20 Movies About the American Civil War

The bloody confrontation of 1861-1865 between the northern and southern states claimed more American lives than any war the United States was involved in. The slave-owning South, up in arms, defended the independence of the Confederacy from the Union, which advocated the abolition of slavery and the unification of the nation. As a mirror of history, films about the American Civil War reflect its key moments, show heroes and anti-heroes. We present the top films on this topic for viewers interested in history and just good cinema.

Emperor (2020)

The focus of the novelty of the movie, based on real facts, is the slave Shields Green, nicknamed the Emperor. To avoid certain death after a conflict with a slave owner, Shields had to flee the plantation. Making his way to the north of the country, where the movement to abolish slavery is gaining momentum, the hero slips out of the hands of a bounty hunter and meets abolitionists. Having experienced many dangerous adventures , the Emperor unwittingly becomes a symbol of the struggle for the liberation of America from slavery.

What do you think, is it worth filming a sequel, and what should be in it?

Original title:
Emperor

Genre:
Action, history, drama

Actors:
James Cromwell, Harry J. Lennix, Kat Graham…

Country:
USA

Rating:
IMDb – 5.7

Age limit: 12+


Fatal Temptation (2017)

Winner of the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Director, Sofia Coppola’s dramatic film about the American Civil War. Miss Martha’s Women’s Boarding House is located far from the temptations of the world and the horrors of war. One of the southerners finds a wounded soldier of the enemy army in the forest. Christian mercy does not allow the girls to leave the young Yankee to certain death. At the same time, his appearance in a closed female world causes far from pious feelings.

Original title:
The Beguiled

Genre:
Thriller, drama, military

Actors:
Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning…

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.1, IMDb – 6.3

Age restrictions:
18+


Free People of Jones County (2016)

A farmer from the southern state of Newton Knight was drafted into the Confederate army, but soon deserted, not wanting to protect the interests of wealthy slave owners. Hiding from the tribunal, Newton finds himself in a spontaneous camp of runaway slaves and deserters who joined them. Imbued with a freedom-loving attitude, Newton organizes a militia, opposes the Confederates, knocks them out of the town of Jones, and declares the controlled area a district of free people.

Original title:  
Free State of Jones

Genre:  
Action, drama, western, military, biography, history

Actors:  
Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Embata-Ro, Mahershala Ali …

Country:  
USA

Rating:  
Myreleasedate – 6.7, IMDb – 6.9

Age restrictions:  
18+


Field of Lost Shoes (2015)

The list of the best films continues with a military drama based on real events about the American Civil War, shown through the eyes of very young guys. The Shenandoah Valley was of great strategic importance to southerners who were fighting for their independence from the northern states. Having suffered heavy losses, the Confederates, under the command of the ex-Vice President of the United States, are pulling together all sorts of manpower, including two hundred unfired cadets from Virginia. The young heroes are very different in origin and aspirations, but they are united by one desire – to live.

Original title:
Field of Lost Shoes

Genre:
Action, drama, military

Actors:
Michael Krebs, Jake Lawson, Sean Marquette …

Country:
USA

Rating:
IMDb – 5.8 Age limit: 12+


Living room (2014)

1865 In a once new and beautiful, but now empty and abandoned house , three young southern women survive – sisters Augusta and Louise and their dark-skinned maid Maud. Girls eat what they themselves have grown or killed on the hunt , and there is nowhere for them to wait for help. This is most acutely felt when two soldiers of the Northern army appear nearby, either scouts or deserters. Their visit in any case does not bode well, and defenseless women take up arms to defend their home and their honor.

Original title:
The Keeping Room

Genre:
Drama, Western

Actors:
Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 5.9, IMDb – 6.0

Age Limits : 16+


Saving Lincoln (2013)

The true story of Ward Hill Lamon, a Civil War US Marshal and close friend of Abraham Lincoln. An Illinois lawyer , Lamon, thanks to his outstanding personal qualities, became a close friend of the president, his adviser and bodyguard . The fearless Ward managed to prevent several assassination attempts on Lincoln, but during the fatal shot of John Wilkes Booth, which changed the course of history, by a tragic accident he was not around.

