There’s something special about historical films, even if you tend to watch every new picture that comes out, regardless of genre. Somehow, the knowledge that a story is based on an actual event or is at least roughly based on one, increases its allure and impact. Movies based on history can provide a lot, including romance, comedy, action, horror, and occasionally a little bit of all four, depending on your interests. These may include the opulent life of the English monarchy, the valiant stories of soldiers during World War II, or accounts from regular people who witnessed major historical moments. Movies that are fantastic are based on real occurrences or are set during historical moments. The films on this list are solely many people personal favourites; they must also meet certain criteria, including but not limited to: being entertaining, stimulating, exciting, technically proficient, having exquisite costuming or having interesting language. There are 15 greatest historical movies of all time which are as follows:
15 Greatest Historical Movies of All Time
- Saving Private Ryan (24 July 1998) By Steven Spielberg
- Gladiator (5 May 2000) By Ridley Scott
- Schindlers List (4 Feb 1994) By Steven Spielberg
- Blood Diamond (8 Dec 2006) By Edward Zwick
- Black Hawk Down (18 Jan 2002) By Mark Bowden
- The Last of the Mohicans (6 November 1992) By Michael Mann
- Braveheart (24 May 1995) By Mel Gibson
- Apollo 13 (30 June 1995) By Ron Howard
- Fury (17 October 2014) By David Iyer
- Joyeux Noel(9 Nov 2005) By Christian Carion
- Ben-Hur (18 Nov 1959) By William Wyler
- Hotel Rwanda (4 Feb 2005) By Terry George
- The Great Debaters (25 Dec 2007) By Denzel Washington
- The Last Samurai (5 Dec,2003) By Edward Zwick
- Lawrence of Arabia (11 Dec, 1962) By David Lean
Saving Private Ryan (24 July 1998) By Steven Spielberg
The 1998 American epic war movie Saving Private Ryan was helmed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat. The movie, which takes place during the Invasion of Normandy in World Battle II, is renowned for its violent depictions of war, particularly its portrayal of the assault on Omaha Beach during the Normandy landings. The movie centres on the search for Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), the last surviving brother of four paratroopers; the other three brothers were killed in action. The search is led by United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller and his team , Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies.
Saving Private Ryan, which debuted on July 24, 1998, was praised by critics and viewers for its acting, realism, cinematography, score, story line, and direction by Steven Spielberg. It also made numerous critics’ top ten lists for 1998. The movie received numerous honours, including Best Picture and Director at the Golden Globes, as well as awards from the Producers Guild of America, Directors Guild of America, and Critics’ Choice Awards. Since its premiere, Saving Private Ryan has been hailed as one of the best and most significant movies of the 1990s, as well as one of the all-time great war movies. It has been credited with reviving interest in World War II media, especially first-person shooter games with a World War II theme that rose to popularity in the 2000s.
Gladiator (5 May 2000) By Ridley Scott
Russell Crowe starred in the 2000 historical epic film Gladiator, which was helmed by Ridley Scott. It attracted sizable crowds, favourable reviews, and five Academy Awards. Gladiator is based loosely on historical individuals and takes place in the year 180. Germanic tribes are routed by Roman armies under the command of the general Maximus (Crowe), which temporarily restores peace to the Roman Empire. Richard Harris’s portrayal of Marcus Aurelius, the emperor, informs Maximus that he wants Maximus to succeed him upon his passing and that Maximus will restore the Roman Republic by giving the Senate control back. However, when Marcus Aurelius reveals the plot to his conceited and unstable son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), Commodus snaps and murders his father. After becoming emperor, Commodus gave the command to kill Maximus and his family.
When Maximus finally makes it home to Spain, he discovers that his wife and kid have already passed away and that his home has been destroyed. Then, a slave dealer transports Maximus to North Africa, where he is bought by Proximo, a trainer of gladiators Maximus is only known to Proximo and his group as the Spaniard, and under that guise, he quickly rises to the top of the gladiator ranks. The senator Gracchus (Derek Jacobi) and Commodus’ sister Lucilla consent to aid Maximus in escaping so that he might gather his army and overthrow Commodus, but Commodus learns of the scheme. Roman praetorians kill Proximo and the other gladiators helping him as Maximus makes an attempt to flee, and they then arrest Maximus. Commodus stabs Maximus in order to weaken him before declaring that they will engage in single combat in the arena.
