We investigate the dynamics of thin films driven by gravity on the outer surface of a cylinder and sphere. The surface is rigid, stationary and the axis of the cylinder is horizontal. An instantaneous release of a constant volume of fluid at the top of the cylinder or sphere results initially in a two-dimensional or axisymmetric current respectively. The resultant flow of a thin film of fluid is described using lubrication theory when gravity and viscous forces govern the dynamics. We show that the thickness of the flow remains uniform in space and decreases in time like t−1/2 near the top of both the cylinder and the sphere. Analytic solutions for the extent of the flow agree well with our experiments until the advancing front splits into a series of rivulets. We discuss scalings of the flow at the onset of the instability as a function of the Bond number, which characterizes the relative importance of gravity and surface tension. The experiments, conducted within an intermediate range of Bond numbers, suggest that the advancing front becomes unstable after it has propagated a critical distance, which depends primarily and monotonically on the volume of fluid and not on the viscosity of fluid. Releasing a sufficiently large volume of fluid ensures that rivulets do not develop on either a cylinder or sphere.