m surprised that you’ve not heard many people talking about this. True, it is an older film and some people avoid those at all costs, but it is one of the better Best Picture winners.

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