The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

Choose another collection

1917 on film

A fourth year of war and no end in sight. Government propaganda stepped up, and even animation took a dark turn... What our forebears saw in cinemas a century ago.

1917 was the darkest year of the war. With stagnation on the western front and the German U-boat campaign beginning to really bite, the country was now on a total war footing. In the film world, the government took over the Topical Film Company’s newsreel units and began to produce more propaganda films, largely on home front issues such as the formation of the Women's Land Army, as well as (well-censored) reporting from the front. Henry Edwards began to produce ‘film tags’: two-minute story films with home front messages on rationing, saving food and recycling materials. Meanwhile, momentous news from Russia barely registered in British films.

With film stock scarce, only a few long dramas were produced. One of the most revealing films of the year is Dudley Buxton's animation Ever Been Had, which although ostensibly comic, imagines a grim future in which the British, having prematurely made peace with Germany before she was comprehensively beaten, are crushed by German super weapons. The destruction of London by death rays from the sky and great amphibious tanks crawling over its ruins is a chilling a vision as anything cinema has invented.

triangle triangle
1917 on film

RECOMMENDED

View The Production of a Map
The Production of a Map
Watch for free 7 mins

The Production of a Map 1917

Worlds within worlds: a maps and globes factory, expertly charted on celluloid

7 mins United Kingdom

View Metropolitan Police Ambulance Team
Metropolitan Police Ambulance Team
Watch for free 18 mins

Metropolitan Police Ambulance Team 1917

Metropolitan Police officers demonstrate their paramedic skills in this early training film

18 mins United Kingdom

View Woman's Day
Woman's Day
Watch for free 1 mins

Woman's Day 1917

Help the women who are helping the men!

1 mins United Kingdom

View Mighty Atoms
Mighty Atoms
Watch for free 8 mins

Mighty Atoms 1917

While mothers make guns, children have fun: take a peek inside the Woolwich Nursery for the Children of Munition Workers

8 mins United Kingdom

BROWSE THE COLLECTION

View Mrs. Cooper's Film No 2
Mrs. Cooper's Film No 2
Watch for free

Mrs. Cooper's Film No 2 1917

Can film fight? In this fascinating amateur footage, King George sends officers to the front with reels and projectors

32 mins United Kingdom

View Empire Troops
Empire Troops
Watch for free 4 mins

Empire Troops 1917

The might of the British Empire is mobilised for war during 1914 and 1915.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Carrying On in Blackpool
Carrying On in Blackpool
Watch for free 1 mins

Carrying On in Blackpool 1917

What a carry on! Grown-ups and nippers alike enjoy some seaside fun at Blackpool

1 mins United Kingdom

View Women Unloading Railway Trucks
Women Unloading Railway Trucks
Watch for free 2 mins

Women Unloading Railway Trucks 1917

Sprucely dressed women set themselves to lugging tarpaulin and unloading sacks in this WWI newsreel

2 mins United Kingdom

View Alps
Alps
Watch for free 3 mins

Alps 1917

This scrapbook travelogue takes a pictorial tour of the Alps by train, sledge and sleigh

3 mins United Kingdom

View Aldershot Command Gazette
Aldershot Command Gazette
Watch for free 6 mins

Aldershot Command Gazette 1917

King George V and Queen Mary review activities at Aldershot, Hampshire - Britain's largest military training camp

6 mins United Kingdom

View History of the War: Russian Front
History of the War: Russian Front
Watch for free 9 mins

History of the War: Russian Front 1917

Intriguing instalment in Pathé series on WWI, looking at our Russian allies on the Eastern Front

9 mins United Kingdom

View "Peril" The Story of the Gotha Raiders
"Peril"  The Story of the Gotha Raiders
Watch for free

"Peril" The Story of the Gotha Raiders 1917

Lively blood and thunder yarn in which German spies try to destroy London's air defences

