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1290 BC
The Ten Commandments

DeMille's Vision of Moses Freeing the Hebrews from Egypt

In this Cecil B. DeMille account of the Biblical story of the Exodus, the Pharaoh is Rameses II, of the 19th Dynasty.

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Biblical history | Egypt | Israel |


1193 BC
Troy

Trojan War

Action film emphasizing internal conflicts within both the Trojan and Greek sides.

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Homer , antiquity , battle scenes , archeological evidence |


1193 BC
The Trojan Women

The Trojan-Greek Conflict from the Point of View of Women

Based on the Euripides tragedy about the aftermath of Troy, the film stars Katherine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, Irene Papas and Genevieve Bujold.

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antiquity | political intrigue | classic literature | women in history |


1000 BC
King David

King David ascends to power

A Hebrew youth rises to power and unites the Jewish tribes, making Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

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Middle East, biblical, battle scenes, Israel, aspirations |


481 BC
One Night with the King

Xerxes finds a new bride while he prepares for war with the Greeks

This movie ultimately derives from the Biblical text in the Song of Esther.

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political intrigue | monarch | ancient world | classical world | love story |


480 BC
The 300 Spartans

Spartan soldiers die holding invading army at bay

At the Battle of Thermopylae a small unit of Spartan soldiers fend off a much larger Persian army. Their self-sacrifice allowed the Greeks time to mount an effective defense against the invading Persians under Xerxes.

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Ancient Greece, antiquity, battle scenes, geopolitics | Xerxes | Leonidas


335 BC
Alexander

Alexander the Great embarks on conquest

Recounts the campaign of the Macedonian general through Persia into India and back to Mesopotamia.

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antiquity battle scenes, aspirations | Alexander the Great


216 BC
Hannibal

Carthaginian general invades Italy to move on Rome

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Ancient Rome, Carthage, battle scenes, geopolitics, aspirations |


73 BC
Spartacus

Spartacus Leads a Valiant but Doomed Slave Revolt Against Rome

This epic film epitomizes the fundamental stories about the struggle for freedom. A gladiator slave fights to liberate himself and his colleagues. Although this Stanley Kubrick masterpiece takes plenty of literary liberties with the history, it has stood for have a century as the archetypical retelling of the Spartacus saga. Kirk Douglas in the title role leads a cast that includes Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton and Jean Simmmons.

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Rome, battle scenes, political message, ancient history | Spartacus, Marcus Licinius Crassus,


44 BC
Julius Caesar

Assasination of Julius Caesar and aftermath

This Shakespeare play describes the event that led to the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Empire.

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ancient Rome | political assasination | Shakespeare history |


30 BC
Cleopatra

Cleopatra engages in world-changing drama

The beautiful queen of Egypt uses here guile and beauty to conquer those who would conquer her land. The film dramatizes the political intrique that brought the dynasties of the Egyptian Pharaohs to an end, the empire of Rome to a beginning and the deaths of three of the periods most powerful figures: Julius Ceasar; Cleopatra; and Mark Antony.

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Rome, Egypt, antiquity, battle scenes, women in history, aspirations | Cleopatra | Julius Ceasar | Mark Antony | Octavian


1
The Nativity Story

The Birth of Jesus

This film looks at the society and politics surrounding the birth of Christ.

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Christianity | Bible | Women in History | monarch | Jesus | Mary | Joseph | Herod


30
The Greatest Story Ever Told

Jesus is Crucified after He Completes His Ministry

This George Stevens film recounts the preaching, arrest, trial and execution of Jesus of Nazareth, the founder of Christianity.

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religion | antiquity | Romans | Jews | middle east | Hebrews | Jerusalem | miscarriage of justice | death penalty | Jesus | Pontius Pilate


68
Quo Vadis

Christians persecuted in the last year of Nero's reign

This 1951 dramatizes the political discontent leading to the fall of Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors. It also represents the growing Christian faith in Rome.

