What makes a great American Civil War movie? The battles, the politics, the inhumanity of slavery, brother against brother, the great generals of both sides, the personal sides of war, families being torn apart, or all of the above?
The movies I’ve listed contain all or most of the issues listed above, and are in no particular order. Enjoy, for an excellent Civil War oriented binge watch (or re-watch) over your favorite American holidays.
Cold Mountain: (2003)
IMDb score: 7.2
Winner of 1 Oscar. Another 19 wins & 101 nominations
Starring: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, and Natalie Portman.
Cold Mountain contains no extended battle scenes, but relies heavily on emotions and personal conflict.
IMDb score: 7.4
Winner of two Oscars. Another 108 wins & 245 nominations.
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, James Spader, and Tommy Lee Jones.
Lincoln leans heavily on the politics of the war, especially in the decision to emancipate the slaves. Here’s our review of this A+ film.
IMDb score: 7.7
Jeff Daniels was nominated for Best Supporting Actor by the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times said of Gettysburg, “This is a film that Civil War buffs will find indispensable, even if others might find it interminable.” I’ve seen the movie several times, and have personally walked the battlefields of Gettysburg, from Little Round Top to Pickett’s Charge. So I can enthusiastically recommend Gettysburg, not only for it’s historical accuracy but for also bringing the soldiers from both sides to life in a spectacular way.
IMDb score: 7.9
Winner of three Oscars, Glory was Densel Washington’s first Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Also, Glory received 14 other wins & another 18 nominations.
This was the first major motion picture to tell the story of black U.S. soldiers fighting for their freedom from slavery during the Civil War. Everything about this movie was done on a grand scale, including hiring Shelby Foote as a technical adviser.
Foote later became well known for his contributions to Ken Burns’ The Civil War, a nine episode documentary in 1990, which I highly, highly recommend.
The Conspirator: (2010)
IMDb score: 6.9
Directed by Robert Redford
The Conspirator is the story of Mary Surratt, the only female conspirator charged in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the first woman to be executed by the U.S. Federal Government. This alone is enough to make the list, but also for the uniqueness of the crime. Great movie.
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