Films in a historical setting that move,
inspire, inform and make great entertainment. Chosen by The History Place
and made available for instant purchase from Amazon.com!
Listed in Alphabetical Order:
the President’s Men – Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman as the
two reporters from the Washington Post whose dogged pursuit of the facts surrounding
political espionage sponsored by the Nixon White House ultimately resulted
in President Nixon’s resignation. Travel step by step with the tireless reporters
as they get doors slammed in their faces and stonewalled by just about everyone
connected with Nixon, except the ever mysterious secret source, Deep Throat.
Quiet on the Western Front – (1930) – One of the most
powerful statements ever made about war, this film about World War One follows
young idealistic German students – so eager to fight for the Fatherland –
as they encounter the murderous reality of modern warfare. B&W.
– Directed by Steven Spielberg, an insightful examination of events surrounding
the successful revolt in 1839 by a group of Africans headed for slavery in
America. The fight for freedom is taken up by abolitionist Theodore Joadson
(Morgan Freeman) and former President John Quincy Adams (Anthony Hopkins).
The bewildered, infuriated African revolt leader Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) learns
to communicate with these men and wages a legal battle for freedom. Rated
13 – A very entertaining look at what happened in space as
the result of an explosion that left three astronauts perilously close to
being stranded. The whole world watched, hoped and prayed back in 1970 as
the astronauts and ground crew improvised and kept their courage despite slim
chances of survival. Directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks. Rated
– Winner of eleven Oscars®. Watching this film can easily turn into
a religious experience. Charlton Heston stars as a wealthy young Jewish man
who winds up in the galley of a Roman ship, but over time struggles back to
get revenge against the Romans. With glimpses of Jesus of Nazareth in the
background, Heston, filled with hate, ultimately finds revenge leads nowhere
and comes to understand the power of love. Directed by William Wyler.
Best Years of Our Lives – Made just after the conclusion
of World War II, this film begins the moment three battle-hardened veterans
return home to middle America. They find themselves stepping into a world
a million miles removed from the realities of war, a world that has changed
much since they went overseas. They struggle to resume daily lives amid the
lingering emotional effects of the war, surrounded by people who admire them
but don’t understand them. Best Supporting Actor Oscar® went to Harold
Russell (a real-life veteran who lost both hands) for his portrayal of Navy
seaman Homer Parrish. Directed by William Wyler. B&W.
– Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman in the
drama many consider to be the finest American film ever made. This is a powerful
love story set amid the everyday intrigue and danger of living in Nazi controlled
North Africa. B&W.
and See – A look at Hitler’s war
of annihilation against ordinary Russian people as seen through the eyes of
a sensitive teenage boy. This highly stylized film is considered to be a crowning
achievement of 1980’s era Soviet cinema. Set in 1943, we witness the tragic
adventures of an unknowing teen after he leaves his family to join the anti-Nazi
partisans. Eventually he winds up in a village surrounded by Nazi SS. In Russian
with English subtitles.
with Wolves – Kevin Costner’s tour de force about the natural
world of a Sioux tribe in the Dakota Territory in 1864 as seen through the
eyes of a Union soldier determined to experience the Western frontier before
it is wrecked by white invaders. Rated PG-13 (violence and brief nudity).
Boot: The Director’s Cut – Wolfgang Petersen’s classic
German anti-war film about life on board a U-boat. This realistic, tense drama
follows the crew of 43 young men as they go out on a mission in 1941, in this
most dangerous of all military pursuits with a 75 percent casualty rate. Contains
60 added minutes, with interviews and making-of footage. In German with English
Diary of Anne Frank – The saga
of two Jewish families forced into hiding in a small attic during World War
Two as told by Anne Frank, a girl on the verge of womanhood. Unable to go
outside for any reason, she must cope with the boredom, fear, annoyances,
and loneliness of captivity, but through it all manages to remain hopeful.
Directed by George Stevens. B&W.
