Note: films are listed in near chronological order of subjects. Listings in each section are in no particular order and I will continue to insert new items as I think about them. For a really exhaustive list of historical films and additional background, consider looking at Patrick L. Cooney's site.  Cooney is opinionated and sometimes wrong in the information he provides, but his list of films is outstanding. Much better, historically and in terms of accuracy, is the shorter annotated list produced by historian Paul Halsall.

Early 20th Century Nationalism and Imperialism

The Man Who Would be King (1975) 

Stars Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer.  In a Rudyard Kipling story set in the Himalayas, two British adventurers set themselves up as rulers of a remote and seemingly idyllic society. The confidence of imperialists is well shown.

Zulu (1964)

Another Michael Caine Classic.  A small unit of British soldiers hold off thousands of Zulu Warriors in the very real Battle of Rorke's Drift. 

Out of Africa (1985)

Starring Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and Klaus Maria Brandauer.   Based on Karen Blixen's memoirs of her life in East Africa in the first decades of the 20th Century, this fabulously filmed classic shows the lives of white settlers in this distant corner of the British Empire. 

Khartoum (1966)

Stars Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier.  The Mahdi launches an insurrection in the Sudan, hoping to unite the Muslim world and throw out the infidels.  British governor Gordon refuses to abandon Khartoum and hopes that a relief force will arrive in time to save the city and its people.  The meeting of the Mahdi and Gordon shown in the film is purely fictional.

The Four Feathers (2002)

Set in the Sudan in the same 1884 revolt, this remake of a much filmed story in the 20s and 30s, tells the tale of an officer accused of cowardice by his colleagues and fiance because he resigned his commission just before his unit was sent to war.  He actually goes under-cover to save his best friend from the Mahdi's men.

Breaker Morant (1980)

Stars Brian Brown. Australian classic about the Boer War. Australian officers are court marshalled for killing prisoners -- scapegoated to save the reputations of their British superiors.

A Passage to India (1984)

David Lean's treatment of racial tension in British India.  The full weight of British "justice" is brought to bear on an Indian doctor accused of molesting a young English lady.

Gandhi (1982)

Richard Attenborough's magnus opus.  The life story of the great Indian leader, from his time in South Africa to his death.  One of the greatest historical films ever made.  The films stars Ben Kingsley in the title role.

Rhodes (1996)

Mini series telling the story of British businessman Cecil Rhodes, who was a gigantic figure in the history of South Africa.

Anna and the King (1999)

Jodie Foster is Anna and Jun-Fat Chow is the King of Siam as Thailand plays a delicate game of balancing Britain and France off against eachother to maintain its independence in the mid 19th century. Personal lives and statecraft mix, as always.

Michael Collins (1996)

The Irish revolutionary, played by Liam Neeson, fights for independence from Britain only to see his beloved Ireland wracked by civil war as the British withdraw.  The film also stars Julia Roberts.

55 Days at Peking (1963)

Historically dubious, the film looks at the siege of the International communities in Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion.   An all-star caste includes Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and David Niven.

Lagaan; Once Upon a Time in India (2001)

An Indian treatment of life under the British. Many such treatments these days are nostalgic; this one is not.

World War 1

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

David Lean's greatest film and the winner of 7 Academy Awards.  Stars Peter O'toole, Alec Guiness, Anthony Quin and Omar Sharif.  Tells the story of the maveric British officer who helps create and lead the Arab revolt against Turkey during the Great War, only to see his beloved Arabs double crossed by the British and French at the Paris Peace conference.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

The anti-war literary classic by Erich-Marie Remarque is brought to the screen.  It details the horror of trench warfare.  The film was remade in a 1979 made for tv version.

Gallipoli (1981)

Peter Weir's classic telling of the story of young ANZAC soldiers at the disastrous battle.  A great story.  Weir chastises British leadership for its disregard for the lives of colonial troops, but fails to note their similar willingness to shed British blood.

Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel, 2002)

French, German and Scottish soldiers share a spontaneous cease fire and celebrate Christmas 1914 together before resuming the carnage that is World War I. This is a wonderful film.

