10 Best American Civil War Films

Thursday, January 27 by Wendy Adams

The 10 best American Civil War films will tell the story from every angle. These movies tell of important battles that shaped the war, devastation of southern life, and the struggles to keep live together in the North.  

  1. "Cold Mountain." This civil war tale tells the story of a young woman Ada (Nicole Kidman) educated to be a decorative lady, the young soldier Inman (Jude Law) she loves, and the raw country girl Ruby (Renee Zellweger). Ada is left alone to starve on the farm after her father’s death, the men are awa fighting the war, and the rough Ruby teaches Ada how to survive on the farm. Not the usual American civil war film because it views the war from the point of view of a soldier defecting and women trying to survive a tough life without men. Zellweger received the Academy Award for her performance.
  2. "Friendly Persuasion." An all star cast with Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire tells the story of a Quaker family coping with the Civil War that surrounds them in 1862. Warm endearing humor and a stellar performance by Cooper makes this an American Civil War tale for the entire family.
  3. "The Horse Soldiers." John Wayne as Colonel John Marlowe who leads a troop of Union soldiers south behind enemy lines to destroy the rail lines. On the journey he finds unexpected love from a southern belle. Based on a true story with an all star cast. Great for family viewing.
  4. "Gone With the Wind." Classic of all classic American Civil War films starring Vivien Leigh as the self centered belle of the ball Scarlet O’Hara. The film follows Scarlet through the war years showing the effects of war, poverty, starvation and reconstruction on southern life. Starring Clark Gable, Olivia DeHavilland, and Leslie Howard. A must see.
  5. "Shenandoah." An all star cast give an account of a family of farmers in Virginia with the belie the American Civil War is not their business. When Charlie Anderson’s (Jimmy Stewart) youngest son in taken captive by mistake the family sets out on a costly journey to get him back. Hits the heart with the reality of war. Great for family viewing.
  6. "Gods and Generals." Epic in content and length the movie follows Stonewall Jackson, a famous Confederate general, from the beginning of the war until his fatal wounding by his own soldiers. Famous battles unfold over six hours in realism including Bull Run, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg. A bold undertaking with a large cast of favorites.
  7. "Gettysburg." The three day battle between North and South at Gettysburg is dissected almost moment by moment in one of the most tragic and historic battles in American history. A monumental task to tell this history and you won’t know the players without a program but worth watching.
  8. "Andersonville." Andersonville, actually named Camp Sumter, was a 26 ½ acre Confederate prison in Georgia that confined upwards of 45,000 Union soldiers during the American Civil War. This is the story of untold suffering, life, and death in Andersonville prison without food, water, and overrun with disease. More than 13,000 prisoners died from the deplorable conditions of Andersonville prison.
  9. "Little Women." Most don’t realize that this classic Louisa May Alcott story is about the American Civil War. A family of women living in Concord Massachusetts is thrown into poverty and loss during the Civil War. An interesting tale of the effects of war on a family living in the north. There are three versions of Little Women starting in 1934 starring Katherine Hepburn as Jo, 1949 with June Allyson as Jo, and 1994 with Winona Ryder as Jo. The 1994 film paid particular attention to details of the time. Great family viewing.
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