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Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Doug McKeon, Dabney Coleman ... see more see more... , William Lanteau , Chris Rydell

There's little that happens in On Golden Pond that isn't thoroughly predictable from the start, but the film is blessed with so much star power, charm and honest sentiment that everyone in the audienc... read more read more...e is willing to ignore the cliches and go the distance. In his last film, Henry Fonda plays Norman Thayer, a cranky 80-year-old retired professor, making his annual pilgrimage with his wife Katharine Hepburn (in her only teaming with Henry Fonda) to their New England summer cottage. Their solitude is interrupted when the couple's daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) arrives with her fiance Bill (Dabney Coleman) and his son Doug McKeon in tow. It takes a while, but Jane Fonda and Coleman, about to go on a vacation of their own, persuade Henry Fonda and Hepburn to take care of McKeon. Henry Fonda and the kid dislike each other from Square One, and it looks as though this summer (which may very well be Henry Fonda's last) will be a depressing experience. Gradually, Henry Fonda and McKeon grow to love one another; their bond is strengthened during a near-fatal accident while fishing. It is through the warm relationship between Henry Fonda and the boy that the old man and his daughter Jane Fonda are at last able to display affection towards each other--the first time they've done so in years. Gorgeously photographed by Billy Williams, On Golden Pond is a wonderful valedictory for Henry Fonda, who died not long after the film's completion; Katharine Hepburn has less to do, but few can do so much with so little. Academy Awards were bestowed upon Henry Fonda, Hepburn, and screenwriter Ernest Thompson (who adapted the film from his stage play). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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87% liked it

20,146 ratings


92% liked it

24 critics

DVD Release Date: March 20, 2001

Stats: 1,115 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,115)

  • October 8, 2013
    An aging couple cares for their estranged daughter's stepson.
    This is probably the nicest, sweetest, most wholesome film about death ever. The primary conflict, Norman's fear of death and his unfinished business, is treated with such a light-heartedness that the film takes on a ... read moredreamy pastoral quality. By itself, the film could be charming, able to deliver insight about going into the night with a smirk rather than a frown, but the film's conflict is complicated with the entrance of Norman's daughter. I understand that the conflict between Henry and Jane Fonda informs the film's contemporary interpretation, but as it plays today, there needs to be more setup than Chelsea's weeping into her mother's arms about Norman's placidity.
    The film's highlights are the performances. Even Jane Fonda is exceptional, and Katharine Hepburn plays the ideal, strong-willed grandmother, a woman all of us should want guiding our lives. Henry Fonda's Oscar win was deserved.
    Overall, it's hard to imagine so many ducks and landscape shots in a film about the inevitability of death, but at times, not often, On Golden Pond pulls it off.
  • fb733768972
    August 29, 2011
    On Golden Pond may have a very straight forward story about a couple growing old together as they now live on "Golden Pond", a quite little place on the water where family and friends come to visit. As their daughter brings her new fiance to visit, they are blessed with a 13 year... read more old grandson, who is a stubborn little kid at first sight, but as charming as anyone could possibly be on the inside. The performances are significantly brilliant and the actions of each character will have you in a universe of mixed emotions. For Norman Thayer, his life is not too far from finished and he will do anything with his arrogant comedic-like attitude to relive his childhood by becoming best friends with his grandson. This truly is a basic story, but the writing, the acting, the events, and the outcome is so touching and moving that I can call it a masterpiece. This is surely "cinema" in all it's glory.
  • November 16, 2010
    With the subject matter circulating around death, failed relationships, and troubled families it would seem that this would be a shouting match waiting to happen. Instead the plot plays coy, reeling you in with the calm wooded surroundings and the fraility of Ethel and Norman in ... read moretheir ripe old age. The underscored drama is just fodder for what is to happen: a coming of age bonding that supplements from Tuesday with Morrie to wow the audience with the family friendly fair all grown up. A wonderful film if ever I saw one.
  • April 10, 2009
    Nauseous feel-good wannabe crap
  • September 10, 2008
    "Everyone looks back on their childhood with a certain amount of bitterness and regret? It doesn't have to ruin your life darling!"
  • July 28, 2008
    An Exellent feel-good movie!
  • March 1, 2008
    talk about a tender movie -- this is the other side of Kate --
  • September 15, 2007
    Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn evoke that old-school Hollywood glamour that just charms the pants off this movie. Jane Fonda didn't impress me but I read somewhere that there were a lot of parallels between the father-daughter relationship of her character and her own life. Wh... read moreich was kind of interesting. Yay for Henry Fonda winning a well-deserved Oscar! Old poop.
  • August 23, 2007
    No one creates tension like Henry Fonda: everything he touches is so terse, as a viewer, you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is a good film - a little hoky, but a solid adaptation of the play, which always seems cornier. This was Fonda's last role, and what a way... read more to go out - starring with Katharine Hepburn (whose performance is also solid) and his daughter too - he won the academy award for best actor, and died within five months. Class ending for a class act.
  • December 26, 2006
    I think it might be true that the older you get the more this movie may mean to you. Fonda and Hepburn light up the screen. Minus one star for the harming of worms and fish. You'd think in a movie where impending death is a prominent theme that they'd be more sensitive to this... read more issue. Poor Walter. Catch and release is not kind.

