Hornblower Film Series Overview (1998-2003)


Hornblower is a series of British historical fiction war television films based on three of C.S. Forester’s ten novels about the fictional character Horatio Hornblower, a Royal Navy officer during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

The series ran from 07 October 1998 until 06 January 2003, with Ioan Gruffudd in the title role. It was produced by the British broadcaster ITV Meridian, and was shown on ITV in the UK and A&E in the US. It is often repeated on ITV4.


Ioan Gruffudd stars as the title character in the story of a young lad who, despite a rather inauspicious beginning, joins the Royal Navy, ultimately becoming one of the most formidable figures of the Napoleonic Wars.


  • Ioan Gruffudd as Horatio Hornblower.
  • Robert Lindsay as Captain (and later Commodore and Admiral) Sir Edward Pellew.
  • Jamie Bamber as Lieutenant Archie Kennedy (5 films).
  • Paul Copley as Matthews, Boatswain.
  • Sean Gilder as Styles, Boatswain’s Mate.
  • Dorian Healy as Midshipman Jack Simpson (1st film).
  • Paul McGann as Lieutenant William Bush (4 films).
  • Jonathan Coy as Lieutenant (and later Captain) Bracegirdle (5 films).
  • Simon Sherlock as Oldroyd (4 films).
  • Ian McElhinney as Captain Hammond (4 films).
  • Colin MacLachlan as Ship’s Master Bowles (4 films).
  • Chris Barnes as Finch (2 films).
  • Lorcan Cranitch as Wolfe (2 films).
  • Philip Glenister as Hobbs (2 films).
  • Julia Sawalha as Maria Mason (2 films).
  • David Rintoul as Dr. Clive, Ship’s Surgeon (2001 and 2003).
  • David Warner as Captain James Sawyer (2 films).
  • Nicholas Jones as Lieutenant Buckland (2 films).

Other well-known actors appeared in guest roles, including Denis Lawson, Antony Sher, Ian McNeice, Andrew Tiernan, Samuel West, Christian Coulson, Cherie Lunghi, Greg Wise and Ronald Pickup.


Captain Pellew’s ship, HMS Indefatigable, is represented by the Grand Turk, a modern copy of the frigate HMS Blandford built in 1741. To represent Hornblower’s ship, HMS Hotspur, the Earl of Pembroke, a civilian ship, underwent some conversion. The Baltic trading schooner Julia and the brig Phoenix of Dell Quay were used to represent the smaller vessels. No real 74-gun ship existed any longer at the time of production (the last one, HMS Implacable, was scuttled in 1949), so HMS Justinian and HMS Renown had to be recreated as models. For the first series a quarter of a 74-gun ship (one exterior side and three open sides to shoot live action on several decks) called the pontoon was built. Later live action on the quarterdeck or the gundeck below was shot on the actual HMS Victory. Eleven scale models, ranging from 4.5 to 7 m in length, were used for the battle scenes, the largest weighing 1400 kg, and made with working rigging and cannons that were fired by remote control. Shooting locations included the Black Sea, the Livadia Palace, Portugal, and the former administration (Melville) building of the Royal William Yard and the Barbican, Plymouth in England.


  • Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries (1999).
  • Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie (1999).

Future Films

Ioan Gruffudd had shown interest in participating in more Hornblower films. In 2007, he reportedly discussed the possibility of a big-screen version of Hornblower, and had been attempting to gain the rights to the books by C.S. Forester.

Hornblower Series

The series consists of eight television films, which are notable for their high production values. All were later released on DVD (with the original aspect ratio of 16:9 widescreen in Europe and 4:3 in the US). In the US, the series was retitled Horatio Hornblower, and some of the films were known by different titles. The eight films cover the events of just three of the ten novels (Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Lieutenant Hornblower, and Hornblower and the Hotspur), and various alterations and additions are made to the source material (e.g. the recurring characters of Lieutenants Archie Kennedy, Matthews and Styles).

Production & Filming Details

  • Release Date: 07 October 1998 to 06 January 2003.
  • Running Time: 120 minutes (with adverts).
  • Rating: PG to 15.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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