How I Won the War

Director: Richard Lester
Screenwriters: Patrick Ryan, Charles Woods

Institute History

  • 1990 Sundance Film Festival


With How I Won the War, Lester attempted the seemingly impossible: to turn war into absurdist humor. Generally dismissed as ill conceived and in poor taste at the time of its release, the film can now be reconsidered in the light of the events of the late sixties and Vietnam.

The story is framed as the flashback reminiscences of a young British World War II officer (Michael Crawford), recollected with the contemporary smugness of a middle-aged veteran. At the outbreak of war, he finds himself in charge of a misfit platoon of clumsy and disrespectful draftees, John Lennon as "Gripweed" among them. Soon they pack off to North Africa to set up what one of them calls an "advance cricket pitch" against the enemy.

In the manner of Chaplin's Shoulder Arms, Lester's jabs at army life, discipline and rank are right on, that is until the outfit romps ahead to France and the deadliness of war. In a concluding scene all too real, the solemn laconic Cockney draftee Gripweed (John Lennon) dies from a gunshot with a gulp of bitter resignation on his lips.

Sunday, January 21, 10:15 a.m.
Holiday Village Cinema II

Sunday, January 28, 8:15 p.m.
Holiday Village Cinema II


— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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