Historical movies are a popular genre that transport audiences back in time and allow them to experience different eras and events from the past.

 These movies often explore important historical events, figures, and movements, offering a glimpse into the social, political, and cultural contexts of different time periods.

Historical movies can range from epic dramas and biopics to period pieces and war films. They often feature detailed set design, costumes, and historical accuracy, and can offer a unique perspective on events and people from the past.

Some of the most beloved and acclaimed movies of all time fall into the historical genre, including classics like Lawrence of Arabia and Schindler’s List.

Best Historical Movies

Whether you’re a history buff or simply enjoy compelling stories with rich detail and a sense of time and place, there’s something for everyone in the world of historical movies.

1. Gladiator (2000)

“Gladiator” is an epic historical drama film released in 2000, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, and Connie Nielsen.

The film is set in ancient Rome and follows the story of a Roman general named Maximus Decimus Meridius, played by Crowe, who is betrayed by the corrupt new Emperor Commodus, played by Phoenix, and forced to become a gladiator.

The plot follows Maximus as he navigates the brutal world of gladiator combat, seeking revenge against Commodus and fighting to restore order to the Roman Empire.

Along the way, he forms a close bond with other gladiators and a former slave named Juba, played by Djimon Hounsou, and captures the heart of the Emperor’s sister Lucilla, played by Nielsen.

“Gladiator” was praised for its epic scale, stunning visuals, and powerful performances. Russell Crowe won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Maximus.

And the film also won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and Best Visual Effects. It has since become a classic of the historical epic genre and is considered one of the greatest films of all time.

Gladiator (2000)
  • Various (Actor)
  • Various (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)

2. The New World (2005)

The New World is a 2005 historical drama film directed by Terrence Malick and starring Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, and Christian Bale. The film tells the story of the English settlers who arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s and their interactions with the Native American tribes.

The New World is noted for its beautiful cinematography, poetic storytelling, and exploration of themes such as love, colonization, and the clash of cultures.

The film is praised for its use of natural landscapes and its depiction of the early interactions between the settlers and the Native Americans.

The New World is considered a masterpiece of Terrence Malick’s filmography and is highly regarded by critics and audiences alike.

The film is notable for its meditative pacing and its exploration of the human condition, as well as its portrayal of the historical events surrounding the founding of Jamestown.

The New World is seen as a poignant and powerful depiction of the complexities of human relationships and the impact of colonialism on both the settlers and the Native Americans.

3. United 93 (2006)

United 93 is a biographical drama film directed by Paul Greengrass and released in 2006.

The film tells the story of United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, and ultimately crashed in a field in Pennsylvania as passengers attempted to regain control of the plane.

The film is known for its intense, documentary-style realism, and its sensitive portrayal of the heroic actions of the passengers and crew aboard the doomed flight. It was critically acclaimed for its authentic portrayal of the events of 9/11, and was nominated for two Academy Awards.

United 93 was praised for its respectful treatment of the real-life heroes of the flight, and its unflinching portrayal of the brutal reality of terrorism. It remains a powerful and emotionally affecting film, reminding audiences of the bravery and sacrifice of those who lost their lives on that fateful day.

United 93
  • David Alan Bashe, Richard Bekins, David Rasche (Actors)
  • Paul Greengrass (Director) - Paul Greengrass (Writer) - Tim Bevan (Producer)
  • English, Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

4. Titanic (1997)

“Titanic” is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed by James Cameron.

The movie tells the story of Jack (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a poor artist, and Rose (played by Kate Winslet), a wealthy woman engaged to a wealthy and cruel man, Cal (played by Billy Zane), who meet and fall in love on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic in 1912.

As Jack and Rose’s relationship blossoms, the ship hits an iceberg and begins to sink, leading to a race against time to save themselves and the other passengers on board.

The film alternates between scenes set on the ship and flashbacks to Rose’s life before the voyage, showcasing the stark contrast between her privileged upbringing and Jack’s humble background.

“Titanic” is known for its stunning special effects, breathtaking visuals, and emotional performances by its lead actors. It won a record-tying 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

And became the highest-grossing film of all time upon its release. The movie has since become a cultural phenomenon and a classic of the romance and disaster genres.

Titanic (DVD)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet (Actors)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

5. Thirteen Days (2000)

“Thirteen Days” is a historical drama film directed by Roger Donaldson and released in 2000. The film is based on the true story of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a political and military standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1962.

