Battle of Britain (1969) Poster

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A Historic event recreated with skill and wit.
jlpicard1701E10 July 2003
Perhaps not many new viewers of this gigantic recreation are aware of the fact that this movie was filmed almost 30 years after the actual events took place.

The efforts to put History on screen were huge. Everything in this account of the facts, comes directly from those who were actually involved in it: from the British and German fighter aces to private Londoners, they all contributed to make this not just another "war movie", but rather a dramatized documentary with accurate precision.

This by no means signifies that it is just that. The sky battles were very carefully choreographed, in accordance to rules of combat, which were followed in the 1940s. Some planes were flown by the same veterans, so that when you see a Messerschmitt Bf-109 followed by Spitfire Mk 1, you know it's for real.

The technical efforts were immense and although the Messerschmitts have reworked engines and even the Heinkel He.111s have different aerials and engine specs, because they were updated by the Spanish Air Force for later use after World War Two, the difference is barely noticeable when one watches one of those spectacular aerial battles.

On the whole, this is a history lesson about how a people, isolated from the rest of the world, and in a minority position, withstood the overwhelming crushing machine of the Axis: the Luftwaffe.

More than a movie, this is a celebration to those brave people, both civilian and military, who did commit themselves against all odds, to resist and fight back a very aggressive and dangerous enemy.

This, together with "The Longest Day", "Sink the Bismarck!", "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "A Bridge Too Far" is one of those rare examples to make history come to life again and should be considered as didactic material for schools.

An excellent multi-national cast and a skillful direction, make this a masterpiece of its genre.
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Holds Up Well
bjones21 January 2002
I recently reviewed this film after having not seen it since it was new. Being a 31 year military veteran I have a somewhat different frame of reference for watching films such as this. I look for things in a film many civilians never will. I don't think this one has ever been shown on TV in the US, at least not within a couple of decades, so it's certainly not overplayed here. Luckily, the tape I accessed was in excellent condition so it was crisp and new in appearance. It is still a very excellent film depicting one of Britain's most harrowing times and the unwavering heroism of those who fought so desperately to secure their victory. The film didn't enjoy many fine reviews when it was new as it was compared, as most war films are, to the plethora of fiction produced by the movie industry and REAL history usually comes off looking mundane by comparison. I have found this a similar oddity for many excellent films of war. This is one film that more than adequately stands the test of time and I would absolutely love to see a wide-screen DVD version of it offered. Although it helps to have an understanding of war in general, and in particular the second world war and the actual battle of britain, one can be ignorant of those facts and still come away well entertained. It is a wonderfully produced film, acted with talent and grace by a cast of performers who are now legendary. The sets, costumes and musical score are wonderful and perfectly compliment the cinematography. If I can find a copy I am going to add it to my library.
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A good film, unfortunately for Hollywood, WW2 started in 1939!
jmb32225 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
This film does have its flaws, but is still a great film. It had to be made when it did (sic) if only because the Spanish Air Force still had their Merlin engined Hispano HA-1109 and HA-1112 "Me 109s" and Casa C.2111 "111s" flying in 1968!

It's good that some "stars" do not have big roles. Michael Caine whilst being "hot box office" is shot down - many pilots who seemed invincible were lost. A number of the parts are based on real characters Robert Shaw's is based on Adolf 'Sailor' Malan - 74 Squadron Ace, Susannah York's Harvey is based on one Felicity Hanbury (who later became the Commandant of the WRAF). The scene where she has to deal with a bombed slit trench is based on what happened when Biggin Hill was attacked. Being burned and still being alive was one of the biggest risks - sitting next to a tank of 100 octane whislt being shot at was risky.

It's chief flaws are i) Hurricanes shot down the bulk of the German losses during the Battle - this "error" is primarily because there were more flying Spitfires available. More serious is depicting "The Few" as a group of equals - in reality the class system was still to the fore in some places more so than others. Officer would not mix with NCOs, Auxilliary Air Force pilots (predominantly from the upper classes) looked down on Volunteer Reserve pilots (predominantly from the working/middle classes). But bear in mind this was made less than 30 years after the event when some of the myths and propaganda surrounding it were still treated as the truth, unlike "Pearl Harbor" and "U-571" and other recent films they haven't just thrown historical fact out because it doesn't fit the desired story line!

Many pilots were killed simply because of the stupid tatics they used - fighting by the 1930s RAF rule book until lessons were learnt. Many didn't see what hit them. In most other ways the film is by and large correct. The British were very reluctant to use Polish and Czech squadrons; despite many of these pilots being much more experienced than British.

Oh and having read the other comments here - this does not follow just one squadron, Robert Shaw is one, Michael Caine another, The Czech/Poles others, Christopher Plummer another. I seem to remember that the film makers went out of their way not to show any one squadron as being the "winners" hence no squadron numbers are mentioned - all aircraft codes are ficticious.