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Rome | antiquity | emperors | Julio-Claudian line | Christianity | | Nero


312
Constantine and the Cross

Constantine Wins the Battle of Milvian Bridge to Assume Control of the Roman Empire

Constantine took control from co-Augustus Maxentius after having a vision of a Cross in the sky. Constantine a year later issued the Edict of Milan granting tolerance of Christianity. In 325 he convened the Council of Nicaea, which sought to provide a unified Christian doctrine.

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Roman Empire, monarchy, battle scenes, Christianity, court intrigue | Constantine, Maxentius, Maximian. Galerius


452
Attila

Attila the Hun Marches on Rome, but Spares It

The major barbaric conqueror at the end of the Roman Empire spares Rome after Pope Leo I implores him to leave Italy in peace. The emperor of the nomadic Huns had ravage much of Europe and interfered with its politics in pursuit of tribute and territory.

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Roman Empire | antiquity | war | conquest | Europe | barbarians | Attila


878
Alfred the Great

Alfred Defends his Realm against the Danes

This documentary explains how the Anglo-Saxon king battles invaders from across the North Sea to maintain control over his land. His victory enabled him to reinvigorate London.

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monarchy, battle scene, national unity, documentary | King Alfred the Great


1170
Becket

Murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

This film, the first of two starring Peter O'Toole as Henry II, dramatizes Church/State conflict in Europe. It also shows the ongoing struggle between Normans and Saxons a century after the conquest.

Related link: BBC British history page on the assassination of Beckett

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England | religious conflict | Monarchy of England |


1183
Lion in Winter

Henry II's family fights bitterly for his succession

The second Henry II role played by Peter O'Toole. The historic characters of Richard and John, who play prominent roles in Robin Hood tales, are developed in this film.

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England | Monarchy of England | political intrigue |


1187
Kingdom of Heaven

The capture of Jerusalem by Saladin

Combines the story of King Baldwin, the Knights Templars and Muslim armies solidifying Islamic control over the Holy Land. The events led to the Third Crusades.

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Crusades | Middle East | Israel | Jerusalem, aspirations |


1194
The Adventures of Robin Hood

King Richard I returns to England after captivity in Europe

This 1938 classic of the Robin Hood legend continues the Angevin dynasty of Henry II. John, youngest son of Henry, nearly usurps the English throne while Richard is away on Crusade and then a captive of the Holy Roman Emperor. The plot of the movie moves towards the return of Richard to power and the reestablishment of justice.

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monarchy of England | sword battle scenes | political intrigue | legend to film | King John | King Richard


1297
Braveheart

William Wallace defeats the British at the Battle of Sterling Bridge

This film depicts the fight for Scottish independence from England's Edward I (Longshanks), a Plantagenet king who was the great-grandson of Henry II. Robert the Bruce also figures in this movie as a politically ambivalent character. Wallace was captured and executed in 1305.

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monarchs of England, monarchs of Scotland, medieval period, battle scenes, political intrigue, aspirations |


1327
Name of the Rose

Pope John XXII in dispute with Franciscan order

Set in a 14th Century abbey, this book and film look at the Middle Ages just before the plague descended upon Europe. At base a murder mystery, the work also weaves in both contemporary and timeless themes such as the search for truth in the face of convention and faith versus reason.

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church, religion, Middle Ages, Italy, Inquisition,| mystery | Pope John XXII


1415
Henry V

Battle of Agincourt

Kenneth Branagh uses cinematic realism to highlight Shakespeare's theatrical interpretation of British pluck overcoming long odds to beat chivalric strategies and arrogance.

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monarchs of England | battle scenes | medieval period |


1431
The Messenger

Joan of Arc Fights to Liberate France

The motivating actions of a peasant girl who claimed revelations from saints help the French lift the siege of Orlean's in 1429 during the Hundred Year's War. This siege was part of the power struggle in France that had accelerated with Henry V's victory at Agincourt.

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France, battle scenes, monarchs, political intrigue, religious strife, medieval period, women in history, aspirations |


1536
Anne of a Thousand Days

Anne Boleyn Plays Her Pivotal Role in British History

Henry VIII has his second wife beheaded in his search for a male heir to his throne. Ironically, their daughter Elizabeth would grow to take the throne.