The film follows President John F. Kennedy, played by Bruce Greenwood, and his advisors as they navigate the crisis and try to avoid a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

The film also explores the personal and political pressures facing the president and his administration during this tense and volatile time.

“Thirteen Days” is known for its accurate and detailed portrayal of the crisis, and for its compelling and nuanced performances from its cast.

The film was praised for its ability to capture the tension and high stakes of the situation, as well as the complex relationships and dynamics within the Kennedy administration.

Overall, “Thirteen Days” is a gripping and thought-provoking film that offers a fascinating look at one of the most pivotal moments in American history. It serves as a reminder of the dangers of nuclear weapons and the importance of diplomacy and communication in times of crisis.

Thirteen Days
  • Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Shawn Driscoll (Actors)
  • Roger Donaldson (Director) - David Self (Writer) - Armyan Bernstein (Producer)
  • German (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)

6. The Patriot (2000)

The Patriot is a historical war film directed by Roland Emmerich and released in 2000. The film stars Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin, a former soldier who becomes a reluctant hero during the American Revolutionary War after his family is threatened by the British.

The film is loosely based on the historical figure of Francis Marion, who was known as the “Swamp Fox” and fought against the British in South Carolina.

The Patriot features an ensemble cast, including Heath Ledger as Martin’s eldest son, Gabriel, and Jason Isaacs as the ruthless British officer Colonel William Tavington.

The film is known for its epic battle scenes, including the climactic Battle of Cowpens, and its depiction of the brutal realities of war.

The Patriot was a commercial success and was generally well-received by audiences and critics. It was praised for its performances, particularly Gibson’s portrayal of Martin, as well as its historical accuracy and its depiction of the harsh realities of war.

The film’s score, composed by John Williams, was also widely praised and earned him an Academy Award nomination.

However, the film also faced criticism for its depiction of slavery and its portrayal of British soldiers as one-dimensional villains.

Nevertheless, The Patriot continues to be celebrated for its epic scope and its depiction of the sacrifices made by early American patriots in the fight for independence.

The Patriot (2000) Extended Edition
  • Roland Emmerich (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

3 Characteristics of Historical Movies

Focus on Historical Events: Historical movies often focus on specific historical events, such as wars, revolutions, or significant moments in the history of a country or society.

Attention to Accuracy and Detail: Historical movies often strive to be as accurate and authentic as possible in their depiction of historical events, including the setting, costumes, and dialogue.

The filmmakers often conduct extensive research and consult with experts to ensure that the film is as historically accurate as possible.

Exploration of Historical Themes and Issues: Historical movies often explore broader historical themes and issues, such as political and social change, war, imperialism, and cultural clashes.

They may also examine the lives and experiences of individuals during historical events, offering a personal and human perspective on the past.

3 Reasons To Watch Historical Movies

Education and Learning: Historical movies provide viewers with an opportunity to learn about significant events, people, and cultures from the past.

These movies can be an excellent way to gain insights into historical periods and events, as well as to understand how they have shaped the world we live in today.

Immersion and Engagement: Historical movies often take audiences back in time, allowing them to experience historical events and cultures in a more immersive way.

These movies can help viewers connect with history on a deeper level, by seeing the stories and events play out on screen.

Inspiration and Motivation: Historical movies can be a source of inspiration and motivation for viewers. They can showcase the courage, determination, and perseverance of historical figures, and encourage viewers to make a positive impact in their own lives and the world around them.

Historical movies can also help viewers gain a better understanding of their own cultural heritage, as well as the diversity and richness of other cultures and traditions.

Best Historical Movies – Wrap Up

Throughout history, cinema has played a significant role in documenting, interpreting, and shaping our understanding of the past.

Historical movies have the power to transport us to different times and places, to bring historical events and figures to life, and to offer insights into the social, cultural, and political forces that have shaped our world.

Some of the best historical movies include “Schindler’s List” (1993), which tells the story of Oskar Schindler.

A German businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jewish refugees during World War II; “Gandhi” (1982), which chronicles the life and legacy of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

“The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957), which depicts the experiences of Allied prisoners of war forced to work on a bridge for the Japanese during World War II.

Other notable historical movies include “Braveheart” (1995), which tells the story of Scottish hero William Wallace’s fight for independence from England.

“The Last Emperor” (1987), which follows the life of Puyi, the last emperor of China; and “Amadeus” (1984), which explores the tumultuous relationship between Mozart and his rival, Salieri.

Overall, historical movies offer a unique and powerful way to engage with the past, to learn from the mistakes and triumphs of previous generations, and to deepen our understanding of the world around us.