->''"You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley."''
-->--'''Terry Malloy'''

A 1954 film directed by Creator/EliaKazan, written by Creator/BuddSchulberg and starring Creator/MarlonBrando in his first UsefulNotes/AcademyAward winning-role, ''On the Waterfront'' was also the Oscar winner for Best Picture. It is also notable for being the only film scored by Music/LeonardBernstein that is not a musical.

In the film, Brando plays Terry Malloy, a former prizefighter now employed as a dockworker for the corrupt Union-boss, Johnny Friendly (Creator/LeeJCobb.) One day, Malloy inadvertently participates in the murder of a dockworker that had planned to expose Mr. Friendly's illegal activities. As he comforts the dead man's sister, Edie (Creator/EvaMarieSaint,) and meets a kindly priest (Creator/KarlMalden), Terry is urged to help expose Friendly's crimes before someone else dies. How long can Terry go on before he finally has to act against the corrupt men who own the docks?

!!This film provides examples of:

* AloofBigBrother: Charley. This veneer is probably caused by Charley's subconscious guilt over ruining Terry's boxing career, and it's shattered when Johnny tells him to kill Terry.
* BadassPreacher: Father Barry. This guy punches Marlon Brando halfway across a room and at the outset of the film is the only character willing to stand up to Friendly.
* BigBad: Mr. Friendly.
* DirtyCoward: The only reason Terry lost the fight with Friendly was because Friendly called his guards to help him pry Terry off. The dockworkers, witnessing this, lose all respect and fear of Friendly.
* FallenOnHardTimesJob: The very problem that inspires Terry to say "ICouldaBeenAContender".
* GoodShepherd: Father Barry.
* GuiltRiddenAccomplice: Terry is duped into luring Joey Doyle to his death; he spends the rest of the film trying to make amends.
* HiddenDepths: Terry.
* HonorBeforeReason: The dock workers are afraid of informing on Johnny Friendly but their children grow up believing ratting someone out is bad period. This leads some of them [[spoiler: to kill Terry's pigeons for deciding to testify even though he really is doing the right thing]].
* ICouldaBeenAContender: TropeNamer.
* IfYouKillHimYouWillBeJustLikeHim : Terry is talked out of killing Friendly by Father Barry, who urges him to testify against him instead.
* ImpairmentShot: Terry suffers from blurred vision during his staggering walk to the dock at the climax, after he's beaten by Johnny's goons.
* InspiredBy: The source of this film was a 1949 Pulitzer-winning series of articles about corruption on the waterfront.
* OhCrap: Kayo Dugan, right before he is crushed by a falling load of cargo.
* PetTheDog: Terry's love of pigeons should be one of your first hints that he's a good guy. Also helps he talks to a few kids and is kind to them as well. This makes it [[spoiler: ''worse'' when those same kids ''kill his birds'' simply because he testified against Friendly]].
* PunchedAcrossTheRoom: Creator/MarlonBrando, of all people. Father Barry punches Terry across the room when Terry tells him to go to hell.
* RedOniBlueOni: Terry and Father Barry respectively.
* SheIsAllGrownUp: Edie, she was said to have had very thick braids, glasses, and braces as a kid and is told "you grew up very nice".
* StuffedInTheFridge: Towards the climax of the film, the corpse of [[spoiler:Terry's brother Charlie]] is found strung up on a wall.
* TakeThat: Creator/EliaKazan, infamous for the rest of his life for naming names on the HUAC committee, made this film to show his critics an informer in a positive-light... Which didn't have much of a effect, given that people were still protesting his choice when he won the Honorary Academy Award.
* ThrowingTheFight: Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson.
* TroubledButCute: Terry.
* VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory: Terry Malloy's fight against corruption was in part modeled after whistle-blowing longshoreman Anthony DeVincenzo, who testified before a real-life Waterfront Commission about activities on the Hoboken Docks and suffered a degree of ostracism for his deed. DeVincenzo sued and settled, many years after, with Columbia Pictures over the appropriation of what he considered his story. DeVincenzo claimed to have recounted his story to screenwriter Budd Schulberg during a month-long session of waterfront barroom meetings. Schulberg attended DeVincenzo's waterfront commission testimony every day during the hearing.
* VillainousBreakdown: Johnny Friendly at the end.
* WhatTheHellHero: Barry gives one to Terry for nearly giving into his anger and trying to off Friendly after [[spoiler: he kills Charley]].
* WhiteDwarfStarlet: Terry always regretted taking that dive.