Okay, I lied.

I started off with the idea that I could create a short little list of my ten favorite social studies related movies. But I was wrong. As I started thinking about great history movies and talking with others, the list grew quickly. And I couldn’t narrow it down to just ten. Then it got worse. This month’s Social Education journal showed up in my mailbox with their movie list.


Things have changed. I created a list of my ten favorite history movies, a list of other history movies, and another list of great feel-good teacher movies. The criteria for inclusion on the list is pretty simple – if the movie appears while channel surfing, it takes control of the remote and must be watched through the credits.


My favorites in no particular order:

  • Band of Brothers
    Yes, technically a mini-series. But I love the story of Dick Winters and the others who were a part of Easy Company.
  • Glory
    Robert Gould Shaw leads the US Civil War’s first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices of both his own Union army and the Confederates.
  • Gettysburg
    Based on the book The Killer Angels, this is a long movie but it does a good job of depicting weapons, tactics, and beliefs during the Civil War.
  • Schindler’s List
    Based on the true story of Oskar Schindler who managed to save about 1100 Jews from being gassed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. A testament for the good in all of us.
  • The Help
    Unlikely friendships, empowerment, and the 1960s segregated South. What else do you need for a great story?
  • All the President’s Men
    Not as detailed as the book but easier to follow, this is basically a documentary about the Bill of Rights.
  • 1776
    Yes. It’s a musical. But a funny, fairly historically accurate musical.
  • The Mission
    Perhaps the best I’ve ever seen for depicting European colonization and expansion.
  • Hotel Rwanda
    Danger. Bravery. Evil. Courage. This story of genocide exposes both the good and bad in people.
  • Gandhi
    An awesome story depicting human courage fighting for human rights against the machine of British colonialism.

Other great history movies

  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
  • The Last of the Mohicans
  • Dances with Wolves
  • Mississippi Burning
  • The Boy in Striped Pajamas
  • Gladiator
  • Braveheart
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • To Kill A Mocking Bird
  • Memphis Belle
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Amistad

Feel-Good Teacher Movies

  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
    As social studies teachers, this is about the best non-example I can think of. Plus, well . . . it’s hilarious.
  • The Freedom Writers
    Teaching tolerance and grading tons of papers is not easy.
  • Dead Poet’s Society
    Captain, my captain. Emotional connections to content make all the difference.
  • October Sky
    Perseverance and supportive teachers can change lives.
  • Stand and Deliver
    This is a great movie about reaching students who feel like they have no hope of success in their life.
  • Teachers
    “Half of these kids aren’t coming back.” “Yeah. But the other half is.” Best line ever.
  • School of Rock
    Differentiated instruction and Jack Black. Enough said.
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer
    Pushy parents and pushy teachers are not always the best thing for bright kids.
  • The Emperor’s Club
    I like the interaction between teacher and students. And the teacher’s concern for quality.
  • Akeelah and the Bee
    There are all sorts of ways to learn and to make friends.

What would you add to the list? What you would delete?

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend