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Ancient History in the Movies | Medieval Movies | Modern History in the Movies

Internet Modern History Sourcebook

Modern History in the Movies

[Archive Version. This list includes films up until c. 2000 AD. There have been many more modern history- themed films since and there is no current intention to keep updating this list. This copy will remain for those who have made reference to the list in books, articles, or made links to the list. Date: 17 Jan 2023]

See Main Page for a guide to all contents of all sections.


Films and TV series set in the past can help students (and teachers) of history to visualize the period they are studying. But film makers are usually much more concerned with making an entertaining film rather than a historically accurate depiction. The films I suggest here will, I think, give some insight into the periods studied in modern history courses, but they are far from perfect!

In general, I recommend seeing foreign language films in the original language with subtitles rather than dubbed into English. [Try watching John Wayne dubbed into French someday - and you'll see why dubbing almost never works.]

  1. What seems to be accurate in the film? What sources are you using to assess accuracy?
  2. In what ways does the film impact your reading of any of the documents you have been assigned in this course.
  3. What liberties does the film take with the past? Why?
  4. Is the film primarily entertainment, or is it really trying to work within a historical period? How can you determine the film maker's intention?
  5. Is the film primarily entertainment, or is it really trying to work within a historical period? How can you determine the film maker's intention?
  6. What, if any, modern point is the film trying make?
  7. My essay Thinking about Historical Film (PDF) or here (HTML) may be of interest for readers of this web page.


  • By "clicking" on the title of the movie, you will be taken to the Internet Movie Database record on that movie.
  • Movies are in English unless otherwise noted.

Other Lists like this

The Roots of Western Culture

European Expansion and Colonization

Christopher Columbus 1985 (TV) 
Dir. Alberto Lattuada, With Gabriel Byrne, Faye Dunaway, Oliver Reed
there are many other Columbus movies to chose from.

Christopher Columbus: The Discovery 1992
Dir. John Glen, With Marlon Brando, Tom Selleck, Rachel Ward

1492: Conquest of Paradise 1992 149 mins.
Dir. Ridley Scott. With Gerard Depardieu.

Royal Hunt of the Sun 1969
Dir. Irving Lerner.
The conquest of Peru by Francisco Pizzaro.

Aguirre: The Wrath of God 1972
Dir. Werner Herzog, With Klaus Kinski and Ruy Guirra.
The story of Gonzalo Pizarro and his fellow fortune hunters in Peru.

The Mission 1986
Dir. Roland Jaffe. With Robert de Niro, Jeremy Irons.
The Jesuit plantations in Paraguay.

Black Robe 1991, 101 mins.
Dir. Bruce Beresford.
Jesuit missions in Quebec.

Yo, la peor de todas 1990 [in Spanish] [I, the Worst of All]
Dir. María Luisa Bemberg. With Assumpta Serna
The life of Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz.

Seven Cities of Gold, 1955, Robert D. Webb, 103 mins
The story of the 18th century expedition of Father Juniper Serra and the founding of the California Missions - especially the first at  San Diego.

The Renaissance

Prince of Foxes 1949, 107 mins.BW
Dir: Henry King; Cast includes: Tyrone Power, Orson Welles (as Borgia)
-About Cesare Borgia. Extremely lavish production.

The Agony and the Ecstasy 1965
Dir. Carol Reed, With Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison
The story of Michaelangelo.

Caravaggio 1986  
Dir. Derek Jarman

The Reformation and Catholic Reformation

Martin Luther 1953 
Dir. Irving Pichel, With Niall MacGinnis
-probably better than the 1993 version with Stacey Keach as Luther, but which was produced by the American Lutheran church and makes Luther a complete hero.

Luther 1973 
Dir. Guy Green. With Stacey Keach
-based on John Osborne's play of the same name, which was a theatrical version of Erik Erikson's effort at psychohistory, Young Man Luther.

Loyola: Soldier Saint 1948, 100 mins.
Dir. José Díaz Morales.
The story of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)

The Last Valley 1991, 125 mins
Dir. James Clavell, With Michael Cain, Omar Sharif
Set in 1641, the twenty-third year of the Thirty Years' War. Sharif plays Vogel, a teacher who is  now a wandering beggar since his entire family was slaughtered. He encounters a group of ruthless mercenaries who are riding toward a nearby village.

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The Ancien Regime: Absolutism and the Modern State

Mary of Scotland 1936, 123 mins.
Dire.: John Ford; Cast includes: Katharine Hepburn, Frederic March.
-Flopped at the box office.

