The movie “The Wave” is based on a novel by Morton Rhue and is based on a true story that happend in 1967 at Gordon High School in Palo Alto. The teacher starts an experiment with his students trying to show them how the Nazi regime was able to invluence so many people and why no one stopped them.

He created his own symbol (the wave), a dressing code, behaviour rules and a motto:

“Strength through discipline, Strength through community, Strength through action.”

The Wave


  1. This isn’t really a documentary – more a stylized, fictionalized version of what happened. The events actually took place at the now-defunct Cubberly Senior High School in Palo Alto.

  2. That was a very radical experiment performed on underage children. While it would have been a great experiment for university students. I totally disagreed with the fact it was acted out on the high school students of a history class. I hope the teacher was removed.

  3. This is what is happening in our country today. The public schools, er excuse me the GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS are indoctrinating the masses to be sheep. This all began in the late 60s and early 70s if not before in the school systems.

    Probably goes back to right after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

    The masses are blind. This is so sad.

    Wake up people.

  4. Bob Prentice-

    Have you actually set foot in a public high school recently? I’m a high school history teacher, and a big part of my teaching involves students questioning viewpoints with me playing devil’s advocate to make them defend their arguments (thus, they’re forced to think for themselves). Closed minded, generalized statements such as yours are a waste of gray matter.

  5. I am curious, is this really a documenatary? Or it is a staged version of what really happend? Did these students know that they were being experimented, or not?
    I just watched the latest fiction, German film about this fact. And I am really eager to know what happened indeed

  6. We studied this in Ethics class in collage. It came down to what would you do if your put in a position that would put you against your moral and ethical code. Interesting points were made. What would you do in this position? A Hard thing.

  7. It took me until 10th grade to realize how biased all my history teachers of the past were. My 10th grade history teacher was the only one who actually gave a damn about having us form our own opinions.

    Our textbooks, if you actually read between the lines, gives a glorified view of the victors – which our history teachers fervently reinforce.

    Everyone’s a friggin’ ultra-liberal now except for 2 or 3 kids. People who are moderates are constantly put down in class and bullied when they walk outside of the classroom. Our teacher even said once: “God, I know I’m not supposed to say this but I personally despise moderates. They should just CHOOSE A SIDE. Conservatives are more respectable than moderates because they actually take a stance. Moderates just hop back and forth.”

    I’m sorry but even if your high school is all rainbows and sunshine, not everyone’s is.

    The sad part is mine isn’t even the worst of them! hahahaha.

  8. the movie was good…but the book was so much better…if you get a chance to read the book you’ll see what i mean.

  9. I think people learn the most if they experience themselve. If you don’t know something you can “imagine” what it’s like, but if you’ve experienced something you KNOW what it’s like. The only negative thing is when people don’t learn anything from it, like the boy who got picked on. He couldn’t resist the feeling. But I think when you are a strong wellthinking person you can learn much more when you experience.

    Sorry if my language isn’t perfect, I’m from Holland.

  10. This is just a campy version of what’s going on in Colleges and Universities today with Professors using “Political Correctness” and their Bully pulpit to shut down free speech and anyone who disagrees with the ultra Left-wing agenda.
    There’s a whole generation of kids coming through our Schools that think Global Warming is real, that homosexuality is beautiful and wonderful, that America is a Horrible country, etc…Disagree in the Classroom and your “A’s” go to “F’s”, you’re mocked and ridiculed, and persona non-grata.

  11. We have to read this book for my 8th grade class and the documentary is much like the book, even though there were “deleted scenes” in the documentary. They are both really great though, and Todd Strasser is an amazing author!

  12. I saw this when it originally out back in 1982 and I was in 2nd grade. This was the first I’d seen it since then and I know what an impact it had on me. I was able to recall pretty much everything about it! It is just a reminder of how worried I am about our youth because just want to be a part of something big and make a difference. Unfortunately with the new administration in place it seems like some young people are afraid to verbalize any disagreement! I’m not for being disrespectful of people in authority, but we should be able to voice our concerns over the direction our country is going. When the Robert character said, “We can do it!” it sounded a lot like “Yes we can!” and the symbol for the wave looked a lot like the prominant campaign posters and stickers of the last election. I think every student should watch this movie even if it is dramatized and they should also be required to read 1984 by Orwell. I think a lot of our country has forgotten our past and what dangers socialism, communism and facsism create.

  13. It amazes me that people are comparing this to the Obama administration but not to the Bush administration. It is much more similar to Bush than Obama. Anyone who disagrees with the administration is ostracized…sounds a lot like the Dixie Chicks incident when they actually disagreed with the Bush administration. Also consider what happened under Bush, we got the “Patriot Act”…if you want to be scared then I would be more scared of Bush/Cheney than the current administration.

    I guess that just goes to show that group think is still alive…in the conservative arena. Hitler wasn’t a moderate he was a radical conservative (a religiously fervent conservative)

  14. Wow, this was a really brilliant experiment. I think the fact that it was done on high school students was better (well I’m not really sure how high school was like back then) but in this generation, if you don’t fit in with the society and stick out, you will get made fun of and even hurt. An example would be with gays. There was this kid who got beat to death because he was gay. There was this other incident where a SCHOOL (including principals, teachers) were involved with sending these who lesbian students somewhere else for Senior Prom because they were not welcomed to celebrate their Senior Prom with the rest of the “normal” students. We live in a sick, disgusting world. Humans are the worst creatures out here. We can verbally, mentally, and psychically do damage to each other. I’d like to know other creatures out there that can do these things. I’m glad this experiment didn’t go too far and that the kids realized at the end. That’s what I meant by the fact that it was better done on high school students. High school is the point in life where most people get picked on for being an outcast. When you get to College/University, things like picking on and trying to fit it don’t become a huge factor anymore because everyone is now on their OWN in creating their OWN future.

