Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) - Rotten Tomatoes

Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)

Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)

Oh! What a Lovely War




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Oh! What a Lovely War Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Oh! What a Lovely War is an every-man-for-himself adaptation of Charles Chilton's 1963 play, as staged in London by Joan Littlewood. The tragedy of World War I is redefined in bawdy music-hall terms, beginning with a verbal free-for-all involving the Crowned Heads of Europe. The war is presented as the "new attraction" at the Brighton Amusement Pier, complete with syrupy cheer-up songs, shooting galleries, free prizes and a scoreboard toting up the dead. Throughout the proceedings, the camera concentrates on a middle-class family, whose five sons end up as cannon fodder. The final image is a veddy proper British picnic on a graveyard. Of the many fleeting satiric images parading past the camera, one of the most indelible is the sight of several generals playing leapfrog as the world all around them goes to hell in a handbasket. The awesome all-star cast includes Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Maggie Smith, John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Jack Hawkins, John Mills, Susannah York, Dirk Bogarde and Phyllis Calvert. We haven't seen this many Englishmen in one place since the last Wimbledon match. The whole affair was supervised by Richard Attenborough, making his directorial debut (a question: why was he up to the challenge of this musical extravaganza, yet seemed helpless in the face of 1985's A Chorus Line?). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovimore
Rating: G
Genre: Drama, Musical & Performing Arts, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Charles Chilton, Len Deighton
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 7, 2006
Paramount Pictures


Colin Farrell
as Harry Smith
John Rae
as Grandpa Smith
Corin Redgrave
as Bertie Smith
Ralph Richardson
as Sir Edward Grey
Meriel Forbes
as Lady Grey
Wensley Pithey
as Archduke Franz Ferdi...
Ruth Kettlewell
as Duchess Sophie
Ian Holm
as President Poincare
John Gielgud
as Count Berchtold
Kenneth More
as Kaiser Wilhelm II
Paul Daneman
as Nicholas II
Joe Melia
as Photographer
Jack Hawkins
as Emperor Franz Josef
Mary Wimbush
as Mary Smith
Paul Shelley
as Jack Smith
Wendy Allnutt
as Flo Smith
Maurice RoŽves
as George Smith
Angela Thorne
as Betty Smith
John Mills
as Field Marshall Sir D...
Jean-Pierre Cassel
as French Colonel
Maggie Smith
as Music Hall Star
David Lodge
as Recruiting Sergiant
Michael Redgrave
as General Sir Henry Wi...
Laurence Olivier
as Field Marshal Sir Jo...
Peter Gilmore
as Private Burgess
Juliet Mills
as First Nurse At Stati...
Nanette Newman
as Second Nurse At Stat...
Dirk Bogarde
as Stephen
Cecil Parker
as Sir John
Robert Flemyng
as Staff Officer
Isabel Dean
as Sir John French's La...
Guy Middleton
as Gen. Sir. Wm. Robert...
Natasha Parry
as Sir Wm. Robertson's ...
Norman Shelley
as Staff Officer
Thorley Walters
as Staff Officer
Phyllis Calvert
as Lady Haig
Vanessa Redgrave
as Sylvia Pankhurst
Clifford Mollison
as First Heckler
Harry Locke
as Third Heckler
Michael Bates
as Drunken Corporal
Vincent Ball
as Australian Singer
Gerald Sim
as Clergyman
Dorothy Reynolds
as Second Heckler
Marianne Stone
as 2nd Mill Girl
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Oh! What a Lovely War

Critic Reviews for Oh! What a Lovely War

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (4)

It is an elaborately staged tableau, a dazzling use of the camera to achieve essentially theatrical effects. And judged on that basis, Richard Attenborough has given us a breathtaking evening.

Full Review… | August 25, 2014
Top Critic

An often too-clever, sometimes moving piece.

Full Review… | August 25, 2014
Time Out
Top Critic

[Attenborough] has chosen to make a big, elaborate, sometimes realistic film whose elephantine physical proportions and often brilliant all-star cast simply overwhelm the material with a surfeit of good intentions.

Full Review… | August 25, 2014
New York Times
Top Critic

Dedicated, exhilarating, shrewd, mocking, funny, emotional, witty, poignant and technically brilliant.

Full Review… | February 23, 2012
Top Critic

The huge potential of this all-star vehicle was mainly squandered through a lack of subtlety or irony.

Full Review… | August 25, 2014
Empire Magazine

Stylised, satirical and ultimately moving.

Full Review… | August 25, 2014
Radio Times

Audience Reviews for Oh! What a Lovely War

A strange and interesting Great War film that presents the conflict as, among other things, a garish seaside carnival to which everyone wanted a ticket. More than many films I've seen based on plays, this one incorporates elements of staging you'd expect from the theatre without any ill effects; in some scenes, it's like there's a camera in the theatre and you can see literal set pieces, while others (increasingly, as the film goes on) immerse you in the action you'd need to mostly imagine were you in a theatre. I also found in places that the film's sense of the absurd (if not its hilarity) rivalled that of Monty Python. Do we call it a satire? I think so... but its project of laying bare the conflict's human cost and its deference to the symbolic value of the poppy and the increasingly fatalistic songs of the soldiers is worth noting, too. In all it's not an overly exciting movie to watch, but it's a rich and layered document that ought to survive.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer


A war film unlike any other.

Marcus Woolcott

Super Reviewer

Strange adaption of the WWI play. The comedy and satire is I guess mostly lost on me in translation as this movie is VERY British. Goes on way too long, and despite all of the great British actors, I just couldn't get into it or get over its stagey methods.

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