Schindlers List (4 Feb 1994) By Steven Spielberg
The 1993 American historical epic drama film Schindler’s List was produced, directed, and written by Steven Spielberg. It is based on Australian author Thomas Keneally’s nonfiction book Schindler’s Ark from 1982. The movie centres on Oskar Schindler, a German manufacturer who, during World War II, employed more than a thousand predominantly Polish-Jewish immigrants at his factories, preventing them from becoming victims of the Holocaust. It features Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern, Ralph Fiennes as SS officer Amon Göth, and Liam Neeson as Schindler.
This extraordinary true story, which won seven Academy Awards®, including Best Picture and Best Director, centres on the mysterious Oskar Schindler who helped save more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. The drama of people who endured one of the worst periods in human history as a result of what he did is interwoven with the victory of one man who made a difference. Schindler’s List is a stirring tale whose lessons of bravery and faith continue to inspire generations. It was painstakingly restored from the original film negative in flawless high definition under Spielberg’s supervision. Screenwriter Steven Zaillian, director of photography Janusz Kaminiski, composer John Williams, art directors Allan Starski and Ewa Braun, editor Michael Kahn, and producers Steven Spielberg, Gerald R. Molen, and Branko Lustig all received Oscars® for their work on the movie.
Blood Diamond (8 Dec 2006) By Edward Zwick
According to the United Nations (UN), a blood diamond, also known as a conflict diamond, is any diamond that is mined in regions under the control of groups hostile to the internationally accepted, legitimate government of a nation and is then sold to support armed conflict with that government. In the 1990s, when horrific civil conflicts were being fought in parts of western and central Africa by rebel groups headquartered in diamond-rich regions of their countries, the UN developed the highly specific term of blood diamonds. Although the issue developed in other nations as well, three specific conflicts—in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone focused emphasis on the harmful impact of diamonds.
Rough diamonds extracted from mines in rebel-held territory were either sold directly to merchants or smuggled into neighbouring nations, where they were combined with lawfully mined diamonds and then sold on the open market. The rebel organizations, some of which engaged in ferociously violent operations that caused tremendous misery to people, were supplied with weapons and military equipment using the proceeds from the sale of diamonds. The majority of the reviews for the movie were favourable, and DiCaprio and Hounsou’s performances garnered particular attention. With five Oscar nominations, including Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Hounsou, the movie made $171 million worldwide.
Black Hawk Down (18 Jan 2002) By Mark Bowden
On October 3, 1993, approximately 100 American soldiers were dropped by helicopter into a bustling market in the middle of Mogadishu, Somalia, with the intention of kidnapping two of a warlord’s top lieutenants. An hour was allotted for the task. Instead, they fought thousands of armed Somalis for a long and brutal night. By daybreak, there had been 18 American fatalities and more than 70 serious injuries. One of the most thrilling descriptions of a modern war ever written, Mark Bowden’s book portrays the bravery, cruelty, and heroism of combat.
On December 28, 2001, Black Hawk Down had a limited release; on January 18, 2002, it was made available to the general audience. Despite criticism for its falsehoods and controversy over how it portrayed Somalis, the movie earned excellent reviews from critics. Considering that it had a production budget of between $92 and $110 million, the movie did moderately well at the box office, earning $172 million globally. At the 74th Academy Awards, Black Hawk Down took home two Oscars for Best Sound and Best Film Editing.
The Last of the Mohicans (6 November 1992) By Michael Mann
The second and most well-known book in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757, was initially released in two volumes in 1826. It is the second book in the series chronologically and is set in 1757 during the French and Indian War. Natty Bumppo, popularly known as Hawkeye, the film’s main character, is in the midst of his life and at the pinnacle of his abilities. The narrative describes bloody confrontations with the Iroquois and their allies from France, terrible captures, narrow escapes, and retaliation. Important themes of the book include the wonder of the untainted wilderness and sorrow over its demise, which are represented by Hawkeye’s Mohican comrades, the last of their tribe. The slaughter at Fort William Henry during the French and Indian War is known as The Last of the Mohicans.