A film has to keep an audience's attention for 100+ minutes real life isn't like that just showing the fear and boredom of sitting around on hot summers days dreading the 'phone call would not make a good movie instead compromises are made. When you watch it remember that this wasn't just dreamt up by some scriptwriter this really happened.
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Favorite Personality WW II Movie
adamsys-121 February 2005
This is my favorite WW II movie and I have seen and liked flicks like "Saving Private Ryan". The kind of War Movies I like are that ones that focus on both sides with personalities and details although most of the personality is on the Allied side. Other War movies that I loved are like this such as "Gettysburg", "Tora, Tora, Tora" and "The Enemy Below". In "The Battle of Britain" everything is realistic except for some special effects which is forgivable since this movie was made in 1969. The French speak French. Poles speak Polish and so on!!! I especially liked watching the Poles who relay this sense of 'payback' on the Germans now that they fly in excellent warplanes. There is this sense of admiration for them as well since they could have sat out the War but chose instead to keep fighting the Nazis. They probably were not even sure that Poland would be liberated from the Nazis. The Poles are still like that today. They gladly help us in Iraq compared to other Europeans. I liked watching the Germans, too, even though they are 'the bad guys' so to say. Just to let everyone know, I myself am Jewish. I watch the hordes of Nazi aircraft swarm over England like a wave of great Evil. I shudder to think what if Hitler really conquered England. Then in the scenes of dogfights, I see the Spitfire blast away a Nazi plane and I cheer. "Die you Nazi !@#$%"!!!" Movies have a way of taking your mind in certain directions especially when you are already pre-disposed. Then right after the Nazi bomber catches on fire, a very contrary camera shot happens. I see the German crewmen want to live. I know that even bad guys want to live, but then you see something else transpire with the German crewmen. These German men think. They feel. They care for each other. They see that combat against a non-pushover European is terrifying and they take no pleasure bombing cities full of civilians. You get the sense that they are only men born into the wrong generation of Germans. In five close up shots I saw these guys courageously help each other. They make sure everyone bails out. They comfort their wounded. Seeing a friend in deep trouble or dead makes them still. In the beginning they were cocky, but that comes after fighting the French, Belgiums, Danes and so on. I rather liked watching Goering with the Staff meeting in the woods fly off the handle at his executive commanders and immediate subordinates. They tell him that they are doing the best they can with what they have. "Nobody is suggesting cowardice!!!!!!" one of them replied to Goering. I was thinking of MGM telling the prospective German Actors that they have an opportunity to show that most Germans are not robots. I myself got to know a lot of Germans in my 45 years on Earth, and I must agree. Now, to the Allied side. Naturally, most of the focus in the movie are on the British characters as it should be. After all, the British must win. Must!!!! I see English wives, children, marital spats, failure and success. A pilot gives his two boys toy Spitfires. But one expects a WW II War movie to show that the allied troopers are more like yourself except for the 1957 movie "The Enemy Below". The 1993 movie "Gettysburg" equally showed personalities on both sides, too, but both sides were American really. The music is also tops. I often hum that intro martial music to myself as well as the British victory tune. This movie is clearly my favorite War Movie.
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Saving Their Blessed Isle
bkoganbing16 December 2006
Battle of Britain which depicts same owes a lot of its inspiration not only to The Longest Day, but to The Magic Box. In that film Robert Donat played William Friese-Greene who many in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth claim to be the real inventor of motion pictures. It was a biographical film in which as many stars of British cinema that were available got to play even bit parts.

Here as many stars as could be gotten under one roof paid tribute to the valiant fighting heart of the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force which did nothing less than save civilization itself in their defense of their 'blessed isle.' Such folks as Christopher Plummer, Michael Caine, and Robert Shaw portrayed RAF squadron commanders who had to be mobilized at an instant notice to face the German Luftwaffe which outnumbered the Royal Air Force 4 to 1. As Laurence Olivier put it just to stay even our young men will have to shoot down their young men at a rate of 4 to 1.

Olivier plays the guy ultimately responsible for the success of the RAF as Fighter Command chief Air Marshal Hugh R. Dowding. Olivier did very well in capturing the essence of character that was Dowding who was a brooding pessimistic sort not given to wild claims of bravado. That in itself did not near and endear him to his Prime Minister who liked a great show of spunk from his military commanders. Dowding was also into spiritualism and after retiring in 1942 claimed contact with the spirits of dead RAF men from the other side.