My Boy Jack (2007)

Jack Kipling, son of the poet, had difficulty getting into the military until his father pulled strings to help him.  He went missing at the battle of Loos - this is about his family's quest to find out what happened.

The Lighthorsemen (1988)

Australian film about ANZAC cavalry serving in Palestine in World War I.

Passendaele (2008)

Written, directed, co-produced and starring Paul Gross, this Canadian film is a fictionalized account of the experience of Gross' grandfather.  Not a classic by any means, and certainly too romanticized -- but an interesting film to sit down to on a cold winter's evening. 

Paths of Glory (1957)

An American film by Stanly Kulbrick and starring  Kirk Douglas, about a French military court marshall following on the Battle of Verdun.  This is a classic anti-war film by one of America's greatest directors.

The African Queen (1951)

Stars Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.  A riverboat captain is talked into attacking a German warship in German East Africa during World War I.

Black Adder Goes Forth (1989 - TV series)

OK, this has no real value in studying history, but how can anyone resist the comedy of Rowan Atkinson.  Just don't expect Mr. Bean.  This humour is much nastier.

Russia Before, During, and After the Bolshevik Revolution

Dr. Zhivago (1965)

David Lean's carreer is built on magnificant historical films.  This is one of his best.  Stars Julie Christie and Omar Sharif.  Love and life caught up in the wrenching events of World War I and the Russian Revolutions.

Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)

The tragic tale of the last Tsar of Russia and his family.  A superb film.

Rasputin (1996 made for TV)

While not great cinema, the story of Rasputin is fascinating to all. This is HBO stuff and not as historically accurate as Nicholas and Alexandra.

Reds (1981)

Warren Beatty stars and directs this epic tale of John Reed, the radical American journalist who watched the revolution unfold.

The Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Poteyomkin, 1925)

Sergei Eisenstein's classic account of the 1905 uprising.

The Inner Circle (1991)

The story of Ivan Sanchin, who was Stalin's personal movie projectionist from 1939 until Stalin died.  A chilling look at life close to Stalin.

Stalin (1992 made for TV)

Robert Duvall stars in this excellent account of the life of the Soviet leader.  I would use it in class -- except for the length of time it would take to show it.

Life in the Interwar Years (and sometimes a bit beyond)

Rosa Luxemburg (Geduld der Rosa Luxemburg, 1986)

An account of the famous Socialist leader, who, along with Karl Liebknecht, founded the radical Spartacists (who, alone among German socialists, opposed the First World War).  In 1919 she and Liebknecht were executed by right-wing extremists.

1900 (Novecento, 1976)

Bernardo Bartolucci's Italian film, starring Robert DeNiro, that examines early 20th century Italy and focusses on both the Italian Communist Party and Mussolini's Blackshirts.

Tea With Mussolini (1999)

Somewhat based on the early life of Franco Zeffirelli, this excellent film, starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Lily Tomlin and Cher, details the lives of British and American expatriates living in Italy in the 1920's to 1940's.

Mephisto (1981)

Klaus Maria Brandaur plays an actor who makes a pact with the Devil -- actually with the Nazis -- in order to further his career.  The film is a telling portrayal of how individuals are coopted in totalitarian societies.

The White Rose (1982)

Some are coopted, while others resist.  This is the true story of anti-Nazi resistance at a Munich university.

Cabaret (1972)

What a musical!  Lisa Minelli, Michael York and Joel Grey star in this film about entertainers caught up in the political whirlwind of inter-war Germany. Life in the Kit Kat Club changes as the Nazis rise to power.

Chariots of Fire (1971)

When Olympians ran for honour, rather than fame and fortune. This film has a classic early electronic music soundtrack by Vangellis.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Don't expect historical events to shape this Agatha Christie murder mystery.  However, it does portray upper class life rather well.

Brideshead Revisited (1982 mini-series)

Jeremy Irons stars in this telling of the Evelyn Waugh literary classic.  Upper class life between the wars in Britain is portrayed exquisitively.

