Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) is an ex-boxer thug working on the docks, blindly following the instructions of his older brother Charley (Rod Steiger) and the dock boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). Then he meets Edie (Eva Marie Saint), the sister of a man who was found dead. Terry knows who was responsible, but it is only after falling for Edie and meeting with Father Barry (Karl Malden) that he starts questioning his life and his role within the organization.
Marlon Brandon really was a fabulous actor. Not necessarily in everything, and not necessarily all the time, but it is in a film such as On The Waterfront that he really stands out; especially against the more theatrical acting of most of the rest of the cast, the acting style typical of the day. There were a few parts in the film where the swelling music was a bit heavy-handed, but again, that may come down to the time of the film.
On The Waterfront won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Marlon Brando), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Eva Marie Saint), Best Director (Elia Kazan), Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (Budd Schulberg), Best Cinematography, Black and White, Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black-and-White and Best Film Editing and was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Lee J. Cobb), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Karl Malden), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Rod Steiger) and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.