On the Beach (2000 film)

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On the Beach
On The Beach (2000).jpg
DVD cover
Genre Science fiction
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Written by John Paxton (1959 screenplay)
David Williamson and Bill Kerby (teleplay)
Starring Armand Assante
Bryan Brown
Rachel Ward
Grant Bowler
Jacqueline McKenzie
Steve Bastoni
Cinematography Martin McGrath
Editing by Mark Perry
Country United States
Language English
Release date 2000
Running time 195 minutes

On the Beach is a 2000 apocalyptic television film directed by Russell Mulcahy and starring Armand Assante, Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward.[1][2] It was originally aired on Showtime.

It is a remake of the 1959 film of the same title, based on the 1957 novel by Nevil Shute,[3][4] and updates the setting of the story to the film's then-future of 2006, starting with placing the crew on the fictional Los Angeles-class submarine USS Charleston (SSN-704)[5] (there has never been a submarine named USS Charleston, and SSN-704 is named Baltimore).


The USS Charleston (SSN-704) is a 688i variant of the Los Angeles-class and is equipped with a caterpillar drive. The Morse code signal picked up by the submarine crew in the original novel and film was updated to an automated digital broadcast powered by a solar-powered laptop computer. The nuclear war was preceded by a standoff between the United States and the People's Republic of China, after the latter blockaded and later invaded Taiwan.[4]

This film's picture of human behavior is darker and more pessimistic than in the original 1959 adaptation, where social order and manners do not collapse. When the submarine investigates the Northern Hemisphere, surfacing in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge has collapsed and the city shoreline is in ruins, indicating an adjacent nuclear detonation, as in the book, but not the first film version. The ending also differs from both the novel and the first film version in that Commander Dwight Towers (Armand Assante) chooses to die with Moira Davidson (Rachel Ward) instead of scuttling the submarine beyond Australian territorial waters (as in the novel), or attempting to return with his crew to the United States (as in the earlier film). This film ends with the reunion of Towers and Moira, while their implied suicides occur offscreen, as did the original version of Moira in the first film. Unlike the first film, there is no final postmortem scene of deserted Melbourne streets and the absence of human life depicted.

The film ends with a quote from a Walt Whitman's poem "On The Beach at Night", describing how frightening an approaching cloud bank seemed at night to the poet's child, blotting the stars out one by one, as the father and child stood on the beach on Massachusetts' North Shore.[6] As much as it resembles the plot of the movie and of Shute's novel, however, the book gives no reference to the Whitman poem and the phrase "on the beach" is a Royal Navy term that means "retired from the Service."[7] The novel took its title from a fragment of T. S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men.[8]


The film received two Golden Globe award nominations and itself was nominated as Best Miniseries or Television Film and Rachel Ward was nominated in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television category for her role as Moira Davidson.[9] Some film commentators, however, have called the film one of the worst remakes ever.[10]

See also[edit]