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monarchs of England | political intrigue | Richard Burton | Irene Papas | Anthony Quinn | Tudors | women in history |


1547
The Tudors

King Henry VIII's Life, Loves and Legends Leave their Mark on England and the Western World

This four-season TV series dramatizes the reign of Henry VIII, the most flamboyant ruler of the Tudor dynasty. The on-screen romances that delight and bedevil Henry suggest how the motivations and lustfulness of an energetic king could change history. The plot twists, although full of artistic license, show how the intrigue of real life often can overshadow fiction.

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monarchs, England, marriage, political intrique, Renaissance, religion, Catholic Church | Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Anne Boylyn, Sir Thomas More, Catherine of Aragon, Pope Paul III


1548
The Legend of Suriyothai

Thai Queen Suriyothai's Sacrifice Leads to Victory

This Thai production shows the romantic politics and political maneuvering that culminates in a decisive battle with Siam

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women in history | battle | Asia | Thailand | .


1553
Lady Jane

Great-Granddaughter of Henry VII Caught in a Political Web

Sitting on the throne for less than two weeks, Lady Jane Grey falls victim to the political machinations that put her in power in a failed attempt to block the Catholic Mary from ruling England.

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monarchs of England | political intrigue | religious conflict | women in history |


1558
Elizabeth

Elizabeth I ascends to the throne and meets challenges

The movie examines the uncertainties of Elizabeth's ascension and her early years as queen.

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monarchs of England | political intrigue | women in history |


1558
Young Bess

After Years of Uncertainty, Elizabeth Ascends to the Throne

Following the early life of Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, this film reflects a steadfastness in young Elizabeth and court treachery and, in the film, her own affection for a powerful man toss her back and forth in both politics and love. With Jean Simmons as Elizabeth, Charles Laughton as Henry VIII, Deborah Kerr as Catherine Parr and Stewart Grainger as Tom Seymour, the film is a model example of good acting and screen presence from the era of Technicolor spectacles in the 1940's and 1950's. The film was released in 1953, the coronation year of Queen Elizabeth II.

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England, monarch, women in history, court intrigue, romance, Elizabeth |


1575
Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I is courted by the Earl of Leicester

This account of the Virgin Queen's love life features Helen Mirren who won an Oscar in 2007 for her role in The Queen, a biopic about Queen Elizabeth II.

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monarchs of England | royalty | Oscar | personal lives of public people | women in history |


1575
Kagemusha

Battle of Nagashino

Famed Japanese director Akiro Kurosawa climaxed this epic about persona, deceit and leadership with a recreation of the pivotal Battle of Nagashino. Not only did this battle set up the ending of the Warring States period (one powerful clan was destroyed) but new techniques of armed firepower presaged the end of the cavalry charge as an effective offensive tactic. This history in the film is strong and vibrant, but the story of human motivations and impacts forms the core of Kurosawa's art.

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Japan | shogun | battle scenes | Noh theater | espionage | court intrigue | dynastic change | Tokugawa Ieyasu | Oda Nobunaga


1581
The Virgin Queen

Queen Elizabeth I ascends to the crown

Sir Walter Raleigh charms his way into Queen Elizabeth's favor, only to incur her wrath when he woos and weds one of her ladies in waiting. Bette Davis returns to the role of QE I with all the fire and power she portrayed in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

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monarchy, women in history, queens, court intrigue, romance, fight scenes, | Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh, Beth Throckmorton


1587
Seven Samurai

Samurai fight bandits for farmers in Japan's civil war period

Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece depiction of seven masterless samurai during the warring states (or sengoku period of Japan. The date is derived from the faux "birthdate" of the star, but is significant because it lies about 100 years after the beginning of the sengoku period (which started with the Onin wars and is about one generation before Tokugawa Ieyasu firmly established a stable shogunate in the first years of the 1600s.

Although the specific combination of characters and events is fictitious, Kurosawa, a meticulous historical researcher, wove together many facets of Japanese history into a period piece that is also a universal look at man as individual and member of a series of groups. This film is not only regarded as the greatest jidai-gecki, or "samurai swordplay" film, but as the greatest Japanese film of all times. It was copied as a western in "The Magnificent Seven." And notice how the word "jidai" comes to cinematic life again in George Lucas's figure of the Jedi Knight in the "Star Wars" saga.