Zhivago – A breathtakingly beautiful film set amid the Russian
revolution, made even more interesting, in hindsight, by the recent collapse
of Communism in the Soviet Union. This is a great historical epic, a love
story, and a vivid chronicle of the ferocious determination of idealistic
young Reds to establish a new political order. Directed by David Lean.
– A German-made drama that provides an unflinching look at the last days
of Hitler’s Reich, featuring the best portrayal of Hitler yet seen on film.
As the Soviet Army edges ever closer to Hitler’s bunker in Berlin, a furious
chaos erupts both inside the bunker and on the streets above as soldiers,
civilians, and Hitler and his advisors all face the prospect of imminent defeat.
Rated R (violence). In German with English subtitles.
– Amarvelous look at power politics, 1500s style, showing us
the evolution of a funloving, outgoing girl into the most powerful woman who
ever lived. Directed by Shekhar Kapur and starring Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth
is a real woman, talented but vulnerable, possessing enormous potential and
brain power. Upon becoming Queen, she enters into a deadly political chess
game where one false move could cost her the throne as well as her head. Rated
Europa – Actually one of the finest films yet made regarding
the Holocaust. Based on the true story of Solomon Perel, it follows the adventures
of a Jewish youth who escapes certain death by posing as a Communist and then
by pretending to be a member of the Hitler Youth, showing the ludicrous but
deadly nature of Nazi racism. Rated R (nudity). In German with English
– Nine Oscars® went to this sweeping biography of the great Indian
leader who preached non-violence and tolerance. Ben Kingsley stars with a
‘cast of thousands’ but beautifully delivers an intimate, revealing performance.
Directed by Richard Attenborough. Rated PG.
Agreement – A ground breaking film from the 1940s that unflinchingly
attacked the accepted American norm of anti-Semitism. This film succeeds in
mostly refraining from preaching while showing the human impact of prejudice
as Gregory Peck poses as a Jew and gets shut out by polite society. B&W.
– The epic Civil War story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, the first
all-black Union regiment. Stars Matthew Broderick as Col. Robert Gould Shaw,
and features the inspiring performances of Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington
who won an Oscar®. Rated R (violence).
with the Wind – This 1939 film was Hollywood’s most popular
film of all time, until Mr. Spielberg came along. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh
star in the timeless story of the collapse of the Old South amid the US Civil
War. Watch the amazing transformation of Scarlett from a young flirt into
a woman of substance driven by determination to succeed and thrive among the
Grapes of Wrath – The film that
defined an era – the Great Depression and Midwest Dust Bowl of the 1930s –
showing the fear, uncertainty and misery of the little people, Americans in
Oklahoma, leaving for the promised land, California, only to find they are
not wanted once they arrive. Directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda.
Great Escape – Based on a true story, the thrilling saga of
a big group of Allied prisoners who managed to escape from an escape-proof
German POW camp during World War II. This film does a fine job of presenting
these men as interesting, likable characters, and will leave you rooting all
the way for them to succeed. Watch Steve McQueen, doing his own motorcycle
stunts, roar across the countryside pursued by Nazis.
Claudius – (Made for Television) – The stunning, behind the
scenes story of the early Emperors of Rome as seen through the eyes of stumbling,
bumbling Claudius, considered by all to be a useless fool. You’ll witness
the stab in the back deathmanship practiced by some of the most powerful people
who ever lived as Claudius survives to prove them all wrong in the end. Truly
phenomenal acting performances by Derek Jacobi as Claudius and John Hurt as
Caligula. Winner of 4 British awards and an American Emmy®. (contains
some nudity and violence).
of Nazareth – (Made for Television)
– This is the definitive version of the life of Jesus, directed by Franco
Zefferelli, with believable characters, realistic settings, and great insight
into the political, social and religious events surrounding Jesus. Robert
Powell stars with an international all-star cast including Sir Laurence Olivier,
Rod Steiger, Anne Bancroft and Peter Ustinov.
