For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.
2,684 Ratings

The Wages of Fear

Le salaire de la peur

Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
France, Italy, 1953
Drama, Thriller


In a squalid South American town, four men are paid to drive trucks loaded with nitroglycerin into the jungle through to the oil field. Friendships are tested and rivalries develop as they embark upon the perilous journey.

This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what’s now showing
The Wages of Fear Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot

Awards & Festivals

Cannes Film Festival

1953 | Winner: Grand Prize of the Festival

1953 | Special Mention

2017 | Cannes Classics

Berlin International Film Festival

1953 | 2 wins including: Golden Bear

BAFTA Awards

1955 | Winner: Best Film from any Source

Critics reviews

The history of film theory abounds with chapters on the impact of fundamental film syntax. . . . Not often part of this conversation is the French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot, even though his 1953 film, The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la peur), is a model of elemental, technical tension, containing a sustained sequence lasting roughly 90 minutes (part of its 147-minute total runtime) in which the basics of cinematic grammar are implemented and manipulated to astonishing ends.
January 23, 2018
Read full article
Like THERE WILL BE BLOOD, the film captures the obsession and mania that seem like an inevitable byproduct in the quest for oil. Though THE WAGES OF FEAR isn’t an explicitly political film, it is decidedly anti-American, offering a critique of corporate imperialism, indigenous exploitation, and a division of labor in which (for the underclass) work and death are essentially one and the same.
October 26, 2012
Read full article
In its original form, Clouzot’s grim thriller had been basically stripped down to its action components, which are among the most gripping to be found anywhere in movies. As it happens, I liked the movie when I saw it in its reduced (and censored) form as a teenager, despite its changed ending, but I like it even more now in its complete (?) form. Its somewhat dated macho elements notwithstanding, the film’s pile-driving persistence over two and a half hours commands a certain numbed respect.
March 06, 1992
Read full article

What are people saying?

  • dionysus67's rating of the film The Wages of Fear

    Such uniquely crafted amalgam of squalid contexts and moral confusion, which as the four drivers' hellish ascent proceeds character values are tested, broken, and belatedly forged. It is not just the boldness of cinematography, the sweaty sensuality, the force of suspense that magnetizes but maybe all these combined to some superbly encoded icons and metonymies about the human condition. A stunning tour-de-force!

  • Mugino's rating of the film The Wages of Fear

    Though I rate it the same as "Sorcerer", it lacks the abject hopelessness and madness that makes the latter adaptation more solidly riveting from start to finish. Ending the film at the oil well fire would have been ideal, yet the peak of devastation is dissipated by the scenes that follow, even with the (frankly ludicrous) tragic ending (who drives like that?). Still, solid performances and stunning cinematography.

  • Richmond Hill's rating of the film The Wages of Fear

    Playing like an early high concept action-thriller, this is an unevenly expansive affair - notably in the extraneous first thirty minutes of ‘character’ setting for what largely remain stock types throughout - it nevertheless has some tense ‘what would I do in that situation’ reactive action sequences. The latter spurs of fatalism surprise, albeit realised as moral retribution for such unbridled greed and machismo.

  • Duncan Gray's rating of the film The Wages of Fear

    It takes far too long and that ending is fatalism at its most unnecessary. But Clouzot's toxic sense of character still stings. "Pure suspense" nothing—this is a bitter, textured fuck-you to the world of 1953. Its setting isn't South America so much as a post-WWII purgatory, as different languages/accents mingle in a corporate-controlled desert where everyone wants to escape. Key line: "What's beyond it?" "Nothing."

  • HenriqueA's rating of the film The Wages of Fear

    Holy shit this was a tense motherfucker. Clouzot's a genius and in this film he excels in pretty much every kind of filmmaking obstacles ever. It's powerful and nihilistic and so fucking humane. And I do disagree with people who didn't like the first 40 minutes or the last couple of minutes. From minute one this is a very unique masterpiece.

  • HKFanatic's rating of the film The Wages of Fear

    The bias I bring to "Wages" is a healthy love for 1977's "Sorcerer," surely one of the finest films of director William Friedkin's career. Much like "Sorcerer," "Wages" isn't lacking in existential undertones or sweat-inducing sequences of suspense, but the lead-footed first hour and bafflingly wrongheaded ending hampered my enjoyment. In the end, "Wages" is a film that earns more of my respect than my affection.

  • ASHES IN THE HOURGLASS's rating of the film The Wages of Fear

    What begins as a campy light-comedy quickly escalates into one of the most tense films I have seen. The best quality here is the stark cinematography and direction which perfectly emphasizes each small detail that means the difference between life and death. In general, I was amazed by its physicality and its representation of sheer destruction. However, the ending was unnecessary. It should have ended earlier.

  • Roscoe's rating of the film The Wages of Fear

    A splendid sprawling suspense classic, a great film that deserves the hype. Nerve-wracking in all the best ways, with some tasty political commentary and surrealistic touches to make the nihilism go down.

Related films