The War Game (1965)

UK, shown theatrically after it was banned by the BBC
44m 27s, 4500 ft
16mm film, black and white, 4:3
mono, English
Series: The Wednesday Play (1964-1970)
Reviewed at The EOFFTV Review

A British science fiction television film directed by an uncredited Peter Watkins. It was originally made for television broadcast by the BBC as part of the The Wednesday Play (1964-1970) anthology strand, intended for broadcast on 6 August 1965, the twentieth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. The BBC eventually decided against showing it, claiming that “the effect of the film has been judged by the BBC to be too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting, it will, however, be shown to invited audiences.” 1Parliamentary question asked in the House of Commons by William Hamilton MP about the TV film ‘The War Game‘, December 1965 (CAB 21/5808) It was released theatrically overseas and was available for private screenings in the UK, finally getting a TV broadcast on 31 July 1985 as part of a series of programmes about nuclear war. Michael Aspel was the original narrator on the film, but a new narration, recorded by Dick Graham, was subsequently used on its release.

Plot Summary

A British television documentary crew is working on their latest production when war breaks out. The surviving camera crew record the horrific events leading up to, during and immediately after a nuclear attack on Great Britain.


* = uncredited

Directed by: Peter Watkins *
© [not given on screen]
A BBC production
Produced by: Peter Watkins
Written by: Peter Watkins
Photography: Peter Bartlett
Film Editor: Michael Bradsell
Sound: Derek Williams, Lou Hanks, Stanley Morcom
Costumes: Vanessa Clarke
Make-up: Lilias Munro
Design: Tony Cornell, Anne Davey
Production Assistant: Peter Norton
Made entirely on location in southern England by the British Broadcasting Corporation of London, England
The BBC wishes to thank the citizens of Kent, particularly of Gravesend, Tonbridge and Dover, without whom this documentary film could not have been made
Action Sequences: Derek Ware

Dick Graham, Michael Aspel (commentary)
Peter Graham *
Kathy Staff [interviewee] *

See also
The Day After (1983)
Testament (1983)
Threads (1984)

Alternative Titles

El juego de la guerra – Spanish title
Kriegsspiel – German title
Krigsspel – Swedish title
Sotaleikki – Finnish title


Amateur Cine World vol.10 no.24 (9 December 1965) pp.818-819 – illustrated article (The film they won’t let you see by anonymous)
Amateur Cine World vol.11 no.8 (24 February 1966) pp.257, 227 – editorial note
America vol.CXVI (6 May 1967) p.703 – review (by Moria Walsh)
American Film vol.8 no.1 (October 1982) pp.64, 69-71 – article (Banned in Britain by James Welsh)
Broadcast no.1082 (3 November 1980) p.5 – article (London Franchises: Nonagenarians say yes to War Game)
Broadcast 5 October 1984 p.27 – illustrated note (Off Air: The Threads of nuclear impact by Patrick Stoddart)
Broadcast 9 August 1985 p.25 – illustrated article (Is a TV studio right for nuclear arms talks? by Sue Lloyd-Roberts)
BUFVC Newsletter no.49 (May 1983) pp.17-20 – review
Chaplin no.71 (March 1967) pp.98-99 – review
Cinéma no.112 (January 1967) pp.27-29 – review
Cinéma no.116 (May 1967) pp.10, 117 – review
City Limits no.199 (26 July 1985) p.17 – article
Critisch Filmforum vol.2 no.4 (April 1966) p.77 – review
Cult TV vol.2 no.4 (April 1998) p.73 – review (TV Choice Saturday: The War Game by Simon Withers)
The Daily Cinema no.9185 (28 February 1966) p.3 – note
The Daily Cinema no.9198 (30 March 1966) p.9 – review (by M.H. [Margaret Hinxman])
The Economist 12 February 1966 – article (The bias game)
Empire no.165 (March 2003) p.130 – DVD review (by David Parkinson)
Film and TV Technician vol.32 no.252 (March 1966) p.304 – article (Three cheers for Grandmother by Ivor Montagu)
Film Comment vol.3 no.4 (October 1965) pp.4-14; 14-19 – illustrated article (Man’s right to know before he dies); article (Peter Watkins discusses his suppressed nuclear film The War Game by James Blue and Michael Gill)
Film-Echo/Filmwoche no.15 (12 March 1971) p.14 – article
Film Society Review (January 1968) pp.10-11 – article
Films and Filming vol.12 no.7 (April 1966) p.44 – review (Clubs by David Holland)
Films and Filming vol.12 no.9 (June 1966) p.62 – credits, review
Filmwaves no.20 (January 2003) p.51 – DVD review
Image et Son no.259 (15 March 1972) pp.9-14 – article
Jeune Cinéma no.17 (September 1966) pp.28-31 – review
Journal of Popular British Cinema no.3 (March 2000) pp.129-132 – article (After the bomb dropped: The cinema half-life of The War Game by John R. Cook and Patrick Murphy)
Journal of Popular Film vol.1 no.4 (October 1972) pp.299-308 – article (The War Game revisited by Jack G. Shaheen)
Journal of Popular Film & Television vol.11 no.1 (April 1983) pp.25-41 – article (The modern apocalypse – The War Game by James M. Welsh)
The Listener vol.116 no.2988 (27 November 1986) p.22 – letter (from Hugh Greene)
The Listener vol.105 no.2706 (2 April 1981) p.445 – letter (from Terry Philpott)
The Listener vol.116 no.2989 (4 December 1986) p.19 – letter (from Paul Kerr)
The Listener vol.116 no.2990 (11 December 1986) p.20 – letter (from Sir Hugh Greene)
Literature/Film Quarterly vol.11 no.4 (October 1983) pp.237-248 – article (The fear of commitment by Peter Watkins)
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.33 no.388 (May 1966) p.79 – credits, synopsis, review
The New Republic vol.CLVI (13 May 1967) pp.32-33 – review (After Armageddon by Michael MacDonald)
The New Statesman 3 December 1965 – letter (from Terence Heelas)
The New Statesman 18 February 1966 – letter (from Doré Silverman, Hon. Secretary, The Film Critics’ Guild, London); review (Possible horrors by D.A.N. Jones)
Positif no.79 (October 1966) pp.115-119 – review
Radio Times vol.227 no.2951 (31 May 1980) p.61 – letter
Radio Times vol.247 no.3219 (27 July-2 August 1985) pp.3-5 – article (A terrifying power by Jim Crace)
Resistance, The Committee of 100 Bulletin February 1966 – article
Sight & Sound vol.35 no.2 (April 1966) p.92 – review (by Penelope Houston)
Starburst no.297 (April 2003) p.66 – DVD review
Television Today 18 June 1981 p.17 – article
Television Today 11 July 1985 p.13 – note
Variety 7 September 1966 – credits, review (by Myro)
Variety 7 August 1985 p.58 – note