Remains of the Day (1993)

Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson star in this tale of a butler's wasted life in the service of a seriously misguided upper class political leader.

Gosford park (2001)

Class differences in interwar Britain are outlined in the lives of the (upstairs) aristocrats and (downstairs) servants in inter-war Britain.

Angela's Ashes (1999)

Frank McCourt's autobiographical story of growing up in poverty in inter-war Ireland. This is actually what lower working class life was like in Britain too.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They (1969)

In the height of the US Great Depression, dance marathon contestants struggle to escape their problems.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

John Ford's classic telling of Steinbeck's novel of life in America during the dirty 30's. Stars Henry Fonda.

The Last Emperor (1987)

The life of Henry Pu-Yi, who's life took him from childhood ruler of China to Japanese puppet ruler of Manchukuo, to political prisoner of Stalin and Mao to Beijing gardiner. The scope of the film is tremendous.

The Sand Pebbles (1966)

An American gunboat patrols Chinese rivers between the wars, when Japan was expanding its empire. Steve McQueen stars.

Land and Freedom (1995)

A British volunteer in the POUM militia experiences the Spanish Civil War.  Watch this and also read George Orwell's autobiographical work Homage to Catalonia.  Orwell was a member of this militia.

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)

Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman star in this Hemingway story of life and love during trhe Spanish Civil War.  Just don't expect an exact retelling of the novel.

Triumph of the Will (1934)

OK, I know I am not supposed to be listing documentaries here, but for this one I make an exception.  Leni Riefenstahl's revolutionary docuumentary of the 1934 Nazi Nuremburg Rally.  See the power of propeganda.

Water (2005)

Deepa Mehta's wonderful film depicting the plight of widows in 1938 India.  Misery here relates not to imperial rule, but to cultural traditions.

World War II

The Battle of Britain (1969)

This is the story of the "few" that was owed "so much" by "so many." Stars Michael Caine and Trevor Howard.  The combat footage is fabulous, as most of the surviving planes of the era were pressed into service.  This is a must-see.

Hope and Glory (1987)

Life in England during the Blitz is outlined in this wonderful film from Director John Boorman.  How much more fun can life be for a young boy than when a German bomber blows up his school?

Mrs. Minever (1942)

Won the academy award for best picture of the year for its portrayal of a courageous British family during the war.  Life goes on, even with the world exploding around one.

The Dam Busters (1955)

Film about the 1943 attack by special British bomber crews on the Ruhr dams.  Special effects are primitive, but the movie is stirring, nonetheless.

Enigma (2001)

Few people realize the importance of code-breaking on the outcome of World War II.  This film looks at the struggle to keep up with changes made in the German military codes.  Fictionalized, this is, nonetheless, infinitely more accurate than the more famous film U-571, which also deals with the Enigma topic but which inexplicably changes the nationality of sailors who captured a U-Boat code book from British to American.

Casablanca (1942)

One of Hollywood's most enduring films. Stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. The film is set in Vichy French Casablanca, early in World War II -- a city of intrigue and espionage.  This is a classic.

Bataan (1943)

Long considered one of America's best war films, it describes America's desperate attempt to halt the Japanese invasion of the US occupied Philippines in 1941-42. To those used to modern special effects, the film will probably look quite dated.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

Don't bother watching "Pearl Harbour," which is Hollywood's butchering of actual events, Tora! Tora! Tora! is a masterpiece that tells of the attack from both the American and Japanese perspectives.  This is an amazing film that must be seen.

The Longest Day (1962)

Epic treatment of D-Day.  This is considered one of the greatest war movies ever.  Few movies successfuly capture events from the perspective of both sides; this one, like Tora! Tora! Tora!, does so.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Stars Tom Hanks.  Set during the Normandy landings, the film describes attempts to find and ensure the survival of the one surviving brother from a family where three death notices are being sent home on the same day.  The combat scene of the actual landing is spectacular.

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Richard Attenborough's film about Operation Market Garden, which failed to take and hold several strategic bridges across the Rhine in 1944.  The caste includes: Sean Connery, Lawrence Olivier, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford and a host of other A-list actors.