23 mins United Kingdom

View History of the War: Ypres
History of the War: Ypres
Watch for free 1 mins

History of the War: Ypres 1917

Tantalising fragment from Pathé's History of the War series, looking at the battle of Ypres

1 mins United Kingdom

View King's Maundy Money
King's Maundy Money
Watch for free 1 mins

King's Maundy Money 1917

King George V hands out the traditional silver coins to the poor on Maundy Thursday.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Lowering Torpedo into Submarine E. 23
Lowering Torpedo into Submarine E. 23
Watch for free 7 mins

Lowering Torpedo into Submarine E. 23 1917

The improved E class submarine, E.23, takes on fresh torpedoes for another stealth mission in this WWI news film

7 mins United Kingdom

View Prime Minister at Bath
Prime Minister at Bath
Watch for free 1 mins

Prime Minister at Bath 1917

Wartime wedding bells for Richard Lloyd George, son of the PM, at Bath Abbey.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Wreck of L. 39
Wreck of L. 39
Watch for free 2 mins

Wreck of L. 39 1917

French soldiers guard the wreck of the L.39 Zeppelin, brought down by Brought down in the Boulevard Gambetta, Compiegne

2 mins United Kingdom

View Lines of Communication
Lines of Communication
Watch for free 1 mins

Lines of Communication 1917

Entrenched support for the front lines: French engineers lay cables to enable HQ to direct troops from as far away as possible

1 mins United Kingdom

View St. David's Day
St. David's Day
Watch for free 1 mins

St. David's Day 1917

Welsh ladies selling St David's Day flags on the streets of Westminster brighten many a soldier's day.

1 mins United Kingdom

View United Service Sports
United Service Sports
Watch for free

United Service Sports 1917

Army athletes compete for glory on foot and bike.

United Kingdom

View Will There Be Women MPs?
Will There Be Women MPs?
Watch for free 1 mins

Will There Be Women MPs? 1917

The leading organisation fighting for women's suffrage changes tack, as Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst launch the Women's Party.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Potato Philanthropist
Potato Philanthropist
Watch for free 1 mins

Potato Philanthropist 1917

An East End celebrity hides in a hamper with some much-needed food for the women of the home front

1 mins United Kingdom

View Peter's Picture Poems
Peter's Picture Poems
Watch for free 3 mins

Peter's Picture Poems 1917

A star-spangled sock on the nose for Kaiser Wilhelm, as this wordplay propaganda cartoon meets war crimes with pun-ishment

3 mins United Kingdom

View The Nation's Food - Meat
The Nation's Food - Meat
Watch for free 9 mins

The Nation's Food - Meat 1917

Where's the beef? The exotic origins of the British Sunday roast are explored in this short film about meat

9 mins United Kingdom

View Potato Queues
Potato Queues
Watch for free 1 mins

Potato Queues 1917

The humble spud is the star attraction for the long lines of people waiting to fortify their wartime Sunday lunches

1 mins United Kingdom

View Sports on the Ice
Sports on the Ice
Watch for free 1 mins

Sports on the Ice 1917

Nannies and nippers compete with seasoned skaters on a frozen pond near London in this charming wintery newsreel.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Tobogganing
Tobogganing
Watch for free 1 mins

Tobogganing 1917

Hitting the north London slopes for some snow-filled excitement

1 mins United Kingdom

View Troops Training for the First World War
Troops Training for the First World War
Watch for free 9 mins

Troops Training for the First World War 1917

O Canada! Away from their native land, these troops are prepared for the Western Front at a Canadian Training School

9 mins United Kingdom

View Everybody's Business
Everybody's Business
Watch for free

Everybody's Business 1917

"Eat less bread" is the key message in this ambitious propaganda film on the importance of 'food economy' to the war effort

33 mins United Kingdom

View The Porte Flying Boat
The Porte Flying Boat
Watch for free 11 mins

The Porte Flying Boat 1917

Don't be fooled - she's no baby. The Porte Baby's name belies the true size of this monster flying boat!

