Studio Symphony Orchestra

Somme 100 Film

The 1916 film The Battle of the Somme is the jewel in the crown of the Imperial War Museum’s collection.

It is a compelling documentary record of one of the key battles of the First World War and the first feature-length documentary film record of combat. Seen by many millions of British civilians within the first month of distribution, The Battle of the Somme was recognized at the time as a phenomenon that allowed the civilian home-front audience to share the experiences of the front-line soldier and was seen by mass audiences in allied and neutral countries, including Russia and the United States.


It is the source of many iconic images from the First World War, which remain in almost daily use 100 years later. The tragic events at the Battle of the Somme left a deep mark on a huge scale. Nearly everyone in the UK will have an ancestor who fought or died at the Somme. It’s important that people across the UK have the chance to remember and honour the sacrifice and courage of the men who participated in the Battle.

About the film ‘The Battle of the Somme’

It remains one of the most successful films ever made.

In 1916 it was seen by over half the UK adult population: only Star Wars has beaten it in box office records since.

It was distributed to 18 different countries in 1916.

It is inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register ‐the first British ‘document’ of any kind to be included.

It is the source of many of the most iconic WW1 images. If you have seen any documentary about WW1, it is likely you have seen part of the film.

The film shows scenes of the build-up to the infantry offensive including the massive preliminary bombardment, coverage of the first day of the battle (the bloodiest single day in Britain’s military history) and depictions of the small gains and massive costs of the attack.

It was a ground-breaking documentary which has influenced 100 years of documentary making thereafter.

It was made by British official cinematographers Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell, who risked their lives by going to the front line to film the action, giving us an invaluable insight into the battle today.

The film has been painstakingly restored frame by frame to enable it to be seen by generations to come.