PT-109 (1963)

The film that helped mythologize President Kennedy, telling of his experiences on a patrol boat in the South Pacific during World War II.

The Thin Red Line (1998)

American troops fight the Japanese in the Pacific at Guadalcanal.

Patton (1970)

George C. Scott's most famous role as he played the controversial American general.  An excellent film.

Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

Stars Paul Newman.  The story of the Manhattan Project, which brought about the atomic age.

Das Boot (The Boat, 1981)

Life aboard a U-Boat, from the heady days of the early war to the terrifying times when the Allies came to master the Atlantic.  Director Wolfgang Petersen captures the stifling claustrophobic world of World War II submariners.  This is one of the greatest war films ever made. Jurgen Prochnow, as the Captain, is tremendous. 

Stalingrad (1995)

Epic story of the battle that turned the tide of World War II in Europe.

Enemy at the Gates (2001)

Vasily Zaitsev is a Soviet sniper during the Battle of Stalingrad. With the bigger war swirling around him, Zaitsev does his job and attempts to survive, while his government uses him for political purposes and the Germans respond by singling him out for special attention.  This is an outstanding film.

Judgement at Nuremburg (1961)

The Nuremburg trials following World War II are brought to the screen by a caste of greats:  Maximillian Schell, Spencer Tracey, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Montgomery Clift.

The Great Escape (1963)

Though not of great help in studying History 12, this is a tremendously entertaining movie about a real mass escape from a German prisoner of war camp set up specially for chronic Allied escape artist prisoners.

Empire of the Sun (1987)

When Shanghai falls to the Japanese, a young boy is separated from his parents and must live by his wits to survive the occupation.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)

I'm including this film, not so much because of its historical veracity, but because it treats an often neglected topic -- the Italian and Greek experiences in World War II.

The Holocaust and its Antecedents

The Diary of Ann Frank (1963)

Taken from a play of the same name and based on the diary of a young Dutch Jewish girl who spent much of the war hidden from the Nazis by sympathizers, but who was ultimately found and killed at Auschwitz.

Schindler's List (1993)

The most outstanding depiction of the Holocaust.  Oskar Schindler changes from greedy capitalist to righteous gentile as he subverts the Nazi system to save the lives of thousands of Jews.  The film stars Liam Neeson, but also has a tremendous supporting caste that includes Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes.

Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella, 1997)

The Holocaust with an Italian flavour as an Italian Jew lives throught he 1930's and is sent, with his family, to a death camp after Germany occupies much of Italy after the Italian surrender to the Allies.

Jacob the Liar (1999)

Almost an American version of Life is Beautiful.  I'm not convinced that Robin Williams and the Holocaust work together, but this is an entertaining film about a vry dark subject.

Voyage of the Damned (1976)

This film traces the voyage of the St. Louis, a ship that sailed from Germany in 1939 with Jewish refugees, only to have most of its passengers refused entry in Cuba, the USA and Canada. Britain ultimately accepted some of its passengers, but most were taken in by Holland, Belgium and France -- only to find themselves once again under Nazi control after these countries fell.  Most died in Hitler's Final Solution.

The Grey Zone (2001)

This is based on the real experiences of Hungarian Jewish doctor Miklos Nyiszli, who assisted the infamous Doctor Mengele at Auschwitz.  The film deals with the doctor and the Jewish Sonderkommando -- those who worked for the SS in order to prolong their lives.  The "grey zone" is the morality of their action.  Action in the film surrounds a very real insurrection launched by prison inmates.  This is not a film for the feint-hearted.  The horrors of the camp are not glossed over.  Language is crude, there is some gross nudity, and, above all, the bestiality of the SS reminds us of what man is capable of.

The Pianist (2002)

Roman Polanski's film of how a Polish Jewish pianist, Wladislaw Szpilman, survives the Holocaust. This is a must-see film.

Conspiracy (2001 made for TV)

Kenneth Branaugh stars in this TV movie about the Wansee Conference, where megadeath was planned by Nazi leaders and industrialists -- often over dinner and drinks.

