You log into Netflix and find yourself at a loss about what to watch. You are sick of all those reality TV shows like Crazy Rich Asians and Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but you can’t figure out what to watch. Maybe you want to enjoy yourself, be engrossed in a movie and not spend two hours feeling empty headed once you finish it. If that is the case then you probably should reignite your love for history and watch something that will lend some historical insight into a bygone era.
Sounds like a great idea right? But now you are worried you will end up wasting time trying to figure out which historical movie is good. Don’t worry about it because we have got a list compiled just for you.
1. Cadillac Records (2008)
This story follows the making of the record label called Chess Records. We are introduced to Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody), a Polish bar owner who has set up his life in the US as an immigrant. He then hires two musicians- a guitarist and a harmonica player. Chess, who considers himself to have a special knack for identifying good music and new talent eventually begins a record label called Chess Records and opens the door for black musicians and singers. He manages to recruit talented people like Etta James (Beyonce), Howlin’ Wolf (Eammon Walker) etc. Leonard treats his new musicians like his own family in that he looks after them. But things get complicated as boundaries blur and relationships become more messy. Eventually, however, as the blues music falls out of fashion Leonard quits the game. Watch the movie with an Xfinity TV subscription to see how this story unfolds.
2. Mudbound (2017)
This movie deals with several issues of race, traumatic life events, PTSD etc. in an excellent film that is centered around two families and two war veterans. The Jacksons, a black family and the McAllans a white family are forced to live in close proximity and share the land in a sort of tense truce. Eventually the plot unfolds as Ronsel, the eldest son of the Jackson family and Jamie, the younger brother of Henry McAllan return from fighting in the WW II and suffer each in their own way due to their traumatic experiences at war. However, the two also develop a friendship that cuts across the traditional ideas of racism and prejudice in the Mississippi Delta.
3. 12 Years a Slave
Based on true events and the memoir of Solomon Northup this heart-wrenching film should definitely be on your must-watch list. The plot follows Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free African-American man who lives with his family in Upstate New York. He is a skilled violinist and also works as a laborer. In 1841, unfortunately, Northup’s life gets uprooted when he is tricked by two men to come to Washington DC for a job where they instead kidnap and sell him off as a slave in the brutal South. Here Northup suffers immensely as he works on a plantation, is demeaned, abused, betrayed and so much more. After 12 years he is finally able to become free with help from the North. This film testifies to the strength and perseverance of the human spirit but also provides valuable insight into the dark world of slavery before the Civil War. It should be noted that this film is not family-friendly nor is it suitable for the faint-hearted.
This film is a crucial one to watch as it reminds us that a woman’s right to vote that we all take for granted today did not always exist. That there were women who fought long and hard for the ability to have a political say in their life and they gave up much in that struggle. The plot focuses on Maud Watts, a seamstress, who is bullied and harassed by her manager Mr. Taylor. Maud eventually joins the civil disobedience campaign of the suffragette movement as the women struggle to make their voices heard. One point anyone can appreciate about the movie is that it offers a perspective of history-from-below instead of focusing on grand figures. Women who weren’t influential and could not pay fines to the police for their “antics” suffered badly as they were imprisoned and separated from their children. Many women sacrificed their families for what we today consider basic human rights. Suffragette is a truly touching film that will move your heart.
This movie is centered around the 10-year long Trojan war and is based on none other than Homer’s famous poem, The Iliad. The plot takes off when Prince Paris (played by Orlando Bloom) visits Menelaus of Sparta as part of making peace with the kingdom, but instead he ends up seducing and taking away Menelaus’s wife, Helen to Troy. Naturally this angers Menelaus and he enlists the help of his elder brother, Agamemnon of Mycenae. The latter is interested in war with Troy not so much to help avenge his brother but to extend his control to the Aegean Sea. Agamemnon then manages to get Achilles to fight for him though the latter is strongly averse to the former. With the help of the hero, Achilles much is gained for the Greek army against Troy. However, the movie is a tragedy and ends accordingly. But it is nevertheless an action-packed fun watch that makes you feel tons of emotions.
Historical movies are a great way to entertain yourselves but not mindlessly. By watching engaging films related to historical events you can actually learn a lot about the past. Even in cases where the movie is not an exact representation of a real-life individual you still get a basic and humane idea of how things were in another time. Not to mention once you develop an interest you can go on to read more scholarly sources about the historical event. For example, you may go read up more about the suffragette movement after watching the movie.