Last Emperor – Bernardo Bertolucci’s visually stunning multi-Oscar®
winning epic about the life of Pu Yi, chosen at age 3 to be Emporer of China,
but soon swept up in the tide of history including the Japanese invasion during
World War II and the emergence of Communist China. Rated PG-13.
of Arabia – Peter O’Toole stars
as T.E. Lawrence, an eccentric British officer who is transformed into a hero
in World War I during the Arab revolt against Turkey. Directed by David Lean,
this sweeping epic is regarded as one of the greatest of all films, with stunning
cinematography and fascinating historical characters portrayed by Alec Guinness,
Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif.
Dove – (Made for Television) – One of the best surprises ever
to appear on American TV, this mini-series may also be the finest U.S. Western
ever made. It shows once and for all that the men and women of the Old West
weren’t the cartoon characters seen in hundreds of cowboy films, but real,
caring, loving, thinking persons. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones are utterly
fascinating as two ex-lawmen who opt for the adventure of a long cattle drive
and the greener pastures of the vast American prairie.
Man for All Seasons – (1966) – When Henry VIII of England
broke away from the Catholic Church, Sir Thomas More, one of his chief subordinates,
refused to go along as a matter of conscience. Paul Scofield gives a mesmerizing,
Oscar® winning performance, showing the anguish of a man who stood up
for what he believed in, knowing it would likely cost him his head.
and Commander – A realistic, unpretentious look at everyday
life aboard a British warship back in 1805 when Britain and France were battling
each other for world dominance. Capt. Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe,
commands the British ship HMS Surprise and fights a French super battleship
in the South Atlantic. In addition to thrilling battle scenes, the film shows
the extraordinary amount of human effort and coordination it took to effectively
operate a sailing warship. Also fascinating is the class divide between British
officers and sailors aboard the ship, as we watch boy-officers with high-pitched
voices barking orders at men several times older, but of common ancestry.
– The man, the myth, the legend, all rolled into one in this great bio-drama
starring George C. Scott. World War II Gen. George Patton is revealed as a
man who loved war and whose only fear was that he might somehow be left out
of the conflict. His superiors can almost assume Patton will fight a successful
battle when needed and win. But they also know him as a man given to excess.
Patton must therefore fight two battles, against the Germans, and against
his own worst instincts. He constantly tests the patience of Generals Eisenhower
and Bradley, egged on by another World War II super-ego, British Gen. Montgomery.
But through it all, his phenomenal leadership abilities shine. Best Actor
Oscar® for Scott. Rated PG.
– The American ordeal in Vietnam as told by Oliver Stone, a man who was
there. Charlie Sheen stars as a new recruit in 1967 who quickly discovers
any traditional notions of war have no place amid the military and moral confusion
confronting the “grunts.” For most, the goal is simple survival,
but for others, the savagery of this war is strangely appealing. Sheen must
not only fight the war in the jungle, but must fight his own savage urges
and cope with the men who have already given in and enjoy living without civilized
constraints. “We did not fight the enemy, we fought ourselves and the
enemy was in us,” Sheen states. One of the most powerful American films
ever made. Rated R (language, extreme violence).
Red Badge of Courage – This Civil
War film has an amazingly realistic feel about it, taking us into battle with
a frightened young Union soldier played by Audie Murphy (a World War II hero
turned actor) who is forced to fight while confronting his own deep fears.
Based on Stephen Crane’s famous novel. Directed by John Huston. B&W.
Roy – The true story of Robert Roy MacGregor, a hero
of 18th Century Scotland, who becomes an outlaw to redeem his honor. This
is a thrilling romantic epic in the best tradition of swashbuckler movies
and features some of the best swordfighting scenes ever filmed. It also provides
insight into the old English system of Lords and peasants, when all men were
definitely not considered equal. Liam Neeson stars along with Jessica Lange.
Filmed on location in Scotland. Rated R.
