Three helicopters swoop menacingly into view, black-clad figures standing on the skids. As the TV news crews swing their cameras around, the choppers hover over the large embassy building while the men rappel swiftly onto the roof. Those same men descend the building’s face a moment later. Grenades blow out windows and the men disappear inside. Gunshots and more explosions follow.

Who Dares Wins - SAS rappelling onto buildings.
Three Westland Scout helicopters deliver real SAS troopers to the fictional American Ambassador’s Residence in the movie’s climactic scene. (

Emulating a Real Raid

Thus begins the climactic scene of 1982’s Who Dares Wins, which was marketed in the United States as The Final Option. “Who Dares Wins” is the motto of the elite British Special Air Service Regiment. The movie is loosely based on the 1980 terrorist takeover of the Iranian Embassy in London. The bad guys took hostages and killed several before the SAS stormed the building, ending the ordeal.

SAS entering a building through windows.
The SAS stormed the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980, inspiring producer Euan Lloyd, who witnessed the event. (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

Producer Euan Lloyd lived only half a block from the embassy and watched the SAS troopers go in. You can watch footage of the incident on YouTube. Lloyd moved quickly to make a movie out of it.

The SAS Gets on Board

Surprisingly, the British Ministry of Defense and the SAS themselves cooperated after imposing a couple of requirements about revealing SAS methods and tactics. The MoD even provided the Westland Scout helicopters and crews used in the movie. The film crew and actors were granted limited access to the SAS base at Hereford, and some of the actors were trained by SAS trooper Alan White. Several SAS men served as technical advisors.

Photo of the movie poster for Who Dares Wins.
Who Dares Wins’ poster promises “the secrets of the legendary S.A.S.” (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

Lewis Collins was the perfect lead as SAS Captain Peter Skellen. Collins had passed the notoriously brutal SAS selection course but was not accepted for service. He had previously appeared in some television programs and the Regiment felt his face was too well known. That was a legit concern in 1982 since the SAS was still operating clandestinely in Northern Ireland. The IRA called them “Sass Men.” Collins does a really good job. On a side note, he was briefly considered for the role of James Bond about this time.

A photo of Lewis Collins as Captain Peter Skellen from Who Dares Wins.
Lewis Collins, who passed the SAS selection, was perfect as Captain Peter Skellen. (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

Actors and stunt men trained to perform the embassy assault described in the opening paragraph, but in the end, the SAS offered to do it themselves to provide greater realism. Lloyd and director Ian Sharp jumped at the chance because they knew they couldn’t fully replicate it. So, the guys doing the rappelling are real SAS men, adding authenticity to the movie.

Photos of Norman Rodway, Ingrid Pitt, and Lewis Collins firing their MP5A3s from Who Dares Wins.
SAS trooper Alan White trained the actors. Here, Norman Rodway, Ingrid Pitt, and Lewis Collins fire their MP5A3s. (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

The clearing scenes inside the building are performed by actors. One trooper’s clothing catches fire as he enters through a blown-out window. Lloyd talked to a SAS guy to whom that happened at the Iranian Embassy assault in 1980, so he included it in the film.

A Renegade SAS Captain and a Lovely Terrorist

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, despite Who Dares Wins being forty years old. Not many Americans have seen it. It was available years ago on VHS but was never released in the US DVD format. You can get it on Blu-Ray, but I hear it’s the censored TV version. No one wants to see that. Happily, it’s available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and Tubi. So, you may want to give it a watch.

Photo of Judy Davis as Frankie Leith with Lewis Collins as Captain Peter Skellen from Who Dares Wins.
Judy Davis as terrorist leader Frankie Leith with her Beretta PM12S submachine gun and Lewis Collins as Captain Peter Skellen with his L1A1 SLR (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

Anyway, the story revolves around Skellen being booted from the SAS for abusing two exchange officers training with his team. The two officers, an American Ranger and a German GSG-9 operator are portrayed in a poor light. They’re out of shape and barely proficient. I thought it was inaccurate when I saw the movie in its brief American cinema run and I still think so. But it’s a plot device that furthers the story.