11 mins United Kingdom

View Airship on a Mooring Mast
Airship on a Mooring Mast
Watch for free 7 mins

Airship on a Mooring Mast 1917

High winds are not good for airships, especially when moored: this study demonstrates what happens when the winds blow

7 mins United Kingdom

View Agitated Adverts
Agitated Adverts
Watch for free 10 mins

Agitated Adverts 1917

Anson Dyer imagines the characters behind newspaper adverts and brings them to life in this Kine Komedy Kartoon

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Anson Dyer

View Drumhead Service
Drumhead Service
Watch for free

Drumhead Service 1917

A London concert singer attends a military religious service to bless two new ambulance held in a London park.

United Kingdom

View British Women's Volunteer Army (Land Workers' Section)
British Women's Volunteer Army (Land Workers' Section)
Watch for free 14 mins

British Women's Volunteer Army (Land Workers' Section) 1917

Film stars Violet Hopson and Ivy Close lend their celebrity to the war effort – and they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty

14 mins United Kingdom

View Motherhood; A Living Picture of Life Today
Motherhood; A Living Picture of Life Today
Watch for free

Motherhood; A Living Picture of Life Today 1917

"Is this a pudding? It's more like a cannon ball" - Mary struggles to live up to her husband's high expectations

24 mins United Kingdom

View Entertaining Soldiers After the Raid
Entertaining Soldiers After the Raid
Watch for free 1 mins

Entertaining Soldiers After the Raid 1917

Keep calm and carry on - these East End schoolkids dance to lift the spirits of Kiwi troops

1 mins United Kingdom

View Workers Leaving Kodak Factory
Workers Leaving Kodak Factory
Watch for free 4 mins

Workers Leaving Kodak Factory 1917

Workers at Kodak's photographic factory find themselves on the other side of the camera.

4 mins United Kingdom

View With the Queen at Woolwich War Office Official
With the Queen at Woolwich  War Office Official
Watch for free 1 mins

With the Queen at Woolwich War Office Official 1917

Women workers receive a visit from Queen Mary, as she inspects their work at the munitions factory in Woolwich.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Great Red Cross Carnival at Rushden
Great Red Cross Carnival at Rushden
Watch for free 2 mins

Great Red Cross Carnival at Rushden 1917

Flags and patriotism on show in Rushden as local businesses pull out all the stops in this carnival procession.

2 mins United Kingdom

View British Airships in the East
British Airships in the East
Watch for free 7 mins

British Airships in the East 1917

Equipped with two men and a string of bombs, the SS Class Airship was a rapid response to the threat of U-boats

7 mins United Kingdom

View Pacifists Routed at Brotherhood Church
Pacifists Routed at Brotherhood Church
Watch for free

Pacifists Routed at Brotherhood Church 1917

Windows are smashed, doors broken and blows exchanged, as a violent mob attacks a pacifist meeting held inside a Hackney church.

United Kingdom

View A Bid for Fortune
A Bid for Fortune
Watch for free

A Bid for Fortune 1917

Master criminal Dr Nikola seeks a Chinese curio that promises eternal life and world domination

67 mins United Kingdom Director. Sidney Morgan

View Masks and Faces
Masks and Faces
Watch for free

Masks and Faces 1917

A strong cast of British stage luminaries enriches this tale of heartache and betrayal in 18th century London society

79 mins United Kingdom Director. Fred Paul

View The Missing Link
The Missing Link
Watch for free 2 mins

The Missing Link 1917

British comic Lupino Lane stars in this surviving fragment from one of his earliest films, a slapstick school romp

2 mins United Kingdom Director. W.P. Kellino

Cookies Policy

This website uses cookies, as explained in our Cookies Policy.

To accept the terms and hide this message please click 'I accept'.

I accept

Passionate about film? So are we…

Don't miss the email made for the in-the-know film fan:

New releases — on the same day as in cinemas Special collections & unheralded classics Exclusive news on discounts


Never ask | Ask me later