This is about the film. For the stage musical, see The Who's Tommy.
Tommy is a 1975 film by Ken Russell based on The Who's concept album of the same name. It features Roger Daltrey as Tommy, a deaf blind and dumb youth who becomes famous as a pinball player who plays by intuition and later as the leader of a cult. It features several famous musicians and non-professional singers in key roles.
- Roger Daltrey - Tommy Walker
- Alison Dowling - Young Tommy Walker (voice)
- Ann-Margret - Nora Walker
- Oliver Reed - Frank Hobbs
- Jack Nicholson - Dr. Quackson, The Specialist
- Simon Townshend - Newspaper Boy
- Margo Newman - Nurse
- Vicki Brown - Nurse
- Pete Townshend - The Narrator/Himself
- Eric Clapton - The Preacher
- Arthur Brown - The Priest
- Tina Turner - The Acid Queen
- Paul Nicholas - Cousin Kevin
- Keith Moon - Ernie Hobbs/Himself
- Elton John - Local Lad
- John Entwistle - Himself
- Robert Powell - Captain Walker
The sun lowers behind the horizon as a man stands atop a mountain, followed by several romantic experiences between the man, Royal Air Force Group Captain Walker, and his wife, Nora, among the intimacy of nature. He has been drafted in the military and leaves Nora to fight in the war as a bomber. Sometime later, Nora receives the news that her husband is missing and believed to be dead. She gives birth to a baby boy, Tommy, on the "first day of peace."
Six years later in 1950, Nora meets Frank, known to Tommy as Uncle Frank, at "Bernie's Holiday Camp" and starts a relationship with him. Tommy, still only a boy now, hopes to one day own his own holiday camp as he lives on without a real father. Frank moves in with Nora and Tommy, quitting his job at Bernie's Holiday Camp. After Tommy is kissed good night by Nora, Captain Walker returns home and wakes him up. Frank and Nora are having sex in the room over, though, and Tommy follows Captain Walker to the lovers' bedroom where Walker sees Nora and Frank (now Tommy's stepfather) in each other's arms. Tommy then watches Frank kill Walker by smashing a lamp on his head. Tommy is then told that, "you didn't hear it, you didn't see it, you won't say nothing to no-one".
Tommy goes into shock and becomes non-responsive, leading people to believe that he is deaf, dumb, and blind—while Tommy stares at his reflection, his mind internally going on adventures with his dead father. Nora is distraught at Tommy's condition while Frank finds it to be a nuisance; this comes to a head at the Christmas party—where they fear for his soul.
Ten years later, and Tommy, now a young man, is being taken by his mother and stepfather on various attempts to cure him. Nora takes Tommy to a religious cult that worships Marilyn Monroe. Nora tries to get Tommy to try some of the curing methods, but Tommy breaks the Marilyn Monroe statue. Frank then brings Tommy to the "Acid Queen", a prostitute dealing in LSD, who sends Tommy on a wild trip that ultimately fails to awaken him. The experience also causes the Acid Queen to go crazy.
Nora and Frank leave Tommy with his sadistic cousin, Kevin. Kevin beats and tortures Tommy, but eventually grows bored of this activity because Tommy cannot respond. Frank and Nora later go for a night out and leave Tommy with his Uncle Ernie, a filthy, alcoholic child molester. When Frank and Nora leave, Ernie molests Tommy, having at last found a child he can abuse without being caught as Tommy does not know what is happening. The plan backfires when Frank and Nora return home and Frank finds Ernie in bed with Tommy. Ernie is caught in the act.
One night, Tommy is staring at the mirror while his parents eat dinner, and Tommy's id appears in the mirror and guides him to a junkyard. There, he finds a pinball machine, and spends the rest of the night playing on it, until the police bring Frank and Nora to him.
