The Finishing Line

The Finishing Line is a British public information film, shown on television as a warning to children not to play on railway lines. Produced by British Transport Films in 1977, it’s a boy’s vision of what might happen if playing on the railway line were a school sports day, complete with teams, judges, and prizes. The predictable mayhem is amplified by the surreal spectacle of responsible adults orchestrating the events, while ambulance staff stretcher off the dead and wounded children. The change from excited competitiveness to stunned horror is reflected in the (surviving) children’s face.

This is a chilling film, so much so that it was replaced two years later by something less graphic, Robbie. Bear in mind that The Finishing Line was designed for children as a dreadful warning, so if your adult sensitivities flinch on seeing the film, then it was probably doing an effective job on the target audience. I thought the full film was not available online, but recently came across it on YouTube.


Another graphic British public information film, warning children of the dangers of playing on farms. Apaches was made in 1977, the same year as The Finishing Line, which warned them against playing on railway lines. Like The Finishing Line, it engages its target audience by entering the minds of the children, as their Apache gang plays in what tuns out to be a lethal environment. These films deserve respect because they co-opt the children’s imagination to let them see the real consequences of stupidity, rather than pontificating from on high about the dangers. As a genre, they’re both artful and effective.