Movies on the American Civil War: A List

Quite a long time ago I have written a post with a list on the American Indian Wars, now is finally the turn of the American Civil War. In a few weeks you can expect a list of movies on the war of Independence. Like with most of my earlier lists, I haven’t seen all of he movies and I may very well have forgotten some. Do, as always, tell me which are the ones you like best and add those I have forgotten. I still need to review Ride With the Devil, which is together with Glory my favourite. I had a hard time watching Gettysburg and really needed the subtitles. I could hardly understand the accents. Gone with the Wind is an epic I’ve seen more than once as a child. It was one of those movies that was always on TV around Christmas. I’m curious to know whether Gods and Generals and Andersonville are any good. If you have seen them, let me know.

  • The Battle of Gettysburg (US 1913) directed by Charles Giblyn, starring Willard Mack, Charles K. French, Herschel Mayall
  • Birth Of A Nation (US 1915) directed by David W. Griffith, starring Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall
  • The General (US 1926) directed by Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, starring Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Charles Henry Smith
  • Gone With The Wind (US 1939) directed by Victor Fleming, starring Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland
  • They Died with Their Boots On (US 1941) directed by Raoul Wals, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Anthony Quinn
  • The Red Badge Of Courage (US 1951), directed by John Huston, starring Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin
  • The Great Locomotive Chase aka Andrews’ Raiders (US 1956) starring Fess Parker, Jeffrey Hunter
  • Friendly Persuasion (US 1956) directed by William Wyler, starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins
  • The Horse Soldiers (US 1959) directed by John Ford, starring John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers
  • Major Dundee (US 1965) directed by Sam Peckinpah, starring Charlton Heston, James Coburn, Richard Harris
  • Shenandoah (US 1965) directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, starring James Stewart, Doug McClure
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (US/IT/SP 1966) directed by Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, John Bartha
  • Alvarez Kelly (US 1966) directed by Edward Dmytryk, starring William Holden, Richard Widmark, Janice Rule, Patrick O’Neal
  • The Undefeated (US 1966) directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, starring John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Antonio Aguilar
  • The Andersonville Trial (US 1970, TV) directed by George C. Scott, starring William Shatner, Cameron Mitchell
  • The Beguiled (US 1971) directed by Don Siegel, starring  Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman, Jo Ann Harris
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales (US 1976) directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke
  • The Blue and the Gray (US 1982, TV mini-series) directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, starring  Stacy Keach, Lloyd Bridges, John Hammond, Rip Torn, Warren Oates, Gregory Peck
  • North and South (US 1985–1986 mini-series)  starring Patrick Swayze, James Read, Kirstie Alley
  • Glory (US 1989) directed by Edward Zwick, starring Matthew Broderick, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington
  • Dances with Wolves (US 1990) directed by Kevin Costner, starring Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnel, Graham Greene
  • Ironclads (US 1991, TV) directed by Delbert Mann, starring Virginia Madsen, Alex Hyde-White, Reed Diamond, Philip Casnoff
  • Gettysburg (US 1993) directed by F. Maxwell, starring Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen, Stephen Lang
  • Heaven & Hell: North & South, Book III (US 1994 TV mini-series) directed by Larry Peerce, starring Philip Casnoff, Kyle Chandler, Terri Garber, Lesley-Anne Down, Jonathan Frakes, Genie Francis, Terri Garber, Mariette Hartley
  • Andersonville (US 1996, TV) directed by John Frankenheimer, starring Jarrod Emick, Frederic Forrest, Ted Marcoux
  • The Hunley (US 1997, TV) directed by John Gray, starring Armand Assante, Donald Sutherland
  • Ride with the Devil (US 1999) directed by Ang Lee, starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, James Caviezel
  • Gods and Generals (US 2003) directed by Ronald F. Maxwell, starring Stephen Lang, Robert Duvall, Jeff Daniels
  • Cold Mountain (US 2003) directed by Anthony Minghella, starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, Ray Winstone, Brendan Gleeson, Natalie Portman
  • The Battle of Gettysburg (US 2008, TV) directed by Michael S. Ojeda, starring Allen Brenner, Michael L. Colosimo

Something which really surprised me when I linked the titles to the IMDb page was the fact that none of these movies has a rating which is lower than 7+. That’s quite amazing. Most movies are rated 7.5 – 8.2. Usually when I compile such lists I have quite a few with 5* ratings. Are they really all that good or were some die-hard Civil War fans voting?

