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A 1960 British World War II drama directed by Lewis Gilbert, based on the novel The Last Nine Days of the Bismarck by C. S. Forester.

During the Battle of the Atlantic, Britain must fight alone as Nazi Germany sends out its most powerful battleship, the Bismarck, to hunt the supply convoys that the country needs to survive. In command of the operation is Captain Jonathan Shepard (Kenneth More), a by-the-book commander and disciplinarian who prosecutes the fight heedless of the feelings of his subordinates.

Has nothing to do with the Real Life Gargle Blaster from BrewDog Brewery.


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This film comtains examples of:

  • Abandon Ship: What the still-living crew of the Bismarck do in the end. Also an example of Know When to Fold 'Em-with the Bismarck falling apart from the cannon impacts, rudder stuck in one direction, no support coming, and the bridge crew completely dead, there was just no reason to stay on the ship any more.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Given that a significant portion of the film is set in the Admiralty War Room rather than at sea, several are present.
    • A particularly notable one actually occurs mid-battle when the Hood blows up - the fighting seemingly comes to a halt while combatants on both sides process what they've just witnessed.
    • The subplot involving Shepard's wife and son is told almost entirely through such scenes.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Played straight by the commander of the Bismarck's task force, Admiral Lutjens. When giving a speech to his crew before departure he reminds his men, "Never forget that you are Germans! Never forget that you are Nazis!" In Real Life, Admiral Lutjens was far from an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi party: during his time as the Kriegsmarine's chief of personnel he ignored the infamous Nuremburg Laws, wrote a letter of protest to the head of the Navy regarding Kristallnacht, deliberately greeted everyone up to and including Hitler himself with the traditional German naval salute instead of the Nazi salute, and wore his Imperial Navy dagger on his Kriegsmarine uniform because it didn't have the swastika emblem.
  • Artistic License – History:
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    • During the final battle, a shell from the Bismarck destroys a ship named the Solon. There was no such ship present.
    • The battle also omits the presence of the Free Polish ship Piorun, even though it was the first to engage Bismarck in its last battle and held out almost single-handed for an hour until Royal Navy ships could catch up. Possibly justified in that the ship had to pull out before the end after running low on fuel.
  • Artistic License – Ships: Zig-zagged. The aircraft carriers Ark Royal and Victorious are actually portrayed by the latter; however the Victorious had been modernized to accomodate jet aircraft prior to filming, and these modifications - particularly the angled flight deck - are often visible.
  • As Himself: Legendary news broadcaster Edward R Murrow no less!
  • Battle Epic
  • Broken Record: Expect to hear "shoot!" from the British gunnery officers and "Feuer!" from the German gunnery officer a lot.
  • The Big Board: Well, a big table.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Esmond Knight plays Captain John Leach of the Prince of Wales. Knight was a crewman serving on the bridge of the Prince of Wales during the Battle of the Denmark Strait and was badly injured when the bridge was hit by Bismarck's gunfire. Gag seems an inappropriate term, really.
    • Knight may also appear as a character. In a brief scene between the sinking of the Hood and the destruction of the Prince of Wales' bridge, an officer aboard the latter ship is seen giving the order to fire. Knight was a gunnery officer before his wounds forced him to leave the Royal Navy.
  • Cool Ship: It's a film about naval warfare during World War II, so of course these are everywhere.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Done inadvertently by the Bismarck when she sinks the Hood in one salvo, then later when the Bismarck's rudder is damaged by a torpedo and she can only circle as the British ships rip her apart
  • Dated History:
    • The film makes no reference to the signals intelligence that played a vital role in the Royal Navy's hunt for the Bismarck for the very good reason that said intelligence's very existence was still an official secret.
    • The film was made decades before the wrecks of the Bismarck and Hood were located; the condition of the Bismarck wreck confirmed the conventional narrative, the condition of the Hood wreck contradicted several theories about her loss.
    • The Catalina that rediscovers the Bismarck was actually flown by U.S. Navy Reserve Ensign Leonard Smith. Again, this was something the filmmakers couldn't reveal in 1960. America was still officially neutral in May 1941 and Smith's involvement in combat operations was still an official secret.