– (Made for Television) – The complete 6 part mini-series that became
a national event when it was first aired in the U.S. as millions of Americans
watched the story of a young African stolen into slavery and taken to colonial
America. It begins with the birth of Kunta Kinte in 1750 in an African village
and ends seven generations later after a monumental struggle to achieve freedom
and dignity against overwhelming odds. Lou Gossett Jr. as the house servant,
Fiddler, gives one of the finest performances ever seen on TV.
Private Ryan – The best American war movie ever made.
Stars Tom Hanks as a U.S. Army captain who storms the beach at Normandy and
is then assigned a special mission, to find a mother’s sole surviving son.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, the story dramatizes the sacrifices of that
truly great generation of Americans who, along with our Allies, fought and
defeated Hitler in Europe. This is also the one of the most shockingly violent
films ever made. This is war. The film’s super realistic portrayal
of men in battle will leave you stunned. This is what the men saw. This is
what happened – the whizzing and pinging of bullets from a machine gun nest
– bullets ripping apart human bodies – the screaming of wounded, confused,
dying men amid the overwhelming noise of war. Spielberg lets the war, specifically
its murderous violence, be the true star of this film. Spielberg also had
the nerve to portray the Germans realistically as the killing machines which
they became, while at the same time showing us Americans who preferred to
shoot anything that moved rather than take prisoners. Rated R.
List – Amid the Nazi Holocaust, one man, Oskar Schindler, was
moved by the plight of the Jews and risked everything to save a group of them,
even buying them back from certain death. This magnificent, sweeping drama
by Steven Spielberg succeeds where other films fail in providing genuine insight
into the nature of Nazi brutality and also shows the hugely profitable forced
labor system set up by the Nazis, along with the death camps. Rated R (brief
Shop on Main Street – Oscar®
winning film set in a small town in Czechoslovakia corrupted by the Nazi occupation.
A good natured carpenter is appointed Aryan controller of a little button
shop run by a frail, hard-of-hearing Jewish widow. She takes an immediate
liking to him, somehow thinking he is to be her new assistant. He in turn
is captivated by her simple, kind ways. As their friendship grows, the town
prepares to round-up and ship out all of the Jews, eventually forcing him
to choose between helping her survive or saving his own skin. This 1965 film
provides a unique glimpse of the far reaching impact of the Nazi Holocaust
on ‘little’ people who otherwise would be leading ordinary lives. In Czech
with English subtitles. B&W.
– The epic story of the revolt of slaves
in Ancient Rome, notable for a spectacular battle sequence between the Roman
legions and the army of slaves. Excellent performances by Kirk Douglas and
Laurence Olivier. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Kill a Mockingbird – An extraordinary
drama that examines racism in the pre-civil rights American South from a child’s
eye, with the young children in this film finding the intense racism of adults
to be a strangely curious phenomenon. Great performances by the child actors
in this film, especially Mary Badham as Scout. Gregory Peck stars as the wise,
benevolent lawyer defending an African American man falsely accused of the
rape of a white woman. B&W.
Tora! Tora! – A realistic, detailed look at the dramatic
events surrounding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor from both the Japanese
and American perspectives. This American-Japanese co-production features an
historically accurate, meticulous recreation of the climactic attack of December
and Remembrance – (Made for Television) – This 12 part World
War II mini-series contains some of the most realistic dramatic footage ever
made concerning the Holocaust, filmed at actual locations. It also contains
portrayals by German actors of Nazis which are closer to reality than anything
else on film before or since, notably Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess, with
his single-minded obsession to please Himmler. Based on the Herman Wouk novel,
this mini-series superbly covers most of the major events of the war, focusing
on the lives of an American Navy family, President Roosevelt, Hitler and his
entourage, and the downward spiral of a renowned Jewish professor trapped
in Europe with his niece. Stars Robert Mitchum, Jane Seymour and the unforgettable
performance of John Gielgud as Professor Aaron Jastrow. Volume
1 – Parts 1 to 7 Volume
2 – Parts 8 to 12
Oscars® Oscar® and Academy
Awards® are registered trademarks of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences. Emmy® is a registered trademark of The Academy of Television
Arts & Sciences.