Top 10 Civil War Films

This summer, we are going to cover the many National Park Service (NPS) sites dedicated to remembering the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history with the greatest outcome (freedom for the country’s enslaved people).  Part of what makes the United States a great nation is its ability to remember the painful chapters in its past (i.e. Andersonville and Manzanar National Historic Sites).  It is also important to recall where we started so we can accurately see how far we have come and the positive trajectory we (as a nation) are on.  If you keep up with the daily news it is difficult to get this perspective, especially when living through periods of historical change.  That is what makes our NPS sites essential to the future of our republic.

With that long preamble, we now present our first Top 10 list dedicated to motion pictures.  So make some popcorn and find a comfortable seat!

10. Gods and Generals (2003)

This epically long film could have been titled “The Stonewall Jackson Movie.”

9. The Beguiled (1971, 2017)

More of a psychological thriller than a war movie.

8. Glory (1989)

The story of a regiment of African American troops in the Union Army.

7. Ride with the Devil (1999)

This film directed by Ang Lee follows guerrilla fighters in Missouri.

6. Free State of Jones (2016)

Tells the story of a revolt against the Confederacy in Mississippi in the middle of the Civil War.

5. Cold Mountain (2003)

A look into life on the home front in the South (and based on the novel).

4. Gettysburg (1993)

At over four hours, it does a decent job explaining the three days that changed American history.

3. Lincoln (2012)

Daniel Day-Lewis did arguably the best job of the many actors to portray Abe Lincoln.

2. Harriet (2019)

Believe it or not, Harriet Tubman led troops during the Civil War.

…and finally our #1 movie about the American Civil War:

1. Gone with the Wind (1939)

A classic.

Honorable Mentions

Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War (1990)

This nine-hour marathon changed documentaries forever and made historian Shelby Foote a star.

The Blue and the Grey (1982) and North and South (1985)

Mixed reviews for these two television miniseries from the 1980s.

Little Women (1918, 1933, 1949, 1994, 2019, etc.)

The war provides the backdrop for the many films based on Louisa May Alcott’s masterpiece.

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