Mary, Queen of Scots 1971, 128 mins.
US, Historical/Biography, 128, Rated PG, Color
Director: Charles Jarrott; Cast includes: Vanessa Redgrave (Mary, Queen of Scots), Glenda Jackson (Queen Elizabeth),
-Incredible cast, but inaccurate. The homosexual relationship between Darnleyl and Riccio is portrayed.

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex 1939, 106 mins.
Dir. Michael Curtiz; Cast includes: Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Vincent Price

The Virgin Queen 1955, 92 mins.
Dir. Jenry Koster; Cast includes: Bette Davis, Richard Todd, Joan Collins
-Elizabeth and Raleigh.

Elizabeth 1998
Dir. Shekhar Kapur, With Cate Blanchett.
-there are many other movies on Queen Elizabeth. This  is oo amazinging anti-Catholic, it could not have been made by a modern English director.

Seven Seas to Calais 1962, 102 mins.
Italy, Historical/Biography, 102, No rating, Color
Director: Rudolph Mate; Cast includes: Rod Taylor, Keith Mitchell
-About Sir Francis Drake

Fire Over England 1937, 89 mins. BW
Dir: William K. Howard; Star; Laurence Olivier, Flora Robson (Queen Elizabeth), Leslie Banks (Earl of Leicester), Raymond Massey, (Philip of Spain), Vivien Leigh (Cynthia)
-All about the Armada.

The Return of Martin Guerre 1982 [aka La Retour de Martin Guerre] [in French or with English subtitles]
Dir. Daniel Vigne, With Gerald Depardieu
One of the best historical movies ever made. Get subtitled rather than dubbed version.

Queen Margot 1954
France, Historical/Drama/Biography, With Jeanne Moreau
-About the St. Bartholemew's day massacre.

Queen Margot 1994 [La Reine Margot][In French]
Dir. Patrice Chéreau. With Isabelle Adjani
-Based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas père, it is set during the French wars of religion.  Margot de Valois, sister of the Catholic King Charles XI, is forced to marry Hugenot King Henri of Navarre.

The Last Valley 1971
Dir. James Clavell, With Michael Caine
A film set in german during the Thirty Years War. A group of  of come across a peaceful valley untouched by the wars, and decide to take over.

La prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV [aka The Rise of Louis XIV] 1966 (TV) [in French]
Dir. Roberto Rossellini, With Jean-Marie Patte, Raymond Jourdan.

Vatel 2000
France, Historical, 103, PG 13, Color
Dir. Roland Joffé, With Gérard Depardieu and Uma Thurman.
The opening film Cannes 2000 focuses on three days in 1671 when the Prince de Condé hosted Louis XIV and his court.

Peter the Great 1986 TV- 3 part mini series.
Dir. Marvin J. Chomsky and Lawrence Schiller, With Maximillian Schell, Vanessa Redgrave, Omar Sharif, and Laurence Olivier.
Peter the Great's attempt to transform Russia into a "European" society.

Tempest 1959
Italy, Historical, 125, No rating, Color
Director: Alberto Lattuada
-On the Pugachev peasant uprising in Catherine the Great's Russia

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The Ancien Regime: Constitutionalism and Roots of Modern Political Thought

Cromwell 1970
Dir. Ken Hughes (I). With Richard Harris and Alec Guinness.

Restoration 1995
Dir. Michael Hoffman, With Robert Downey Jr., Sam Neill, David Thewlis, Meg Ryan,
Ian McKellen, Hugh Grant
About a doctor at the court of Charles II.

Bonnie Prince Charlie 1948, 140 mins, later released at 114 mins.
Dir. Anthony Kimmins. With David Niven.
Considered a total disaster when it was released. Niven is not convincing as Soctland's romantic golden boy, and the film works as neither history nor drama.

The Battle of Culloden 1964. TV 69 mins.
Dir. Peter Watkins.
Reenactment, presented as an eyewitness docudrama, of the battle in 1746 where the supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie were defeated. Banned from TV in Australia and the UK.

Barry Lyndon 1975 184 mins.
Dir. Stanley Kubrick. With Ryan O’Neal and Marisa Berenson.
Based on a novel by Thackeray, this film is long but useful for its representation of   18th century warfare.

The Madness of King George 1994
Dir: Nicholas Hytner, With Nigel Hawthorne.

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The Scientific Revolution: Copernicus to Newton, and After

Galileo 1975
Dir. Joseph Losey, With Topol as Galileo!
An all star cast, but this going to be hard to find.