The Wansee Conference (1984)

Another excellent treatment of the momentous 1942 conference.

The Counterfeiters (Die Falscher - 2007)

A Brilliantly made Austrian film about survival in the death camps.  European Jews, skilled in technical areas, buy time by working for a Nazi scheme to undermine Allied economies through the production of counterfeit banknotes.





The Cold War

Doctor Strangelove; Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Stanley Kulbrick's masterpiece, starring Peter Sellers and George C. Scott.  A mad general tries to launch World War III.  Can anyone stop him?  This is dark comedy at its best.

Ice Station Zebra (1968)

Americans and Soviets set out to rescue the crew of an arctic research base.  However, there is much more at work than it first appears as Cold War intrigue mixes with genuine hope that anagonisms can be overcome.

On the Beach (1959)

Nuclear war obliterates the northern hemisphere in 1964.  An American submarine surfaces in Australia -- but the respite cannot last as radiation spreads.  This is one of the first post-apocalyptic nuclear films and remains one of the best.

Fail Safe (1964)

Get over the black and white film.  This is an outstanding rendering of the terrors of the Cold War.  Henry Fonda stars as the American president who faces accidental nuclear war and must find a way to stop it. Brilliant.

Thirteen Days (2000)

A riveting movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  The film nicely depicts how the crisis very nearly spun out of control.

The Day After (1983 TV)

Though a bit tv cheesy and very 80's to look at, this film was actually quite influential as it incorporated recent knowledge of the effects of nuclear blast -- including the effect of electromagnetic pulse.  See the outcome of thermonuclear war.

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

The cat and mouse game played by Soviet and American submariners throughout the Cold War is portrayed in this film.

Red Dawn (1986)

Teens fight a guerilla war against an occupation army of Soviet and Cuban troops in one of the most improbable scenarios ever filmed.  This is not parody.  The movie does give an inkling of some American' paranoia at the time, reflecting the time of Ronald Reagan's presidency, when American television ads actually warned of a the domino effect a Sandinista victory in Nicaragua might have -- leading to communists reaching the Texas border. 

War Games (1983)

The plot line involving young people is completely fictitious, but the film is actually based on a real historical event that ncould have triggered World War III.  In June, 1980, a technician loaded a training tape in NORAD's mainframe computer but did not switch the system to "test," resulting in false radar warnings of Soviet attacks.  Oops!


The End of Empires and the Third World

Do watch the James Bond films -- too many to outline here.

Earth (1998)

This is a fabulous film by Indian Canadian director and writer Deepa Mehta.  Set in India at the time of partition, we see a society torn apart by political and ethnic divisions that previously did not exist. This and Gandhi are must-see films to understand the Indian experience in the first half of the 20th century.

The Battle of Algiers (1966, re-released in 2005)

France's departure from Algeria was probably its most divisive and painful experience of the post-war years.  Shot in a documentary style, it featured actual actors in the evemts.  The film was originally banned in France and served as a manual on tactics for many radical revolutionary groups.  This is an excellent treatment of the crisis.

Exodus (1960)

Film version of Leon Uris' novel of the same name. The story begins with the Holocaust and traces the lives of Jewish illegal immigrants to Israel and their experiences during the war following Israeli independence.  The popularity of this film undoubtedly influenced American public opinion in support of the state of Israel.

The Jewel in the Crown (Mini-series, 1984)

Terrific series examining life in India at the end of the period of British rule.

Cry the Beloved Country (1995)

James Earl Jones stars as a Black South African preacher who sets off to find his criminal son. Black and white come to understand eachother better in apartheid South Africa.

Cry Freedom (1987)

Richard Attenborough's treatment of the friendship of white journalist Donald Woods and Black activist Steven Biko and of events leading to Biko's death at the hands of South Africa's white supremacist government. This film probably helped to influence political change in South Africa by helping to sway public opinion in the West.

