You can’t really learn a lot of history by watching Hollywood blockbusters (that pursuit is better fitted for documentaries), but there is still value in them. There is always value in spending an hour and a half in somebody else’s shoes. There’s value in understanding how some historical events occurred, and how it felt to live through them on a personal level. With that in mind, here are 10 historical movie that you must watch.
Can you imagine fighting a war where thousands of people died just because two guys couldn’t decide who gets to be with a woman? How come the woman has no say in the matter? And when she does, how come that’s not respected? And, finally, if you’re going to make a whole movie about a war fought over a relationship, it’s kinda weird to not make that relationship the centerpiece of the movie? Or is that just my opinion?
All of that being said – Troy is a great movie for anyone who wants some of that “Ancient Greece” warfare but isn’t old enough to watch 300 yet.
This movie is very personal. It doesn’t cover monuments historical events in the same way some of the other movies on this list do, but it’s a great look at a small personal struggle that becomes monumental when the person is… well… the KING.
This movie is amazing, and Colin Firth’s performance in it is spectacular. A must watch (even if you don’t care about the historical aspect of this film).
Saving Private Ryan
I think that the first shot of this movie should be seen by absolutely everyone. I wouldn’t recommend you skip everything that follows, but the first 15 minutes are a harrowing look at the events that took place in Normandy. Spielberg manages to transport you into that environment with his skillful use of sound, camerawork, and character blocking. The slow transition between the sound of rainfall and the sound of bullets is spectacular.
And, of course, the movie has breathtaking performances by the entire cast.
I feel like Dunkirk is what would happen if the pressure and the “vibe” of the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan was stretched out to a feature-length film. The entire runtime of the movie you don’t know whether the characters are going to make it out alive from that beach in Belgium. Even though you (might) know the history, you are still tense the entire time. Furthermore, this movie has a clear demonstration of the fact that a loss in a single battle might still be a giant victory in the minds and hearts of a country’s population.
Countless essays, blog posts, and articles have been written about the historical inaccuracy of this movie. But if Troy can make it on this list, then Braveheart certainly has to be on this list. This movie (unlike Troy) is actually great. The acting is great, the story is great, and the end can make even the most cold-hearted people shed a tear.
There is a lot of glory in being a gladiator. At least that’s what you’d think if you hadn’t seen this movie. Sure, victories in battles to the death might be glorious, but the entire practice of gladiator fights is… uh… questionable.
This movie has a stellar performance from Russell Crowe, a very young Wakeen Phoenix, and one of the most memorable lines in all of movie histories. Are you not entertained!?
I’m not a great fan of the Hollywood tradition to make movies about US Presidents (there are 50, and yet somehow JFK alone has over 10 movies made about him), but Daniel Day Lewis’s performance as Lincoln in this movie is breathtaking. A lot has been said about how great of an actor he is, but it never ceases to amaze me. Plus, I knew very little about Lincoln before watching this movie, and it was a good “crash course” to his life and story.
Movies about presidents are great, but what’s more exciting is movies about things that revolve around presidents. In the same way that The West Wing is a more interesting show than House of Cards (fight me), The Post is a better movie than All the President’s Men.
In the movie, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep depict journalists at the Washington Post that are investigating the Watergate scandal during president Nixon’s presidency. It’s an incredibly tense movie.
As I’ve mentioned, over 10 movies have been made about JFK (plus several more about Jacqueline Kennedy), I feel like JFK is the best one. It is critically acclaimed, it sticks to the true history of JFK’s presidency, and it really tries to uncover JFK’s personality beyond what is known about him from his interviews and public appearances.
This is the best movie on the list. If you choose to watch one – please make it this one. The Holocaust was an atrocity, and this movie manages to make something that seems so distant and long ago become incredibly relevant and personal. It shows the story of a single man trying to fight against the incredible injustices of the regime around him. It’s a beautiful (and heartbreaking) story, and definitely a must watch!