Dowding had to referee between dueling Air Vice Marshals Keith Park and Trafford Leigh-Mallory played by Trevor Howard and Patrick Wymark. Leigh-Mallory wanted a more offensive type strategy and Park was for husbanding what resources the RAF had. Good arguments were put forth by both men. Dowding came down eventually on Park's side though after Dowding was retired by Churchill, Leigh-Mallory got his way. By that time through Lend-Lease, Britain had enough planes to do what Leigh-Mallory envisioned. The conflict between these guys was a great deal nastier than portrayed here. But Olivier, Howard, and Wymark give you some insight into the character of each.

My favorite bit in Battle of Britain is not any of the aerial combat sequences which are spectacularly done, nor is it the conflict in the higher command. It's a scene that takes place in Geneva where the ministers from Great Britain and Germany meet. The German minister is not a Nazi party hack, but a career diplomat. Yet he's real full of himself when he tells Ralph Richardson that you British might just as well surrender because we got the resources to take you out right now.

Classical actor that Ralph Richardson was, his reply was in the spirit of John Wayne when he tells them if you think you can, you're welcome to try, just don't make with the mouth. Minister David Kelly was echoing the bulldog defiance of his prime minister who was stiffening the backbone of his people for the long haul.

One thing I wish had been showed in Battle of Britain. There was reference to Buckingham Palace being bombed and it did get hit a few times over the course of the next five years. King George VI and his family stayed there, they certainly could have left for the relatively safer areas where Sandringham, Windsor, and Frogmore were. But they chose to stay as well. Not enough is ever spoken about the King and the other royals in that period. They too were an inspiration to their subjects. I wish that the Royals had been portrayed here, it might give some insight to non-Commonwealth people about why the Monarchy is held in such respect despite recent antics by some of its members.

Of course the Germans took Ralph Richardson's invitation to step up and get the job done and they failed. Thanks to some 600 RAF pilots which included volunteers from other commonwealth countries, from exiles from such places as Poland and Czechoslovakia and even from the USA, Great Britain kept control of its skies and a planned invasion never took place. Although aerial attacks took place over the United Kingdom for the length of the war, the threat of invasion was officially over when Hitler turned his attention east and southeast.

Battle of Britain is a wonderful tribute to the 20th century's noble 600.
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A Classic!!!
sawyertom2 April 2003
The Battle of Britain is a classic movie about one of the key battles of World War 2. It stands up there with the epics The Longest Day, Tora,Tora, Tora and a Bridge Too Far. The all-star cast has well known and lesser known English, Canadian, German and others actors who play their roles well. The movie does a good job of portaying both sides of the battle. The special effects and the air battles hold up well after well over 30 years. The criticisms that people have to me are quite unfair. As for charcter development, the movie is about the battle, much like the Longest Day was and there was no time to develop that part of the movie because it focused on the entirety of the battle. Also this is not like Cross of Iron that someone compared it to. Cross of Iron was a fictious story, while this is done in semi-docudrama style.It is an unfair comparison. The best comparison would be with the three previously listed movies. I liked that fact that some big stars characters did get hurt or died just like many of the better pilots did in the the battle and the war. The movie gives an excellent overview of the battle, much like the other movies listed here. I like the fact about the bit of English snobbery concerning the foreign pilots that they were training even if some were as good or better than they were.This is a four star war movie obout Britains Finest Hour. Where if it wasn't for the Brits holding off the German's, the Allies would not have been able to launch D-Day against the German's. The movie showed bravery and courage from both sides men and pilots. It is a great portrayal of young men in battle as knights of the early war skies. Rent it or buy it, because this is a classic.
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Very good.
magellan3335 February 2002
Never knew this movie existed until I happened upon it at the local video store. I decided to give it a chance. This movie can be compared to "Tora! Tora! Tora!" in that it gives one the factual perspective of the Battle of Britain and not some love story or "shoot'em up" action adventure set around the Battle of Britain. It is the absence of such elements that makes some viewers not enjoy this kind of film. However, if you are interested in seeing history played out on the screen, or are a history buff like me, you will enjoy this movie. The characters are not deep or complex and there is little character development, but in a movie like this, it is not necessary. There is a pretty useless subplot involving a man and his wife, but other than that, this film is not to be missed by those who enjoy WWII history.
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The Window of Time....
bbhlthph6 September 2010
I was a youth living near Hornchurch RAF aerodrome during this battle and vividly remember the hot sunny September afternoons when we could watch great aerial dogfights in the skies above almost every afternoon. We ducked into the shelter if the dogfights were directly overhead, but the drama was too great to stay there if the coast seemed clear enough (This was probably unwise- on one occasion a piece of metal, later identified as part of the engine cowling from a Me 109, whistled into our garden a few yards from us - but what wonderful memories it has left me throughout a long life.) I avoided watching this film depicting the events for a very long time - I did not want to come up with some lukewarm judgment that yes it was quite a good attempt to re-create what I remembered so well. The greatest compliment I can pay this film is to acknowledge that I made a mistake - watching it, I learned what it means to be transported back in time and to be present again during one of the great moments in history. This experience totally transcends any reality TV.