Galileo Galilei 1989 (TV) [In Italian]
Dir. Ivo Barnabò Micheli, With F. Murray Abraham
Probably hard to get hold of.

Galileo: On the Shoulders of Giants 1998. TV 60 mins.
Dir. David Devine, with Michael Moriarty.
Tells the story of Galileo and his relationship with Cosimo de Medici. Made for the Filmed in Padua and elsewhere.

The Draughtman's Contract 1982
Dir: Peter Greenaway

The Story of Louis Pasteur 1936
Dir. William Dieterle, With Paul Muni

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The Enlightenment

The Nun [aka La Religeuse] 1966
Dir. Jacques Rivetter.
Film of Diderot's anti-clerical novel.

Dangerous Liaisons 1988 119 mins
Dir. Stephen Frears, With Glenn Close and John Malkovich
Based on a, 18th-century novel, this is a deliciously wicked portrayal of aristocratic culture of the period immediately preceding the French Revolution.

Valmont 1989 136 mins.
Dir.Milos Forman, With Colin Firth and Annette Bening.
Based on the same de Laclos novel as Dangerous Liaisons.

Ridicule 1996 [in French]
Dir. Patrice Leconte, With Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort, Fanny Ardant
-Set in the court France of Louis XVI.

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The French Revolution: Liberal Ideals

La Marseillaise 1938 [In French] 135 mins.
Dir. Jean Renoir
The story of the French Revolution from the perspective of the Marseilles volunteers.

Danton 1982 [in French]
Dir. Andrzej Wajda, with Gerard Depardieu.
This film by a polish director caused a sensation in France for its perceived criticism of the Revolution.

La Nuit de Varennes 1982 [In French]
Dir. Ettore Scola, With Marcello Mastroianni, Hanna Schygulla, Harvey Keitel

La Révolution française 1989
Dir. Robert Enrico, With Klaus Maria Brandauer, Jane Seymour, Sam Neill
Dramatizes the revolution from 1789 through 1794.

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The American Revolution and After

Revolution 1985
Dir. Hugh Hudson. With Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland, Nastassja Kinski

The Patriot 2000 164 mins.
Dir. Roland Emmerich, With Mel Gibson
A dreadful movie in which a German director takes an event from the Nazi occupation of France (the killing of the French inhabitants of Oradour by lokcing them up in a church and setting fire to it) and attrivutes it to a Nazified British army. Meanwhile, Mel Gibson's character, based on the historical Francis Marion, a known racist, dances with happily freed Black folks on idyllic Carolina islands.

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The Industrial Revolution

Hard Times 1994 (TV)
Writing credit:  Peter Barnes (I), With Alan Bates
Based on Dickens novel. There was also a 1977 TV series.

Germinal 1993 [In French] 170 mins
Dir. Claude Berry. With Gerard Depardieu.
Sprawling film on Zola's novel about a strike in French mining village.

Modern Times 1936
Dir. Charlie Chaplin, With Charles Chaplin and Paulette Goddard.

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The 19th Century: The Conservative Order Transformed

Frankenstein 1931, 71 mins, BW
Dir. James Whale. With Boris Karloff.
James Whale's version of Mary Shelley's story remains one of the best horror movies. The story illustrates many of the themse of Romanticism.

Victoria the Great 1937
Dir. Herbert Wilcox, With Anna Neagle
The "Great woman" approach to history. Compare with Mrs. Brown.

Mrs. Brown
Dir. John Madded, With Judy Dench and Billy Connolly.

Disraeli 1929 90 mins.
Dir. Alfred E. Green. With George Arliss.
The story focuses on Disraeli's acquistion of the Suez canal.

Disraeli 1979 (TV) 76 mins.
Dir. Claude Whatham

Dante's Inferno (1967) TV 90mins
Dir. Ken Russell
About the Pre-Raphaelites -- the Dante in question being Dante Rossetti.

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The 19th Century: The Liberal Tradition

Les Misérables 1998
Dir. Bille August. With Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, Claire Danes
-most recent of many versions.

Cousin Bette 1998.
Dir. Des McAnuff, With Jessica Lange and Elisabeth Shue.
Based Balzac’s novel set in  Paris on the eve of the revolution of 1848.