Becoming an expert at pinball since he cannot see or hear any distractions, Tommy wins game after game, gaining the admiration of local players and making his parents wealthy. Tommy soon faces the local champ at a televised pinball championship, featuring The Who performing as the champ's backing band. To the champ's amazement, Tommy keeps out-scoring him. The match ends with the hysterical crowd storming the stage, the band smashing their instruments, and the defeated champ (dressed in Doc Marten boots that are several feet high), falling into the hands of a booing audience who carry him out of the hall. Tommy is hailed as the new champ. Nora revels in the family's new-found wealth, but sees it as worthless because Tommy is still disabled. Deeply upset, she throws her champagne bottle at a television and hallucinates floods of champagne, beans, laundry detergent, and chocolate pouring from the broken screen.
There's a Doctor Frank announces that he has found a doctor who can help people like Tommy, so they see him the next day.The doctor confirms that Tommy's problems are psychosomatic and not physical; Nora watches Tommy staring at the mirror and wonders, "What is happening in his head?"
On the way home, Nora tries to get Tommy's attention, but with no avail. Amazed that Tommy can see himself but not her, Nora pushes him into the mirror, shattering it. Tommy falls into a swimming pool, and his senses return. He now has a messianistic vision in which people obtain enlightenment by playing pinball. Nora finds Tommy on a rock, and—now that he can hear, see, and speak—she tells him about his fame and fortune, He then tells her about his messianistic vision—saying, "Pinball ... is far beyond a game beyond your wildest dreams. Those who love me have a higher path to follow now," and then "baptizing" her.
With a "T" topped with a sphere (a pinball) as his symbol, Tommy starts holding rallies and lectures, with Uncle Ernie selling merchandise. Sally Simpson, a reverend's young daughter obsessed with Tommy, begs her parents to let her go to one of his sermons. Furious when they deny her permission, she spends all afternoon getting ready and sneaks out of her house to the sermon, which takes the form of a wild concert set to gospel music. Sally sits at the front row and as the police desperately try to control all the screaming girls, Sally pushes past onto the edge of the stage, attempting to touch Tommy. Frank, sitting behind Tommy onstage, kicks her away. Sally gashes her face on a chair and the ambulance men carry her out. She grows up to marry a green-skinned, guitar playing rock star who is a cross between a cowboy and Frankenstein's monster. Her parents are distraught that their daughter has become a groupie. Sally forevermore carries a horrific scar streaked across her cheek to remember Tommy by.
In just a year, Tommy declares himself a "sensation" and begins to have a profound impact on people whenever he nears them, including motorcycle gangs and slot-machine gambling Teddy Boys. As Tommy flies above them in a hang-glider, his mere presence converts them and many others to a new life according to his beliefs, as opposed to their previous wicked ways. At Tommy's invitation, masses of people begin to gather at his house, seeking spiritual fulfillment. However, the house is not big enough to accommodate the massive population, so Tommy decides to open a holiday camp, his lifelong wish from the beginning of the movie. Nora appears on television advertising his plans, and Frank intends to eventually have a "Tommy camp" in every major city in the world.
Crowds flock to Tommy's "holiday camp". They arrive by the bus-load, finding Uncle Ernie to welcome them. Sitting atop a motorised church organ that doubles as a cash register, Uncle Ernie sings of the joys of the camp while also selling Tommy merchandise to the crowds. A frustrated crowd begins clamouring for Tommy to bring them enlightenment. Tommy begins preaching, bans drinking and smoking, and has each follower wear a headgear that blinds, deafens, and silences them and then they are taken to a pinball machine. The followers do not find Tommy's enlightenment, start rioting, destroying the machines, and set fire to the camp. They retreat at the sound of a police siren. Frank and Nora die in the attack.
Tommy, only mildly injured, flees as flames engulf the camp, and "rejects" the "religion" he has built around himself. As Tommy escapes, he arrives at the same place in the wilderness in the beginning of the film where his parents spent a romantic day together (presumably the day he was conceived). In the final shot, Tommy greets a rising sun, and a new dawn.