Thomas Jefferson Movies

Saturday, April 9 by Jackie Barlow

Thomas Jefferson movies give an excellent look into a historical figure who was, after all, human and had his faults as well as great accomplishments.  His amazing additions to our early history are extremely interesting and still engender highly-recommended looks into the life of this man.

  1. "Thomas Jefferson" A 1997 PBS documentary produced and directed by Ken Burns, it beautifully covered historical reenactments in the life of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was not only the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, but he was a diplomat, an architect, an inventor, and a writer among his many talents. Sam Waterston read lines as Thomas Jefferson, Blythe Danner as Martha Jefferson, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Jefferson's granddaughter.
  2. "1776" This 1972 movie was based on the 1969 same-name musical.  It tells of the three months of deliberation by representatives from the original thirteen colonies that led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Ken Howard played Thomas Jefferson. 
  3. "Jefferson in Paris" In this 1995 semi-fictional movie you will see Nick Nolte as Jefferson and Gwyneth Paltrow as his granddaughter Patsy. As the United States Ambassador to France, this film mainly relates Jefferson's love affair with a musician-painter; however, more so, his attraction to his widow's half-sister, Sally Hemings, who was the child of her father and his mulatto slave. When the post of Secretary of State was offered to him by George Washington,  Jefferson promised Sally, pregnant with his child, freedom if she would go with him. 
  4.  "Sally Hemings, An American Love Story" Another portrayal of the same story, this movie starred Sam Neill and Diahann Carroll. Jefferson was attracted to his young deceased wife's half-sister, Sally, who looked similar to his wife. Although we will never know what the true relationship was, Jefferson did instruct his daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, to free Sally and her children (fathered by him according to recent DNA tests) when he died.
  5. "Thomas Jefferson – A View From the Mountain" This 2004 movie starred Sissy Spacek, Edward Herrmann, and Danny Glover. Their voices tell of Jefferson's dilemma about race since he was a slaveholder and yet felt that "all men are created equal" and felt that slaves deserved that equality. The facts wer taken from his original manuscripts, dozens of handwritten letters, newspapers, his Will, political cartoons, and more. 
  6. "Founding Brothers" The History Channel in 2002 adapted Joseph Ellis' Pulitzer prize-winning portrait in two parts. Jefferson is just one of those featured in this rendition of what went on as the United States was being created. 
  7. "Biography – Thomas Jefferson: Philosopher of Freedom" This 2004 A&E DVD, part of the Biography series, is only 50 minutes long but is a splendid portrait of Jefferson's 83 years. It covers his major accomplishments as well as his private life and his faults. 
  8. "Just the Facts: American Presidents: Thomas Jefferson" Learn additional information about this great statesman. After all, he was the third President of the United States after being the second Vice President, the first United States Secretary of State, as well as the author of the Declaration of Independence, and much more. He was also the founder of the Democratic-Republican Party which led to today's Democratic Party. 
  9. "John Adams" Even though this 2008 television miniseries was mainly about President John Adams' role in the United States founding, it did also have several "appearances" by Thomas Jefferson. That included the fourth episode, "Reunion" in which Jefferson visited Adams when Adams was sent to Paris to negotiate the 1783 Treaty of Paris. 
  10. "Monticello:  Home of Thomas Jefferson" This 2001 DVD program is a beautiful keepsake of Jefferson's mountaintop plantation. Since no interior photos of the home are allowed by visitors, the interior and exterior outdoor-garden views of this masterpiece of architecture are enjoyed in this documentary as well as in daily guided tours.

-Jacklyn Barlow