While documentary films have their place in the classroom and the living room, these Industrial Revolution movies offer an engaging way for viewers to learn more about the era. The Industrial Revolution was a period of history, between the 1800s and 1900s, when the western world’s cultural and socioeconomic conditions experienced profound change. These changes occurred in several areas, including agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and technology. These five great historical films can help students, families, and general movie viewers gain a better understanding of life during the Industrial Revolution.

  1. “Germinal.” “Germinal” is a 1993 romantic drama set in mid-19th century northern France. The story centers on a European coal mining town during the Industrial Revolution, and the exploited workers who strike in protest against the owner of the mine. This award-winning French language film, available with English subtitles, stars Renaud, Gérard Depardieu, and Miou-Miou.

  2. “Hard Times.” “Hard Times” is a 1994 BBC film adaptation of a classic Charles Dickens novel. The story reveals the plight of the poor working classes in Victorian England--people who had no choice but to work in factories and mills, for owners who abused and exploited them, growing rich at their expense. Alan Bates and Bob Peck lead a stellar cast, in a raw and honest look at England during the Industrial Revolution.

  3. “Modern Times.” “Modern Times” is a classic 1936 Charlie Chaplin film. In this award-winning romantic comedy, the Tramp (an American factory worker) struggles to live in a modern industrial society--with the help of a young homeless woman. This hilarious black-and-white, mostly-silent film stars Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, and Henry Bergman.

  4. “Moulin Rouge.” “Moulin Rouge” is an Oscar-winning 2001 musical drama set in late 1800s Paris, France. The story takes place during the French bohemian revolution, a cultural transformation that took place during the Industrial Revolution era. The story centers on a young poet who falls in love with a beautiful courtesan who is also coveted by a duke. Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, and John Leguizamo star in the film.

  5. “Oliver Twist.” “Oliver Twist” is a 2005 film adaptation of a classic Charles Dickens novel. Set in 19th century London, England, the story centers on an orphan boy who meets a pickpocket and joins a household of boys trained to steal for their master. The film depicts the harsh life and environment of many orphans and urban children during the Industrial Revolution in England. Barney Clark, Ben Kingsley, and Jeremy Swift star in this award-nominated movie.