Publication Date

April 19, 2011



Can you learn history through movies?

Just last week on the blog, AHA Executive Director Jim Grossman examined the new film The Conspirator and discussed how movies can be used to generate questions, start discussions, and in the end, teach history.

This idea, that movies can be a teaching tool, has been the theme of the “Masters at the Movies” article series in Perspectives on History since it began in 2006. Over the past 5 years, 17 historians have reviewed or noted over 100 films, applauding some while questioning the accuracy of others. Today, presented below, we’ve put together a list of the movies they’ve mentioned, and the articles they’ve written.

So get your Netflix queues ready, read these historians’ thoughts on which films to check out (and which to avoid), and start watching.

Movies Related Articles

Wall Street

Wall Street (1987)
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

Wall Street 1987




Mining-town Movies

Billy Elliot (2000)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)

How Green Was My Valley and Billy Elliot



The Battle of Algiers

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

United 93 (2006)
The Hurt Locker (2008)

The Battle of Algiers



Within Our Gates

Within Our Gates (1920)

The Birth of a Nation (1915)



Flawed Films

Nowhere in Africa (2001)
A Passage to India (1984)
Australia (2008)
Amazing Grace (2006)

Australia reviewed by Phillippa Levine




Recent War Films

The Hurt Locker (2008)

In the Valley of Elah (2007)
Lions for Lambs (2007)
The Lucky Ones (2008)
Stop-Loss (2008)
Triumph of the Will (1935)

The Hurt Locker reviewed by Marilyn B. Young






Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954–1965 (1987)





Period Pieces

“The Tudors” (TV series 2007)

The Tudors

By the Sword Divided (TV Series 1983)
Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924)
The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895)
Fire Over England (1937)
The First Churchills (TV Series 1969)
Forever Amber (1947)
Lady Jane (1986)
“The Last King” (TV Series 2003)The Libertine (2004)
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Mary of Scotland (1936)
The Prince and the Pauper (1937)
Restoration (1995)
The Sea Hawk (1940)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
V for Vendetta (2006)
The Virgin Queen (1955)
Winstanley (1976)





The Women

The Women (1939)
The Women (2008)



WWII Antiwar Films

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Battleground (1949)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
The Big Red One (1980)
Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
Home of the Brave (1949)
Letters from Iwo Jima
The Longest Day (1962)
The Men (1950)
No Down Payment (1957)
Patton (1970)
Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
Suddenly (1954)
The Thin Red Line (1998)
The Victors (1963)
The War Lover (1962)
The Young Lions (1958)

The Thin Red Line



Historical Imagination

The 400 Blows (1959)
La Dolce Vita (1960)

Also mentioned:
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Blow-Up (1966)
Breathless (1960)
Formaggio e I vermi (1976)
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
I benandanti (1966)
La Strada (1954)
Le Notti di Cabiria (1957)
My Life to Live (1962)
My Night at Maud’s (1969)
Touch of Evil (1958)



Movies and Nuclear War

The Atomic Cafe (1982)
The Beginning or the End (1947)
The China Syndrome (1979)
The Day After (1983) (TV movie)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Fail-Safe (1964)
Godzilla (1954)
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Them! (1954)
On the Beach (1959)
Rhapsody in August (1991)
WarGames (1983)

Also mentioned:
Broken Arrow (1996)
Casablanca (1942)
Independence Day (1996)
Jackie Chan’s First Strike (1996)
Night and Fog (1955)
Quo Vadis (1951)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
The Peacemaker (1997)
True Lies (1994)
Wild Strawberries (1957)




The Holocaust (2)

Paper Clips (2004)

Paper clips

Also mentioned:
Night and Fog (1955)
The Pianist (2002)
Shoah (1985)
Schindler’s List (1993)



The Civil War

Glory (1989)

Also mentioned:
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Casualties of War (1989)
Cold Mountain (2003)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Gangs of New York (2002)
Gettysburg (1993)
Gods and Generals (2003)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
Pharaoh’s Army (1995)
Platoon (1986)
Ride with the Devil (1999)
Seraphim Falls (2006)
Sommersby (1993)



La Grande Illusion

La Grande Illusion (1937)

Also mentioned:
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
La Marseillaise (1938)
Platoon (1986)
The Rules of the Game (1939)
Westfront 1918 (1930)



The Holocaust (1)

The Pawnbroker (1964)

Also mentioned:
Die Wannseekonferenz (1984)
The Eternal Jew (1940)
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
The Pianist (2002)
Schindler’s List (1993)



Iwo Jima

Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
Letters from Iwo Jima

Also mentioned:
Bataan (1943)
Guadalcanal Diary (1943)
The Naked and the Dead (1958)
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
Sophie’s Choice (1982)



Before the “Masters at the Movies” series, the April 1999 issue of Perspectives on History contained nearly a dozen articles on film (including an introduction from Robert Brent Toplin, Kathryn Helgesen Fuller ‘s thoughts on film in the classroom, and Kenneth Jackson’s concerns with The Thin Red Line). See David Darlington’s blog post “From the Archives: Reel History” for a closer look at the 1999 issue.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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