How to use the film archive

Who is the film archive for?

Our film archive is for everyone! We hope it will be used by filmmakers, teachers, historians and researchers amongst others. From unique snapshots of British life in the 1940s, spotlights on British crafts, industries and traditions, and even a selection of curiosities (including the life-cycle of rabbits), our film archive is a delight.

How can I use the archive?

You can watch the films online here and you can download them too. This collection is much more than simply to be a static directory of old film. Instead we want people to have fun with it, use it as a creative resource and source of inspiration. You are free to download these films, play with them, reinterpret them, and share your interpretations with the world.

Each film listing contains:

  • credits and production information
  • some trivia
  • still images
  • the original synopses for the films written at the time each film was made.

Some of the films also have an option to go even deeper, and learn a little more about how each was made.

Non-commercial use

Almost all the films in our archive are available under the 'Attribution-Non-Commercial' Creative Commons licence which means you are actively encouraged to use and play with them. (Please see individual films for details as there are a couple of exceptions).

This means that you can do what you like with them – provided that you attribute them to us and that you use them non-commercially (put simply: that you credit British Council and that no one pays you for a ticket to see them).

Our preferred credit for film and any printed/web material is:

[Insert film title] is part of the British Council film archive of short documentaries made by the British Council during the 1940s. The films were designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played. View, download and play with the archive at

If you're not sure whether your planned use falls within these conditions, or you want to ask about accessing higher resolution versions of the films, contact us at

Commercial use

If you'd like to use the films for broadcast or other commercial purposes, the archive is looked after by our friends at BFI National Archive.

You can see the rate card here for the various prices per second. If you are interested in commercial sales please contact BFI Archive Footage Sales team directly either:

- by telephone on 01442 285 274

- or by completing this Contact Form

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