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32 thoughts on “Movies on the American Civil War: A List

  1. Guy Savage says:

    I’ve only seen some of these. Loved The Beguiled & the Outlaw Josey Wales.
    I think people get all romantic about the civil war for some reason.

  2. Guy Savage says:

    You can probably blame Gone with the Wind for part of it.

  3. Graham Gales says:

    Some others to consider ….

    “Major Dundee”
    “The Civl War” – Ken Burns’ documentary
    “Cold Mountain” – love story with a Civl War background
    “Friendly Persuasion”
    “How the West was Won” – is part of the story
    “Ride with the Devil”
    “The Undefeated”

  4. the war movie buff says:

    Your list is pretty complete. It is unbelievable that some of them got good ratings.

    Here are the ones I’ve seen:
    The General – C silent film classic; overrrated as a comedy; the story of the Andrews Raid
    Gone With the Wind – C chick flick; I’ve seen it twice and was not impressed
    They Died With Their Boots On – F 1/3 Civil War, 2/3 western; a terrible movie that makes a mockery of history; the Custer story
    Red Badge of Courage – B very good; covers the book well
    The Horse Soldiers – B based on a famous Greirson Raid; highly fictionalized, but entertaining
    Shenandoah – C about a family torn apart by the war; schmaltzy
    The Good, the Bad , and the Ugly – A a great movie, but a western, not a war movie
    Alvarez Kelly – B more of a Western; cattle drive to bring beef to the Rebels
    The Undefeated – C more of a Western; post Civil War; Rebels move to Mexico and face Mexicans and Indians
    Outlaw Josey Wales – A more of a Western; post Civil War
    Glory – A+ the best Civil War movie undoubtedly; story of Robert Shaw and the all-black 54th Massachusetts Regiment
    Dances With Wolves – A definitely a Western; Civil War soldier goes native
    Gettysburg – A+ long, but very accurate; underrated
    Ride With the Devil – B+ guerrilla war within the Civil War
    Gods and Generals – D prequel to Gettysburg; much too pro-Southern; covers Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville
    Cold Mountain – A romance plus an odyssey; great acting

    • Thanks for the rating.
      I still think there is a fine line between Western and war movie but in many cases I would agree with you, there more Western than war.
      You gave quite a few A ratings which tells methere are some movies in this list I really need to watch. I thought you didn’t like Horse Soldiers at all. B isn’t such a bad rating.

  5. the war movie buff says:

    I did not like The Horse Soldiers in comparison to the book in my review.. Perhaps a B is a bit high. It kind of depends on how you feel about John Wayne. All the ones I mention are Westerns, the rating reflects my opinion of it as a movie, not as a war movie.

    Westerns are such a strong genre that if a movie has elements of both Western and war usually the Western elements dominate in my opinion. I know of very few movies that fit in both categories that I would say are more war than western. None of the above would fit.

    Forgot that I saw Major Dundee – B POW Rebels are recruited for a mission into Mexico against Indians; again, a western; good action, good acting by Heston and Harris (lots of scene chewing)

    The Hunley – B (as I recall, it’s been a while); the story of the Confederate submarine; pretty accurate

    • That actually does make sense, I agree. The Western is dominant in most of those blends.
      From what i remember of your review I’d say Horse Soldiers shouldn’t be more than a C but i wuld have to find out for myself.
      There are John Wayne movies lie Rio Bravo which I really liked.

  6. drush76 says:

    I’ve never seen “ANDERSONVILLE”. But I feel that “GODS AND GENERALS” sucked. “GETTYSBURG”, on the other hand, is quite good.

  7. nem baj says:

    For very different reasons, I’m very fond of Major Dundee, Glory and Ride with the Devil.

    However I don’t think that a truly great movie on the subject has been made since Birth of a Nation. And sometimes I wonder why…

    • I haven’t seen Major Dundee but I like the other two a lot for various reasons.
      I haven’t seen Birth of a Nation so cannot comment at all. I thought Ride with the Devil touched on a lot of things.

      • nem baj says:

        I’m biased when it comes to Ang Lee and Sam Peckinpah. Birth of a Nation remains extremely powerful and shocking in so many ways – but one may need certain circumstances to watch a silent movie of this length.

      • I’m planning on finally watching Abel Gance’s Napoléon which is on the long side too, I guess, Birth of a Nation will have to wait.
        I partial to Ang Lee.