My heading - the window of time- refers to the short period following any great event during which it is possible to create a worthy reproduction of it in pseudo-documentary form. Once this opportunity has slipped away it will never return. Recognition of this finally led to the long planned film actually being created - there were only just enough of the aircraft left flying, many of them having reached the end of a long period of service with the Spanish Air Force. Details like antennae changes were not really important except to survivors of the battle, but it was sad that the film has had to reinforce the myth that the United Kingdom was saved by the magic of its new Spitfire fighters - actually the brunt of the battle on the British side was carried by the more venerable Hurricanes which achieved the majority of the "kills" during this phase of the war. There were not enough Hurricanes still in serviceable condition to enable this to be shown accurately (one of the very few minor historical 'errors' in the film). We can all envisage an attempt to create a similar film today if it had not been made when it was. Very carefully constructed flying models, assisted by close-ups shot in re-constructed cockpits and some computer generated fighting effects, would all look incredibly real on the screen but at the end our reaction would be that we had watched a technological masterpiece, not a feeling that we were present during real events! The cast list reads like a who's who of the great British actors of the period, but as with the real events the Germans and all important Canadians, Poles and Czecho-Slovakians were also appropriately represented. Overall the acting level was consistently good and this film also incorporates one of the all time great moments on film - I am thinking of four very brief linked sequences totalling not much over a minute which essentially summed up the complete story. First Londoners, sheltering underground from the nightly blitz on September 15th, listening to a news bulletin reporting heavy German air attacks all day, their losses 163 planes with RAF losses 40 and 10 pilots safe; then Air Marshall Downing, asked by Churchill for amplification because Capital Hill believed German claims that the low RAF losses showed the final destruction of the RAF, responded "I am not very interested in propaganda, if we are right we have won this battle - if wrong the Germans will be in London in a week." These were coupled with two very brief sequences, one showing returned German pilots assembling for their evening mess dinner and staring dismayed at all the seats which were not filled, the other the German invasion flotillas in the Channel ports being dismantled two days later. Historically this film has few inaccuracies but wisely does not address the ongoing question of whether the Battle of Britain or the Battle of the Atlantic (almost equally well served by the film "The Cruel Sea") was the more important. Whilst both were vital to an allied victory, the former was shorter and more intense - which made it easier to reduce to the scale of a film - whilst the latter dragged on right until the end of the war and ultimately claimed many more lives.

For a very long time to come this film will remain a standby in schools trying to increase awareness of key events that have shaped their world among today's children - many uninterested per se in history, But I was too personally involved to assess its likely appeal for other IMDb users - all I can say is that it a well made and gripping film which will not be quickly forgotten. Some critics dislike a very minor romantic sub-plot involving the wife of a squadron leader serving in the WAAF, who fears hearing of his death every day as she is plotting the movements of the planes - eventually he experiences a bad crash, surviving severely burned and facing a very long period of rehabilitation. But I believe this provided a very necessary reminder that great events are achieved only at high personal cost.

Real history buffs may note that there is a later DVD also entitled 'The Battle of Britain' (Classic Pictures- 2004) It carries the sub-title 'The Official History' and is essentially a documentary assembled from contemporary monochrome newsreel sequences, spanning a longer period that includes the night bombing 'blitz' which followed.
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Their Finest Hour
Britlaw17 January 2000
This has some of the best aerial fight scenes ever - 'Top Gun' nothwithstanding. If it has faults it is that it can sometimes be a bit dull as it is very historically accurate, as it was a very well documented battle and presumably because when it was made many of the participants were still alive (and some still are).

It might have been better if like the 'Dam Busters' it had adopted a rather more documentary style, rather than having ground based ficticious sub-plots.

There are no particular stars (save the aircraft) but many cameos and it is even handed to the Germans as well, who lost many brave men.

The bits I liked were, as one other has commented, British diplomat Ralph Richardson telling German Curt Jurgens (over tea of course) that we wouldn't be dictated to and the scene in the RAF command bunker as one of the biggest daily air battles develops, where Churchill (suggested only by a puffing cigar but very much a hands on war leader), on surveying the plotting board showing hundreds of attacking German aircraft, orders more reserves into the battle only to be told there are none left, everything we had was in the air or on the ground being refuelled.

If the technology looks dated now, we must not forget that at the time radar was ultra secret and definitely cutting edge - this was the start of electronic warfare.

I believe I am correct in saying the film opened on 15th September 1969, celebrated in the UK as Battle of Britain day and the actual anniversary of the Churchill incident above.

This was truly the finest hour of those young pilots and we did it all without American help or even a Yank guest star..........

