Film makers often turn to history for ideas and inspiration. Why wouldn’t they? There are a wealth of fantastic stories out there, and as they say, the truth is often stranger than fiction. But, when it comes to historical epics, there seem to be two schools of thought. The first, the Pearl Harbor approach. In this movie, the film maker takes the event as inspiration before telling a totally different story. Then, the second, the approach students of a masters degree in history might prefer, where the film maker gives an accurate and full version of real life events.
If you fancy an accurate history film, here are some of the best.
12 Years a Slave
Films about slavery aren’t unusual. However, accurate ones are a much harder to find. Hollywood movies tend to shy away from an accurate portrayal, perhaps worried about who they might upset. 12 Years a Slave completely bucks this trend and gives a stunningly accurate and detailed account of the life of a slave at the time. In the film, Steve McQueen also gives a unique insight into the motives of the slavers. Pushing against sensationalism to portray them as much as victims of their time and products of white culture as the slaves.
Schindler’s list is the story of Oscar Schindler, a real hero of World War 2 who did all he could to save the lives of as many Jews as possible. Steven Spielberg does take some artistic license in terms of character and story, but only to improve the flow of the narrative. It’s the performances of Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson here which really stand out. Gripping the audience from the start and leaving them feeling truly engaged and enraptured by the story.
There are many, many films about the events of World War 2. Covering many different sides, opinions, battles, and stories. Downfall, however, still manages to be completely different. This brave tale tells the story of the last few days of Hitler’s life, as the war came to an end. It shows Hitler to be angry, tortured, and completely out of touch. Bruno Ganz gives a truly haunting performance. If you study an online masters in history from Norwich University you may know just how little information there is available about these events. Yet in Downfall, Ganz gives a mesmerizing performance, which leaves the audience feeling they have gained a real insight.
Sci-fi is an ever-popular genre. Sci-fi films appeal to people as they are complete fantasy and let you escape into an unknown world. They appeal to film makers as they allow them to tell a completely different kind of story. Or, the same stories in a whole new setting. Apollo 13 is a different kind of sci-fi. There’s no moon landing or alien encounters. It is instead a stripped down, real life story of hope and adventure. Apollo 13 is frighteningly accurate, right down to the tiny details, and a great film because of it.
When done well, a historical film can teach you a lot, evoke powerful emotions, and be both heartbreaking and entertaining. Often, historically accurate films touch viewers in a way that other big budget epics can’t because they seem much more real and relatable.
You can bone up on your history with courses at: graduate.norwich.edu/history