Since 1895, when the Lumiere brothers created the first cinematographic projection, everything, when it comes to movies, changed dramatically: the biggest stories/happenings of the world have been projected in video formats, reducing the consumer efforts to understand the story.
The cinematography created an opportunity, but also a great responsibility for the movie makers. And the responsibility is even bigger for the historical movie creators. In the last century the cinematographic productions helped humanity to understand the true dimension of the dramatic episodes of our past, placing us, the viewers live in those times. Vid Reactor presents in this article the best historical movies of the 20th century:
10. Ben-Hur (1959)
The movie was made in 1959 by the American director William Wyler and it is screening after the novel: ”Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ”, written in 1880 by Lew Wallace. Ben Hur is a heroical story of a fictional character Judah Ben Hur, a Jewish prince from Jerusalem, who is wrongfully accused that tried to assassinate the Roman prefect Valerius Gratus, who was convicted at the beginning of the first century for treason and for the fact he was a slave trafficker.
He is released from slavery by a military commandant after three years as a slave in galleys and became a contestant in chariots races. The intrigue of the novel is characterized by the need for revenge of Ben Hur, but at the same time, he learns the Christian forgiveness and he converts to Christianity. Judah’s story is running at the same time with the life of Jesus Christ, who will come in the same region as he is, and has the same age. This historical movie won 11 Oscars, among which the Award for Best Picture, performance-matched after a long time by the movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Ben Hur’s character was played the Charlton Heston. It is considered one of the best historical movies ever made.
9. Gone With the Wind (1939)
The action takes place during the American Civil War and The Reconstruction era which lasted until 1877. The love story has two main characters: Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). This story fascinated the public from the beginning. Gone With the Wind is one of the most-watched movies in history and one with the best box office results (especially for that era).
The movie was made after a novel written by the writer Margaret Mitchell. It is considered the first color movie on which the Technicolor technique was used. The scene shootings lasted almost five months and the premiere took place on 15 December 1939. The movie won 10 Oscars and the record lasted 20 years until Ben Hur (1959) won 11 Oscars.
8. Spartacus (1960)
Spartacus is a historical movie made in 1960 by Stanley Kubrik based on the novel with the same name written by the novelist Howard Fast. The idea of the movie is around the life of Spartacus. The main role is played by Kirk Douglas and Lawerence Olivier in the role of the roman general and politician Marcus Licinius Crassus. The production won 4 Oscars in 1961.
Spartacus was the leader of a slave revolt in antiquity (73 BC) in the Roman Empire era. Born in Tracia in 109 BC from a simple shepherd family from the Maedi tribe, he was a Roman soldier, but he ended up as a slave. He was sold to the gladiator school of Batiatus from Capua. He decided to release himself from slavery and he escaped among 70 of his fellow gladiators, and soon he raised a 70,000 men army.
7. The Deer Hunter (1978)
With a magnificent actor distribution: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep, the movie won 5 Oscars (and the first nominalization from Streep’s career). The idea of the movie is about the devastating effects of the Vietnam War had on soldiers. Inspired by the novel “Three Comrades” of the German writer Erich Maria Remarque, the movie explores the sense and the after-effects of the war, violence and the patriotic manipulation of a small ethnic community.
The Deer Hunter was one of the first major movies about the Vietnam War and it will remain in history with the scenes when the Amerian soldiers play Russian Roulette at the end of the Vietnam War. The game they “learn” from the Vietnam soldiers that used to apply the Russian Roulette on the life of captured American soldiers.
6. All the President’s Men (1976)
All the President’s Men is a political film released in 1976. The movie was directed by Alan J. Pakula. The movie represents an ecranisation of the non-fictional book from 1974, having the same name, written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two journalists that investigated the Watergate case for Washington Post. The scenario was written by William Goldman and produced by Walter Coblenz. The leading roles are played by Robert Redford (Woodward) and Dustin Hoffman (Bernstein). The differences between the book and the movie are that in the movie are presented only the first 7 months of the Watergate scandal, until the inauguration of the 2nd election of president Nixon in January 1973.
The expression “Follow the Money” was first heard in this movie (not in the book and not in any known document of the Watergate scandal). The movie was the nominee for 8 Oscars and won 3 of them.
5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
With Peter O’Tool, Alec Guinness and Omar Sharif as main characters, Lawrence of Arabia is a reference movie which illustrates the tensions and tragedies of World War I (WW1), from outside Europe. The movie was nominee for 10 Oscars and won seven of them, including: “The best movie” and “The best director” for David Lean.
The idea of the movie is created around the life story of Thomas Edward Lawrence, a British officer who was known back then for his leading role in the Arabian revolts (1916-1918).
4. Shindler’s List (1993)
Schindler’s List is a movie about Oskar Schindler, a German businessman, who saves more than 1000 polish-jews during the Holocaust, by giving them jobs in his factories. The movie was produced by Steven Spielberg and was based on the novel Schindler’s Ark, written by the Australian writer Thomas Keneally.
In the leading roles, you will spot Liam Neeson (Schindler), Ralf Fiennes in the role of SS officer (Amon Goth) and Ben Kingsley in the role of the jew Schindler’s accountant.
3. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
The film has the origins in the book with the same name written by Solomon Northup in 1853. Before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man is kidnapped and sold as a slave. Passing through rough moments of brutality, but sometimes in moments of kindness, for Solomon, everything that matters are his life and dignity. In these 12 years of slavery, the defining thing for his destiny was the meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt).
The movie won 3 Oscars, including for “The Best Picture”, award received by the director of the movie Steve McQueen and “The Best Supporting Actress” for Lupita Nyong’o. The movie is considered a reference historical movie when it comes to the accuracy of how things were for the slaves during the 19th century.
2. Downfall (2004)
The movie Downfall is an Austrian-Germanic-Italian co-production from 2004, directed by Oliver Hirshbiegel, in which are presented the last 12 days from Hitler’s life and nazi Germany. In April 1945, Germany is very close to losing the war, but in Berlin, the capital of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler proclaims that Germany will still win battles and commands his generals to fight to the last man.
“Downfall” explores the last days of the Reich, moments when the nazi leaders like Himmler and Goring, fled away to save their own lives. Others remain near their beloved leader (like Joseph Goebbels).
1. Braveheart (1995)
The battles between English and Scots are grand and spectacular in this production, the effort and the quality on which they were reconstituted have been fully awarded. For this movie, Mel Gibson received the Oscar for The Best Director in 1996. The movie received also the Oscar for The Best Picture, The Best Screenplay, The Best Makeup, and Best Sound Editing. The movie was the nominee for other 5 categories.
William Wallace, the hero of the movie, played by Mel Gibson, is one of the men that really changed the course of history. “Braveheart” is an incredible story about courage, loyalty, honor and about the brutality of wars. At the same time this movie is about a touching love story, making this movie of the best historical movies of the last century.