In April 1967, Ron Jones, a history teacher at Cubberley HighSchool in Palo Alto, UsefulNotes/{{California}}, found himself struggling to explain to his class how the German people could have fallen behind [[ThoseWackyNazis the Nazis]] so easily. So he decided to show them personally, creating a student movement called [[ the Third Wave]] (after the common belief that the third in a series of waves is the last and largest). The movement emphasized conformity and the greater good, treating democracy and individualism as [[DemocracyIsBad the downfall]] [[TheEvilsOfFreeWill of civilization]]. Jones started with things like drilling his class in proper seating and posture, before moving on to discipline, salutes (which conspicuously resembled [[PuttingOnTheReich the Nazi salute]]), and the transformation of himself into an authoritative figure. In just two days, Jones had turned his class into a model of efficiency, discipline and community, with a marked improvement in academic achievement and motivation, and the Third Wave began to spread beyond his history class. By the end of day three, over two hundred students had been recruited, membership cards were being given out, banners were flying, and Third Wave members were telling Jones when others were violating the rules -- all completely unexpected developments.

Jones, realizing that he was losing control of the Third Wave, decided to end it. On day four, he announced that the Third Wave was actually part of a nationwide youth movement, and that tomorrow at noon, an assembly would be held in which the movement's national leader and presidential candidate would be revealed on television. At the assembly, the students were met only with an empty channel. Jones revealed a few minutes later that the entire Third Wave was an experiment in how fascism can so easily claim the hearts and minds of the masses (even those who had sworn "it can't happen here"), and played a film about UsefulNotes/NaziGermany.

The Third Wave experiment has since been fictionalized three times. The first was ''[[ The Wave]]'', a MadeForTVMovie that aired on Creator/{{ABC}} in 1981, and later became part of their ''ABC Series/AfterschoolSpecial'' series. The same year, a YoungAdult {{novelization}} of the movie was written by Todd Strasser under the PenName Morton Rhue. Finally, in 2008, the German movie ''Film/DieWelle'' took the already-uncomfortable premise and brought it into the very country that birthed Nazism, to show that even a place that had experienced the horror of fascism could [[HistoryRepeats see it happen again]].

Not to be confused with the Norwegian DisasterMovie [[Film/TheWave2015 from 2015]].
!! Tropes in the TV movie or the book ''The Wave'':
%% Zero Context examples have been commented out. Please write up actual examples before uncommenting.
%%* AllOfTheOtherReindeer
* BasedOnATrueStory: As detailed above.
%%* DayOfTheJackboot
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: A gang of ideologically-motivated but otherwise ordinary youths take over a school and start threatening those who aren't part of their movement? Nah, that can't happen here.
* FactionMotto: "Strength Through Discipline! Strength Through Community! Strength Through Action!"
* FascistButInefficient: DoubleSubverted. Though there is marked improvement in other areas of school life, even after adopting the ethos of the Wave, the football team continues to lose games. Things go downhill, starting when the Nazi parallel goes too far and a Jewish boy is beaten up by two members of the movement.
* ForeignRemake: ''Film/DieWelle'', by the Germans.
%%* HistoryRepeats
* HitlerAteSugar: Unity and discipline are, apparently, just steps on the road to fascism.
* JerkJock: {{Deconstructed|Trope}}. The football players are all so obsessed with making themselves look good (often at their teammates' expense) that they barely function together, and have gone through several losing seasons. Even when they adopt the unity and purpose of the Wave, [[FascistButInefficient they continue to struggle]], as they had never really trained as a team before then.
* TheManIsStickingItToTheMan: The film is now very popular with teachers to make their classes more interesting. This creates the unfortunate situation where one authority tells you to not listen to another authority. On the other hand, the moral of this film is not so much not to listen to authority as not to take the fact this authority is right for granted.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone:
** David has one of these after he hits Laurie for opposing the Wave.
** Mr. Ross also has this when he realizes that the experiment is beginning to spiral out of control and that people are starting to get hurt as a result of his actions.
* ANaziByAnyOtherName: The Wave, of course.
* OnlySaneMan: David and Laurie are the only ones willing to stand up to The Wave. This also happened in real life as several students refused to join (or left) the movement. Some of them also created banners against the Third Wave or tried directly to convince other students to leave.
* PunnyHeadlines: In the film, Laurie's article denouncing the Wave has the headline, "The Wave Drowns Gordon High."
* PoliticallyMotivatedTeacher: Obviously, or else this couldn't have even happened in the first place.
* PuttingOnTheReich: The Wave salute is fairly obviously (and [[EnforcedTrope deliberately]]) modeled after the Nazi one, and armbands are used as a sign of membership. Even the original name for it, the Third Wave, is deliberately evocative of the Third Reich.
%%* SchoolNewspaperNewshound: Laurie.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Mr. Ross delivers one to all the members of the Wave once he reveals that the Wave was nothing more than an experiment. It transitions into a [[HeelRealization Heel Realization]] speech for everyone. Needless to say, [[RageQuit the students didn't take it too well]]...
* WhamLine: The scene where Mr. Ross reveals that UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler was the "leader" of the Wave -- if not for the readers and viewers (who should know what's coming), then for the students.