War Game, The (1965)

War Game, The (1965)

“The blast wave from a thermo-nuclear explosion has been likened to an enormous door slamming in the depths of hell.”

In post-nuclear Britain, citizens suffer from third-degree burns, post-traumatic stress, and lack of adequate supplies.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Living Nightmare
  • Mockumentaries
  • Nuclear Holocaust
  • Peter Watkins Films
  • Post-Apocalypse

Peter Watkins’ fictionalized docudrama was deemed too controversial for airing on BBC television, but was given a theatrical release, and received an Oscar for best “documentary” in 1967. This hypothetical vision of a post-apocalyptic nightmare — including lack of sufficient food or medicine, military rule, and hideous physical symptoms — remains just as powerful today as it must have been 40 years ago, when the threat of nuclear war was even more imminent. The film’s narrator continually reminds us that although what we’re watching isn’t real, it’s based on extensive research; again and again, we learn that the awful symptoms shown on-screen are what actual victims in Japan and Germany experienced during WWII. While it’s tough to sit through even at just 50 minutes, The War Game remains perhaps the single most effective cautionary film ever made, and merits at least one viewing by everyone.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Countless unforgettable images
  • A truly frightening vision of a post-apocalyptic world

Must See?
Yes. This powerful film should be must-see viewing for everyone, not just film fanatics.


  • Controversial Film
  • Oscar Winner or Nominee

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “War Game, The (1965)

  1. First viewing. An absolute must!

    Can’t possibly add anything to what the documentary eloquently says on its own. This is one you just owe it to yourself to see. I will say it’s among the most harrowing film experiences ever! The imagery alone…

    Sidebar: Shohei Imamura’s ‘Black Rain’ (‘Kuroi ame’) – though I’m not sure of its availability in the US.

    The DVD is packaged with Watkins’ ‘Culloden’ – which features the director’s signature style (what he’s able to do with actors’ expressions!), as well as what seems a more professional group of performers. It definitely comes off like the kind of lesson they don’t teach in history class.

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