The War Game

The War Game

Ratings: 6.92/10 from 24 users.

The War GameThe War Game is a fictional, worst-case-scenario docu-drama about nuclear war and its aftermath in and around a typical English city. It was carefully researched and based on actual events which occurred in World War II during and after the mass allied raids on Germany and the atomic bombings of Japan.

It caused dismay within the BBC and in government and was withdrawn from television transmission. The effect of the film has been judged by the BBC to be too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting. It remained unshown in full on British television until 1985.

Part interviews and quotations, part acting, this film simulates the aftermath of a large-scale nuclear attack near a rural area of England. It argues that citizens and Civil Defense authorities are poorly prepared for this eventuality, and describes possible physical, psychological and social damage in graphic detail.

More great documentaries

45 Comments / User Reviews

  1. fred mcmurry

    This should be removed from vimeo, I came to see a video, not hear some moron commenting all the way through it -- it's as bad as watching commercial tv, as you get further into it there are more breaks so mr moronic idiot can give us his sparkling wisdom. What a drag.

  2. Paul

    I saw this film as a very impressionable teenager in 1969 or 70. It was such a powerful emotional shock to me that I became dislocated from reality for weeks. I believe it is one of the primary reasons I struggle with PTSD today. I pray that nothing like this type of war ever happens to anyone. Nuclear war is pure evil: an obscene affront to God.

    1. Dave B

      All war is pure evil. Wars are not fought to defend our freedoms or way of life, they're fought to keep rich people rich.

  3. Avi

    Gerald Sherwood In the scenario as I imagine it, the only way this works today is if hypothetically America is out of the picture somehow (Maybe it's 1000 years in the future or something). There would either be chaos with everyone bombing each other into the ground and one emerges, or in the years leading up to america's decline and fall, other nuclear states make alliances.

  4. Randy

    I saw this in Kansas City the fall of 1967. I was 17 at that time and it has stuck with me ever since. Have only met one other person that has seen it. A college English professor who was amazed that any in her classes had also seen it.

  5. jbeckham360 .

    I wonder how many so called Allies would stand with each other when it came down to nuking anyone the size of Russia or China when they were not directly threatened. How many would pick up the phone and call Russia and China and say F-that crap man, I not with that dude? lol.

  6. Gerald Sherwood

    This film's premise is flawed even for a worst case scenario because ignores a geopolitical fact in the first two minutes. The Chinese would have NEVER helped the Vietnamese beyond sending food and guns regardless of communist affiliations. Why, because the Chinese and Vietnamese have been at each others throats for centuries and the Russians sending advisers didn't help matters especially after 1969. This is why after we left Vietnam the THIRD Indochina war would be fought by none other than the Chinese, their friends the Kmer Rouge, and Vietnamese. I guess nationalism beats communism in the end anyways. Red Dawn is more plausible than this fear mongering relic because at least that acknowledged the fact previously stated that it wasn't just the free world against the Soviet Union and Cuba, it was the entire nuclear bearing world. I could only imagine the casualties would be in the billions if it were a totally conventional world war 3 so it could have been alot worse hypothetical which is what all these remain anyways. My dad, who was an officer in the Navy in the 80's, talks about all these scenarios every once and awhile and he said the most plausible was a conventional attack by the Soviets taking Europe in week like the Nazis, then equalizing the playing field with the US, but still China would be a jokers wild likely against the Soviets. And yes I did watch this whole film and can say with a perfectly straight face that it is about as likely as anthropogenic global warming causing El nino.

    1. blip

      You clearly didnt get the point. Its an hipothetic scenario where the idea is to show the effects fo a nuclear war and how little the people knew about it.

  7. matt

    my god this is scary as hell...thank god i was born right when the USSR broke apart.

    1. John van Vroonhoven

      u mean just in time for WW3? :)

  8. Daniel McIntyre

    Noughts and crosses, no one wins after a while. War is a sham marriage of politicians and the military making money and justifying their existence.

  9. Mateo Villa

    Today I worry about Peak Oil and some dark future life living through some probably depression to come between most likely the 40s and 80s.
    My mother lived in a world where everything could of been ended in a few minuets.
    I never really knew how she felt until I saw this....

  10. Rob Riddell

    war is a racket

  11. Itolduso

    To delight in war is a merit in the soldier, a dangerous quality in the Captain and a positive crime in the statesman. ~ George Santayana

    Methinks our politicians are criminals!

  12. Imightberiding

    Don't let the age of this film fool you. It is very well done if not quite graphic. It is chock full of more than enough information on all the ways that countless millions will perish in the face of nuclear war.

    I can clearly see why this film was far too disturbing & was not shown until 1985. When this was made it had only been 20 yrs since WWII. That is less time in the past than Gulf 1 for us. WWII is all but forgotten in the average psyche. Very few people left alive that lived through the horrors of that war.

    This is a solid reminder for a new generation that has absolutely no idea of what it would be to experience all out war. The fear throughout the cold war was very real. The Bay of Pigs incident was about as close as man has come to nuclear war & it was very real.

