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Battle of Britain (1969)

In 1940, the British Royal Air Force fights a desperate battle to prevent the Luftwaffe from gaining air superiority over the English Channel as a prelude to a possible Axis invasion of the U.K.


Guy Hamilton


James Kennaway (screenplay), Wilfred Greatorex (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Harry Andrews ... Senior Civil Servant
Michael Caine ... Squadron Leader Canfield
Trevor Howard ... Air Vice Marshal Keith Park
Curd Jürgens ... Baron von Richter (as Curt Jurgens)
Ian McShane ... Sgt. Pilot Andy
Kenneth More ... Group Capt. Baker
Laurence Olivier ... Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding
Nigel Patrick ... Group Capt. Hope
Christopher Plummer ... Squadron Leader Colin Harvey
Michael Redgrave ... Air Vice Marshal Evill
Ralph Richardson ... Sir David Kelly - British Minister to Switzerland
Robert Shaw ... Squadron Leader Skipper
Patrick Wymark ... Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory
Susannah York ... Section Officer Maggie Harvey
Michael Bates ... Warrant Officer Warwick


Historical reenactment of the air war in the early days of World War II for control of the skies over Britain as the new Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force determine whether or not an invasion can take place. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Action | Drama | History | War


G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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English | German | Polish | French

Release Date:

24 October 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Battle of Britain See more »


Box Office


$17,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Spitfire Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) (French release)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Edward Fox, Kenneth More, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Michael Redgrave, Sir Ralph Richardson, and Susannah York appeared in Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). See more »


Set in 1940, the German army's convoy in Nazi-occupied France contains at least three Mack B-Series trucks, which were only built from 1952 to 1966. The Germans are also shown riding in US half-tracks. See more »


Squadron Leader Skipper: Corporal! Re-fuel them immediately.
Corporal at French airfield: Yes, sir.
[Turns back to the other ground crew]
Corporal at French airfield: So anyway...
[continues his conversation]
Squadron Leader Skipper: Corporal - I don't mean with your blood! And re-arm them!
Corporal at French airfield: Yes, *sir*!
[Runs towards the aircraft]
See more »

Alternate Versions

Some TV prints of the film retain the Transamerica/UA production logo, which is now frequently edited out of other UA films of that period. See more »


Battle in the Air
Composed by William Walton (as Sir William Walton O.M.)
Conducted by Malcolm Arnold
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Saving Their Blessed Isle
16 December 2006 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

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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