PS Christopher Plummer is Canadian!
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A very good watch
heckles6 July 1999
A movie commonly praised while in the air but damned once the scenes move to the ground. I found it all watchable and quite inspiring. Not every actor rises above cameo level, but Michael Caine is good, and I would follow Robert Shaw into the thick of any battle fought in human history. The battle scenes are still the best aerial combat sequences on celluloid.

It's odd that Maltin gives this movie fewer stars than the Europroduction "Blue Max", with its staged-looking combat sequences and campily awful dialogue.
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What this film is really about, and some trivia.
fg52home22 May 2004
This film was an attempt to deal with the crucial events of 1940, when Britain might have been invaded and oppressed by Nazi Germany. Had this succeeded then subsequent history might well have been very different, a Europe subjugated by the dark evil of that regime.

As a straight historical account this film fails rather badly. Most of the characters are artificial, created for the Stars and stars involved. Dowding and Park, historically absolutely crucial, never develop properly - a pity. Goering is cartoonised, but at least reflects his total failure to conduct a strategic assault on the UK.

The flying sequences are, mostly, superb. It was a huge achievement to bring together the aircraft used. As an enthusiast I can pick massive holes in those used. None of the 'German' aircraft have correct engines - they were post-war Spanish Air Force stand ins. And that's before we start on the late war mark Spitfires etc. But who cares? The point is the conflict in the air. It is not close enough to 'real' aerial combat - 10 seconds of terror in 60 mins of boredom. But that is the nature of the cinema medium.

The distraction of Suzanne York (BTW she's not trying to get divorced!) in full 40's u/wear was very exciting when I was 16. At 52 I suppose it still gives me the odd moment!

And look for the hanger being 'bombed' behind Suzanne York and Kenneth More, it really WAS blown up at Duxford - boy, were they cross!

The revisionist historians like to claim that the (actual) Battle of Britain was not that important. That the Germans couldn't have crossed the Channel anyway because of the Royal Navy (probably, but not necessarily so. With air supremacy JU87s would have massacred RN vessels). That the Germans already had eyes on Russia and really wanted to ignore GB as a sideline, possible and a fatal mistake. That the Germans lost the battle, rather than the RAF won it (no statistical basis for this, the Luftwaffe smashed itself against the RAF).

But the Battle WAS fought, and won by the RAF.

Which is why I believe this film is worth a viewing.

Especially the Walton scored sequence, where the Luftwaffe's bombers are hacked down by the Hurricanes and Spitfires of the RAF. An impressively moving sequence of the horror of war in the air. To which the music adds enormously.

I place this film well ahead of the 1990's Memphis Belle travesty in depicting the reality of war. It is certainly on a par with 12 O'Clock High.
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Stirring, Beautifully-Done; the Difficult-to-Do Story of Britain's Blitz in WWII
silverscreen8887 July 2005
This dramatized biography to my mind represents one of the most difficult sorts of film to make. I believe the makers of "The Battle of Britain" succeeded in making it a stirring war film, and one that deserves to be watched and remembered often. Many people find the battle scenes in the air in this film among the best ever staged. Cliff Richardson deserves praise for his special effects; and Guy Hamilton, director in charge, has frankly done marvelous work of a very difficult-to-achieve sort. He has interiors, intimate scenes, outdoor lectures, strafings, bombings, aerial battles, airplane landings, group shots and conferences to handle.Wilfred Greatorex and James Kennaway. In addition, Ron Goodwin and William Walton supplied memorable music, veteran Freddie Young the lucid cinematography and Maurice Carter wonderful art direction. The story-line chronologically follows the "Battle of Britain", No aspect is overlooked. The success of Luftwaffe air attacks on forward bases is noted; and so is the lucky decision by Hitler to start bombing Londoners instead that caused a shift it tactics and saved Britain's radar towers, key to targeting incoming attackers for interdiction by British aircraft. We hear a lecture by an Air Marshal, see firefighting squads and female drivers in action; we see both sides talking in their own languages--the Germans being subtitled; and we see action in the British War Room and at the highest levels of military planning. A couple is followed to illustrate what pilots and their wives, she being part of the war effort also, had to undergo and the pressures they faced. The pilots are also seen waiting between sorties at their bases; and finally when none come, the first phase of WWII, the expedition and subsequent Battle of Britain is over. In the huge cast are most of the leading male actors in England, including Laurence Olivier as Hugh Dowding, chief of the air effort, Trevor Howard as Keith Park, Patrick Wymark as Mallory, their chief opponent within the air corps,, plus Christopher Plummer and Susannahh York as the troubled couple, Harry Andrews, Michael Caine, Ian McShane, Kenneth More, Curd Jurgens, Nigel Patrick, Michael Redgrave, Robert Shaw, Robert Flemyng, Michael Bates, Ralph Richardson, Isla Blair and Edward Fox. This is a splendid, well-paced and beautiful recreation. The music is superb; the combat footage unexcelled and the acting far-above-average. I rate this film on many counts above anything else ever done concerning the defense of Britain by its air forces during the late war.
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The producer shot down and killed Adolf Galland's brother Hans
fpost2000-12 January 2006
I've read a bunch of these comments and I agree with almost everything I've read here. A few additions: the officer with the burnt face DID get burnt in a hurricane, S. Bernard Fisj (spelling?) the associate producer began and ran the whole project; Harry Saltzman just put up 13 million dollars. Fisj was a Polish pilot in the RAF and he really did shoot down Galland's little brother. The character in the movie named Von Falke was modeled after Adolph Galland, the top German ace during the Battle of Britain. The production was just crawling with B of B veterans and Susanna York who began the movie as a very liberal pacifist ended the job being exceedingly grateful that there were decent men who had the guts and ability to stop "the Huns" or any nasty types. Men like Norman Del Mar, the English Symphony orchestra conductor who flew a fighter in that war. (I'm not sure which he flew, "Spit" or "Hurri".) I've talked with a few of "the few" and admire them tremendously.
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At last - restored to it's full glory!
jamn1025 May 2004
I have always been a fan of this film and have been impatiently waiting for a DVD release for some time. When I found out that MGM were releasing this film on DVD, I was delighted followed by some irritation when I found out the RRP (£19.99), as the film was out in the US for $8. Yet another special edition second disc of bits and pieces with a hiked up price tag.