A photo of Skellen's SAS team on their way to go train from Who Dares Wins.
Skellen’s SAS team heading out on a training exercise. The American Ranger officer and German GSG-9 operator are the two on the left. (

There was a big anti-nuclear protest movement in the 1970s and 80s. Massive marches took place all over the West, especially in Europe. Some of the protest organizations were very radical. Skellen begins frequenting their events, where he soon meets Frankie Leith (Judy Davis), an American idealist who leads the People’s Lobby anti-nuclear group. It turns out she’s planning something big.

Photos from anti-nuke protests influencing the terrorists from Who Dares Wins.
Anti-nuke protests spark the movie’s terrorists. Such protests were common in the early 1980s, especially in Europe. (sinbad0910 and Chris at the Movies YouTube Channels)

Skellen gets close to Frankie, who sees the value of having someone around who knows British counter-terrorism policy and tactics. We soon learn that Skellen is passing information on her and the People’s Lobby to the British government. His being kicked out is part of his cover. Frankie uses her contacts to confirm Skellen’s story, though she and her pals never quite trust him.

The movie winds through Frankie’s plot, culminating with the People’s Lobby taking over the American Ambassador’s residence while he’s throwing a fancy dinner party. The guests include the US Secretary of State, ably played by Richard Widmark, and the commander of the US Strategic Air Command.

Photo from Who Dares Wins of the terrorists crashing the US Ambassador's dinner party.
Frankie and her group of terrorists crash the US Ambassador’s dinner party (

Frankie has also been digging further into Skellen’s past, discovering he has a wife and child in London. She dispatches two of her terrorist minions to hold them hostage against Skellen’s continued cooperation.

Photo from Who Dares Wins of the terrorists Helga holding her Smith & Wesson Model 10.
Ingrid Pitt as the vicious terrorist Helga rocking her Smith & Wesson Model 10. (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel/

Ingrid Pitt plays an especially vicious terrorist named Helga, who tries to kill Skellen’s wife. That sets the stage for an epic SAS rescue. Pitt was also in the excellent Where Eagles Dare.

Photo of two SAS troopers preparing to breach a wall from Who Dares Wins.
Two SAS troopers prepare to breach the wall to rescue Skellen’s wife and child from Helga and her accomplice. Note the Browning Hi-Power pistols and the flashlights taped to their shooting arms. (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

Frankie soon issues her demand that the British government destroys their submarine base at Holy Loch, on Scotland’s west coast, with a nuclear weapon. She says the point is to show the world the horrors of a modern nuclear detonation. She believes the people will then demand disarmament across the world. Of course, the Brits are never going to do that. Negotiations eventually break down and the SAS goes in to sort it out. The final option, as it were. Skellen assists from the inside in an intense ten-minute assault scene.

Photo of SAS troopers rappelling down the Ambassador's residence from Who Dares Wins.
SAS troopers rappel down the face of the Ambassador’s residence in this lobby card promoting Who Dares Wins (

All the Cool Guns

The movie features several iconic firearms. The SAS guys use Browning Hi-Power pistols and HK MP5A3 submachine guns. Who Dares Wins is believed to mark the first widespread use of the MP5 in a movie.

Photo of SAS troopers clearing the US Ambassador's residence in Who Dares Wins.
SAS troopers clearing the US Ambassador’s residence with their HK MP5A3’s (

The troopers also use a 12-gauge Remington 870 Police Folder to breach the building’s front door. Skellen’s SAS team carries the British L1A1 SLR early in the movie.

A photo of troopers breaching a door from Who Dares Wins.
Breaching the front door with the 12-gauge Remington 870. ( and Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

Federal M201-Z 37mm Riot Guns to blow out a couple of windows. This last is inaccurate. The SAS did use the M201-Z, but it only fires tear gas or baton rounds. The windows actually explode. But it looks cool, especially the delivery.

