The BEST Episodes of The World at War

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Jun 17, 2020

Network: ITV

Originally broadcast in 1973 as 26 one-hour programmes, The World at War sets out to tell the story of the Second World War through the testimony of key participants. The result is a unique and unrepeatable event, since many of the eyewitnesses captured on film did not have long left to live. Each hour-long programme is carefully structured to focus on a key theme or campaign, from the rise of Nazi Germany to Hitler's downfall and the onset of the Cold War. There are no academic "talking heads" here to spell out an official version of history; the narration, delivered with wonderful gravitas by Sir Laurence Olivier, is kept to a minimum. The show's great coup was to allow the participants to speak for themselves. Painstaking research in the archives of the Imperial War Museum also unearthed a vast quantity of newsreel footage, including on occasion the cameraman's original raw rushes which present an unvarnished and never-before-seen picture of important events. Carl Davis' impressive score underlines the grand scale of the enterprise.

The Bomb (February - September 1945)

#1 - The Bomb (February - September 1945)

Season 1 - Episode 24 - Aired Apr 24, 1974

Western scientists have developed a new, immensely powerful weapon - the atomic bomb. On August 6th 1945, the Enola Gay delivers the world's first atomic bomb to Hiroshima. The world would be forever altered.

star 8.06
243 votes
Directors: David Elstein
Writers: David Elstein
Tough Old Gut: Italy (November 1942 - June 1944)

#2 - Tough Old Gut: Italy (November 1942 - June 1944)

Season 1 - Episode 13 - Aired Jan 30, 1974

Churchill called Italy the 'soft underbelly of the crocodile' and thought the Allies could cut through it to the heart of Germany. But the soft underbelly turned out to be a 'tough old gut'.

star 8.03
251 votes
Directors: Ben Shepherd
Writers: David Wheeler
A New Germany (1933 - 1939)

#3 - A New Germany (1933 - 1939)

Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Oct 31, 1973

Germany, a nation stricken by humiliating defeat and emerging from crippling economic depression, looks to one man for a resurgence of hope and dignity. That man is Adolf Hitler…

star 8.02
1,005 votes
Directors: Hugh Raggett
Writers: Neal Ascherson
France Falls (May - June 1940)

#4 - France Falls (May - June 1940)

Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired Nov 14, 1973

France discovers it is woefully unprepared for modern warfare as the Nazi war machine easily skirts around the Maginot Line. Britain retreats and prepares for invasion.

star 8.01
745 votes
Directors: Peter Batty
Writers: Peter Batty
Whirlwind: Bombing Germany (September 1939 - April 1944)

#5 - Whirlwind: Bombing Germany (September 1939 - April 1944)

Season 1 - Episode 12 - Aired Jan 23, 1974

Bomber Command begin bombing German cities by night and the Americans reinforce the attacks by day; a whirlwind of terror and destruction that will win the war.

star 7.97
260 votes
Directors: Ted Childs
Writers: Charles Douglas Home
Genocide (1941 - 1945)

#6 - Genocide (1941 - 1945)

Season 1 - Episode 20 - Aired Mar 27, 1974

The Nazi's are racist; the Aryans are a master race, others, particularly the Jews are sub-human. Himmler's SS sets about ridding Europe of millions of Jews.

star 7.96
315 votes
Directors: Martin Smith
Writers: Charles Bloomberg
Pacific (February 1942 - July 1945)

#7 - Pacific (February 1942 - July 1945)

Season 1 - Episode 23 - Aired Apr 17, 1974

The Americans fight their way across the Pacific towards Japan and the Philippines. Perhaps the bloodiest campaign of all, each island has to be taken by storm and the Japanese fight to the last man.

star 7.92
262 votes
Directors: John Pett
Writers: David Wheeler
Alone (May 1940 - May 1941)

#8 - Alone (May 1940 - May 1941)

Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Nov 21, 1973

After Dunkirk, Britain faces the German onslaught. Although the RAF wins the Battle of Britain, the cities are blitzed and on the continent the last Allies are conquered. The outlook is grim.

star 7.89
547 votes
Directors: David Elstein
Writers: Laurence Thompson
Morning (June - August 1944)

#9 - Morning (June - August 1944)

Season 1 - Episode 17 - Aired Feb 27, 1974

The Western Allies resolve to invade Europe. England becomes a floating supply dump and the British and Americans assemble the largest invasion fleet in history. It is June 6th 1944 - D Day.

star 7.87
301 votes
Directors: John Pett
Writers: John Williams
Banzai!: Japan (1931 - 1942)

#10 - Banzai!: Japan (1931 - 1942)

Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired Dec 5, 1973

The rise of the Japanese Empire, the Sino-Japanese War, the Soviet-Japanese border conflicts, Pearl Harbor and the early Japanese successes in the fall of Malaya and Singapore. At war since 1931 on the Chinese mainland, the Japanese hope for easy victories over the British and Dutch. And then on December 7th 1941, Japan makes their infamous attack on Pearl Harbour.

star 7.87
439 votes
Directors: Peter Batty
Writers: Peter Batty
Distant War (September 1939 - May 1940)

#11 - Distant War (September 1939 - May 1940)

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Nov 7, 1973

In Eastern Europe, the full force of the Nazi machine rolls on - but in Britain, an uneasy calm settles on the nation. It is the 'phoney' war, with the sound of distant guns thundering ominously on the horizon…

star 7.83
698 votes
Directors: David Elstein
Writers: Laurence Thompson
Red Star: The Soviet Union (1941 - 1943)

#12 - Red Star: The Soviet Union (1941 - 1943)

