When a bad teacher plays the role of a charismatic leader

Directed by Dennis Gansel - 2008 - Germany - 101 min

The Wave

2023 July 12 | by Arduino Mancini Critical thinking - Leadership - Politics

Rainer Wenger, a physical education teacher with a past as an anarchist, involves his high school students in an experiment to explain to them the concept of autocracy.

For a week they must respond to Herr Wenger’s strict disciplinary system, conform to a dress code, and work together as a hierarchical body, isolating or repressing any possible dissenters.

The boys discover a winning spirit of camaraderie, master their own insecurities and fears around the figure of the charismatic “bad teacher,” and feel empowered to animate acts of violence and vandalism in an experiment that soon reaches outside the walls of the school building.

An interesting film that shows the negative effects of influence on young people in a context where the teacher limits critical thinking.

The film is inspired by The third wave experiment, intended to investigate the expansion of national-socialism and the indoctrination of the Germanic population actually set up by history teacher Ron Jones in 1967 in a California high school, but puts it in context in today’s Germany to broaden the implications of that experience and affect the consciousness of the younger generations who consider themselves immune to the advent of a new totalitarianism.

Now you can watch the trailer, and then I will tell you more about the most important aspects of the film.




How to watch the film

A story I strongly suggest to all supporters of charismatic leadership, so that they may become aware of the devastating effects that plagiarism and emotional contagion can have on the behaviour of individuals and groups, including the extended ones.

The film also shows how critical thinking may be the weapon that can help people maintain self-mastery and remain immune to the influence that wants to generate submission.

I recommend its viewing to everyone: parents, teachers, and managers. Especially those who chase the myth of the charismatic leader.

For those who want to learn more, I recommend reading the book The Wave, which Todd Strasser wrote about the experience of Jones and his students.

A must-see film!



Jürgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Max Riemelt, Jennifer Ulrich.

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