This “real” occurrence serves as the foundation for Cooper, the first widely acclaimed American novelist, to weave a gripping tale of wilderness adventure. He establishes a blueprint for a lot of American popular fiction, especially the western, by significantly referencing the American genre of Native American captivity tale. The Pioneers (1823) introduced frontiersman Natty Bomppo as an elderly man; here, he plays Hawkeye, a scout working for the British, together with two Delaware Native American friends, Chingachgook and his son, Uncas. Although the story suggests that Uncas and the elegant Cora, who has a black mother, might fall in love, Cooper’s racial views are conservative; the possibility is squashed. Cooper bemoans the loss of the wilderness and the Native Americans that live there, but all are revealed to be victims of progress, a characteristic of the philosophy of nineteenth-century America, and all eventually perish.
Braveheart (24 May 1995) By Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson directed and starred in the 1995 historical epic Braveheart, which was largely based on the life of Scottish leader William Wallace in the thirteenth century. The film unexpectedly won the Academy Award for best picture. William Wallace is taken to continental Europe to receive an education after his father and brother are slain fighting the English. Gibson’s character visits Scotland as an adult and marries Murron, his boyhood sweetheart Catherine McCormack. Wallace intervenes to prevent Murron from being raped by English soldiers, but after the soldiers try again, she is arrested and put to death. After leading his clan in the massacre of the English garrison, Wallace keeps on the struggle to drive the English out of Scotland, garnering more and more supporters as word of his deeds spread.
After winning the Battle of Stirling Bridge, he invades England and takes control of York before fleeing. Patrick McGoohan’s character, the English King Edward Longshanks, sends his son’s bride, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), to talk to Wallace about making peace, but she is won over by him and ends up siding with him. She informs Wallace that the English are about to invade. Wallace appeals to the Scottish nobility for assistance in the war against the English, but the nobility is unwilling. The character of Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen) is conflicted. Robert the Bruce leads the Scottish to victory over the English at Bannockburn in an epilogue.
Apollo 13 (30 June 1995) By Ron Howard
A 1995 American space docudrama starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise, Apollo 13 was directed by Ron Howard. A dramatization of the failed Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970, the script by William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert is based on astronauts Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger’s 1994 book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. The astronauts Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise are seen in the movie flying on Apollo 13, which was to be America’s fifth crewed trip to the Moon and the third to land.
As they travel, a spaceship explosion depletes much of its oxygen supply and electrical power, forcing NASA’s flight controllers to cancel the Moon landing and turn the spacecraft around. Howard went to great lengths to produce a technically accurate film. He used NASA’s assistance in providing his cast with astronaut and flight-controller training, and he was granted permission to film scenes in a reduced-gravity aircraft in order to accurately capture the astronauts’ experience of weightlessness in space. On June 30, 1995, Apollo 13 was released in American theatres. It was well-received and nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In addition, the movie took home two British Academy Film Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Fury (17 October 2014) By David Iyer
Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pea, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, and Scott Eastwood are among the cast members of the 2014 American war drama Fury, which was written and directed by David Ayer. The movie depicts US tank crews engaged in combat in Germany during the closing days of World War II in Europe. Ayer was motivated by the military duty of veterans in his family as well as reading works like Belton Y. Cooper’s Death Traps, which details the high death rates experienced by tank operators in Europe during World War II by American armoured divisions. Nazi Germany is crumbling on the eastern and western fronts in April 1945 as a result of the overwhelming Allied assault. As the Allies begin their siege of Berlin, the Nazi S.S. is desperately trying to hold onto any remaining German territory by utilising forced child soldiers wearing ill-fitting uniforms.