    Difficult to watch at times, but very worth while film. The reality of what our leaders & military are willing to expose their citizenry to is very much a kick in the teeth.

    Thanks for this one TDF. I almost passed on it but now highly recommended the time spent viewing this. Especially for the younger generation stepping into future positions of authority.

  13. megatron_mcdaniels

    we need a world wide pig hunt before these mo fos destroy it all. they gotta go.

  14. wald0

    Sobering!! And just think, this is based on the old nukes- the modern ones are many times stronger. The whole "fire storm" phenomenon was at the same time horrifying and intensely interesting. I certainly wouldn't want to witness one up close but the physics would be very interesting. 800 degree Celsius (the temp at the center of the fire storm) converts to 1472 degrees Fahrenheit, less than the melting point of steel- not a really hot fire in other words- and it causes winds of over 100 mph? I got to check this out, not saying it isn't true only that it seems odd. Why don't smelting furnaces draw winds at this speed, or do they? I've built small smelting furnaces that melted iron myself, but they didn't draw winds anywhere near this speed. I bet it has more to do with the area the fire is covering than the actual temp of the fire itself. Its something interesting to look into anyway, I had heard the term before but never gave it much thought, I had no idea this it what it referred to. I wonder if this is the same effect they talk of fuel bombs having.

    1. DigiWongaDude

      @wald0 : Surely the wind speeds refer to the shock wave - from the energy released from splitting the atom? An entirely separate entity from the heat produced.

    2. Harry Nutzack

      the firestorm effect was noted during the WW2 incendiary bombing raids on german cities. those were done with strictly conventional bombs.

    3. wald0

      Actually they said one occurred at Dresden, Germany during WW2 where no atomics were used. It is a function of both the area the fire covers as well as the heat it produces. It uses up the available oxygen as well as causing a huge up draft due to hot air rising and when more rushes in to fill the vaccuum-viola, fire storm. Winds have been clocked at up to 100 miles an hour due to this phenomenon.
      A fire tornado is somethiing different, I think.

    4. Harry Nutzack

      also observed during the incendiary raids on japan's home islands. the use of raw wood and laquered paper as building materials made the housing particularly flammable. it was also noted during the great san francisco earthquake of the 1890s (gaslights, wood construction, and major earthquake is a very bad combination)

    5. PaulGloor

      I think it has something to do with the heated air rapidly rising and cold air rushing in at ground level to fill the vacuum. A rare phenomenon, Fire tornadoes, are formed in a similar fashion if I recall.

    6. ???????? ????????

      dude, really??
      by your logic a blow torch creates a tornado... it's not about the Temperature per se. it's obviously about the huge amount of heat as in energy. it spans a gigantic area. it's simply a different scale

    7. wald0

      Like i said, I bet it is the area- get over yourself.

    8. Harry Nutzack

      apples and oranges when you compare the firestorm to your cupola rig. the speed of natural draft flow is entirely dependent on surface area of combustion, the density of the combustible, the area available to feed air to the fire, and the area available for exhaust column flow. in your home smelting rig, you have (with the lid closed) maybe twice the exhaust "stack" area of the intake, feeding the combustion of around 100 times that surface area on the fuel. in a firestorm, you have the entire "foot print" of the area of combustion as exhaust stack area, fed by the area of the circumph by roughly 8 ft high, working on a fuel surface area of about 100 times the exhaust area. your furnace inlet is half the exhaust, the firestorm inlet is the square root of the exhaust. with that in mind, ponder the draft velocity you would need to feed your furnace through a 1/4 inch diameter inlet, and still generate enough heat to raise iron to forging temperature. i would imagine you use forced air to feed your smelt rig as well. of course those numbers assume "old school" timber framed housing (ala the 60s), so in a more modern concrete city the effects will be lessened (lower fuel surface area).

    9. wald0

      Great explanation, very detailed and precise. From my research you hit the nail right on the head.

  15. DigiWongaDude

    @ 11:40 Nations left with no choice but to use collective determination and to call the bluff. Wow...these wildcard folks are playing poker with the world. We're just the chips I guess.

    1. wald0

      The whole nuclear strategy was and is based on game theory, which is a math I never studied enough to truly understand. I do o.k. as long as the possible scenarios are few, non-ambiguous, and the relative value of each is clear- but in such cases game theory isn't really necessary is it. Anyway, just thought I would mention this because I think it has something to do with the game like verbiage you noticed.

    2. DigiWongaDude

      @wald0: In fact, lol, game theory has its roots in poker, as I [don't] understand it. Good point. Personally, I'm into Primes, and observing how their randomness plays in our everyday lives (e.g. RSA encryption). I love that you are mathematical! I'm no mathematician, just a curious observer, with a glimpse of a breakthrough (just like all curious primes people!)