I hereby apologise to MGM for such unkind thoughts, because this edition is superb. The US version is in mono, where this release has 5.1 & DTS (it is excellent) and for fans of William Walton (they only used about 5 minutes of his score in the original film, Ron Goodwin supplying the rest), the soundtrack with the full Walton score as an alternative. The picture has also been restored and has a full anamorphic 2.35:1 picture.

It is a well worn cliché, but in summer 1940, Britain stood alone, facing the might of the Luftwaffe and the German army which had swept all aside. The Battle of Britain is one of the pivotal moments in the history of this country, and I believe that this film does it justice. The cast are excellent but particularly Laurence Olivier as Hugh Dowding and Robert Shaw as Squadron Leader Skipper. The film has been well researched and manages to weave all aspects of the battle into the film.

Some of the special effects are a little bit dated, but this was made 35 years ago, and they do not detract from the story. But what makes this film convincing are the real aircraft used to make it. Various reports suggest that when assembled, the aircraft were anywhere between the 11th and 35th biggest air force in the world. The aerial battles are just excellent, and the shots of bombers and fighters in formation over the real life locations in 1940, give a powerful sense of authenticity. When I think about scenes like the flight of Me109's breaking to attack a flight of Spitfires, and compare it to the awful battle of Britain CGI of Pearl Harbour (which was an awful film in itself), I cannot help but think that this film is something special. I have read reviews from some 'rivet counters' who state that the German Bombers are not authentic. This is true as the aircraft were built by CASA in Spain for the Spanish Air Force after the war, but you do not notice.

I cannot recommend this film enough and at last the DVD version lets us see it in all its glory.
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inspt71-129 April 2004
This is one of the most underrated films ever. Battle of Britain is a great movie about the glorius British Royal Air Force in their famous halt to a German invasion and their ability to stop the Germans from Bombing the cities out of existance. Some of the special effects are kind of cheesy but they didn't have Industrial Light and Magic. I'm very impressed about the Cinematography by Freddie Young. Why didn't he receive an Oscar nomination? The aerial photography was excellent. One complaint I will make about the DVD version is that the Main Credits have been changed, The music was credited to Sir William Walton in the DVD. On the VHS, Ron Goodwin composed the score, I don't know why they changed this on the DVD. They also changed the music at the end credits of the movie which I thought wasn't appropriate for some reason. Other than that, this is a great movie with a great cast.
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Great war movie
WTWalker20 October 2001
Being a WWII buff for 25 years, I found this movie to be easily one of the best ever filmed. From the very start of the film, Guy Hamilton's direction and the great musical score left me spellbound even when I knew how the story ended. The casting was flawless. Olivier looked like Dowding. Trevor Howard could pass for Keith Park's twin brother and I swear Goering himself had a small part in the film too. I've always wondered if Robert Shaw's role of the squadron leader "Skipper" wasn't patterned after famed RAF pilot A.G. "Salior" Malan. If it was, Shaw looks alot like Malan. "War in the Air" is one of my favorite pieces of music and it flows beatufully through the film. Great acting by Christopher Plummer, Michael Caine, and one of my favorites, Edward Fox makes this movie a must see for any WWII buff.
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Review of Battle of Britain 1969
karakhitai11 August 2005
I first saw this movie in the theater in 1969. In the middle eighties I purchased the VHS tape for a whopping $69.95! I did this because I have been and remain a life long WW II addict. In my humble opinion this is the finest WW II Fighter movie ever made, bar none. Considering the constraints the movie makers were working under, their efforts resulted in a 99% historically correct movie. Only Tora Tora Tora is in this class. All of the of events, both RAF and Luftwaffe, are portrayed in their proper sequence. Every effort was made to show the correct aircraft. WW II crazies like me will recognize the minor errors and omissions i.e. no Bf-110's, Ju-88's, or Do-217's.