Daily Express 9 February 1966 – review (Muddle-minded Mr Watkins by Chapman Pincher)
Daily Express 10 February 1966 – article (Show banned War Game film say MPs)
Daily Mail 9 February 1966 – review (In 56 minutes yesterday by Angus Macpherson)
Daily Mirror 9 February 1966 – article (One ban the BBC need not have defended)
Daily Mirror 11 February 1966 – article (Not for my eyes)
Daily Sketch 9 February 1966 – review (Brilliant, but it must stay banned by Peter Bostock)
Daily Sketch 14 February 1966 – article (Anne MP wants war film shown)
Daily Telegraph 9 February 1966 – review
Daily Telegraph 14 February 1966 – letter (from Peter Watkins)
Daily Telegraph 10 February 1966 – article (The Peace Game)
The Daily Worker 9 February 1966 – review; article (Tell truth)
Evening News (London) 8 February 1966 – article (Yes, The BBC are right to ban this by John Marshall, Defence Correspondent)
Evening Standard 8 February 1966 – article (MPs see bomb film the BBC banned by Tom Pocock)
Evening Standard 10 February 1966 – article (BBC refuse to sell The War Game by Ramsden Greig)
Evening Standard 15 February 1966 – article (Equity in War Game row? by Ramsden Greig)
The Guardian 1 December 1965 – letter (from Konni Zilliacus MP)
The Guardian 16 February 1966 – article (Sir Hugh rejects film request)
The Guardian 16 February 1966 – article (Two MPs seek limited showing of War Game)
The Guardian 9 February 1966 – article (War Game shakes MPs by Jean Stead)
Leicester Mercury 8 February 1966 – review
Liverpool Daily Post 9 February 1966 – review (An hour of horror – BBC were right by Norman Cook)
Manchester Evening News 2 February 1966 – review
New York Times 4 April 1966 p.2 – review (The horror that shook the British Isles by Paul Gardner)
The Observer 6 February 1966 – editorial (Horror film)
The Observer 13 February 1966 – review (A warning masterpiece by Kenneth Tynan)
Oxford Mail 8 February 1966 – review
South Wales Argus 9 February 1966 – review (The TV you won’t see by Kenneth Loveland)
The Sun 9 February 1966 – review (What does it really achieve? by Jack Lucas)
The Sun 9 February 1966 – article (In my view by Nancy Banks-Smith)
Sunday Mirror 9 February 1966 – article (The censorship game by Anthony Shrimsley)
Sunday Telegraph 13 February 1966 – article (Why they made The War Game by Grace Wyndham Goldie)
The Sunday Times 13 February 1966 – review (The Time for truth by Adrian Mitchell); article (The deterrent that is now a reality by David Divine, Defence Correspondent)

Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) p.247
BFI Screen Guides: 100 Science Fiction Films by Barry Keith Grant pp.193-194
Feature Films, 1960-1969: A Filmography of English-language and Major Foreign-language United States Releases by Harris M. Lentz III p.513
Millennium Movies by Kim Newman pp.18, 102, 151, 153, 154, 155, 162, 198, 218, 228, 235, 237 – notes, reviews
Nuclear Movies: A Filmography by Mick Broderick p.69