Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour Information

Darkest Hour is a 2017 British biographical war drama film, directed by Joe Wright and written by Anthony McCarten. The film stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, and follows his early days as Prime Minister, while Hitler closes in on Britain during World War II. The film also stars Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, and Ronald Pickup.

The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on 1 September 2017, and also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. It began a limited release in the United States on 22 November 2017, before opening wide on 22 December 2017, and will be released on 12 January 2018 in the United Kingdom. The film has grossed $15 million worldwide and received positive reviews from critics. Gary Oldman's performance was lauded, with many noting it as the best of his career, and he was nominated for the Best Actor - Drama at the 75th Golden Globe Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.


On the eve of the German invasions of Belgium and the Netherlands in May 1940, the Opposition in Parliament demands the resignation of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, whom they accuse of being too weak to protect British national security. Chamberlain subsequently holds a private meeting at which he announces his resignation and offers to name Viscount Halifax as his successor. Despite his nomination receiving unanimous approval, Halifax declines. With no other options, Chamberlain decides to choose the only other man who can command support from all parties in Parliament: Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty.

At Churchill's home, his new secretary, Elizabeth Layton, arrives for her first day of work. She quickly upsets Churchill by failing to follow his instructions, and he yells her out of his room. His loyal wife, Clementine, rebukes him for his behaviour, reminding him that, should he become Prime Minister, he will have to learn how to win people over. A telegram arrives for Churchill, summoning him to meet King George VI to formally accept the position. The king makes it clear that he considers Churchill a poor choice and does not intend to treat him with the same respect as his predecessor.

Churchill quickly steps into his new role with vigour, and declares in his first speech to Parliament that he intends to launch a full war against the Germans in support of France, even as he dismisses the possibility that Germany could use tanks to outflank French defences. He also refuses to entertain the possibility of peace negotiations; in response, Halifax and Chamberlain devise a plan to resign their positions, triggering a vote of no confidence that will force Churchill out of office, allowing Halifax to replace him.

Churchill convenes the War Cabinet, with Halifax and Chamberlain as members, to co-ordinate his war policies. He is immediately confronted with his first major issue: British forces in France are surrounded by the Germans, and are trapped at Dunkirk and Calais. Churchill, against the advice of the Cabinet, orders a suicide attack to distract the enemy while the soldiers at Dunkirk are evacuated; this also forces him to abandon the troops at Calais, who are subsequently wiped out by German bombing. Criticised as a butcher and facing pressure to approve plans by Halifax to approach Mussolini for help with negotiations, Churchill only manages to save face by organising a fleet of civilian ships to complete the evacuation.

The incident causes Churchill to doubt the wisdom of his strategy, and he reluctantly gives Halifax permission to draft peace terms. At his home, he receives a surprise visit from the King; faced with the possibility of having to flee to Canada and rule in exile should Britain be invaded, he decides to throw his full support behind Churchill's administration. Still unsure of himself, Churchill makes a snap decision to take the Underground to Parliament and quizzes the passengers about their feelings regarding his government; they universally disapprove of negotiations and favor full resistance against the Germans. Churchill then meets with other members of Parliament; they too support him.

With Layton's help, Churchill prepares to address Parliament, while Halifax demands that an increasingly reluctant Chamberlain follow through with their plan to depose him. Towards the end of his speech, he loudly proclaims that Britons will "fight on the beaches, fight on the landing grounds" should Hitler invade. Chamberlain decides to forgo the plan, leaving Halifax isolated as the entire room, including his own party, reward Churchill with thunderous applause. Satisfied, Churchill departs.

With the success of Operation Dynamo, Churchill's position as Prime Minister is secure; Chamberlain dies six months later from cancer, while Halifax is removed from the Cabinet and sent to serve as a diplomat in the United States. Five years later, Britain and her Allies achieve victory over Germany.


  • Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill
  • Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI
  • Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill
  • Lily James as Elizabeth Layton
  • Ronald Pickup as Neville Chamberlain
  • Stephen Dillane as Lord Halifax, Foreign Secretary
  • Nicholas Jones as Sir John Simon
  • Richard Lumsden as General Hastings Ismay
  • Jeremy Child as Lord James Stanhope
  • Samuel West as Sir Anthony Eden


On 5 February 2015, it was announced that Working Title Films had acquired Darkest Hour, a spec script by The Theory of Everything screenwriter Anthony McCarten, about Winston Churchill in the early days of World War II.

