10 Best Historical Fiction Movies

Thursday, April 7 by Jackie Barlow

The ten best historical fiction movies take us back to many different times in the past and bring people and events to life. Some of these movies are true to life and some take liberties with the facts for dramatic purposes. 

  1. "Gone With the Wind" is the Civil War epic that sweeps across the Old South with the tale by Margaret Mitchell of Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Also starring is Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) who Scarlett is sure she is in love with and his cousin, Melanie (Olivia De Havilland). This film follows the war and reconstruction of the plantation.
  2. "Spartacus" is a 1960 movie depicting the story of Thracian slave, Spartacus (Kirk Douglas), starting from his purchase by a gladiator trainer (Peter Ustinov) through the revolt and climactic battle and crucifixion of Spartacus at the order of Crassus (Laurence Olivier).
  3. "The Last of the Mohicans" in 1992 portrayed a white man adopted by a Mohican (Hawkeye played by Daniel Day-Lewis) and Cora (daughter of a British commander played by Madeleine Stowe). Bold battle scenes make this a memorable adventure movie one of the best films of that year.
  4. "Lawrence of Arabia," a 1962 British movie, stars Peter O'Toole as T. E. Lawrence. It depicts Lawrence's Arabian experiences during World War I and his emotional struggles with the war violence. 
  5. "High Noon," a 1952 western, stars Gary Cooper as Will Kane and Grace Kelly as his just-married Quaker wife Amy. Kane turns in his badge as marshal and wants to leave town with his wife, but he turns back and reclaims his badge to fight a criminal he brought to justice, Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), who came back to town. Lloyd Bridges plays his deputy. 
  6. "The Last Samurai," a 2003 movie, stars co-producer Tom Cruise as an American soldier who comes into contact with samurai warriors in the Empire of Japan in 1876 and 1877. It grossed $456 million after a cost of only $140 million and was nominated for Academy Awards and Golden Globes.
  7. "Gettysburg" is based on "The Killer Angels," a Pulitzer prize-winning novel. After the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, a third of the 150,000 soldiers were wounded or dead. This film depicts the three days as experienced by the leaders of the Union and Confederate Armies. 
  8. "Schindler's List" is about Oscar Schindler (Liam Neeson) who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jewish-Polish refugees by employing them during the Holocaust. Ben Kingsley plays his Jewish accountant. 
  9. "Saving Private Ryan" features Tom Hanks as Captain John H. Miller in the search for paratrooper Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon). Based on the real life story of the four Nilan brothers who were killed in the Civil War, this is a story set instead in World War II with Ryan being the last survivor of three fallen servicemen. 
  10. "Good Night, and Good Luck" was Edward R. Murrow's on-air sign-off. The movie portrays Murrow's 1954's take-on of Senator Joe McCarthy and his witch hunt for anti-Communists. Co-written and directed by George Clooney, Clooney also cast himself as a good cop, Fred Friendly. The scenes of McCarthy were real-life scenes, and no actor played McCarthy.