Juarez 1939 132mins
Dir. William Dieterle, With Bette Davis and Maul Muni.
On the  reign the puppet-emperor Maximilian, his wife Carlotta (Bette Davis), and their chief antagonist, Benito Juarez, the so-called "Abraham Lincoln of Mexico"

Life of Emile Zola 1937 116mins
Dir. William Dieterle, With Paul Muni
On the life of the great French liberal writer, and his involvement in the Dreyfus affaire. It won Oscar as best film in 1938. Although it alters history to some extent, it is well worth viewing. (Specifically: Zola's love life is cleaned up; his early career is heavily fictionalized; and portions of his "J'accuse" letter become courtroom speeches.) The major problem is that, except for one fleeting reference, the film completely avoids that central issue of Anti-Semitism in the Dreyfus affair.

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The 19th Century: The Nationalist Dream

The Leopard [aka Il Gattopardo]  1963 205/165 mins cut
Dir. Luchino Visconti, With Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon.
Based on Giuseppe de Lampedusa’s novel, the film shows Sicilian life, landlord-tenant relations, and social unrest around 1860. Lancaster plays a Prince trying to work out he responds to the unification of Italy and the Risorgimento.

Michael Collins. 1996 132mins
Dir. Neil Jordan. With Liam Nelson
Set in the 1920s, but just about the best film on Nationalism and Nationalists. Americans might find the accents tough going, but for those who know anything about Irish history, this is an excellent film.

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The 19th Century in America

Dir. Steven Spielberg., Wiith Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins,Djimon Hounsou
This film represented Steven Spielberg's response to what happened at a showing to young people in Los Angeles of Schindler's List - some of them laughed. In trying to understand why, Spielberg evolved this project on the Amistad revolt.

Glory 1989 122 mins
Dir. Edward Zwick. With Denzel Washington
Highly praised account of Black soldiers in the US Civil War.

The Day Lincoln was Shot TV 1998 95mins
Dir. John Gray

Citizen Kane 1941 119mins
Dir. Orson Welles
Perhaps the most widely praised of all Hollywood movies, and not usually thought of as a history movie. Nevertheless, as an account of Golden Age capitalism, there is something for this.

America America 1963
Dir. Elia Kazan
The story of a Greek immigrant in America. The director was widely reviled for cooperating with McCarthy.

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The Socialist Analysis

Rosa Luxemburg 1986
Dir. Margarethe von Trotta, With Barbara Sukowa

The Molly Maguires 1970 124mins
Dir. Martin Ritte. With Sean Connery.
Based on a US miners strike.

1900 1976 [in Italian]
Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, With Robert DeNiro
DeNiro learned to speak Italian for this 3-hour saga about the Italian Communist party and the rise of the Black Shirts.

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The 19th Century: The Imperial Project

The Charge of Light Brigade 1936 115mins
Dir. Michael Curtiz. With Erol Flynn
The story is mostly set in India, with detestation of an Indian princes atrocities inspiring the final charge. The real destruction of horses shown -- using trip wires -- began the moevment to protect animals during filming.  The movie is historically inaccurate, and focuses on racial distrust. The actual final charge scene is very effective.

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) 145mins
Dir. Tony Richardson, With Trevor Howard and Vanessa Redgrave.
A much more accurate historical account by a british director. As might be expected, unlike the racial motifs of the US film, social class is the major factor here.

Fitzcarraldo 1982 158mins
Dir. Werner Herzog, With Klaus Kinski
An opera lover builds an Opera house in Manaus.

Shaka Zulu 1987 300mins.
The life and rise to power of Shaka, the greatest Zulu king.

Zulu Dawn 1969 115mins
Dir. Douglas Hickox, With Burt Lancaster and Simon Ward.
A dramatization of the Battle of Isandlwana during the Anglo-Zulu war. Made after Zulu, but looks at the story before the events depicted there.

Zulu 1964 135mins
Dir. Cy Endfield, With Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins and Michael Caine.
The British-Zulu wars of the late 19th century. Specifically the battle of Rourke's Drift.

Breaker Morant 1980 
Dir. Bruce Beresford, With Edward Woodward.
-Three Australian lieutenants are on trial for shooting Boer prisoners during the Boer War.

Rhodes of Africa 1936
Dir. Berthold Viertel

Rhodes (TV) 1996. 8 part drama
Dir. David Drury, With Martin Shaw.

Khartoum 1966 128 mins.
Dir. Basil Dearden, Eliot Elisofon, With Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier (as the Mahdi)
General Gordon and the Mahdi never met face to face, but they do in this film.

Out of Africa 1985  
Dir. Sydney Pollack. With Meryl Streep, Klaus Brandauer
Isak Dinesen's life in 1910's Kenya.