With superb casting there is no Hollywood overacting. The British audience also played a part as most of the survivors were alive and would have laughed a mediocre effort right out the theater. The furor created by the later production of A Piece of Cake will bear witness.

If you love high quality WW II movies and there certainly not enough of those you can't go wrong in purchasing a DVD copy.
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Historical And Human Portrait
Cairo-59 March 1999
An excellent attempt to depict the Battle of Britain from both historical and human perspectives. The history is accurate but doesn't overwhelm the viewers. However the emphasis is on the people, the men who flew the planes, and the commanders who sent them into battle.

Great effort is made to treat the combatants fairly. The battle is not "good guys" vs. "bad guys". Both the British and German airmen are depicted as young men fighting bravely for their country. They each have their friendships and know sorrow when comrades are killed.

On the command level, the personal disagreements and rivalries are shown, in the RAF as well as the Luftwaffe. Ultimately the battle is decided as much by political decisions as by the fighting qualities of the airmen.
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Formulaic, yet uniquely authentic. (Very minor spoiler)
boazbenjamin12 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I found the secondary sub-plots and "personal dramas" to be hokey and formulaic, to wit, the Susannah York character Maggie is horrified and transfixed by the appearance of a badly burned pilot, only to hear moments later (in screen time) that her own pilot boyfriend has been badly burned. Nevertheless, what struck me much more than any of the performances, effects, or writing, was the simple fact that the RAF adviser on this film was the exceptional Sir Douglas Bader, who was one of the most aggressive flyers in Fighter Command despite having lost both legs in a flight accident in the early thirties, while the Luftwaffe adviser on the film was the man who shot Bader down in 1941, Adolf Galland. Each man was a fighter ace, and each was among the most famous and respected pilots on his respective side at the time of the war itself. That is to say that these men were not only in the Battle of Britain, but played significant roles in it and were privy to, if not party to, many of the tactical and strategic decisions and debates depicted in the film. In fact, the sardonic request to Goering to "give me a squadron of Spitfires," voiced by Major Falke in the film, was spoken by Galland in real life. No quantity of flashy CG effects could outweigh the guaranteed authenticity of having the real thing on hand.

An amusing side point: The roll of nationalities at the end of the film concluded with one "Israeli" pilot, a mild anachronism as there was no Israel until 1948. At the time of the war, he would have been referred to as a Jewish Palestinian, or simply a Palestinian, but of course the film was produced shortly after the Israeli victory in the Six Day War (1967), and the term Palestinian was coming to refer uniquely to those Arabs inhabiting the territories captured by Israel in that war.

Anyhow, in summary, while I found much of the melodrama to be overplayed and unnecessary, the central action of the film, both at Headquarters and in the air, vibrates with an authenticity which is ever more difficult to reproduce as the remainder of the wartime generation ages and dwindles, particularly those who were old enough to be in staff and leadership positions during the war.
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classic war spectacular
katherine-gallimore27 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I remember being taken to see this at the Gateshead Odeon as a child. It was a big colourful spectacle then and is still is now. Only spoilt by some boring romantic scenes with Christopher Plummer.

The tone of the film is set as it opens with the inspection of the masses of German bombers to Ron Goodwin's stirring march, as Britain seems lost in the face of such overwhelming numbers.

Spectacular aerial combat scenes using authentic WW2 aircraft of both sides has never been surpassed, despite inspired attempts by George Lucas in Star Wars, and on Pearl Harbour (probably more influenced by Star Wars than BoB).

Just to put the record straight regarding the score: British TV papers often preview this film and for some stupid reason talk about Sir William Waltons "wonderful" score. This is of course rubbish. The film only contains one scene where the Walton music is used, and it is indeed very tense and adds a bit of bite to the film. However, all the rest was written in just 3 weeks by Ron Goodwin, when the studio dumped the Walton score. This has now been re-discovered, but would have been best left it's can in Eric Tomlinson's garage, being more reminiscent of of a quaint b+w film about a British boarding school than a war time action spectacular. Its childish references to Wagners "Siegfried" is at best irritating and with the exception of the scene that did make it into the movie, has nothing memorable about it, despite the snobbish bleatings of British journalists who seem intent on exaggerating the quality of a dumped score that they almost certainly had never heard themselves when writing.