  8. nem baj says:

    I didn’t like Gettysburg very much and yet…

    Overall, it felt like a docudrama (a form I’m not fond of) : the recording of a reenactment, punctuated by dialog scenes beetween officers, with mostly so-so acting by otherwise good actors. Obviously, my not being American probably made it harder to sustain an interest there.

    Yet in a sense, the reenactment parts are not that bad. The use of extras in natural settings conveyed, at times, the complete awkwardness of the war experience for ordinary men. The clumsiness of the body confronted with gestures, gear, people and terrain he’s not familiar with.

    Simple soldiers in most war movies behave as if they were, well, show people. They know exactly where to go, what to do and when. Jump to point A, shoot at point B, run to point C, die at point D… isn’t it all in the script? Hasn’t it been rehearsed?

    This ‘natural’ quality in Gettysburg leads to one great scene – the downhill charge from Little Round Top – where you can feel the tiredness, the fear, and what resolve can mean. Just for that one, I don’t regret watching the whole film.

    • I’ve been told it’s very true to the book it’s based on, The Killer Angels. I think I might rather read that before rewacthing Gettysburg. It felt very docudrama to me as well. More like a history lesson on film. It had good elements but I found it confusing as well. And for a non American like myself it didn’t really tell me a lot about what was at stake, just that it was bloody and horrible.

  9. Novroz says:

    That list you have made reminded me that I already owned Cold Mountain…but still haven’t seen it yet.
    I better see it soon.

    I haven’t seen any on that list. I am terrible in keeping up with war movie.

    Have I told you that I have finished downloading Napola? Just need to find time to see and review it (I know it’s out of the topic 😉 )

  10. nem baj says:

    Having just re-watched it, I’ll add The Horse Soldiers to my own A-List. Its great moments are so Fordian it’s hard (if you love the director’s work) to dismiss it as minor.

    Now, the film’s strength may appear uneven, as there’s such an obvious desire for balance (between North and South) and a restraint (about the horrors of war) that we’re often obliged to complete the puzzle by letting sensibility take over.

    For instance, the scenes of the attack on Newton Station and of the military school are extremely violent – yet they are followed by strangely quiet endings (you don’t really see the slaughter and aftermath of the destruction at the Station, no pupil is hurt as the Cavalry doesn’t shoot back).

    These anticlimactic resolutions can be disorienting, even if each one of them helps building Marlowe’s (John Wayne) persona, which ends up being a fairly complex one. Nevertheless, the power and beauty of what precedes them cannot be cancelled.

    And here, I guess, is why The Horse Soldiers is pure Ford: sure, war is hell, but it’s also part of the human condition. Deal with it. I may not share this sense of tragedy – which is in my view also at the core of Ford’s vision of women – but I can’t help thinking it is masterfully conveyed.

    • Well, this puts me in the mood to watch it after all and since I’ve got it here, I might do so very soon.
      I have stayed away from John Wayne movies after having watched The Alamo. It still makes my Top Worst of all time. Such an insufferable movie. I reviewed it a while ago. I haven’t watched any John Ford in quite some time and don’t think I’m sufficiently familiar with his work.

      • nem baj says:

        You might want to check out The Searchers, which you mentioned in your American Indian Wars’ list, first. The visual splendor is more obvious, and the story more streamlined.

        Of course that’s just me, but before I had seen The Searchers I wasn’t really into Ford, as I found the few I’d seen until then somehow quaint, or even ideologically suspect… I felt compelled to reconsider everything afterwards. 🙂

      • Unfortunately I don’t have The Searchers but I’ll keep in mind that it’s so compelling. I’m sure I’ve seen some of his movies but I can’t remember which ones.

  11. Douglas Reifsnider says:

    What i admire about jude law is that he is very good looking. –

    My very own blog
    http://www.prettygoddess.com

  12. nem baj says:

    Finally seen The Red Badge of Courage, and loved it. Though heavily censored and re-cut, it has an incredible spiritual proximity with The Thin Red Line.

    • Now that sounds right up my alley. I’ll have to see if I can find it. Thanks.

      • nem baj says:

        Hope you’ll enjoy it. Like Malick’s movie, it could be any war. Yet you can see the influence of Huston’s own WWII wartime documentaries, notably The Battle of San Pietro (an on location, on-the-spot reenactment) and Let there be light (about what we call today PTSD victims – the film was seized by the same War Department who had commissioned it). Both are on youtube.

      • Let there be light could interest me.
        I’ll have a look on YouTube. Thanks.
        I think this aspect of “any war” is what makes so many people hate malick. And the spiritual elements of course.

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