Black and White in Color [aka Noirs et blancs en couleur] 1976.
Dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud, With Jean Carmet and Jean Dufilho.
On the experiences of French and German colonies in Africa as they learn of the Great War "seven months behind the news."

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India 2001 225 mins.
Dir. Ashutosh Gowarika,With Amir Khan,
An Indian film about British imperialism and a village uniting to resist the land tax (lagaan). The film is interesting in that, unlike even British movies that are critical of the Raj, it is not at all nostalgic about British rule. It is nostalgic, on the other hand, for an India where religious and communal divsions were rejected in favor of the fight against the Empire.

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Cultural Anxiety

Song of Bernardette 1943
Dir. Henry King (I), With Jennifer Jones,
Jennifer Jones won an Oscar for her portrayal of the Catholic girl who claimed to have a vision of a "beautiful lady" at Lourdes. The film is a useful reminder of the continuing power of religion in the modern world.

Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima 1952.
Dir. John Brahm.
An account of the 1917 apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three children at Fatima in Portugal. Extremely sentimental -- it makes Song of Bernardette look like realist cinema.

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World War I

Mayerling 1968, 127 mins.
Dir. Terence Young, With Omar Sherif and Catherine Deneuve.
The downfall of the Hapsburg family is connected to the  the personal tragedy of Crown Prince Prince Rudolph.  The story focuses on the lead up to the great scandal of 1889, when Prince Rudolph took his teenage mistress,Baroness Maria Vetsera, to a hunting lodge called "Mayerling," where both were to end up dead. The film now looks very dated.

Oberst Redl 1985 [aka Colonel Redl][In German]
Dir. István Szabó. With Klaus Maria Brandauer
-Based on a play by John Osbourne, this film looks at the corrupt nature of the Austrian army and state on the eve of World War I. Contains one of the best musical pick-up scenes ever filmed.

Fall of Eagles TV-mini 1974 13x50mins
A great 13-part British TV series which dramatically presented the ending of the Habsburg, Hohenzollern and Romanov dynasties during World War I. This is almost impossible to get hold of.

Gallipoli 1981
Dir. Peter Weir, With Mel Gibson
Looks at the Australian forces in the British attack on the Turkish Gallipoli peninsula, one of the most bloody and pointless battles of the war.

Paths of Glory, 1957
Dir. Stanely Kubrick. With Kirk Douglas
A coutroom movie [compare with Breaker Morant]. The futility and irony of the war in the trenches in WWI is shown as a unit commander in the French army must deal with the mutiny of his men and a glory-seeking general after part of his force falls back under fire in an impossible attack.
See also summary [with spoilers] at filmsite

All Quiet on the Western Front 1930
Dir. Lewis Milestone
Based on Remarque's classical novel.

All Quiet on the Western Front 1979 TV 
Dir. Paul Monash, With Richard Thomas
Remake of Milestone's classic.

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The Soviet Experiment 1918-1989

Nicholas and Alexandra 1971
Dir. Franklin Schaffner, With Janet Suzman
The Russian Revolution from the viewpoint of the Tsar and Tsarina. This is long, but worth the effort.

Battleship Potemkin 1925. 75 mins
Dir. Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov, With I. Bobrov and Beatrice Vitoldi.
A propagandist account of the 1905 revolt by sailors in Odessa.

Reds 1981
Dir. Warren Beatty, With Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton
The Russian Revolution, and socialist politics in general, from the viewpoint of the American journalist John Reed, the author of the classic Ten Days that Shook the World.

Oktyabr 1927 [aka Ten Days That Shook the World] [Silent, with Music by Shostokovich] 104 mins
Dir. Grigori Aleksandrov/Sergei M. Eisenstein
-early Soviet film about the Russian Revolution.

Dr. Zhivago 1965
Dir: David Lean, With Omar Sharif and Julie Christie.
Based on the novel by Boris Pasternak.

Animal Farm 1955 72min
Dir. Joy Batchelor John Halas
Animated version.

Animal Farm 1999 TV 91mins
Dir. John Stephenson. Uses real animals.

Luna Park 1982, 105 mins.
Dir.Pavel Lungin.
Russia after the collapse of Communism.

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Interwar Troubles

The Grapes of Wrath 1940 129mins
Dir. John Ford.

Dir. Werner Fassbinder. With Brad Davis.
Based on the novel by Jean Genet.

Christ Stopped at Eboli 1979 Italy: 224 mins; US 120 mins.
Dir. Francesco Rosi.
Based on Carlo Levi's novel about his internal exile under Mussolini in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy.

