The History Boys (film)

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The History Boys
The History Boys (film).JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Produced by Damian Jones
Kevin Loader
Nicholas Hytner
Screenplay by Alan Bennett
Based on The History Boys
by Alan Bennett
Starring Richard Griffiths
Clive Merrison
Frances de la Tour
Stephen Campbell Moore
Samuel Anderson
Samuel Barnett
Dominic Cooper
James Corden
Sacha Dhawan
Andrew Knott
Jamie Parker
Russell Tovey
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Andrew Dunn
Edited by John Wilson
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
13 October 2006 (2006-10-13)
Running time
104 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £2 million
Box office $11,121,000

The History Boys is a 2006 British comedy-drama film adapted by Alan Bennett from his play of the same name, which won the 2005 Olivier Award for Best New Play and the 2006 Tony Award for Best Play. It was directed by Nicholas Hytner, who directed the original production at the Royal National Theatre in London, and features the original cast of the play.

The school scenes were filmed in Watford in two schools, Watford Grammar School for Boys and Watford Grammar School for Girls. The film uses the uniform of Watford Boys. Locations in Elland and Halifax, West Yorkshire are used to create the broader landscape of Sheffield in which the story is set.


In a boys' grammar school in Sheffield in 1983, students Crowther, Posner, Dakin, Timms, Akthar, Lockwood, Scripps, and Rudge have recently obtained the school's highest ever A-level scores and are hoping to enter Oxford or Cambridge, taking a seventh-term entrance exam in History. The General Studies teacher, known by staff and boys alike by his nickname "Hector" (Richard Griffiths), is much beloved, and works alongside their deputy head and regular History teacher, Mrs. Lintott (Frances de la Tour). The Headmaster, known by all as "Felix", appoints a temporary contract teacher, Tom Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore), who had been at Oxford, to help the boys along in their quest. Irwin is only a few years older than his students but proves to be a bold and demanding teacher, and particularly difficult to impress.

As part of their General Studies, the class acts out scenes from romantic films and literature. At the conclusion of each class, Hector offers a lift to one of the students on his motorbike and it is generally known (and dismissed as a joke) that he touches them inappropriately on the ride. The only one he never takes along is Posner (Samuel Barnett), a slight Jewish boy, who doesn't hide his infatuation with Dakin (Dominic Cooper). Dakin, who characterises himself as an aspiring lecher, is currently pursuing an affair with the headmaster's secretary, Fiona (Georgia Taylor). He is not displeased by Posner's attention, but finds himself increasingly interested in Irwin. Gradually, Dakin's quest to impress Irwin on an intellectual level evolves into a flirtatious, potentially sexual pursuit of his young teacher, who is visibly attracted to Dakin. Meanwhile, Hector's indiscretions are shockingly revealed and Felix instructs him to "retire early".

The boys continue their studies and all gain places at Oxford and Cambridge, including the famously dimwitted Rudge (Russell Tovey), with Posner and Dakin winning scholarships. On their last day at the end of term, Dakin calls out Irwin on a lie and asks him out for a drink, overtly revealing his sexual interest in him, much to Irwin's confusion and repressed enthusiasm. They agree to get together that very Sunday. Dakin then proceeds to the Headmaster's office and, by threatening to reveal Felix's own sexual harassment of Fiona, forces him to reinstate Hector.

As the boys prepare to leave the grammar school, Hector agrees to give Dakin a ride home on the motorbike "for old times' sake". However, before they leave, the headmaster runs out and stops them, saying that Hector should not take one of the boys. He suggests that Hector take Irwin instead. Dakin gladly hands the helmet to him, and the screen fades to white as they drive off, the boys waving happily and laughing.

Off-screen, there is a motorcycle accident; Hector is killed and Irwin is injured. Dakin (in voiceover) says that Irwin had never been on the back of a bike and so may have unbalanced Hector, leading to Hector's death, and that Irwin and he never got a chance to meet that Sunday. The boys sing "Bye Bye Blackbird" at Hector's memorial service and the Headmaster gives a general speech. Mrs. Lintott then turns and asks: "Will they come to my funeral, I wonder?". The school hall is shown with only the boys sitting and each recounts his life: Akthar, a headmaster; Crowther, a magistrate; Timms, a drug-taking dry-cleaning manager; and Dakin, a tax lawyer. Lockwood, a junior army officer, was killed by friendly fire at 28 years old. Rudge is a builder, Scripps a journalist, and Irwin makes history TV programmes, though Mrs. Lintott says they are more journalism. Posner is a teacher and takes the same approach that Hector did, save for the touching. The final shot shows the boys and teachers standing at the field trip lawn, with Hector's voice encouraging them to "pass it on".


The majority of the main cast would reappear in Bennett's 2015 film The Lady in the Van, with de la Tour in a prominent role and cameo roles for Moore, Anderson, Barnett, Cooper, Corden, Dhawan, Knott, Tovey and Parker.[1] Griffiths died in 2013, before The Lady in the Van was shot.


According to Time,[2] the film is better than the original play, as the transformation to film improved the 'flow and intimacy' of the production, while preserving the messages it seeks to convey. Rolling Stone[3] notes that some sense of familiarity with the subject of the film is lost in the cutting of nearly an hour from the original play, but the dialogue remains witty and pointed as is the customary style of the author. New York[4] describes the film as 'brilliant and infectious', and filled with Alan Bennett's customary deadpan humour. The author writes as though he simultaneously envies the extrovert characters he has created, yet is happy to stand apart from them. Hector's classes ramble, but manage to inspire the boys to the extent that they are pleased to adopt his approach to learning, and contentedly go along with his eccentric behaviour. The film is peppered with literary references and carries an encouragement to engage with life.


The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures named The History Boys one of the Top Ten Films in its 2006 awards.[5]

The film was nominated for the 2007 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release.[6]

Griffiths and de la Tour received BAFTA nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.


Title Performed by
"L'Accordéoniste" Samuel Barnett, Jamie Parker
"Bewitched" Samuel Barnett, Jamie Parker
"Now Voyager" Jamie Parker
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor – Adagio Sostenuto Jamie Parker
"Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye)" Cast
"Bye Bye Blackbird" Samuel Barnett, Jamie Parker, cast
"Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye)" Gracie Fields
"Blue Monday" New Order
"This Charming Man" The Smiths
"Mustapha Dance" The Clash
"Never Stop (Discothèque)" Echo & the Bunnymen
"A Forest" The Cure
"Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag" Pigbag
"Bewitched" Rufus Wainwright


  1. ^ Bamigboye, Baz. "BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Dame Maggie makes a date with Bennett's History Boys | Daily Mail Online". Retrieved 2016-12-26. 
  2. ^ Schickel, Richard (22 November 2006). "TIME review". TIME. Retrieved 17 April 2007. 
  3. ^ "The History Boys". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 April 2007. 
  4. ^ "The History Boys". New York. Retrieved 17 April 2007. 
  5. ^ "National Board of Review of Motion Pictures :: Awards". Archived from the original on 12 June 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2006. 
  6. ^ "GLAAD: 18th Annual GLAAD Media Awards Nominees". Archived from the original on 9 February 2007. Retrieved 22 February 2007. 

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