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Japan | period film | war and peace | class struggle | jidai-gecki | sengoku |


1601
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

The Execution of the Earl of Essex ends his relation with Queen Elizabeth

Bette Davis and Errol Flynn portray the historical figures at the top of English nobility. Their equally strong wills attract them to each other, but in the end dooms the ambitious Earl.

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monarchs, Tudors, England, battle scenes, political intrigue | Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth I


1654
Queen Christina

The Queen of Sweden Works Through the Challenges of Rule

Greta Garbo portrays the Swedish sovereign weighing personal concerns against the good of her country and continent.

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women in history | monarchs | 30 Years War | Sweden |


1680
The Libertine

Death of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester

A look at the decadence of Restoration England in which a poet playboy runs afoul of both King Charles II and his own good health through debauchery. Interweaves rationalist philosophies, court politics and living conditions of the 17th century.

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Restoration England | theater | personal ruin | tragedy | Exclusion Bill |


1722
Rob Roy

Rob Roy MacGregor

A look at the early 18th century conflict between English nobility and Scots herdsmen. Swordplay and drama fill out the beautiful Scottish scenery.

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fight scenes, class conflict, Scotland | Rob Roy MacGregor, James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose


1757
Last of the Mohicans

Siege of Fort William Henry is Background for Historic Drama

The dwindling survivors of a Native American tribe witness and participate in the French Indians wars, watching the international and tribal politics of North America interwine with personal relationships.

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Indians, colonial history, battle scenes, romance | Lt. Col. George Monro, General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm


1762
The Scarlet Empress

Catherine the Great Takes Control of Russia

A young German princess is married into the Russian Imperial family, only to beguile the court and military officers and become the great empress of Russia. Marlene Dietrich, under the direction of Josef von Sternberg, conquers the screen like Catherine conquered her court.

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Russia | women in history | women in power | monarchy | Chatherine the Great


1776
John Adams

Adams Works for US Independence and then Builds Presidency

This mini-series shows how John Adams lived the major values of his life. Starting with his defense of British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre, but moves on to his help in drafting the US Declaration of Independence. The film dramatizes how he peacefully turned over the reigns of power after a bitter political defeat, but later reconciled with his presidential rival, Thomas Jefferson.

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Ben Franklin, American Revolution, US Constitution, White House, president, presidency, politics, war, battle scenes, diplomacy, France, Great Britain, United States | John Adams, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin,


1788
The Madness of King George

Bizarre Royal Behavior Creates a Regency Crisis in Britain

As George III descends into insanity the court is in dispute over how to treat the illness and how to govern the country.

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monarchy, monarchs, Britain, mental illness | King George III, Queen Charlotte, William Pitt the Younger, Charles Fox


1789
Marie Antoinette

French Queen's Life Up to the Revolution

Marie Antoinette (1744-1793) lives a privileged if complicated life in the opulence of the French court as poverty and discontent in society lead to revolution.

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monarchs, France, revolution, political intrigue, romance, costume drama, women in history | Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II


1795
Becoming Jane

Jane Austin and Thomas Langlois Lefroy in a Relationship

Based on information from the letters of Jane Austin, takes its own look at the style of love portrayed in Austin's novels.

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women in history | literature | feminism | Jane Austin


1807
Amazing Grace

Britain Abolishes Its Slave Trade

This film recounts the decades-long story of William Wilberforce to abolish its slave trade. With insightful looks at how much politics have change and remained the same, the story is a testament to the diligent efforts based in ethics and faith.

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Britain | Parliament | politics | slavery | persistence | William Wilberforce | Tarleton | Duke of Clarence, William IV | William Pitt


1840
The Young Victoria

Victoria Weds Albert

After a courtship full of court intrigue, Queen Victoria settles into her happy marriage with her cousin Prince Albert. A highly detailed look at the transitional period in a young woman's life and how it was also a transition in history.