  15. This film was brilliant, and should be made available to high school students.

    As a survivor of the Holocaust, and a Child psychologist, had for the last 2 days a strong impact on me.
    I am particularly disturbed that this could happen in the space of one week only.

    I will certainly buy the book, and recommend it.

    Thank you SBS for showing “The Wave”.


  16. What a powerful film. Amazing how easily the mass of students fell into place following an idea they neither fully understood nor completely agreed with. Those that did not follow the regime were cast aside for holding to their beliefs. Proof of how easy subversive brainwashing is in the youth. They should remake this film, update it and call it “Welcome to the Liberal Agenda”
    @ T, couldn’t agree with you more.
    @ Lacey, the Liberal Agenda is using these exact tactics in trying to subversively brainwash American youth into believing being “gay” is cool and anyone who doesn’t believe that way is homophobic.

    “Love the sinner, hate the sin” but the Liberal Agenda wants you to love sin as well.

  17. Al jaren geleden deze film/documentaire gezien en denk er nog vaak aan.
    Zou inderdaad verplichte kost op school moeten worden.
    Op dit moment zijn er teveel van deze mensen die ons leven willen beheersen ten gunst van zichzelf.

  18. I first viewed this film in 1983 with my church CYO group and then again during my high school psychology courses. I was lucky enough to have an education which taught me to question everything occurring around me and after having watched this movie and the discussions that ensued I continue to question every day.

    Reading many of the above comments I find myself truly amazed at how well Fox news and the neoliberalists have achieved their agenda and goals. The complete and total acceptance by so many conservatives of their propaganda that to actually view this documentary and to believe it’s pointing out a liberal brainwashing agenda is unfathomable.

    As a progressive I must allow others their personal views, religious beliefs, etc. in so far as they do not encroach upon my freedoms nor do any harm to others. Unfortunately conservatives are doing harm to others while suppressing the individual rights and freedoms of anyone who does not hold their same views, beliefs, etc.

    Coming on the heels of the Jim Jones Peoples Temple Guyana tragedy in 1978 this movie is giving us a view of ourselves and a warning. It begs each of us to ask “Should I drink the tea or can I see what’s happening behind the platitudes, hate and fear being fed to me?”. Luckily my eyes and mind are open so I shall attempt to remain clear headed and not partake of the tea. I also agree with Leny that this movie and novel should be compulsory in schools as there are many who want to control our lives for their own gain.

  19. I attended Cubberley HS in the 70’s, so I missed this event, but I have read a lot about it. Comment #23 is absolutely correct. (I also agree w/ #30) The German movie “The Wave” (2008 I think) is less accurate than this version. (In real life no one died.)
    The point of Ron Jones’ “experiment” was to show the students how easy it actually is to buy-in, or get hooked into, fascism. To show why many Germans became Nazi’s. It is easy for us who are so removed from WW2, both in years and location, to declare that we wouldn’t have fallen for Hitler. Jones’ experiment shows us how unwittingly we can grab onto a leader who makes us feel, finally, that we are special (the student who chose himself to be the bodyguard), or that we have strong obvious commonalities with others that makes us feel acceptance and a strong bond, or that makes us feel safe is this everchanging overwhelming world. The problem is that people get so attached to these feelings they are easily threatened. Anybody that doesn’t fit the narrow commonalities are ostracized or worse. Anybody that speaks against the group must be silenced, because as soon as people can accept and live with a rapidly changing world and can accept the people outside the group as equals, then the system comes crashing down, leaving the last defenders with only their own fears and inadequacies.
    For anyone to truely think that Obama and the US are any comparison to Hitler and Nazi Germany, you must get out of your tiny world. Travel to Europe and go to the concentration camps and memorials. Read a variety of books about WW2. Watch something other than Fox news.

  20. Just by commenting that all history teachers are biased makes one biased about history teachers. This movie (book is even better) is a great way to show that we can have that “Nazi” society anywhere. It should not, however, be used as a defensive tool to make excuses to the devastating events that happened in that period of time not just to Jewes, Gypsies and homosexuals, as mentioned, but to so many other peoples, especially Slavs. Croatians were well known for killing thousands of Serbs in Concentration camps, and even Germans made comments that some of their killings were more gruesome than Nazis’ alone! But you do not get to read that in most of your history books!

  21. I’ve just read the book today for class tomorrow and now I’ve watched this filmversion of the wave to compare them.

    There are way more details in the book than in this movie, its really strange seeing all these actions/scenes passing by so fast in the movie.

    In germany they’ve made another version with a lot of different content adding some stuff, like robert shooting himself at the end for example.

    I would prefer reading the original book the wave by morton rhue, because it contains way more details and even makes this movie right here easier to understand.

    If you read till now, then thanks for your attention.

  22. The ironic thing is that I was made to watch this film many times in junior high school — because it was the only film that didn’t technically contain disproven, antiquated theories, yet still occupied an entire period. It was a win-win for children and bored substitute teachers, who, with the power of a 30 year old VHS tape, could resume yawning over a tabloid magazine and half-heartedly sneaking texts under their desks instead of having to teach.

  23. umm… many of u are choosing a side that discriminates against people who aren’t like yourself – cutting down lefts, rights, moderates, liberals, conservatives. shouldn’t the lesson from history be Not to think so shallowly as to make absolute judgements and statements about groups of people? how else can individual freedoms survive? it’s like many people missed the point of the book/ movie. i liked the book when i read it in the late 80s, and like this movie. hope the newer version is good, too.

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