The DVD contains the the film with the full RG as-released and remembered score, including the RG end scene and title which is now regularly replaced by the WWalton ending on British TV. It also has the film with the Walton music that was dumped - it is a totally different film, as if someone has put the brakes on. Ron Goodwin's music lifts this film at least 2 points over what it would have been without it.
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Cinema's Finest Hour
John_Mclaren28 February 2003
Top drawer war film (indeed THE top notch war flick), in which our chaps (the Brits) give Jerry what-for over the coast of Blighty. Stiff upper lip rules OK as they scramble their Spits into the blue autumn sky, exchange tally-ho's over the intercom, bag a couple of Messerschmitts- and then head home for tea and buns.

OK, I'm biased. My grandfather fought in the battle. However it reminds us what really matters is not Holywood celeb tittle-tattle, but real life and death struggles for our world. As usual the Brits do it with class and dignity. Yes, the impression in the film that all foreigners are clearly bloody (except the Yanks, Canadians, and Anzacs) is perhaps a little dated. However it is a tribute to the heroism of a remarkable generation at a truly momentous point in history.
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Last real war-movie made.
iannicholls15 March 2004
There's something about watching Spitfires tipping-over and savaging Heinkel formations that just makes your stomach roll a little.

This movie was made before filmstars demanded millions of dollars for cameo-appearances, and we are lucky that so many of the era's greatest actors were brought together for this last-hurrah for the British movie industry.

The cast reads like an Academy Awards Ceremony, and mixes the then younger-generation of actors with the likes of Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier, and Trevor Howard to name just a few.

Modern television has innured us to war, making us forget that once upon a time, fighter-pilots had to get close enough to see the men they were shooting at, and while no movie could really capture that intensity, this movie comes closest of all in my opinion.

The real treat, however, is to see the "younger" stars of this movie early in their careers. Michael Caine, Ian McShane, James Cosmo, and Edward Fox look so young it's almost scary. Now they are the "elder-statesmen" of movies, being to young talented actors in modern films as Olivier, Patrick More, Robert Shaw, and Patrick Wymark were at the start of their own careers.

Maybe it's a good thing that movies like this are no longer made, allowing us to hearken to the days when a movie had to rely more on the talents of the actors than on the talents of the SFX Department.

Rates in my Top Ten favourite movies.
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A seminal WWII film
starrfiles12 January 2003
The Battle of Britain deserves it place in the great World War II films!

In Australia this one has beeen dragged out on Saturday afternoon TV ever since its debut to educate generations of young boys - a great when one discusses 'Warries'.

Made early enough to use (reasonably) accurate aircraft, with the de rigeur sixties ensemble (when all the good warries really had a stellar cast), original and actual dog-fight footage (even if they do slip up repeating the same crash 3 times), a stirring score and even Michael Caine's black lab waiting in vain for his return.

This flick isn't afraid to show the rivalries amongst the top brass, the German fighting man in a good light (with a big poke at 'fat Herman'), the realities of romance with flaming death around the corner(groan from the kiddies), - and they even switch to a poetry of the air without screenplay for a while! There are so many brilliant scenes that are pulled together masterfully into a cohesive, stirring story.

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an important moment in history
blanche-226 May 2012
The "Battle of Britain" was one of the most critical battles of World War II, and was fought against Germany by the RAF. The German Luftwaffe planes way outnumbered what the RAF had -- something like 640 vs. 2500 - astonishing - but the RAF went ahead anyway to keep Germany from invading their country.

I'm not a World War II expert, though I'm sure there are plenty of them who have seen this film and posted a review, so I'll leave the critiques about whether or not this was a realistically told story to them.

In my own opinion, it was a lot of stars without much to do and some fantastic aerial battles. The stars include Michael Caine, Trevor Howard (replacing Rex Harrison), Harry Andrews, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Christopher Plummer, Ian McShane, Curt Jergens, Kenneth More, Nigel Patrick, Michael Redgrave, Robert Shaw, Susannah York, Robert Flemyng, and Edward Fox. Dirk Bogarde must have been on vacation. Timothy Dalton auditioned for a role but did not get it; Alec Guinness was to play a role that was eventually cut from the script. An astonishing cast.

Characters therefore weren't fully developed - there were so many of them - but the real story is in the skies where the battles rage, with some very exciting flight sequences as well as some glorious scenery. Filming took place in England and Spain.

For some history of the film, I suggest the "trivia" section here, which goes into the collecting of the planes and cites scenes based on real incidents.

If you like World War II films, this sprawling tribute to the RAF is for you.
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An honest film
Jako-628 July 2002
I found this movie to be very honest in it portrayal of the events that happened in those days when England stood to get defeated.

The aerial shots were breathtaking and the silent scene (As my Mum & Dad said) "were just how they used to watch the dogfights and felt very sad at every plane that came down as it was someone's son"

Over all i think it did justice to both side in the conflict.
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