Critic Reviews

Gene Siskel
February 6, 2013
Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

There is a natural rhythm to the film that makes its own quiet, life-affirming statement. Full Review

Richard Schickel
June 7, 2011
Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine

When it sometimes seems the whole society has spiritually decamped for Tinseltown, the movie offers the hope that people can come home again-at least for a visit. Full Review

Variety Staff
February 4, 2008
Variety Staff, Variety

Without question, these are major, meaty roles for Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, and there could have been little doubt that the two would work superbly together. Full Review

January 26, 2006
Time Out

Two of Hollywood's best-loved veterans deserved a far better swan song than this sticky confection. Full Review

Roger Ebert
October 23, 2004
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Watching the movie, I felt I was witnessing something rare and valuable. Full Review

Vincent Canby
August 30, 2004
Vincent Canby, New York Times

On Golden Pond is a mixed blessing, but it offers one performance of rare quality and three others that are very good. That's not half-bad. Full Review

Dave Kehr
January 1, 2000
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

The cinematic equivalent of shrink-wrapping, in which all of the ideas, feelings, characters, and images are neatly separated and hermetically sealed to prevent spoilage, abrasion, or any contact with... Full Review

Randy White
January 2, 2011
Randy White, Common Sense Media

Valuable lessons in loving one's family members. Full Review

February 4, 2008
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Fonda was 75 when this picture was made and must have known he didn't have much time. There could have been no finer final curtain for him than this. Full Review

Emanuel Levy
June 11, 2007
Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.Com

This family melodrama about aging, mortality, and reconciliation is more significant as a social than artistic event: It's the only teaming of Henry Fonda (who won an Oscar) with daughter Jane (who pr... Full Review

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    • Ethel Thayer: Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it. You're going to get back on that horse, and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we're gonna go, go, go!
    • Ethel Thayer: Sometimes you have to look hard at a person, and realize he's doing the best he can.
    • Ethel Thayer: Come here, Norman. Hurry up. The loons! The loons! They're welcoming us back.
    • Ethel Thayer: Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it. You're going to get back on that horse, and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we're gonna go, go, go!
    • Chelsea Thayer Wayne: Billy: I heard ya turned 80 today. Norman: That what ya heard? Billy: Man, that's....really old Norman: You should meet my father! Billy: Your father's still alive? Norman: No, but you should meet himk!

On Golden Pond : Watch Free on TV

On Golden Pond Trivia

  • "Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it. You're going to get back on that horse, and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we're gonna go, go, go!"  Answer »
  • Top 100 Movie Quotes Which 1981 movie has the quote "Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it. You're going to get back on that horse, and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we're gonna go, go, go!"?   Answer »
  • What is the last movie Henry Fonda is credited with acting in?  Answer »
  • In the film On Golden Pond (1981), Dabney Coleman and Doug McKeon played father and son characters called what?  Answer »

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