    3. I AM POP SLAG.

      Game theory didnt really start with poker per se although it does fit the definition of a zero- sum game.
      (zero sum referring to a game where winners gain at the loss of losers)
      the game theory for poker due to its complex and unknown variables is hideously complex and downright impossible to ever complete.
      chess, (for which the first theorem of game theory referred to) is 100% theorisable if we only had a bigger universe with more time and space in it....
      game theory all falls apart however- the whole shebang collapses if you consider some people dont actually care if they win or not and some people are insane which kinda makes game theory a bit of a mathematical cul de sac- an interesting one but a cul de sac nonetheless....

  16. PaulGloor

    I certainly hope our leaders around the world are above the use of these monstrosities, I don't care if they squabble among themselves, so long as they realize the utter horror it would unleash and that it remains enough deterrence from their use.

    1. DigiWongaDude

      Imagine Le May and Bush together as one. I have to use American examples since the bulk of the triggers [and fingers] are there. That idea that a victory can be acheived, wrapped in a blanket of self righteous ignorance. No squabbles required. This is the scariest scenario: a willingness to unleash it.

      I was horrified to learn how the U.S. were dropping blank depth charges on the Russian nuclear armed subs during the Bay of Pigs. And how ONE man, disobeying orders, saved the world from all out nuclear war. How could such a provocation happen!?

      It can happen when you justify you are 'good' and can win. Am I right to imagine it's simply as scary as that?

  17. Geoffrey Grekin

    This is defiantly more detailed than America's informative videos on "Duck and cover"

    Ignorance is bliss!

  18. DigiWongaDude

    @ 05:50 "It has been estimated that even if there were no war, Britain would need between 1.5 to 4 years to recover economically, from the affects of full-scale civilian evacuation."

    I watched "The Road" last night. It hurt. I curled up in my warm chair with a bowl of sweet cereal in cold milk, savouring and appreciating every spoonful. The film, based on a book, was not for the casual viewer. We haven't 'recovered' from 2007/8 crash, where no war or evacuation took place, over 4 years ago.

    I think I can safely say, this documentary is harrowingly optomistic of what the bleak reality would be. I'm so affected by the last few days in fact, that my own 'march for change', fist in the air, eyes wide open, defiance of the system has been shellshocked in to gratitude and relief for our current freedoms and comfort. It can after all, be gone in an instant, never to return in a single lifetime. Right now, selfishly for me at least, it's a case of 'careful what you wish for'. How to qualify that statement? Sigh, the current status quo won't roll over or go quietly or transition willingly or ... peacefully, and the interim period wouldn't be as pretty and romantic as many might evisage.

    War is about winning, and winning at any cost. There is no room for morals or ethics - being a 'good' soldier (an oxymoron of note) would get you killed in no time. Being a 'good' warmonger would be no different. The 'goal' of winning is why we have such monsterous weapons. No-one ever suggested, in development capabilities, "that weapon just wouldn't be fair." When the line is crossed, the gloves come off - ethics and morals be damned, there is no second place.

    Let's hope we continue to remind ourselves, there's no first place either.

    1. I AM POP SLAG.

      I'm so affected by the last few days in fact, that my own 'march for change', fist in the air, eyes wide open, defiance of the system has been shellshocked in to gratitude and relief for our current freedoms and comfort."
      all going to plan then...for the sake of some poor kids who are dead and gone in any case...what about the 200000 kids who have died might not have done if americas ruling elite had kept its promises to alleviate and didnt? they spent the money on bombs so they can kill brown people including many innocent children i might add.

      "War is about winning, and winning at any cost."
      to an amoral, unthinking soldier maybe;
      how many wars have ended with compromise? all of them.
      and usually when a few parties have made an awful lot of money and gained an awful lot of power.
      war isnt about winning its about making money, if anyone ever actually won a war outriight who would you sell the guns to?

    2. DigiWongaDude

      @ I AM POP SLAG : What are you saying? That I should suck it up and get my fr*ak on again? lol, well ok thanks for the pep talk (dusting myself off), I guess when you put it like that - the sham of a scam of it all, vigilance is valour. :)

    3. Earl

      amen brother, What is it good for???

    4. Imightberiding

      Absolutely nothing!

      Sorry for interjecting in the conversation. Just couldn't resist.

    5. Rob Riddell

      to boil down what you said war is a racket fomented by the wealthy and powerful for selfish reasons.

  19. DigiWongaDude

    "Fighting for peace is like f'ing for virginity."

    Not my quote, don't shoot the messenger!

    1. PaulGloor

      Fighting for peace works... if there's nobody left to argue, its peaceful :P

  20. SHiNe_HeaD

    This documentary is one of the most frightening I have seen. The viewing entails a forceful reminder of how close we came to something utterly drastic.

  21. pwndecaf

    It always amazes how the dial setting for horror of war keeps getting raised. Fire bombing - okay. Carpet bombing of population centers - why not. Napalm - seems reasonable. Gas - cheap and effective, but watch the wind. Infectious disease - it's practically natural. A tiny atomic bomb - we have so many, why not.

    1. Harry Nutzack

      the "funny" thing is, in WW2, all but the gas was used by the allies.

    2. pwndecaf

      Thank you. If I implied otherwise, I apologize for sloppy writing.