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HD   NR Closed Captioning

Sidney Lumet

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About the Movie

One of the greatest anti-war thrillers ever, Fail-Safe stars Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau, Dan O'Herlihy, Larry Hagman and Fritz Weaver (in his film debut) as a group of military men on the verge of World War III. When a military computer error deploys a squadron of SAC bombers to destroy Moscow, the American President (Fonda) tries to call them back. But their sophisticated fail-safe system prevents him from aborting the attack, so he must convince the Soviets not to retaliate. In desperation, the President offers to sacrifice an American city if his pilots succeed in their deadly mission over Moscow. A four-star techno-thriller that builds tension and suspense with every tick of the nuclear clock.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 20
  • Fresh: 19
  • Rotten: 1
  • Average Rating: 7.7/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: It packs a melodramatic wallop that will rattle a lot of chattering teeth. – Bosley Crowther, New York Times, Oct 21, 2015

Fresh: It faithfully translates on the screen the power and seething drama of the Eugene Burdick-Harvey Wheeler book. – Variety Staff, Variety, Oct 21, 2015

Fresh: An impressive and disturbing brink-of-doom thriller. – Kim Newman, Empire Magazine, Oct 21, 2015

Fresh: Not only a damn good thriller, but a terrifying account of how easily such technology can malfunction. – Film4, Oct 21, 2015

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

Maybe the best of the "Cold War" movies

George Clooney is on record as saying this is one of his favorite movies, and I agree. The opening "dream sequence" could only have been filmed in the 60's because it cares not for popularity or mass approval. Henry Fonda is great as a President faced with an unimaginable nightmare, and Larry Hagman does well as the interpreter. It's not possible to watch this movie with the same mindset as one would have had in 1964, but, having said that, it's still as compelling as anything I've ever seen from American cinema.

Gut-wrenching taut drama, more documentary than film

Comparisons to the incredibly dated and ridiculously satirical Dr. Strangelove is beyond words - Fail Safe is one of the greatest dramas ever produced. Comparing the two films is akin to comparing a computer geek playing a Navy Seal in a video game versus an actual Navy Seal. The incredibly realistic character driven film kicks the laughable Strangelove in the junk and pushes it into the dirt. Sidney Lumet's horrifying realistic portrait of our government and it's preset military nuclear strikeforce gives every hard-nosed hawk pause. Every character is tangible and true in every respect to their real-life counterparts. A devastating ending that will haunt you, literally, for the rest of your life. Powerful stuff.

A Great Movie

Fail-Safe is one of the best cold war-era movies made. It never got very much attention because it was released at the same time as Dr. Strangeglove, and Stanley Kubrick had the clout to overshadow this movie. The major actors do a superb job - Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau, etc. And be sure to catch a quick scene with Dom DeLuise as an air force sergeant. This movie is a great lesson on how dangerous it is when we - especially our military - rely too much on technology (and it taught this way before War Games was ever made.)

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  • $12.99
  • Genre: Drama
  • Released: 2000

Customer Ratings