Photo of SAS troopers hanging from a helicopter in Who Dares Wins.
SAS guys hanging from a chopper blow out the windows with Federal M201Z Riot Guns before making a very dynamic entry (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

The troopers do use Schermuly training grenades to clear the building, as did the SAS at the time. Turns out they worked marvelously as stun grenades.

Photo of troopers clearing a building from Who Dares Wins.
Clearing the building with Schermuly training grenades, which the SAS of the time used as stun grenades (

The terrorists carry 9mm Beretta PM12S submachine guns and Ingram MAC 10 machine pistols. A couple of the latter sport Sionics two-stage suppressors. A couple of the terrorists carry suppressed FEG Tokagypt Type 58 pistols, a Hungarian export version of the venerable Tokarev TT-33. And Helga rocks a Smith & Wesson Model 10 snubbie in .38 Special.

A photo of Skellen clearing out terrorist in Who Dares Wins.
Of course, Skellen gets in on clearing out the terrorists with his Ingram MAC 10. (

Other Coolness

Who Dares Wins shows some interesting SAS training scenes, apparently filmed at Hereford. We see the troopers simulating urban combat firing on the range, a train car assault, and a shoot house with Skellen playing the hostage. I don’t know whether those shooters were actors or real SAS guys. I think it’s probably a mix, depending on whether you can see their faces.

Photo of the training scenes from the SAS base from Who Dares Wins.
Training scenes from the SAS base at Hereford, UK (sinbad0910 YouTube Channel)

Mixed Reception, but Ronald Reagan and Stanley Kubrick Liked It

Who Dares Wins was popular in the United Kingdom, where it was 1982’s sixth highest-grossing movie. Princess Diana attended the London premier. Legendary director Stanley Kubrick personally called to tell Lloyd how much he enjoyed it.

A photo of Lewis Collins greeting Princess Diana for Who Dares Wins.
Lewis Collins greets Princess Diana at the London premier of Who Dares Wins while Ingrid Pitt smiles in the background. (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

President Ronald Reagan requested a copy to screen at Camp David. He reportedly liked it, as did Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who had recently joined the board of MGM/United Artists. Haig convinced them to bring the movie to the US in 1983. The studio renamed it The Final Option.

Who Dares Wins retitled the poster for The Final Option.
Who Dares Wins was retitled The Final Option in the United States. It was this poster in the theater lobby that enticed me to see it. (

The movie didn’t do so well in America. It wasn’t properly advertised or supported, and film critic Roger Ebert panned it in The Chicago Sun Times. Ebert complained that the audience knew more about terrorist operations than the movie terrorists themselves. Could be, but to be fair, the People’s Lobby’s activist financier calls them “amateurs” before walking off arm in arm with a sympathetic Member of Parliament. I think that the last image is all too accurate sometimes.

A photo of Lewis Collins as James Bond after his role in Who Dares Wins.
Lewis Collins was briefly considered for the role of James Bond. ( and Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

I saw The Final Option by accident. Some friends and I walked into a multiplex cinema in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and saw the poster. We were freshmen at a military school and we thought it looked cool. Good decision. We loved it.

Photos of Norman Rodway, Ingrid Pitt, and Lewis Collins firing their MP5A3s from Who Dares Wins.
SAS trooper Alan White trained the actors. Here, Norman Rodway, Ingrid Pitt, and Lewis Collins fire their MP5A3s. (Chris at the Movies YouTube Channel)

Maybe you will too. Who Dares Wins is a little cheesy sometimes, as older movies often are. But I think the action scenes hold up pretty well and it does capture a bit of the Cold War flavor of the early 1980s when the Evil Empire still loomed beyond the Iron Curtain. 

Read more like this in the GunMag Warehouse series Saturday Night at the Movies.

About the Author:

William “Bucky” Lawson is a self-described “typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast”. He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, “here and there”. A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar – preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.