One of the classics of cinematography, On the Waterfront chronicles the power of organized crime over the longshoremen in New Jersey. But, after Joey Malone coaxes Terry Doyle into an ambush because he has testified against the mob, Joey is killed rather than merely talked to as Terry has understood would happen. After the murder of Joey, his sister Edie Doyle, wants to know what has happened to bring her brother to this end, and when she learns that Terry has been with her brother before he has died, she questions Terry, telling him that he should come forward with any information that he has. Reluctant to be involved, Terry is asked by Edie,
"Shouldn't everybody care about everybody else?"
After studying her, Terry replies, "What a fruitcake you are!" for he knows that the mob will merely kill him, as well. Edie is disappointed, of course, but the priest of the docks, Father Barry then talks with Terry, who tells the priest, "If I spill, my life ain't worth a nickel." Father Barry remarks, "And how much is your soul worth if you don't?"
Gradually, with pressure from Father Barr and from Edie, Terry begins to see things through the loving eyes of Edie. He eventually desires to be a better man in order that she will respect him as well as love him. So, he takes Joey's place and testifies. Afterwards, there are severe repercussions, but Terry feels edified about himself. Worthy now of the love of sweet Edie Doyle, Terry faces mob boss Johnny Friendly with courage and fights him, shouting, "I'm glad what I done." Inspired by Terry's courage, the other longshoremen refuse to work unless Terry is included.