US History Movie List

We are popping popcorn with history!

Early American History

Black Robe (1991 R): Early settlers attempt to Christianize the Indians (VS)

The Crucible (1996 PG-13): Salem Witch Trials

The Last of the Mohicans (1992 R): French and Indian Wars settings (V)

The Patriot (2000 R): Revolutionary War setting (VL)

Johnny Tremain (1957): Revolutionary War, patriot fighting for the colonies

1776 (1972 PG): Musical retelling of the American Revolution (mild L)

April Morning (1988): Revolutionary war, Battle of Lexington

Nineteenth Century

Little House on the Prairie: television series, late 1800s era, life, society and growth of the family

Davy Crokett: King of the Wild Frontier (1955): late 1700’s to early 1800’s, follow the life of a frontiersman

The Alamo (2004 PG-13): circa 1836, Texas revolution (mild V)

Into the West (2005): American West in the 19th century, follow two families, one white and one Native American

Maverick (1994 PG):  Old West era, gambling, going to the poker tournament and making the money along the way (Mild LV)

Wyatt Earp (1994 PG-13): late 1800’s to early 1900’s, about Wyatt Earp and his family

Friendly Persuasion (1956): Quaker family during the Civil War and how they cope with following their faith as the war moves closer and threatens their safety

Amistad (1997 R): Escaped slaves (nudity, V)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939/1970 G): Mississippi River, slavery, general era society and culture of the time

Gettysburg (1993 PG): Battle of Gettysburg

Glory (1989 R): 54th Massachusetts during the Civil War (V)

Gone With the Wind (1939):  during and after the Civil War, love story, follows southern aristocracy (SV)

A House Divided (2000 R) :  before and after the Civil War, racial issues (VS)

Dances with Wolves (1991 PG-13): Indians, western movement, frontier culture and society (VS)

Gods and Generals (2003 PG-13): 1861-1863, Stonewall Jackson (V, mild L)

Note:  Consider Gods and Generals the prequel to Gettysburg

North and South (1985): seriesCivil War era, conflict between friendships, families, and cultures (VS, mild L)

The Blue and the Gray (1982): series, Civil War era, conflict between friendships, families, and cultures, issues of slavery and succession, as seen through the eyes of an artist correspondent (VS, mild L)

Shenandoah (1965): Civil War era, focus on a single Virginia widower’s family, anti-war tone (V)

The Red Badge of Courage (1951):  Union soldier during the Civil War seeks courage to fight (V)

Little Women (1994 PG):  Post Civil War era, follow the March sisters as they live and grow

Early 20th Century

Titanic (1997 PG-13): 1912, a love story that develops aboard the Titanic

Iron Jawed Angles (2004): circa 1917,Women’s suffrage movement

The Lost Battalion (2001): circa 1918, World War 1, battalion surrounded by German forces in the Argonne Forest (V, mild L)

World View Supporting this frame of history:

Flyboys (2006 PG-13):  American fliers fighting over seas before the U.S. officially joined the war

Nicolas and Alexandra (1971PG-13): Russian Revolution, monarch of Russia is exiled with his family

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992): through World War 1 era, television series of fictional character spotlighting historical figures and important events

Eight Men Out (1988 PG): Chicago White Sox scandal, baseball World Series in 1919 (L)

Matewan (1987PG-13): Wildcat miner strikes, labor unions (V, mild L)

Rosewood (1997 R): Segregation and racism in the 1920’s (VS)

Inherit the Wind (1999): Scopes Monkey Trial, McCarthy Era, science teacher accused of the crime of teaching evolution

The Great Gatsby (2013 PG-13): 1920’s era, lifestyle of millionaire (some S content, some V, mild L)

The Sting (1973 PG): 1930’s era, Prohibition, crime

The Great Debaters (2007 PG-13): 1935, experience of Melvin B. Tolson, school’s first debate team challenges Harvard for the national championship (racial slur L, moment of V)

The Road to Perdition (2002 R):  Prohibition, crime and mobsters (VL)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940): Depression, Oklahoma Dust Bowl, growth of paternalism in government, greed (V)

Of Mice and Men (1992 PG-13) : Effects of the economic devastation of the Depression (VSLM)

The Aviator (2004 PG-13): 1920’s to 1940’s, Howard Hughe’s career (SVL)

Cinderella Man (2005 PG-13): True story, 1930’s era, boxing

Seabiscuit (2003 PG-13): True story, 1930’s era, horse racing (implied S, mild L, some V)

Bonnie and Clyde (2013): 1930’s era, true story, two criminals and their famous bank-robbing crimes (VL)

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): 1930’s era, true story, southern racial issues (SVLM)

Hindenburg (2011): 1937, crash of the Hindeburg zeppelin

The Rocketeer (1991 PG): 1930’s, pilot stumbles onto a jetpack that lets him become a superhero

Saving Private Ryan (1998 R),  Letters from Iwo Jima (2006 R), Schindler’s List (1993 R), Anne Frank:  The Whole Story (2001 SV), Empire of the Sun (1987 PG), Band of Brothers (2001 SVLM) & The Pacific (2010 SVLM), Pearl Harbor (2001 PG-13 and R release), etc.:  World War 2 era (There are literally dozens of great WW2 films to choose from.)