After losing their assistant driver “Red” in a terrible battle against powerful German tanks that also results in the death of the remainder of their battalion, Sergeant Collier “Wardaddy” (Pitt) commands a close-knit but frail and exhausted crew as they return to base. The crew discovers that their new assistant driver “Norman” is an Army clerk-typist with only 8 weeks of Army experience despite the excellent acting by Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, and Jon Bernthal. As a young, innocent man with a fresh face, Norman is not welcomed by the crew and is quickly thrust into the cruel and horrifying aspects of war’s crimes and the depths of the violence he will have to commit if he is to be accepted by his crew. Fury” focuses on the bonds of trust between an M4 Sherman tank crew over the course of a horrifyingly violent 24-hour mission to defend a crossroads so that a significant contingent of American medics, cooks, and mechanics can safely move from one battle location to another without being wiped out by a sizable Nazi force that an American reconnaissance contingent has located.
Joyeux Noel(9 Nov 2005) By Christian Carion
The murderous actions of a Serbian nationalist, inspired by selfishly inclined Serbian officers, resulted in the assassination of the Heir to the Austro-Hungarian Throne on June 28, 1914, igniting a global war with previously unimaginable brutality, waged on an industrial scale with machine guns, tanks, aircraft, and various poisonous gases. During World War I, which lasted from August 1, 1914, to November 11, 1918, more than 17 million promising lives were lost. An additional 60 million people died in World War II, which was essentially the continuation of World War 1. The flame of enlightened human decency that Christian, humane-thinking, feeling, and believing front line soldiers of England, France, and Germany spontaneously lit would never completely extinguish from those people’s hearts and thoughts throughout the years, from 1914 to 1945.
The Treaty of Versailles and the newly established League of States, which the concerned belligerent nations devised, were unable to achieve what the three company commanders—all lieutenants—achieved in preserving the Christmas Eve truth of 1914. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) didn’t form until after World War II, and Germany joined it as well. The European Union, which today consists of 28 countries, unifies its focus on trade and finance, while NATO ensures peace inside Europe and among other countries. Joyeux Noel is a work of art that profoundly affects its audience’s hearts and souls. Needless to say, all of the actors produced very outstanding performances,
Ben-Hur (18 Nov 1959) By William Wyler
Charlton Heston plays the title character in William Wyler’s 1959 American biblical epic Ben-Hur, which Sam Zimbalist also produced. It was an adaptation of Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, which was the basis for the 1925 silent picture of the same name. Maxwell Anderson, S. N. Behrman, Gore Vidal, and Christopher Fry all made contributions to the screenplay, while Karl Tunberg is given credit for writing it. Judah Ben-Hur, a prosperous Jewish merchant and prince, resides in Jerusalem with his mother, Miriam, and sister, Tirzah. The merchant Simonides, a devoted slave to the family, pays a visit with his daughter Esther. Judah and Esther fall in love after seeing each other for the first time since childhood, but she is already engaged to someone else. Messala, a friend from Judah’s youth who had spent several years away from Jerusalem, has returned as the fortress of Antonia’s commander.
Judah is committed to his faith and the freedom of the Jewish people, whereas Messala believes in the magnificence of Rome and her imperial authority. The buddies become tense over this and eventually break apart when Messala gives Judah an ultimatum requesting that Judah turn over prospective rebels to the Roman authorities. Ben-Hur made its New York City premiere at Loew’s State Theatre on November 18, 1959, following a $14.7 million marketing campaign. It became the second-highest grossing movie in history at the time, behind Gone with the Wind, and was also the fastest-earning movie of 1959. It received a record-breaking eleven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Wyler), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Heston), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Griffith), and Best Cinematography – Color It also won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture for Stephen Boyd.
Hotel Rwanda (4 Feb 2005) By Terry George
Terry George’s drama movie was Hotel Rwanda. Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo play hotelier Paul Rusesabagina and his wife Tatiana in the film, which was based from a script co-written by George and Keir Pearson. The movie, which is based on the Rwandan genocide that took place in the spring of 1994, follows Rusesabagina’s attempts to rescue the lives of his family and more than 1,000 other refugees by giving them shelter in the Hôtel des Mille Collines, which was under siege. In Hotel Rwanda, topics like governmental corruption, genocide, and the effects of violence are examined.