Blackhawk Down (2000)

Set during the period of US intervension in Somalia, in 1993, this film deals with events surrounding the downing of a US military helicopter in Mogadishu.  The US pulled out shortly after, seeing no hope of successfuly restoring order in the country.

Lomumba (2000)

The story of Patrice Lomumba, fighter for Congolese independence from Belgium, his rise to power, and his assassination in the chaotic post-independence period.

The Last King of Scotland (2006)

Idi Amin's rule sometimes appeared comical to the outside world as he dubbed himself "Conqueror of the British Empire" and strangely offered himself to be "King of Scotland."  In reality, he was no buffoon.  With no restraints on his power, he became increasingly brutal, killing opponents and potential opponents at will.  His victims likely numbered between 80,000 and 500,000.  In 1972 he brought economic ruin by expelling Uganda's "Indian" population. The film centers on a fictional Scottish doctor who is in Amin's inner circle.  Do not watch this film expecting historical authenticity.  However, Forest Whitaker does a marvelous job of showing how the charismatic army officer became a tyrant.  This is what makes the film well worth watching.

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

A hotel manager lives by his wits and tries to save as many Tutsi refugees as possible during the nightmarish days of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.  Despite the ghoulish subject matter, this is a tremendous film that one need not be a history student to appreciate.

The Killing Fields (1984)

One of the most terrifying historical films ever made.  Dith Pran, Cambodian associate of New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg, is rounded up, along with most of his countrymen and sent out to be worked to death in the countryside by the murderous Khmer Rouge after they seize power.  Somehow Pran survives and is reunited with his American friend. Compare Pran's experiences with those of Holocaust survivors and those who lived through the Rwandan genocide.

The Official Story (La Historia Officia, 1985)

Set during the "dirty war" of Argentina's military rulers against the country's leftists, this film deals with a woman's search for her "missing" daughter.  This is a superb film.

Evita (1996)

Stars Madonna, who is a surprisingly good actress.  This is the story of  Argentine figure Eva Peron, who rose from poverty to become the wife of populist President Juan Peron.

Missing (1982)

An account of events during the American-backed military overthrow of the Chilean government of Salvadore Allende.  Jack Lemon stars as an American father who goes to Chile to help is daughter-in-law find his son, a victim of the coup.  Very good.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Francis Ford Coppola took the old Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness and moved the story from colonial Africa to Vietnam during the war.  Marlon Brando plays the repulsive Kurtz and Martin Sheen plays the troubled Captain Willard, who is sent to kill him.  Surreal war footage emphasizes the futility of the war and the horrific effect that a war like this has on those who fight it.  

Platoon (1986)

Oliver Stone's depiction of the hellish life of a young recruit in Vietnam.  The soldier's struggle is as much within himself as it is with the enemy as he finds that  his cause is not as moral is he first thought.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Stanley Kulbrick's tale of the American experience in Vietnam from basic training to the Tet Offensive.  The film is visually stunning. 

The Odd Angry Shot (1979)

Australians also served in Vietnam.  This film follows Aussie recruits from basic training at Canungra to combat in Vietnam in a war that is increasingly unsupported back home.  Listen to Redgum's song A Walk in the Light Green for further Australian commentary on the war.

Doctor Bethune (1993)

Donald Sutherland stars in this biopic of the life of a Canadian doctor who became a hero of China's communist revolution.

The Beast (1988)

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, a mixed Russian/Afghani tank crew finds itself separated from the rest of its unit and hunted by the Mujehaddin. This is a riveting treatment of the "Soviet's Vietnam."

Kandehar (Safar e Ghandahar, 2001)

A woman who fled Afghanistan as a child returns and makes a dangerous journey to find her long-lost sister who remained behind. She learns of life under the fundamentalists who ruled Afghanistan after the fall of the pro-Soviet regime.

Xiu Xiu, the Sent Down Girl (1998)

In Communist China in the early 1970's a young girl is "sent down", forced into manual labour and exploitation in the remote countryside.

Kundun (1997)

Biographical movie about the life of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan political and religious leader who lives in exile in India and who inspires Buddhists around the world.