Land and Freedom 1995 109 mins
Dir. Ken Loach, With Ian Hart and Rosan Pastor.
The Spanish Civil War as seen through the eyes of a British volunteer with the POUM.. There are strong elements of Geoprge Orwell's story in Homage to Catalonia.

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World War II

Cabaret 1972
Dir. Bod Fosse. With Lisa Minelli and Michael York
A musical set in Weimar Germany and based on the "Berlin novels" of Christopher Isherwood.

Triumph of the Will 1934 [Triumph des Willens]
Dir. Leni Reifenstahl
A "classic" presentation of Nazi Germany in the most romantic way possible. The prime example of the propagandistic use of film.

Mephisto 1981 [In German]
Dir. István Szabó (I). With Klaus Maria Brandauer
-About an actor and his pact with the Devil ini the shape of the Nazis.

The White Rose 1982
Dir. Michael Verhoeven, With Leno Stolze and Wolf Kessler.
True story of the resistance to Nazism by some students at Munich University.

Mrs. Miniver 1942
Dir. William Wyler. With Greer Garson.
"Mrs. Miniver" won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1942. It's portyrayl of a gritty British family facing the war was a major propaganda coup.

Battle of Britain 1969
Dir. Guy Hamilton.
The film was made with real WWII aircraft, and has great air fight footage, not to mention wonderful theme music.

The Winning of World War II: Why We Fight 1943-45 [link is to vol I]
Dir. Frank Capra
A series of documentaries made during the War by the US government to explain what the war was about. Uses Reifenstahl's filsm against the Nazis.

Bataan 1943 
Dir. Tay Garnett. With Robert Taylor
- Long considered one of the great war movies.

The Longest Day 1962, 180 mins
Dir. Ken Annakin.
First telling of the story of D-Day. The real mover behind the movies was Darryl Zanuck, who saw it as an anti-war movie. Sometimes consider the greates ever war film.

Saving Private Ryan 1998
Dir. Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks.

Fat Man and Little Boy 1989)
Dir. Roland Joffé. With Paul Newman.
The story of the Manhattan project that created the atom bomb. 

Judgment at Nuremberg 1961
Dir. Stanley Kramer. With Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift.

Nuremberg 2000 (TV mini-series) 140 mins
Dir. Yves Simoneau. With Alec Baldwin

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The Holocaust

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis 1970. 95 mins.
Directed by Vittorio de Sica, with Dominique Sanda and Lino Capolicchio.
The story of a wealthy Italian Jewish family in the 1930s.

Holocaust (TV) 1978, 475 mins.
Dir. Marvin Chomsky. With Meryl Streep

The Wannsee Conference 1984
Dir. Heinz Schirk, With Dietrich Mattausch and Gerd Boeckmann.
This 1942 meeting at which high-ranking Nazis agreed on the "final solution."

QB VII (TV), 390 mins.
Dir. Tom Gries, With Anthony Hopkins and Ben Gazzara
Based on Leon Uris' novel about a Holcaust trial in London. QB VII stands for "Queen's Bench VII" -- the courtroom in question.

Schindler's List 1993
Dir. Steven Spielberg. With Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley.
Stephen Spielberg's presentation of the Holocaust. It might be interesting to compare it to Spielberg's Amistad and ask about ways in which Spielberg might be distorting the past.

Life is Beautiful 1987
Dir. Roberto Benigni.

Jakob the Liar 1999, 114 mins
Dir. Peter Kassovitz, With Robin Williams.
Similar story to Life is Beautiful.

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The End of Empire

Israel and the Middle East

Exodus 1960
Dir. Otto Preminger, With Paul Newman and Eve Marie Saint
Israel's birth pangs from a particular point of view.

Wedding in Galilee 1987, 100 mins
Dir. Michael Khelifi, With Nazih Akleh and Bushra Karaman
A Palestinian village man  in the occupied West Bank invites Israeli officials and soldiers to the traditional wedding of his son in order to circumvent the curfew laws. Although widely praised, this will come across as tedious to most viewers.

Promises 2001 106 mins
Dir. Carlos Bolado and B.Z. Goldberg.
Documentary focused on a group of Palestianin and Israeli children/teens.

Algeria and North Africa

La Battaglia di Algeri 1965 [in French with English subtitles.]
Dir. Gillo Pontecorvo, With Mohamed Ben Kassen
- chronicles the Algerian war against French colonialism.


Dir: Richard Attenborough, With Ben Kingsley
Richard Attenborough's hagiography of modern India's founder. In reviewing this movie, also search out information on Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army (INA).