  • Able Archer 83, NATO command post exercise that resulted in the 1983 nuclear war scare and changed thinking about nuclear war in Britain.
  • Arc Light, a novel portraying a US-Russia mixed conventional-Nuclear War.
  • Countdown to Looking Glass, a TV movie made in the form of a news broadcast following a deterioration in NATO-Warsaw Pact relations that ends in nuclear warfare.
  • The Day After, a 1983 made-for-TV movie about a NATO-Russian nuclear war.
  • Damnation Alley, a 1967 science fiction novella and subsequent 1977 movie adaptation about a sudden Soviet nuclear attack.
  • Deterrence, a 1999 French-American movie about a Walter Emerson, about a man who's just become US President in the same manner as Gerald Ford, without having been elected. Emerson is on a campaign tour, trapped by a storm in a small town diner, when he gets word Iraq has invaded Kuwait a second time, and is poised to do the same to Saudi Arabia. With US troops committed in a separate engagement on the Korean peninsula, Emerson decides the only way to stop Iraq is to threaten to air-burst a 25 megaton nuclear weapon above Baghdad.
  • Fail Safe, films from 1964 and 2000 about computer malfunctions causing B-52 bombers to penetrate Soviet airspace and commence strategic nuclear strikes. The President, Joint Chiefs, US Strategic Air Command and national security council all try to stop the bombers by various means. They find it hard to get through to the bombers who have been trained to ignore recall signals that are not properly encoded, and at the same time, the Russians are not sure if this is deception warfare or a real malfunction.
  • Invasion, a 2000 novel by Eric L. Harry portraying a future Chinese invasion of the US after China becomes a global superpower.
  • The Last Ship by William Brinkley. Portrays a sudden massive nuclear exchange between the superpowers, with further escalating exchanges over a four hour period leaving most of the northern hemisphere choked in radioactive fallout. The ship loses contact with the U.S. Navy, and then investigates various sites around Europe and Africa starting with Naval Station Rota in Spain, making contact with other stray ships, military and civilian. All the consequences of the exchange for the crew, and humanity as a whole, are explored.
  • Miracle Mile, a 1988 movie about an ordinary group of people, who learn, via a phone call to a payphone from someone in an ICBM silo (who was trying to reach their father, but called the wrong number because he used the wrong area code) that a nuclear exchange is about to take place, thus within the hour Soviet missiles will rain down on them. Some believe it and try to flee, others scramble around the city to find loved ones in a desperate attempt to join those already headed for the airport.
  • Operation Square Leg a military analysis of the effects of a nuclear war on Britain.
  • Panic in Year Zero! , a 1962 film about a family's survival after a nuclear attack on Los Angeles.
  • Protect and Survive, the 1970s British government information films on nuclear war.
  • Red Army, by Ralph Peters, showing a Soviet invasion of Western Europe from an entirely Soviet perspective.
  • Red Storm Rising, a similar World War III scenario covering a conventional Soviet invasion of Western Europe, by Tom Clancy
  • The Sum of All Fears, a 2002 movie with Ben Afleck and Morgan Freeman. Terrorists plant a nuclear weapon in a US city in an attempt to frame the Russians for the attack and prompt the two powers to wipe each other out.
  • Team Yankee, a 1987 novel by Harold Coyle set in Hackett's scenario
  • Testament, a 1983 American film which tells the story of how one small suburban town near the San Francisco Bay Area slowly falls apart after a nuclear war destroys outside civilization.
  • The Third World War by Humphrey Hawksley depicts a slow building crises that culminates in a nightmarish World War III involving nuclear and biological weapons.
  • The Third World War: The Untold Story by General Hackett, portrays a conventional Soviet invasion of Western Europe, including the behavior of the formally neutral Ireland and Sweden, and internal Soviet debates and thinking.
  • Threads, a 1984 UK film about a major Soviet nuclear attack on the United Kingdom.
  • Trinity's Child by William Prochnau, portrays a sudden nuclear attack by the USSR upon the United States, followed by an eruption of global warfare.
  • The War Game, a 1965 film about how well civil defense and homeland security would cope in the event of nuclear war.
  • When the Wind Blows, a 1986 animated British film that shows a nuclear attack on Britain by the Soviet Union from the viewpoint of a retired couple.


  1. ^ Turegano, Preston (May 28, 2000). "Beach's passion doesn't run deep, as radioactive love boat founders". The San Diego Union-Tribune. p. TV3. 
  2. ^ Moliltorisz, Sacha (April 19, 2007). "TV & Radio: On the Beach". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  3. ^ "'On the Beach' Revival is Slow Going Until the End". Akron Beacon Journal. May 28, 2000. p. F1. 
  4. ^ a b Kronke, David (May 28, 2000). "'Beach': It's the End of the World As We Know It". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  5. ^ King, Susan (May 26, 2000). "Together Again for Apocalypse 'On the Beach'; Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown team on screen for just the second time since marrying 17 years ago". Los Angeles Times. p. F1. 
  6. ^ "Walt Whitman : On the Beach at Night", retrieved 2012-05-11 from http://www.portablepoetry.com/poems/walt_whitman/on_the_beach_at_night.html, which states it is an 1871 poem. Not to be confused with another Whitman poem "On the Beach at Night Alone".
  7. ^ "Royal Navy Diction & Slang". Hmsrichmond.org. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  8. ^ Shute, Nevil. "On The Beach". William Morrow and Company, NY, NY, 1957.
  9. ^ "Golden Globes announce TV, film award nominees". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Associated Press. December 22, 2000. p. 8B. Retrieved August 22, 2010. 
  10. ^ Held, Richard (March 11, 2013). "Bad remakes". klat.com. 

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