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Classic Historical Fiction Films on DVD
What characteristics define Historical Fiction movies? Visit the “Film Genres” page on the American Movie Classics (AMC) web site to find out!
Gone With the Wind by
Call Number: PS 3525 .I972 G6 2005
Publication Date: Produced 1939; DVD released 2005
Truly a sweeping epic, this film combines elements of historical fiction, war movie, and romance -- with the emphasis on fiction. Present-day viewers will immediately recognize the film's racist sugar-coating of the harsh realities of slavery, which did not bother white audiences when it was released in 1939. Despite the focus on a genteel past that never existed, the protagonist is actually ahead of her time. Scarlett O'Hara was a woman determined to take care of herself and her beloved plantation any way she could, even if that meant breaking societal rules, and a few men's hearts. Ironically, the actress who played Scarlett's slave -- Hattie McDaniel -- was the first African American to win an Academy Award.
Grapes of Wrath by
Call Number: PS 3537 .T3234 G82 2004
Publication Date: Produced 1940; DVD released 2004
This adaptation of John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel shines an unflinching light on the desperate circumstances of farmers whose livelihood was destroyed by drought during the Great Depression. The Joad family, led by son Tom (played by Henry Fonda), travels west on Route 66 to escape the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, but will the conditions in California be any better?
All the President's Men by
Call Number: E 840 .B47 A4 1997
Publication Date: Produced 1976; DVD released 1997
Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman portray real-life newspaper reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose investigative journalism exposed the Watergate scandal, ultimately forcing President Richard Nixon to resign. This is the movie that popularized the phrase "Follow the money" in reference to tracking down corruption.
Call Number: E 185.97 .H244 A33 2007
Publication Date: Produced 1977; DVD released 2007
When this mini-series aired for eight nights on network television in 1977, both the format and subject matter were a revelation for the record number of viewers who tuned in. Never before had the horrors of slavery been depicted so candidly, nor had African American actors had the opportunity to tell the story of their ancestors' enslavement from their perspective. Based on the bestselling account of his own family's genealogy, Alex Haley's book "Roots" was given an updated treatment by the History Channel in 2016.
Call Number: G 530 .T6 T57 1997
Publication Date: 1997
This visually elegant imagining of the world's most famous shipwreck combines elements of the romance, history, tragedy, and disaster movie genres. Director James Cameron used cutting-edge special effects to give viewers the feeling of being aboard the sinking ocean liner. But it was the story of star-crossed lovers that enchanted millions of moviegoers, despite the fact that they knew -- before even entering the theater -- how it was destined to end.
Hotel Rwanda by
Call Number: DT 450.443 .R87 H6 2005
Publication Date: Produced 2004; DVD released 2005
In the midst of the Rwandan genocide, a hotel manager uses his street smarts to save the lives of more than a thousand refugees who take shelter in his establishment. When journalists reveal that ethnic cleansing has slaughtered nearly a million innocent people, will the rest of the world be moved to intervene?
Now Streaming: Films on Demand
Few other historical figures have inspired as many big-budget epics as the legendary Egyptian queen Cleopatra. From the silent film starring Theda Bara in 1917 to the 1934 extravaganza directed by Cecil B. DeMille to the 1963 film starring Elizabeth Taylor that generated more gossip than revenue, Cleopatra has remained a popular subject of the historical fiction film.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Joseph L. Mankiewicz was a screenwriter, producer, and director equally adept at working in a variety of genres -- but he will always be remembered for directing Cleopatra, the film that nearly bankrupted the 20th Century Fox studio. During his fabled Hollywood career, Mankiewicz wrote 48 screenplays and won back-to-back Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay, for A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve.
This episode of the documentary series The Directors profiles the prolific Mankiewicz, and includes clips from his famous films.
Big Screen Rome by
Call Number: PN 1995.9 .R68 C87 2005
Publication Date: 2005
This systematic survey of the most important and popular films about antiquity shows how cinema explores, reinvents, and celebrates the spectacle of the Roman Empire. The text reveals how contemporary filmmakers use recreations of ancient history as commentaries on contemporary society, in films such as Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus," Ridley Scott's "Gladiator," and even "Monty Python's Life of Brian."
Frankly, My Dear: "Gone With the Wind" Revisited by
Call Number: PN 1997 .G59 H37 2009
Publication Date: 2009
Why has the saga of Scarlett O’Hara kept such a tenacious hold on our national imagination for almost three-quarters of a century? In the first book ever to deal simultaneously with the beloved novel and the spectacular film version of "Gone With the Wind," film critic Molly Haskell seeks the answer. The film succeeded despite negative industry predictions because of the fascinating personalities that Haskell dissects here: author Margaret Mitchell, film director David O. Selznick, and starring actress Vivien Leigh. The text acknowledges how the story takes on different shades of meaning according to the age and eye of the beholder. Haskell explores how it has kept its edge because of Margaret Mitchell’s (and our) ambivalence about Scarlett, and because of the complex racial and sexual attitudes embedded in a story that -- at one time or another -- has offended almost everyone.
History in the Media: Film & Television by
Call Number: PN 1995.9 .H5 N54 2006
Publication Date: 2006
Can films tweak the facts and still be faithful to history? How much of what they present as true is inaccurate or distorted? This book discusses the latest scholarship on history in film and on television, and evaluates specific films and programs for quality, accuracy, and ideological biases. Coverage ranges from biopics such as "Gandhi" and meticulous restagings of events like "Apollo 13," to the true crime genre embodied by "Bonnie and Clyde," to documentaries such as the World War II newsreels "Why We Fight" and Ken Burns' series "The Civil War."
Reel vs. Real: How Hollywood Turns Fact Into Fiction by
Call Number: PN 1995.9 .H5 S26 2003
Publication Date: 2003
All too often, highly fictionalized cinematic depictions of the past are accepted as the unassailable truth by those unfamiliar with the real event. This book profiles 60 movies that portray actual moments in history, and compares the mythologized account of each incident to what really happened. Movies chronicled include "The Ten Commandments," "Spartacus," "A Man for All Seasons," "Gladiator," "Gandhi," "Apollo 13," "The Thin Red Line," "Dances with Wolves," "Braveheart," "The Last Emperor," "All the President's Men," "Mutiny on the Bounty," "Gone With the Wind," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Patton." Author Frank Sanello also contrasts several historical figures with their filmed treatments, including Julius Caesar, Christopher Columbus, Joan of Arc, Sir Thomas More, Catherine the Great, Sigmund Freud, and Harry Houdini.