TV Series: The Jewel in the Crown 1984 VHS
Dir. Christopher Morahan and Jim O’Brian, with Ralph Arliss and Peggy Ashcroft.
The end of the British Raj in India, and without doubt one of the greatest TV series ever made.

South and Central Africa

Cry Freedom 1987
Dir.  Richard Attenborough. With Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington.
On the life and Death of Steve Biko in South Africa

Mandela 1987 (TV)
Dir. Philip Saville, With Danny Glover

Lumumba (2000) 115 mins
Dir. Raoul Peck, With Eriq Ebouaney and Alex Descas.
Account of Patrice Emery Lumumba rise to power after Congo’s independence from Belgium in 1960 and his  assassination the following year.


Mishima 1985, 121 mins.
Dir. Paul Shrader, With Ken Ogata.
Stunning account of life and death of one of Japan's most important post wat writers. Because of pressure from Mishima's family, his homosexuality is not portrayed explicitly. Philip Glass's music is outstanding.


Farewell My Concubine 1993, 171 mins.
Dir. Kaige Chen
The story of two male lovers in the Peking Opera over fifty years.

The Last Emperor 1987 160 mins
Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, With John Lone and Joan Chen.
The Life of Pu YI, the last emperor of China

Gate of Heavenly Peace 1995, 189/180 mins.
Dir.Carma Hinton and Richard Gordan.
Documentary on the suppression of the Tiananmen Square rebellion of 1989. It critiques the student leaders as well as the government. See the very good official web site.

The Blue Kite [aka Lan feng zheng] 1993.
Dir. Tian Zhuangzhuang, With Yi Tian and Zhang Wenyao. On the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution from the view of a child in Beijing.

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl 1998, 99 mins.
Dir. Joan Chen.
Story of a city girl sent for "re-education" in the countryside.

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Modern Science and its Conflicts

Inherit the Wind 1960, 128 mins.
Dir. Stanley Kramer. With Spencer Tracy and Frederic March.
The story of the Copes "monkey trial" about the teaching of Darwinian evolution in Tennesee schools. The names of the particpants are changed.. There were remakes in 1988 and 1999.

The Man in the White Suit 1951
Dir. Alexander Mackendrick. With Alex Guinness
Focuses on the anxiety caused by new technology.

Insignificance 1985, 110 mins.
Dir. Nichola Roeg.
Four icons of the 1950s -- essentially unnamed figures representing Joe DiMaggio, Joseph McCarthy, Marilyn Monroe, and Albert Einstein, meet in a NYC. hotel room in 1954. Includes a great scene where Marilyn Monroe teaches the theory of relativity to Einstein.

October Sky 1999, 108 mins.
Dir. Joe Johnston.
The true story of Homer Hickin, a working class boy who takes up rocketry after the laucnh of sputnik.

Apollo 13 140 mins
Dir. Ron Howard. With Tom Hanks.
A great movie about the Apollo 13 disasater

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Post War Themes: 1945-1989

Cold War

The Day the Earth Caught Fire 1961, 98 mins
Dir. Val Guest.
Two atomic explosions have created a situation in which the earth has been knocked off orbit and is spiralling into the Sun. A classica of Cold War fear.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1964 VHS
Dir. Stanley Kubrick. With Peter Sellars, George C. Scott.
An insane general starts a process to nuclear holocaust that a war room of politicians and generals frantically try to stop. Who is really insane?

Eleni 1985, 114 mins>
Dir. Peter Yates.
Based on Nicholas Gage's book about his mother's death at the hands of Greek Communists.

The Manchurian Candidate 1962, 126 mins.
Dir. John Frankenheimer, With Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury.
Lansbury is outstanding in one of the best political thrillers. It was withdrawn soon after release for reasons that will become clear on viewing.

It Is Better To Be Rich and Healthy Than Poor and Sick [aka Lepsie byt bohaty a zdravy ako chudobny a chory] 1992.
Dir. Juraj Jakubisko, With Deana Horavatova and Dagmar Veskrnova.
A Czech film about two women’s lives after the fall of communism.

Third World Poverty and Oppression

Pixote 1981 [in Portuguese]
Dir. Hector Babenco
The life of a small Brazilian boy in a major Brazilian city. The film highlights the social stratifiction of the developing world, where the wealthy participate in a western dominated world culture, while the poor do not have access to the social services of a western welfare state.

The Official Story 1985 112 mins.
Dir. Luis Puenzo and Argentina Puenzo, With Norma Aleandro.
The Dirty War of the 1970s Argentina forms the chilling backdrop to this story of a mother and her adopted daughter.