  • Determinator: The unnamed Norwegian agent who keeps trying to send his message even after being shot.
  • Friend or Foe: A British cruiser is mistaken for the Bismarck and nearly torpedoed by the Ark Royal's' bombers.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When the Bismarck is getting torn apart, there's a shot of a German sailor making his way across the deck. A torpedo hits; there is a flash of light, and all that's left of the sailor is a splattering of blood across the hull.
  • Heroic BSoD: Even the Germans are shocked when the Hood explodes. The British are completely thrown.
  • Historical Domain Character: All of the main characters, with the exceptions of Captain Shepherd and Anne Davis.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: As mentioned under All Germans Are Nazis, the real-life Gunther Lutjens was most definitely not a hard-line Nazi supporter unlike in the movie, going as far to salute Hitler himself with the old Imperial German naval salute, and not wearing the swastika-bearing dagger on his Kriegsmarine uniform, instead utilizing the Imperial German dagger.
  • It's Personal: Captain Shepard's last command at sea was sunk by one of Admiral Lutjen's cruisers.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Footage of the Spitfire that initially locates the Bismarck alternates between wide shots of a period correct aircraft and cockpit closeups showing a bubble canopy, a feature not introduced until later in the war.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Mid-transmission in this case. A British agent is shot while sending a report on two German warships he's spotted; the message received by the Admiralty is cut off just before it would have identified the Bismarck.
  • Mr. Exposition: Edward R. Murrow (himself!) provides a general summary of the various threats Great Britain is facing at the beginning of the film. The First Sea Lord provides additional info regarding the naval situation a short time later while going over the Big Board with Captain Shepard.
  • Newsreel: The film opens with newsreel footage of the Bismarck being launched. A short time later, more footage (of U-boat attacks) accompanies exposition by Edward R. Murrow.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Subverted early, as Shepard strips protection from convoys to search for the Bismarck.
  • Not So Stoic: Shepard, who finally shows some human emotion when he breaks down weeping after getting the news that his son was found alive after being reported MIA. A positive example of this trope, as the superior who reported the news was disturbed by Shepard's lack of response over the phone; when Davis goes to his office and spots him weeping in the back, she exits again with a look of profound relief.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    First Sailor: "What's happened?"
    Second Sailor: "The Hood's gone..."
  • The Political Officer: Admiral Lutjens, amongst other roles. He keeps boasting about the invincibility of the Bismarck and the greatness of Germany even in the middle of a Villainous Breakdown up until the ship's bridge is blown up and he is killed.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Captain Shepard, who hides the pain of his wife's death behind a mask of formality and a dose of Drill Sergeant Nasty.
  • The Spock: Shepherd
  • Stock Footage: Used in a number of instances, such as for the air attacks.
  • The Strategist: Shepherd
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The only torpedo bomber the British had at the time was the Fairey Swordfish, a fragile looking two-seat biplane. Which went up against the biggest battleship in the German fleet and crippled her enough to allow the surface fleet to finish her off.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The German fleet commander (Admiral Lutjens) gets a REALLY big one during the final battle, having been given reassurance (false as it ended up being) that Germany will send support to the crippled Bismarck, and thus is muttering about having been promised support by Hitler himself and how the Bismark is unsinkable right up to the moment a lucky British shot blows up the Bismarck's bridge, killing him and the rest of the crew.
  • The Voice: Prime Minister Winston Churchill when he gives the Title Drop.
  • The War Room: The Admiralty's Operations Room.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Prinz Eugen, the cruiser accompanying the Bismarck until shortly after the battle with the Hood, is not mentioned once the two ships part ways. Truth in Television, as the Royal Navy was focused on containing the larger threat of the Bismarck, and the cruiser itself played no further part in the battle.note 
    • Similarly, British ships are present in the story only until their part in the battle is finished. One particularly notable example is the Prince of Wales, last seen heavily damaged and withdrawing from battle.note  Other examples include the aircraft carriers Ark Royalnote  and Victorious.note 

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