The Current War

2017 historical drama film directed by Alfonso Gomez-RejonThis article is about the 2017 film. For the battle between electrical distribution methods, see War of the currents. For other uses, see Current wars (disambiguation).

The Current War is a 2017 American historical drama film inspired by the 19th-century competition between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over which electric power delivery system would be used in the United States (often referred to as the "war of the currents"). Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, written by Michael Mitnick, and executive produced by Martin Scorsese and Steven Zaillian, the film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Edison, Michael Shannon as Westinghouse, Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla, and Tom Holland as Samuel Insull, alongside Katherine Waterston, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen and Damien Molony.

Announced in May 2012, Gomez-Rejon was confirmed in September 2015. Cumberbatch, Shannon, and Hoult joined the cast by October 2016, and filming began in England that December. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2017.

Originally to be distributed by The Weinstein Company, the film was shelved and sold in November 2017 following the sexual abuse allegations made against Harvey Weinstein. It was eventually bought by Weinstein Company successor Lantern Entertainment, which then sold domestic distribution rights to 101 Studios. After discovering a final cut privilege clause in Scorsese's contract, Gomez-Rejon convinced him to allow for reshoots and to trim ten minutes off the original version's runtime, resulting in the film that was eventually released into theaters. The film was released in the United States on October 25, 2019.


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Cast
  • 3 Production
    • 3.1 Music
  • 4 Release
    • 4.1 Home media
  • 5 Reception
    • 5.1 Box office
    • 5.2 Critical response
      • 5.2.1 Original release
      • 5.2.2 Director's Cut
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


It is 1880 and Thomas Edison has unveiled his electric lightbulb. He plans to distribute power to American neighborhoods using Direct Current (DC) which is cheaper and cleaner than gaslight but is limited in range and needs expensive wiring infrastructure. George Westinghouse, a successful business man and inventor himself, wishes to learn more, and invites Edison to dinner. After being snubbed by Edison, Westinghouse sets out to prove alternating current (AC) is the better technology as it can work over greater distances and at significantly lower cost. Edison and Westinghouse compete to get cities across the United States to use their system. Westinghouse does an AC demonstration at Great Barrington in March 1886.

Brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla arrives in the United States and begins working with Edison, but is disappointed by Edison's unwillingness to reconsider his ideas and to fulfill what Tesla thought was a financial promise which Edison passes off as just a joke. Tesla then leaves Edison's team. Edison fiercely guards his patents and sues Westinghouse.

Edison suggests that AC is dangerous and engages in a publicity war, while Westinghouse stands behind the technical merits of AC. As Edison struggles to find ways to make DC more affordable, Westinghouse attempts to get the high-voltage AC system to work with motors. Edison's wife dies, and Westinghouse is also struck with personal tragedy when his friend Franklin Pope dies in an electrical accident. Both face significant financial risk. To generate funds Edison commercially sells his speaking machine "The Phonograph". To damage the reputation of AC, Edison shows that it easily electrocutes animals, and secretly works to help the creators of execution by electric chair, despite his previous objections to manufactu... more

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