Season 1 - Episode 11 - Aired Jan 16, 1974

For two years the Soviet Army fights the Germans almost alone. After one of the greatest land battles in history, the nation survives and triumphs - but with a loss of no less than twenty million of its people.

star 7.82
314 votes
Directors: Neal Ascherson
Writers: Neal Ascherson
Nemesis: Germany (February - May 1945)

#13 - Nemesis: Germany (February - May 1945)

Season 1 - Episode 21 - Aired Apr 3, 1974

Hitler retreats to the Fuhrer bunker is Berlin as Germany crumbles around him and his lieutenants abandon him to a fate of suicide. Meanwhile, the Russians raise the red flag in Berlin.

star 7.77
296 votes
Directors: Martin Smith
Writers: Stuart Hood
Japan (1941 - 1945)

#14 - Japan (1941 - 1945)

Season 1 - Episode 22 - Aired Apr 10, 1974

Initially apprehensive about the outcome of declaring war, the Japanese quickly turn to celebration with early victory. In the end, their worst fears are unimaginably exceeded.

star 7.77
247 votes
Directors: Hugh Raggett
Writers: Courtney Browne
Barbarossa (June - December 1941)

#15 - Barbarossa (June - December 1941)

Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired Nov 28, 1973

After dominating southeastern Europe through force or intrigue, Germany begins Operation Barbarossa, the massive invasion of Soviet Union. Despite several quick victories, the invasion ultimately stalls after a failed assault on Moscow during Russia's harsh winter

star 7.74
403 votes
Directors: Peter Batty
Writers: Peter Batty
Remember

#16 - Remember

Season 1 - Episode 26 - Aired May 8, 1974

For many the Second World War was the most significant experience of their lives. Heartbreaking first hand remembrances from a vast array of survivors on both sides of the war.

star 7.69
127 votes
Directors: Jeremy Isaacs
Writers: Jeremy Isaacs
On Our Way: U.S.A. (1939 - 1942)

#17 - On Our Way: U.S.A. (1939 - 1942)

Season 1 - Episode 7 - Aired Dec 12, 1973

The opposition by various factions to the United States of America entry into the war, U-boat attacks on Atlantic convoys and America's gradated responses, the mobilization of America after Pearl Harbor, the loss of the Philippines, the Doolittle Raid, Midway and Guadalcanal.

star 7.66
412 votes
Directors: Peter Batty
Writers: Peter Batty
Reckoning (1945...and after)

#18 - Reckoning (1945...and after)

Season 1 - Episode 25 - Aired May 1, 1974

The war ends slowly and messily. Britain is victorious but exhausted and the super-powers confront each other as they decide the fate of Europe.

star 7.61
230 votes
Directors: Jerome Kuehl
Writers: Jerome Kuehl
Inside the Reich: Germany (1940 - 1944)

#19 - Inside the Reich: Germany (1940 - 1944)

Season 1 - Episode 16 - Aired Feb 20, 1974

Initial victory in Europe turns sour after the defeat at Stalingrad, yet Germany prepares to fight to the end - even after an assassination attempt on the Führer.

star 7.59
277 votes
Writers: Neal Ascherson
Wolfpack: U-Boats in the Atlantic (1939 - 1943)

#20 - Wolfpack: U-Boats in the Atlantic (1939 - 1943)

Season 1 - Episode 10 - Aired Jan 9, 1974

In a war of high technology and animal courage, the German U-Boats fight Allied merchantmen, hounding them in packs.

star 7.55
345 votes
Directors: Ted Childs
Writers: J.P.W. Mallalieu
The Desert: North Africa (1940 - 1943)

#21 - The Desert: North Africa (1940 - 1943)

Season 1 - Episode 8 - Aired Dec 19, 1973

For 2 years the 8th Army and Rommel's Afrika Corps fight in the wastes of North Africa. Finally the tide turns at El Alamein.

star 7.50
406 votes
Directors: Peter Batty
Writers: Peter Batty
Stalingrad (June 1942 - February 1943)

#22 - Stalingrad (June 1942 - February 1943)

Season 1 - Episode 9 - Aired Jan 2, 1974

Hitler's early successes in Russia made him reckless and he resolves to capture Stalingrad. The battle lasts six months with the Russians emerging as victors. The Wehrmacht never recovers.

star 7.43
381 votes
Directors: Hugh Raggett
Writers: Jerome Kuehl
It's A Lovely Day Tomorrow: Burma (1942 - 1944)

#23 - It's A Lovely Day Tomorrow: Burma (1942 - 1944)

Season 1 - Episode 14 - Aired Feb 6, 1974

Vera Lynn sang of a lovely day tomorrow, but the war in Burma was mud and monsoon. Britain's largest army learned to master the jungle and fought the Japanese to standstill.

star 7.35
304 votes
Directors: John Pett
Writers: John Williams
Home Fires: Britain (1940 - 1944)

#24 - Home Fires: Britain (1940 - 1944)

Season 1 - Episode 15 - Aired Feb 13, 1974

Finding strength in unity at home in Britain during the war, it was a time of gas masks, Winston Churchill, Dig for Victory, evacuation, George Formby, the Land Army, ITMA, the Squander Bug and the Beveridge Report.

star 7.35
253 votes
Writers: Angus Calder
Occupation: Holland (1940 - 1944)

#25 - Occupation: Holland (1940 - 1944)

Season 1 - Episode 18 - Aired Mar 13, 1974

Through a neutral country, Holland is attacked by Germany without warning in 1940. During the next four years, life carries on seemingly without incident, but underneath resistance never dies.

star 7.34
257 votes
Directors: Michael Darlow
Writers: Charles Bloomberg