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Reach for the Sky (1956)

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The true story of airman Douglas Bader who overcame the loss of both legs in a 1931 flying accident to become a successful fighter pilot and wing leader during World War II.



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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Douglas Bader
Muriel Pavlow ...
Thelma Bader
Lyndon Brook ...
Johnny Sanderson
Lee Patterson ...
Mr. Joyce
Dorothy Alison ...
Nurse Brace
Michael Warre ...
Harry Day
Sydney Tafler ...
Robert Desoutter
Howard Marion-Crawford ...
'Woody' Woodhall (as Howard Marion Crawford)
Jack Watling ...
Anne Leon ...
Sister Thornhill
Charles Carson ...
Ronald Adam ...
Walter Hudd ...
Air Vice-Marshal Halahan


The true story of airman Douglas Bader who overcame the loss of both legs in a 1931 flying accident to become a successful fighter pilot and wing leader during World War II. Written by E.A. Milne <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Valor That Soars Beyond the Limits of Man's Endurance...Drama That Probes Beneath the Surface of Wartime Emotions See more »


Biography | Drama | War


See all certifications »




| |

Release Date:

27 July 1956 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

Vainqueur du ciel  »

Box Office


£380,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TCM Print)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


(archive footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Originally scripted with Richard Burton in mind for the lead role. The book 'The Golden Gong - Fifty years of the Rank Organisation, its films and its stars' by Quentin Falk states that Kenneth More " . . . was second choice, after Richard Burton, to play the Second World War fighter pilot Douglas Bader." See more »


During the meeting in Dowding's office there is a RAF plaque on his desk with a Queen's crown on it, which was correct for when the film was made, but when as the film is set in 1940 it should have been a King's crown. See more »


Bader: [Bader is at a sanatorium in recovery and listening to a fellow patient complain about pains to one of his legs] . Have it off, old boy, have it off.
See more »


Referenced in Countdown: Episode #72.30 (2015) See more »


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Written by Ray Noble, Reginald Connelly and Jimmy Campbell
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User Reviews

One of the best.
24 March 2005 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Along with 633 Squadron and The Dambusters, this film is probably the best war film ever made.

It's not surprising that all these films are British made, without the Hollywood "hero" spin.

The film tells of the indominable spirit of Douglas Bader, and his rise back to health and active service after losing both legs in an air crash.

Semi-autobiographical, it runs pretty close to the true story of a man who inspired many, both during the Second World War and after.

If you've not seen it, don't be put off by the black & white, or the lack of CGI. Simply go and buy or hire it and sit back and enjoy.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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