On 29 March, 2016, it was reported that Joe Wright was in talks to direct the film. In April 2016, Gary Oldman was reported to be in talks to play Churchill. On 6 September, 2016, it was announced that Focus Features would release the film in the United States on 24 November, 2017, while Ben Mendelsohn was set to play King George VI and Kristin Scott Thomas was cast as Clementine Churchill. On 8 November 2016, Stephen Dillane also joined the cast.

By November 2016, Darkest Hour had begun principal photography. Also in November, it was reported that Dario Marianelli would score the film. For his role as Churchill, Oldman spent over 200 hours having make-up applied, and smoked over 400 cigars (worth about $20,000) during the course of filming.

John Hurt was initially cast as former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain. However, according to Oldman, Hurt was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer and was unable to attend the read-throughs. Ronald Pickup assumed the role of Chamberlain instead, and Hurt died from cancer in January 2017.


Box office

, Darkest Hour has grossed $7 million in the United States and Canada, and $5.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $12.4 million.

In the United States and Canada, the film began a limited release on 22 November, 2017. In its first five days, it grossed $246,761 from four theaters (an average of $61,690), finishing 21st at the box office over the weekend. The film began a wide release on 22 December 2017, alongside the openings of Downsizing, Pitch Perfect 3 and Father Figures, and the wide expansion of The Shape of Water, and grossed $4.1 million from 804 theaters over the weekend.

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 84% based on 167 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Darkest Hour is held together by Gary Oldman's electrifying performance, which brings Winston Churchill to life even when the movie's narrative falters." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has a normalised score of 75 out of 100, based on 49 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Oldman has received critical acclaim for his performance, with numerous reviewers labeling him a frontrunner to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote: "Get busy engraving Oldman's name on an Oscar... those fearing that Darkest Hour is nothing but a dull tableau of blowhard stuffed shirts will be relieved to know that they're in for a lively, provocative historical drama that runs on its own nonstop creative fire." David Elrich of IndieWire praised Wright's direction and the musical score, writing: "Unfolding with the clockwork precision of a Broadway play... it's a deliciously unsubtle testament to the power of words and their infinite capacity to inspire."

Conversely, Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com called the film "an acting exercise weighed down by costumes, make-up, and over-lighting", adding that "there's nothing new to the approach. It feels often like an obligation"?a story that someone felt should be told again and a way to get a great actor his Oscar".


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result
AACTA International Awards 5 January 2018 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Best Supporting Actor Ben Mendelsohn
Chicago Film Critics Association 12 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Critics' Choice Movie Awards 11 January 2018 Best Picture Darkest Hour
Best Actor Gary Oldman
Best Score Dario Marianelli
Best Makeup Darkest Hour
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association 13 December 2017 Best Film Darkest Hour
Best Actor Gary Oldman
Detroit Film Critics Society 7 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Florida Film Critics Circle 23 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Golden Globe Awards 7 January 2018 Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama Gary Oldman
Hollywood Film Awards 6 November 2017 Hollywood Career Achievement Award Gary Oldman
Hollywood Director Award Joe Wright
Hollywood Costume Design Award Jacqueline Durran
IGN Awards 19 December 2017 Best Drama Movie Darkest Hour
Best Lead Performer in a Movie Gary Oldman
IndieWire Critics Poll 19 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
London Film Critics' Circle 28 January 2018 Actor of the Year Gary Oldman
British/Irish Actor of the Year Gary Oldman
New York Film Critics Online 10 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Online Film Critics Society 28 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Palm Springs International Film Festival 2 January 2018 Desert Palm Achievement Award for Best Actor Gary Oldman
San Diego Film Critics Society 11 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
San Francisco Film Critics Circle 10 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Satellite Awards 10 February 2018 Best Actor - Motion Picture Gary Oldman
Best Cinematography Bruno Delbonnel
Best Original Score Dario Marianelli
Best Editing Valerio Bonelli
Best Sound (Editing and Mixing) Darkest Hour
Screen Actors Guild Awards 21 January 2018 Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Gary Oldman
Seattle Film Critics Society 18 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Best Costume Design Jacqueline Durran
St. Louis Film Critics Association 17 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Best Supporting Actress Kristin Scott Thomas
Best Cinematography Bruno Delbonnel
Best Editing Valerio Bonelli
Toronto Film Critics Association 10 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Vancouver Film Critics Circle 18 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association 8 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman
Women Film Critics Circle 17 December 2017 Best Actor Gary Oldman

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