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How I Won the War (1967)

Approved | | Comedy, War | 23 October 1967 (USA)
An inept British World War II commander leads his troops through a series of misadventures in North Africa and Europe.


Richard Lester


Patrick Ryan (novel), Charles Wood (screenplay)




Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Crawford ... Lt. Goodbody
John Lennon ... Gripweed
Roy Kinnear ... Clapper
Lee Montague ... Transom
Jack MacGowran ... Juniper
Michael Hordern ... Grapple
Jack Hedley ... Melancholy Musketeer
Karl Michael Vogler ... Odlebog
Ronald Lacey ... Spool
James Cossins ... Drogue
Ewan Hooper ... Dooley
Alexander Knox ... American General
Robert Hardy ... British General
Sheila Hancock ... Mrs. Clapper's Friend
Charles Dyer ... Happy-Trousered Man


This movie features Beatle John Lennon and Roy Kinnear as ill-fated enlisted men under the inept command of Lieutenant Ernest Goodbody (Michael Crawford). The story unwinds mostly in flashbacks of Lieutenant Goodbody who has lower-class beginnings and education which make him a poor officer who commands one of the worst units of the Army. Written by Jenny Evans <J.Evans@uts.edu.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


"What we want is more humane killers!" See more »


Comedy | War


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The making of the movie is central to the plot of the Spanish comedy by David Trueba, Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed (2013). See more »


Grapple: Never underrate the wily Pathan. What we're going on to now is the wily Pathan, followed the use of and handling of anti-gas carpet. The Pathan lives in India. India is a hot, strange country. It's full of wily Pathans and they're up to wily things, which is why I always wear spurs, even in cold weather. Now, my advice to you is always to keep your rifle strapped to a suitable portion of your body - your leg is good. Otherwise, you'll find the wily Pathan will strip himself mother-naked, grease...
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Referenced in The South Bank Show: The Making of Sgt. Pepper (1992) See more »


Theme from 'Lawrence of Arabia'
Music by Maurice Jarre
Heard as a theme in the desert scenes
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User Reviews

Weak satire, few laughs
10 February 2012 | by dave13-1See all my reviews

There is a reason for the old theatrical axiom that satire is what closes on Saturday night: satire by itself is just not very entertaining. It has to be funny, too. The target here is war, and just how silly men get when caught up in the middle of it, and this is pretty obvious by the five minute mark of the movie. The production looks very good, recreating the appearance of WWII's North African Theater quite well, but the key weakness is the central story conceit: that a unit of the British Army would be sent into a hellishly dangerous area to set up a cricket pitch. The idea must have had some appeal on paper to somebody, since the movie got the go-ahead, but unless it had actually been based on a true incident or something, the idea is just too obvious and far a reach to build a movie around, and the occasional shots at army tradition and military thinking (there's an oxymoron) just aren't funny enough to keep things interesting while the absurd story plays out. Michael Crawford, a brilliant comedian in other material such as Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, tries hard to keep an edge to his work, but the material for the large part just isn't there. John Lennon, for all that he is second billed, doesn't have much of a character or much screen time. He just pops up occasionally as a kind of PFC Greek Chorus to comment on the goings on. This would seem a good use of the eccentric and sardonic Lennon, but once again the problem is that he is simply not given much to work with. Richard Lester can be a funny and creative director, but here he isn't and as co-writer of the thing he should have realized that the material was lacking. He didn't. Not a terrible movie, but definitely lower echelon stuff. Catch-22 is a better and more ambitious movie, and so is Oh What a Lovely War.

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Release Date:

23 October 1967 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

How I Won the War See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Petersham Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Recording System)


Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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