Throughout our homeschooling years we have used movies to supplement our studies. We used to use mostly documentaries, but as the years have gone and my children had grown older, we incorporated less documentary and more “Hollywood” type movies. While some are moderately historically accurate, we are always aware that movies take “creative” license in order to bring in the show time dollars. We found that this is not always a bad thing as it opens up the doors for conversation about accuracy and encourages researching further to find the truth.
These are some of our favorite history-based films. Many of these titles are tear-jerkers and make my heart ache, but history is not often pretty. Also please note that most of these movies are rated R and are not appropriate for children.
- Schindler’s List-(1993-Rated R) This movie is based on the novel by Thomas Keneally , Schindler’s Ark and was directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg. Set in Kraków, Poland in 1939–1945, it tells the story of Oskar Schindler, who, through employing Polish-Jewish workers in his factory, saved thousands from the death and concentration camps.
- Flags of our Fathers-(2006-Rated R) This movie is based on the book of the same name by William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis and was directed by Clint Eastwood. It tells the story of the men who raised the flags at the top of Mount Suribachi in the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 and the impact that event had on their lives.
- Gettysburg-(1993-Rated PG) Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, this movie was directed by Ronald F. Maxwell. Filmed on-location at Gettysburg National Military Park, this movie tells the story of the 3 day battle at Gettysburg in July 1863.
- Glory-(1989-Rated R) This Civil War era movie tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and is based on the letters of the commanding officer, Colonel Robert Could Shaw.
- Saving Private Ryan-(1998-Rated R) This World War II movie is a fictional tale set during the invasion of Normandy about a squad of soldiers sent on a mission to find Private First Class James Francis Ryan, who is the last-surviving brother of four servicemen.
- Masterpiece Classic: The Diary of Anne Frank-(2009-Not Rated) There have been a few movies made based on the book Anne Frank: The Dairy of a Young Girl, but this is our favorite version and seems to follow the book more closely than the other films.
Masterpiece Classic: The Diary of Anne Frank is currently available on demand at Netflix (as of 1-2013)
- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World-(2003-Rated PG-13) Set during the Napoleonic Wars and based on novels by Patrick O’Brain, this movie tells the fictional tale of British Captain Jack Aubrey who has been commanded to go after the French privateer, Acheron, to capture or destroy it.
- The Last of the Mohicans-(1992-Rated R) Very loosely based on James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name, The Last of the Mohicans is the story of Hawkeye, an orphaned settler adopted by the last of a dying tribe of Mohicans. This movie is a mix of adventure, love stories, and sorrow.
The Last of the Mohicans is also currently available on demand at Netflix (1-2013)
- To Kill a Mockingbird-(1962-Not Rated) This oldie but goodie is based on the novel of the same name by Harper Lee. Set in a racially divided Alabama town in the 1930’s, this story is told through the eyes of the 6-year old daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch. Her father puts his career on the line by agreeing to defend a young black man accused of raping a white woman.
- Apollo 13-(1995-Rated PG) This movie tells the story of the 1970 Apollo 13 near disaster in space exploration. What was supposed to America’s third moon landing is prevented from happening when an exploding oxygen tank on board puts the live of astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise in severe danger.
Have you ever incorporated movies into your history studies? What movies have you used?