Not Without My Daughter (1991)

An American woman marries an Iranian man and returns to Iran with him, only to find that she cannot fit in with his family.  She struggles to escape Iran -- with her daughter.  The film helped create a very negative view of Iran and Islam in general for many Americans.

Lord of War (2005)

This film examines the ethics of the international arms trade. Stars Nicholas Cage.

The Constant Gardner (2005)

One of 2005's best films, starring Ralph Fiennes.  This is another film looking at the ethics of first world businesses operating in the Third World -- this time the pharmaceutical industry.  This is a tremendous movie.

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

Perhaps Peter Wier's best film, this is the story. President Sukarno of Indonesia is making waves internationally and the US and Indonesian military do not like the path he is choosing.  A journalist who thought he was off on a boring assignment, finds himself caught up in Suharto's military coup.  With the help of his photographer, he works one of the most dangerous assignments in the world.  Stars Mel Gibson, Linda Hunt & Sigourney Weaver.

Post-War America

Malcolm X (1992)

Biographical account of the life of a controversial Black Muslim leader. His assassination made him a martyr.

Mississippi Burning (1982)

Fictionalized account of an FBI murder investigation of civil rights workers in the US South.

Forest Gump (1994)

Stars Tom Hanks.  A simple young man witnesses and participates in major events in recent US history.  Real and altered real footage is cunningly woven into the narrative.

Nixon (1995)

The rise and fall of an American president.

JFK (1991)

Everyone likes a good conspiracy theory, and tha is exactly what Oliver Stone delivers in his account of District Attorney Jim Garrison's investigation of the Kennedy assassination.  Most historians would not agree with this account, but it is a very good film.

Post-War Britain

49 Up (2005)

OK, I'm breaking the no documentary rule once again, but this film is really special.  This is a long term study of children who were first selected and filmed as 7 year olds and who are filmed again every 7 years. They come from all classes of British society and this is probably the best picture of British people ever produced.  I've gone to the cinemas to watch this for decades.  Now all of the films are available on video.  Each film recaps the history of each character, so you don't have to watch the whole series -- just the most recent film.

Scandal (1989)

An account of the Profumo affair that rocked the British government in 1963.  Call girls and politics should not mix.

Brassed Off (1996)

Set in a northern coal mining town at the time of Margaret Thatcher's reforms and her hard line battle with the unions, which resulted in the closing of most British coal mines.  Class differences affect a local brass band  caught up in the politics of the times.

In the Name of the Father (1993)

Irish men falsely accused of a London pub bombing are finally proved innocent.  Based on a true story.

A Private Function (1984)

Rationing continues in Britain well into the 1950's.  This comedy satirizes the time as an illegal pig is being raised to feed a banquet, only to be pignapped

Bloody Sunday (2002)

An account of "the troubles" in Northern Ireland that centers on the killing of protesters by British troops.

Bend it Like Beckam (2002)

Riotously funny film about contemporary Britain.  Football culture crosses all racial boundaries, but how can a young Indo-British girl reconcile her love of the sport with the more traditional expectations of her family?  This is a classic and the additional features on the DVD are well worth watching.

Post-War Western Europe

Munich (2006)

The gripping account of the 1972 hostage taking of Israeli athletes, the bloody rescue attempt, and the hunting down of those responsible for the hostage taking by Mossad, the Israeli secret security force.

Z (1969)

The story of the assassination of a left-wing Greek politician and its subsequent cover-up.

The Third Man (1949)

Stars Orson Welles. An American writer arrives in Vienna only to find that his friend and host is dead.  He tries to get to the bottom of things in a city divided between occupying powers, where Cold War intrigue mixes with commonplace criminality.


Post-War USSR and Eastern Europe

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

This film is rather more racy than I should be suggesting here.  Be forewarned. Daniel Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche star in this telling of the Milan Kundera novel of the same name about life in Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact invasion.  This is a film version of the Milan Kundera novel.

Goodbye Lenin (2003)

A party activist in East Germany fell into a coma before the collapse and German reunification.  Her son tries to protect her from knowledge of what happened after she revives.