Co-produced by United Artists and Lions Gate Films, the movie was commercially released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for home media and in theatres by United Artists. On 22 December 2004 and 4 February 2005, respectively, restricted and broad releases of the movie Hotel Rwanda were released in theatres in the US, generating more than $23 million in domestic ticket sales. The foreign release brought in an extra $10 million in sales, bringing the total to close to $34 million in gross revenue. The movie received numerous nominations, including nominations for Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Okonedo), and Best Actor (Cheadle) at the Academy Awards.
The Great Debaters (25 Dec 2007) By Denzel Washington
American biographical drama film The Great Debaters, which was released in 2007, was directed and starred Denzel Washington. It is based on a piece Tony Scherman wrote about the Wiley College debate team for American Legacy’s spring 1997 issue. Along with Forest Whitaker and Denzel Whitaker, the movie also stars Jurnee Smollett, Nate Parker, Gina Ravera, Kimberly Elise, and Jermaine Williams. With a story by Robert Eisele and Jeffrey Porro, Robert Eisele wrote the screenplay. The movie premiered on December 25, 2007, in theatres. Based on a true story, the plot revolves around debate coach Melvin B. Alston’s (Denzel Washington) attempts to put his team on an equal footing with whites in the American South during the 1930s, when Jim Crow laws were prevalent and lynch mobs were a concern for blacks.
Wiley College is a historically black college associated with the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Wiley team eventually makes it to the stage where they may take on Harvard University in a debate. In 1935, the University of Southern California debate team, which was portrayed as Harvard University in The Great Debaters, was defeated by the Wiley College debate team. The film examines societal conceptions in Texas during the Great Depression, including lynching and the regular insults African Americans faced. James L. Farmer, Jr. Denzel Whitaker who joined Wiley’s debate team at the age of 14 and graduated from high school, is also portrayed and who later went on to co-found the Congress of Racial Equality. Samantha Booke, another member of the team, is based on Henrietta Bell Wells, a celebrated poet and the only woman on the 1930 Wiley team that took part in the nation’s first collegiate interracial debate.
The Last Samurai (5 Dec,2003) By Edward Zwick
After being captured in combat, an American military advisor adopts the Samurai culture he was recruited to eradicate. To educate the peasant conscripts for the first standing Imperial Army in modern firearms combat in the 1870s, Americans who desire lucrative contracts with the Emperor of Japan recruit Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), a cynical veteran of the American Civil War who will work for anyone. A rebellion of conservative Samurai, hereditary warriors who stay loyal to the sacred dynasty but rejecting the Westernizing policies and even deny weaponry, is the top objective of the Imperial administration. However, his unprepared superior force leaves too soon.
The samurai with the sword can smash them due to their fright. Despite being seriously injured, Algren’s valiant actions convince Katsumoto the head samurai, to spare his life. After being restored to health, he gains knowledge of and respect for the traditional Japanese method and assists Katsumoto in his vain struggle to preserve the Bushido way, but Omura succeeds in enacting oppressive regulations. When the conflict returns to the battlefield, he must now decide whether to uphold his commitment to one of the resentful parties.
Lawrence of Arabia (11 Dec, 1962) By David Lean
T. E. Lawrence’s life and his 1926 book Seven Pillars of Wisdom served as the inspiration for the 1962 British historical epic drama film Lawrence of Arabia. It was produced by Sam Spiegel through his British business Horizon Pictures and distributed by Columbia Pictures under the direction of David Lean. Peter O’Toole plays Lawrence in the movie, and Alec Guinness plays Prince Faisal. Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, and Arthur Kennedy all appear in the movie. Michael Wilson and Robert Bolt wrote the movie’s script.
In particular, the movie shows Lawrence’s raids on Aqaba and Damascus and his participation in the Arab National Council during World War I in the Ottoman Empire’s provinces of Hejaz and Greater Syria. Its topics include Lawrence’s mental issues with the inevitable personal violence of war, his own identity, and his conflicted loyalty to his adopted Britain and its army and his newfound allies in the Arabian desert tribes. At the 35th Academy Awards in 1963, the movie received 10 Oscar nominations and won seven of them, including Best Picture and Best Director. Along with the BAFTA Awards for Best Film and Outstanding British Film, it also received the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Also Read: 10 Best Anime Villains of All Time
15 Greatest Historical Movies of All Time