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monarchs | queens | marriage | politics | England | 19th century | Women in History | Queen Victoria | Prince Albert | King William IV | Robert Peel | Lord Melbourne


1848
Wagner

Richard Wagner troubled career begins

As the revolutionary year of 1848 closes, Wagner's new fame as a great composer cannot save him from political turmoil. He then travels throughout Europe from one musical success or personal controversy to another.

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music | opera | Europe | Victorian |


1861
Mrs. Brown

Queen Victoria Rules with Help of Scotsman

Queen Victoria grows close to a Scottish servant in her court after the death of her husband Prince Albert. The relationship, while of personal importance to the Queen, becomes a matter of concern for others around her.

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women in history | monarch | Britain | queens |


1863
Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg

This film shows Gen. Robert E. Lee's gamble as he tries to move on Washington from the north. Intense depiction of Pickett's charge.

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American Civil War | battle scene |


1863
The Horse Soldiers

Union Col. Grierson Leads a Raid Through Mississippi

John Wayne leads a behind-the-lines expedition to disrupt railroads in Mississippi as Gen. Grant takes Vicksburg during the US Civil War. This John Ford Technicolor drama features action and William Holden's acting. It also shows a good part of the ensemble of players that Wayne and Ford worked with on several movies.

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American Civil War, horse drama, battle scenes, action | U.S. Grant, Benjamin Grierson


1864
The Warlords

The Fall of Nanjing Ends the Taiping Rebellion in China

The Qing Army and Taiping rebels fight a viscious civil war for control of central China. The Taiping are defeated and a reference to the unsolved murder of a governor-to-be of Nanjing winds up the fictionlized story of Qing protagonists.

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China, battle scenes, civil war, |


1881
Tombstone

Shootout at the OK Corral

The Earp family tries to bring law and order to Tombstone, Arizona, but bad elements are only controlled by the wrath of Wyatt Earp.

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crime, westernfilm, battle scene, horses, frontier | Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday


1881
Wyatt Earp

Gunfight at the OK Coral

This biopic with Kevin Costner traces the life of the legendary Western lawman. It culminates the Oct. 26, 2881 gunfight at the OK Coral.

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westernfilm, fight, horses | Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson


1882
The Long Riders

James Gang Family Politics Steal a Place in History

The legend of Jesse James (1847-1882) and his gang is played out by real-life brothers of the Keach, Carradine and Quaid thespian families. The movie is full of intense action scenes and well-photographed chased-on-horseback scenes.

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crime, westernfilm, biopic, post-Civil War | Jesse James, Bob Ford


1886
Geronimo: An American Legend

Surrender of Warrior Chief Follows Intense Dynamic

Geronimo (1829-1909) led a fierce Native American resistance in the mid-1800's before deciding to surrender his dwindling band.

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Native American, Indian, American West, battle scene, social history, westernfilm | Geronimo, Gen. Nelson Miles, Gen. George Crook


1898
Madame Curie

Woman Scientist Pioneers the Field of Radioactivity

The first person to win two Nobel Prizes, Madame Curie advanced the field of radioactivity, discovering new elements and ways to isolate them.

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science | women in history | Nobel Prize | radioactivity | nuclear power | Madame Curie


1900
55 Days at Peking

Siege of Foreign Compound During Boxer Rebellion

Foreign diplomats, soldiers and their families surrounded in their enclave fight off Chinese angry at their presence and influence. Charlton Heston plays a US Marine officer with a romantic interest in a Russian lady, played by Ava Gardner. David Niven, as ambassador from Great Britain, leads the political strategy of the foreigners.

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China, fight scene, romance, court intrigue, cross-cultural conflict |


1900
Young Winston

Young Winston Churchill Elected to Parliament After Foreign Adventures

After serving as officer and war correspondent in Britain's foreign campaigns, Winston Churchill returns to England and wins a seat in Parliament, launching his political career.

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England, politics, battle scenes, Winston Churchill, prime minister, early life, heads of government |


1914
Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin enters film, creates the Tramp role

This biopic shows the background of economic and personal struggles that informed the art and politics of Charlie Chaplin. Although a comedy about a comic, the film also makes poignant remarks about the arc of 20th Century history.

