Richard Attenborough

Last updated on the 22 April 2024 by Maeve

Richard Attenborough headshot

Mini Biography

Born: 29 August 1923, Cambridge, England. 

Richard Attenborough CBE, FRSA, was an English actor, film director and producer. He was one of the most successful and admired figures in British cinema, winning two Academy Awards for Best Director for Gandhi (1982) and a further four Academy Award nominations. He also received four BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globe Awards.

Richard Attenborough was born in Cambridge, the eldest of three brothers. His father, Frederick Levi Attenborough, was a scholar and academic administrator who was Principal of Leicester University. His mother, Mary Attenborough, was a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council. Attenborough attended Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys in Leicester and then the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.

After graduating from RADA in 1942, Richard Attenborough made his film debut in Noël Coward’s In Which We Serve (1942). He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, and during this time he filmed several bombing raids over Europe. After the war, he resumed his acting career, appearing in a number of notable films, including Brighton Rock (1947), The Great Escape (1963) and 10 Rillington Place (1971).

In 1964, Attenborough made his directorial debut with the film Oh! What a Lovely War. He followed this with a string of critically acclaimed films, including A Matter of Life and Death (1946), The Sand Pebbles (1966), and Jurassic Park (1993). His 1982 film, Gandhi, won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Attenborough.

Attenborough was also a successful producer, and he produced films such as Cry Freedom (1987), Chaplin (1992), and In Love and War (1996).

He was a dedicated philanthropist and served as President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). He was also a lifelong supporter of Chelsea Football Club.

Richard Attenborough was married to Sheila Sim from 1945 until her death in 1994. They had three children: Michael, Jane, and Charlotte.  His brother was David Attenborough, the naturalist.

Attenborough died in 2014 at the age of 90. He was a towering figure in British cinema, and his legacy as an actor, director, producer and humanitarian is enduring.


BAFTA award
WINNER | Film: British Actor for Guns At Batasi / Séance On A Wet Afternoon (1965) | Film: Film for Gandhi (1983) | Film: Alexander Korda Award for the outstanding British Film of the Year for Shadowlands (1994)



Suggested viewing


Brighton Rock (1948)

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.3

In the gritty seaside town of Brighton, a ruthless gangster named Pinkie Brown seeks to eliminate a journalist who wrote an exposé that led to the death of his colleague. Desperate to cover his tracks, Pinkie ensnares an innocent waitress, Rose, into his web of deceit, promising her marriage in exchange for her alibi. As Pinkie’s grip on reality loosens, he becomes consumed by a twisted love for Rose, leading them both down a path of moral degradation and inescapable darkness.

Top cast: Richard Attenborough, Hermione Baddeley, William Hartnell, Nigel Stock, Wylie Watson, Carol Marsh, Harcourt Williams, Virginia Winter, Reginald Purnell.

Alternative version

Brighton Rock (2010) poster


Dunkirk (1958)

Dunkirk poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.1

Amidst the chaos and desperation of the Dunkirk evacuation, a group of British soldiers, led by the steadfast Corporal “Tubby” Binns, must fight for their survival against overwhelming odds. As they face the treacherous waters and relentless airstrikes, they are aided by an unlikely alliance of civilian ships, showcasing the extraordinary spirit of unity and resilience that emerged amidst the darkest hours of World War II.

Top cast: John Mills, Richard Attenborough, Bernard Lee, Robert Urquhart, Ray Jackson, Sean Barrett, Victor Maddern, Maxine Audley.

Similar version

Dunkirk poster


Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

Seance on a Wet Afternoon poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.6

In the guise of a psychic, Myra Savage orchestrates a daring kidnapping scheme to elevate her fraudulent practice to national attention. Billy, her meek husband, becomes an unwilling accomplice, as Myra’s obsession with her late son and a desperate thirst for fame blur the lines between reality and delusion. As the stakes rise and the truth unravels, their fragile bond and the fate of the kidnapped child hang perilously in the balance.

Top cast: Richard Attenborough, Nanette Newman, Kim Stanley, Mark Eden, Godfrey James, Gerald Sim, Patrick Magee.


I’m All Right Jack (1959)

I’m All Right Jack poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.1

In the midst of post-war Britain’s changing social landscape, an aimless aristocrat finds himself caught between his profit-driven uncle and a militant trade union leader. As he tackles the complexities of class and labour relations, he unwittingly becomes a pawn in a battle of egos and agendas, ultimately discovering the harsh realities of corporate greed and the power of collective action.

Top cast: Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price, Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl, Liz Fraser.


Rillington Place (1971)

10 Rillington Place poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.5

In post-war England, a seemingly innocent landlord, John Christie, harbours a dark secret. As he preys on vulnerable women, a tragic miscarriage of justice ensues, implicating an unsuspecting neighbour. Amidst the unsettling atmosphere of post-war London, the film explores the depths of human depravity and the devastating consequences of flawed justice.

Top cast: Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, John Hurt, Pat Heywood, Isobel Black, Phyllis MacMahon, Ray Barron, Douglas Blackwell.

Alternative version

Rillington Place poster


Full filmography (@Wikipedia)


Richard Attenborough Gallery



Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments