The History Place presents

Hollywood's Best History Films!

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!

Listed in Alphabetical Order:

All 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. Rated PG.

All 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.

Amistad - 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 R.

Apollo 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 PG.

Ben-Hur - 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.

The 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.

Casablanca - 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.

Come 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.

Dances 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).

Das 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 subtitles.

The 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.

Doctor 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.

Downfall - 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.

Elizabeth - A marvelous 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 R.

Europa, 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 subtitles.

Gandhi - 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.

Gentleman's 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.

Glory - 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).

Gone 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 ruins.

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. B&W.

The 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.

I, 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).

Jesus 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.

The 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.

Lawrence 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.

Lonesome 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.

A 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.

Master 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. Rated PG-13.

Patton - 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.

Platoon - 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).

The 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.

Rob 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.

Roots - (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.

Saving 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.

Schindler's 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 nudity, violence).

The 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.

Spartacus - 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.

To 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! 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 7, 1941.

War 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

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See also:
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Great History Videos
On World War II and U.S. History/People.

The History Place selection of
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Complete Histories - Hitler - Holocaust - Gestapo/SS - Biographies - and more!

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