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Chaplin, film history, economic depression, economic inequality, American justice | Charlie Chaplin, J. Edgar Hoover, Douglas Fairbanks,


1916
Paths of Glory

Trench warfare stalls on the Western Front of World War I

The movie about World War I depicts a series of inept command decisions that lead to friendly fire deaths, an ill-conceived and disastrous assault, a fixed trial and an unwarranted execution.

Paths of Glory trailer at IMDB

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World War I | peace and conflict | injustice | capital punishment | antiauthorianism | trailer |


1916
Rasputin and the Empress

Mystic Casts Spell Over Russian Czarina

The Barrymore family, John, Ethel and Lionel, portray the mystic who exerted great influence over the Czarina of Russia in the last days of the Russian Empire.

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russia | monarchs | women in history | religion | mysticism | Rasputin | Czarina Alexandra | Czar Nicholas II


1918
The Lost Battalion

American Forces Are Cut Off in the Argonne Forest in World War I

As part of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive by allied powers in World War I, an American battalion is stranded in the midst of Germans. This film depicts their fight to survive and ultimate survival.

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battle scenes, World War I, action |


1925
Inherit the Wind

Scopes Monkey Trial

A screen adaptation of the 1955 play by the same name. Though the names were changed in the film, Spencer Tracy portrayed the Clarence Darrow character defending evolution teacher and Fredric March portraying the William Jennings Bryan character in the prosecution team.

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trials | religious strife | scientific inquiry | cultural dissent |


1930
The Aviator

Howard Hughes Releases Hell's Angels Movie

The action of this films starts with a young Howard Hughes proving his genius for being in touch with the times and the market while others believe he is taking on impossible odds. The film spans across the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression and World War II to show the culture and politics of America in this time of profound change.

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aviation, airplanes, invention, individual struggle, aspirations | Howard Hughes | Katharine Hepburn


1931
The Untouchables

Elliot Ness Takes Down Gangster Al Capone

This period action drama, written by David Mamet and directed by Brian De Palma, portrays the transformation not only of Federal Agent Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) but social attitudes towards crime, the sin of drinking and an approach to law. Robert De Niro as Al Capone and Sean Connery as a street-wise Irish-American policeman round out a set of brilliant performances. (Keep an eye on the rising star of Andy Garcia as he quotes the baby carriage scene of Battleship Potemkin.)

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action movie, crime, | Elliot Ness, Al Capone, Frank Nitti


1934
Public Enemies

The criminal career of John Dillinger

John Dillinger's tale is interpreted with the backdrops of The Great Depression, J. Edgar Hoover's building of the FBI and a love story.

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crime | The Great Depression | automobiles | John Dillinger | Melvin Purvis | J.Edgar Hoover


1938
Inn of the Sixth Happiness

Missionary Woman Prevails Over the Perils of War and Nature

This movie about British missionary Gladys Alyward shows the final years of an era in Chinese history. Set in a remote and very traditional town, Alyward acts against corruption and oppressive practices. But the the coming of the Second Sino-Chinese war extends her missionary work into the strenuous rescue of nearly 100 refugee children. Alyward is played by Ingrid Bergman; also, Robert Donat is shown in his final role.

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women in history, China, Japan, World War II, aspirations | Gladys Alyward


1939
The King's Speech

King George VI Overcomes His Stuttering to Deliver Important Speeches

The personal challenges of a speech impediment as well as Royal and world politics do not stand in the way of a king's duties.

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monarch, World War II, disabilities, aspirations | King George VI, Winston Churchill


1941
Tora! Tora! Tora!

Surprise attack by Japan on US Naval fleet

A US-Japanese collaboration that told the story of the attack that led to America's entry into World War II. Tells the story from the points of view of the Americans, the Japanese, the military and the diplomatic corps.

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battle scenes | World War II | bilingual | political intrigue | aviation |


1942
Midway

World War II naval aviation battle over a strategic island

This war classic shows the crucial victory the US Navy gained six months after Pearl Harbor. This battle, won in part because of great intelligence work and the moral and physical courage of the aviators, sailors and marines, turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. The Japanese point of view is well represented.