Note from list contributor:  It’s useful to play the first episode of Band of Brothers where Easy Company is dropped behind enemy lines the night before D-Day and then watch Saving Private Ryan, then watching the rest of the episodes.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008 PG-13): World War 2 era, son of the commandant at a concentration camp befriends a Jewish boy (brief nudity, V, mild L)

Flags of Our Fathers (2006 R): World War 2, Battle of Iwo Jima (VLM)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): Post World War 2 family life

Tucker the Man and His Dream (1988 PG): late 1940’s era, car manufacturing

The Dollmaker (1984): World War 2 era, pioneer mother moves from the Kentucky Hills, follows the family’s experience and struggle

Late 20th Century

Far From Heaven (2002 PG-13): Conservatism of the 1950’s era, suburban society and wealth, divorce, racial tensions (S, brief V, L)

Quiz Show (1994 PG-13): 1950’s era, scandal involving quiz show (L)

Good Night and Good Luck (2005 PG): early 1950’s, life of a newscaster, challenge of McCarthy (mild L)

October Sky (1998 PG): Sputnik Era, teenager and his science project (L)

The Majestic (2001 PG): 1951 setting, blacklisted Hollywood writer (mild L)

The Miracle Worker (2000 PG): From 1880’s through 1960’s, Hellen Keller and Annie Sullivan’s life

From the Earth to the Moon (1998): Series,  space program from Mercury to Apollo (SVLM)

JFK (1991 R): 1960’s era, assassination of JFK investigation, more than the real story (VLM)

Thirteen Days (2000, PG-13): 1962, Kennedy in the White House, Cuban Missile Crisis (V, mild L)

Mississippi Burning (1988 R): Civil Rights, workers in Mississippi (VLM)

Malcolm X (1992 PG-13): Life and time of Malcolm X (mild S, VLM)

We Were Soldiers (2002 R): Vietnam War, the first major battle, view from both sides (VLM)

Ghosts of the Mississippi (1996 PG-13): Civil Rights, Medger Evers murder and justice (scene V, limited L)

Flight of the Intruder (1991 PG-13): Vietnam War era, frustrations with how the war was “run”, unauthorized air strike on Hanoi

The Deer Hunter (1978 R), Coming Home (1978 R), Born on the 4th of July (1989 R): Vietnam (VSLM)

Platoon (1986 R), Hamburger Hill (1987 R), Full Metal Jacket (1987 R): Vietnam (very, very VSM)

Apollo 13 (1995 PG): 1970’s era, Apollo 13 Mission bound for the moon (L)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989 PG):  mid centuray through the 1970’s, African-American chauffeur and Jewish woman in the south, Alabama (moments of VL)

Nixon (1995 R): Nixon’s life and biography (VSL)

All the President’s Men (1976 R) : Watergate Scandal, reporters Woodward and Bernstein

Frost/Nixon (2008 R): Post Watergate, dramatic retelling of the Frost-Nixon interview (SVL)

A Time to Kill (1996 R): 1970’s era, KKK rebirth, Mississippi, racism

Remember the Titans (2000 PG):  1971, African-American coach of a high school team in suburban Virginia, integration

We Are Marshall (2006 PG): football team dies in plane crash, students rally to play the 1971 season (some L)

Norma Rae (1979): Early 1970’s era, textile worker in a factory fights for union (mild S, V, some L)

Forest Gump (1994 PG-13): 1950’s through 1980’s, life and experience of a man present at many historic moments, life and experience (LVS)

Milk (2008 R): Gay rights, Harvey Milk (SVLM)

Argo (2012 R): 1980, hostage crisis in Iran, rescue of Americans (VL)

Miracle (2004 PG): 1980, Olympic hockey team (VL)

Black Hawk Down (2001 R): 1993, soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of warload (VL)

The Insider (1999 R): circa 1995, Tobacco Industry

21st Century

 United 93 (2006 R): 9/11/2001, real time account of the events of the flight, 9/11

Food Inc. (2008 PG): Documentary about big business and the food industry

Take Back Your Power (2013): 2013 NSA spy scandal, Josh del Sol questions government and corporate surveillance, extortion and rights

Most of the movies should be considered only for junior-high-school-aged and up children.  I note when I think the movie is explicit (more than what is expected of a typical movie) and evaluate comments from others:

L = Language

M = Mature (not suitable at all for younger children)

V = Violence

S = Sex, nudity, suggestive content that is more adult in nature

References: and for film information

Contributions to the list:


For age appropriate viewing recommendations:

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