Post-War Britain

A Clockwork Orange 1971 137 mins
Dir. Stanley Kubrick.
A highly disturbing work of art "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven." [Note: before showing to students warn them about the rape scene, which can be traumatic for any students who have been subject to sexual violence.]

I'm All Right Jack 1959
Dir. John Boulting, With Peter Sellars.
A black comedy of worker/management relations.

My Beautiful Laundrette 1986 VHS
Dir. Stephen Frears, With Daniel Day Lewis.
Startling presentations of multiculturalism in modern Britain, based on the scripts by Hanif Kureshi.

TV Series: The Buddha of Surburbia
Dir. Roger Miche

Riff-Raff 1990  95 mins.
Dir. Ken Loach, With Robert Carlyle and Emer McCourt.
An account of British working class life under Thatcher.

My Son the Fanatic 1997 87 mins
Dir. Udayan Prasad, With Om Puri and Rachel Griffiths
A wonderful film on the life of Asians in Britain.

Queer as Folk (TV) 1999 12 x 30 min

Post War America

Pollock 2000 122 mins
Dir. Ed Harris, With Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden.
Accounts of perhaps the most influential post-war American art scene.

George Wallace 1997 TV 178 mins.
Dir. John Frankenheimer, With Gary Sinise and Angelina Jolly

JFK 1991 186 mins (206 director's cut)
Dir. Oliver Stone, With Kevin Costner.
Paranoid account of assassination of JFK.

Nixon 1995 192 mins.
Dir. Oliver Stone, With Anthony Hopkins

Malcolm X 1992 194 mins
Dir. Spike Lee, With Denzel Washington

Bread and Roses 2000 110 mins
Dir. Ken Loach
Loach cast's a British socialist's eye on an affort by Latino workers in Los Angeles to organize a union.

The Vietnam War

We Were Soldiers 2002 138 mins
Dir. Randall Wallace, With Mel Gibson
Story of the first phase of the 1960's phase of the war as if there were no politics involved.

Good Morning, Vietnam 1987 119 mins.
Dir. Barry Levinson, With Robin Williams and Forest Whitaker.
One of the best Vietnam films.

Platoon 1986.
Dir. Oliver Stone, With Tom Beringer, Willem Defoe, and Charlie Sheen.
Cynical look at the Vietnam War.

The Killing Fields 1984
Dir. Roland Joffé
Cambodia's holocaust.

Lesbian and Gay Rights Movement

Before Stonewall 1994 87 mins
Dir. Robert Rosenberg and John Scaglotti
Documentary account of the lives of lesbians and gay men before the Stonewall rebellion.

After Stonewall 1999 88 mins
Dir. John Scaglotti
Documentary account of the lives of lesbians and gay men after the Stonewall rebellion.

Stonewall 1995 99 mins
Dir. Nigel Finch.
Fictionalised account of the riots that began the modern Lesbian and Gay Rights movement.

The Times of Harvey Milk 1984 90 mins
Dir. Robert Epstein.
Documentary on the life of San Francisco's first (opnely) gay city council member, who was murdered by another council member.

The Celluloid Closet 1995 102 mins.
Dir. Robert Epstein.
Documentary on Hollywood and homosexuality in the cinema.

Longtime Companion 1990
Dir. Normon Rene.
Account of the initial phases of the AIDS Epidemic among a group of gay men and friends in New York. This gets better with age.

And the Band Played On 1993 TV 141
Dir. Roger Spottiswoode, With Matthew Modine and Alan Alda.
Dramatiziation of Randy Shilts Book on the effects of the initial pohases on the AIDS epidemic, especially  in San Francisco.

Faith and Modernityn

Catholics [aka The Conflict]1973 TV
Dir. Jack Gold, With Martin Sheen and Trevor Howard
Set in 1999, this is one of the few films to address the loss felt by many Catholics over the ending of the Latin Mass and the sudden "modernization" of Catholic theology. Howards gives a superb performance.

The Apostle 1997 134 mins
Dir. Robert Duval, With Robert Duval.
One of the few films to seriously consider the continuin appeal of old-style Protestantism in the United States.

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Visions of the Future

Metropolis 1926
Dir. Fritz Lang

The Time Machine 1960

The Time Machine 2002

Soylent Green

2001: A Space Odyssey
Dr. Stanley Kubrik

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See Also

The Internet Modern History History Sourcebook is part of the
Internet History Sourcebooks Project.


The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

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