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battle scene | World War II | aviation |


1943
PT-109

JFK's Famous Mission in World War II

Future president John F. Kennedy, as a young Navy officer, rescues members of the crew of his Patrol-Torpedo boat after it was struck by a Japanese ship.

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battle scenes, World War II, oceans | John F. Kennedy


1943
The Story of G.I. Joe

Correspondent Receives Baptism of Fire at Kasserine Pass, Goes to Italy

War correspondent Ernie Pyle (1900-1945) is played by Burgess Meredith in this war film produced while the journalist was still alive but premiered two months after his death near Japan. Early action portrays the US defeat in Tunisia at Kasserine Pass (which opened a later epic Patton) and later action shows Pyle accompanying G.I.'s through Italy just before they entered Rome in 1944.

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World War II, Battles, Battle scenes, social history, soldiers, journalism, reporters | Ernie Pyle


1944
Battle of the Bulge

US troops push back Nazi offensive

In a last ditch attempt, Hitler tries to divide the allies. This character-driven film shows the uncertainies of conflict.

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World War II | battle scene |


1944
Battleground

101st Airborne Hold Off Nazi Armies at Bastogne at the Battle of the Bulge

This 1949 film dramatizes the struggle of a single squad in the 101st Airborne Division as the 101st holds the vital crossroads at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. The film won two Oscars, one for best cinematography (B&W) and another for best writing, story and screenplay.

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World War II, battle scenes, social history, soldiers |


1944
The Longest Day

D-Day

An all-star cast portrays the fateful June 6, 1944 invasion of Europe through the coast of Normandy. A robust dramatization of logistics, internal politics and battle action.

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World War II, battle scenes | Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gen. Omar Bradley, Gen. Norman Cota (Robert Mitchum), Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoot (John Wayne), Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (Henry Fonda), Gen. James Gavin (Robert Ryan)


1944
Windtalkers

Navajo GI's Use Their Native Language in Combat to Deceive the Enemy

Native american's face both prejudice and the terrors of war to communicate military information in the Pacific. The Japanese were unable to understand and decipher messages sent in the Navajo tongue, so the Southwester Indians were vital is sending battleground information via radio throughout the United States armed forces.

The action in this film culminates in the Invasion of Saipan.

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World War II, WWII, Pacific, battle scenes, Indians, Native Americans |


1945
Patton

The career of General Patton in World War II

A firebrand US general pushes his troops across North Africa, Sicily and Europe.

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World War II, battle scene, aspirations |


1947
The Front

Comedy About the Hollywood Red Scare

Woody Allen directs his biting humor and pen towards the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which branded many Hollywood artists as being communists or sympathizers.

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McCarthyism, witchhunt, blacklist, |


1947
Guilty by Suspicion

Hollywood Talent Blacklisted by McCarthy

Robert DeNiro acts in a hard-hitting drama of the injustice of the Hollywood Witchhunt.

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blacklist, witchhunt, Hollywood, McCarthyism, communism, politics |


1947
Bugsy

Mobster Kick Starts the Development of Las Vegas

Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel (1906-1947) tries in his own way to transition out of a life of crime into real estate and gambling in Las Vegas, Nevada. But prior attachments and ill-conceived relationships prove to be his undoing. Screen gangsters Warren Beatty, Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley all received Oscar nominations for their acting in this biopic.

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crime, biopic, World War II, gambling, business, love, romance | Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Charlie "Lucky" Luciano


1952
The Motorcycle Diaries

Che Guevara Traverses Latin America by Motorcycle

Ernesto Che Guevara (1928-1967) and a friend set out on a 5,000 mile journey through Latin America. This trip deeply informed the future leader of the Cuban Revolution of the plights and struggles of people in the region and the dynamics of its culture.

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journey, Latin America, social history | Che Guevara


1952
Evita

The Life of Argentina's First Lady and Champion of the Poor

Madonna stars in the role of the wife of populist Argentinian president Juan Peron.

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women in history, musicals, Argentina, Latin America | Eva Peron, Juan Peron


1955
Bird

Charlie Parker Helps Set a New Standard for Mid-20th Century Jazz

Charlie Parker (1920-1955) established himself as a great saxophone player, developing an innovative style. This biopic dramatizes the serious personal costs of his career.

