Films That All History Majors Watch

As a History major, I understand how incredibly helpful films can be as a supplementary resource to regular lessons.  However, I also know how those films can occasionally veer into an extremely repetitive territory.  There are films that I feel like I watch every time I take a United States History course.  With that in mind, here is a list of the films every U.S. History major has probably seen:


1. The Patriot

A film about the American Revolution? In Mel Gibson’s prime? The Patriot is one of those films that everybody, even non-History majors, has probably seen at least once.  Even if you haven’t, you’ve likely heard about it in some capacity.  After all, this is a film that provides a very interesting insight into the Revolution through the perspective of the common soldier.  Especially, since these soldiers engage with some of the most iconic figures in the war.


2. Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the greatest actors of our time.  He undertook the role of the famous president in this film by literally becoming Lincoln.  In this film, we are provided with the perspective of Lincoln himself during one of the most tumultuous periods in American history: The Civil War.  Amazingly, actual scenes of the war itself are rarely shown.  Instead, we are treated to a “behind the scenes” look at the political side of the war, including a nerve-wracking vote for the thirteenth amendment.


3. Pearl Harbor

A beautiful historical piece about the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbor, this film follows Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) as they become pilots in World War II.  Occasionally veering into melodramatic territory, the film manages to pack an important moment in our nation’s history into just over three hours of intense action.  Like The Patriot, we view the event through the eyes of two regular men which provides an interesting perspective.


4. Glory

This film follows Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) as he commands the United States’ first all-African-American regiment.  This film is wonderful for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, it offers a fresh and interesting perspective on the Civil War.  Given its context of slavery and racism, an African-American regiment is a bold statement.  Secondly, it brings much-deserved attention to the brave men who served in the regiment, fighting not only the enemy of the south but the racism they faced from within the Union itself. 


What other movies do you think belong on this list?