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jazz, music, United States, biopic, African-American | Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie


1963
Gideon's Trumpet

Gideon vs. Wainwright decision

The film chronicles the events that led up the the March 18, 1963 Supreme Court ruling that granted all defendants the right to counsel.

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court drama | prisoner | legal reasoning | Clarence Earl Gideon, Abe Fortas


1966
Men of Honor

First African-American Master Diver in U.S. Navy

This film shows the struggle of Carl Brashear to become the first African-American to become a Master Diver in the U.S. Navy. It also details the 1966 loss and recovery of a nuclear weapon, a mission that cost Brashear a leg. He became the first amputee to be certified as a Navy diver. Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert De Niro provide intense performances.

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Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding Jr., Hal Holbrooke, navy, aspirations, oceans | Carl Brashear


1968
Elvis - The '68 Comeback Special

Elvis Returns as a Musical Superstar

Elvis Presley, after years of churning out predictably plotted boy-meets-girl-meets-guitar drive-in movies, took to the stage as a pure musical performer, this time for the television audience.

In short, the king returned to his throne.

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music | live performance | popular culture | rock and roll | Elvis Presley | television | Elvis Presley


1969
Woodstock

Summer rock festival often noted as the peak of the 1960's counter-culture

This concert film captured the concept, presentation and mis-steps of one of the most famous live concerts of all time.

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music | preformance | history caught in action | rock |


1970
Apollo 13

Apollo Astronauts and Ground Crew Rescue an Aborted Moon Mission

This techo-thriller shows the teamwork, ingenuity and courage that saved three space explorers as they voyaged around the moon.

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space travel, astronomy, science, action, solar system, technology, physics | astronauts


1972
All the President's Men

Watergate investigation

Investigative journalists of the Washington Post disclose the cover-up of a political burglary.

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journalism | presidency | corruption | abuse of power | Richard Nixon | Bob Woodward | Carl Bernstein | Ben Bradlee


1974
Silkwood

Labor Activist Dies Mysteriously Investigating Plutonium Processing

Karen Silkwood, a production worker at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant, looks into questionable practices in her work place. She dies in a mysterious car accident on her way to talk to a New York Times reporter.

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environmental film, women in history, nuclear power | Karen Silkwood


1975
Last King of Scotland

Idi Amin involves a Briton in his mad rule of Uganda

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Africa | insane despots |


1982
Thelonius Monk - Straight No Chaser

Jazz Pianist's Career Extends Potential of Piano

Thelonius Monk (1917-1982) shows the musical world new feats of jazz genius. This documentary explains his career.

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jazz, music, United States, African-American, documentary, biopic | Thelonius Monk


1985
Gorillas in the Mist

Naturalist is killed in her effort to save gorillas in Africa

The sacrifice of Dian Fossey spurred an international effort to conserve gorillas and their habitat in Africa.

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environmental film, Africa, nature, women in history | Dian Fossey


1991
Lord of War

Arms Smuggling Flourishes Subsequent to the Fall of the USSR

This tale of international arms smuggling is a composite of various actors and incidents in recent international arms smuggling. Though highly fictionalized, it is recognized as describing basic dynamics of arms trade.

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smuggling, weapons, arms trade, Africa, Ukraine, law, crime | Victor Bout, Charles Taylor


1993
Black Hawk Down

US troops suffer a serious setback in a failed attack in Somalia

The film gives a close-up look at the rigors of war from the perspective of soldiers on the ground.

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Africa | battle scenes | political intrigue |


1994
Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Manager Saves People During Rwandan Massacre

People fleeing the massacre in Rwanda take refuge in a hotel.

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Africa, drama |


1996
Erin Brockovitch

Woman Challenges Electric Utility about Water Pollution

A clerk in a law firm follows the thread of an illness to find that PG&E was using hexavalent chromium to line cooling towers. The lawsuit resulted in a $333 million settlement by PG&E.

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environmental film, film about law, women in history | Erin Brockovich