Original title:
Saving Lincoln

Genre:
Biography

Actors:
Tom Amandes, Lea Coco, Penelope Ann Miller…

Country:
USA

Rating:
IMDb – 5.5

Age limit:
16+


Search (2013)

Black orphan Will and his uncle Marcus work for the bounty hunter Burrell, who returns fugitive slaves to their owners. The next task becomes a serious test for the boy – he must use cunning, under the pretext of his brother’s illness, to lure the former slave Nate to the rebellious South. However, the joint journey makes the “hunter” Will feel sympathy for the “victim” Nate and doubt the correctness of his mission.

Original title:
The Retrieval

Genre:
Drama, adventure, western

Actors:
Ashton Sanders, Tishuan Scott, Keston John …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.0, IMDb – 6.6

Age restrictions: 16+


Lincoln (2012)

A large-scale biographical film from Steven Spielberg about the 16th US President Abraham Lincoln, whose role brought the third Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis. The film is about how Lincoln, at the end of the bloody war in America between the North and the South, carried out a plan to unite the country under the banner of democracy. One of his steps towards his goal is to convince both supporters and opponents in Parliament to vote for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.

Original title:  
Lincoln

Genre:  
Drama, military, biography, history

Actors:  
Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn …

Country:  
USA, India

Rating:  
Myreleasedate – 6.9, IMDb – 7.3

Age restrictions:  
16+


End of Humanity (2011)

The events of the zombie western take place after the end of the hostilities that erupted in America between North and South. Veteran Edward Young has started a family and prefers to forget the nightmares of war, but in a peaceful life he is overtaken by other shocks. Once returning from a hunt, the hero discovers that his beloved wife has turned into a terrible evil spirits, and his son has disappeared without a trace. Edward has to take up arms again, this time fighting the living dead.

Original title:
Exit Humanity

Genre:
Horror, drama

Actors:
Brian Cox, Mark Gibson, Dee Wallace-Stone…

Country:
Canada

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 5.1, IMDb – 5.3

Age restrictions: 18+


Incident on the Owl Creek Bridge (2006)

A dramatic film about the tragedy of the American Civil War is far from the first modern film adaptation of the story of Ambrose Bierce, a writer and participant in the hostilities. In the home of a wealthy Southern planter, a Northern spy appears disguised as a sympathizer and reports the deployment of Yankee troops at Owl Creek. A southerner dreams of a feat in the name of the independence of the southern states, and sets off to set fire to a bridge over a stream. Will the inexperienced underground worker succeed in accomplishing his plan and avoid retribution?

Original title:
Ambrose Bierce: Civil War Stories

Genre:
Drama, military, biography

Actors:
Campbell Scott, Vivian Schilling, Nathan Darrow…

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.7, IMDb – 6.1

Age restrictions:
12+


Born Free (2005)

A free Hollywood adaptation of Mikhail Sholokhov’s story about the tragic events of the early 20th century in Russia, adapted to the realities of another civil war – in America. In the American film, the Cossack Trofim turned into the northerners’ cavalryman Jim Rabb. In the midst of hostilities, his mare foaled, and the commander ordered the baby to be shot so that he would not become a burden on the roads of war. But Jim keeps alive the foal, named Colt, and protects him, sometimes risking his own life, as a symbol of hope for the coming world.

Original title:
The Colt

Genre:
Action, drama, western

Actors:
Ryan Merriman, Steve Bacic, William McDonald …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.2, IMDb – 6.6

Age restrictions:
12+


The Last Confederate: The Robert Adams Story (2005)

A biographical film about a real participant in the American Civil War, Robert Adams, filmed by his descendants, one of whom played the role of a great-great-grandfather. In the last days of the confrontation between the Union and the Confederation, it is already clear which side is winning. However, the courageous captain Adams is not going to give up and captivates other southerners with his example. Driven by a sense of duty, Robert does not stop even the fact that resistance deprives him of the opportunity to be with Evelyn McCord, the northerner who won his heart.

Original title:
Strike the Tent

Genre:
Action, drama, romance

Actors:
Julian Adams, Gwendolyn Edwards, Eric Holloway…

Country:
USA

Rating:
IMDb – 5.3

Age restrictions: 16+


Gods and Generals (2003)

A large-scale reenactment of the beginning of the armed conflict between the North and the South, when General Robert Lee is offered to lead the army of the northerners against the rebellious southerners. But Lee is a native of the southern state, and his conscience does not allow him to go against his fellow countrymen. The general goes over to the side of the rebels, taking up arms against the presidential troops. Fighting in the same formation with him is the pious General Thomas Jackson, nicknamed “Stonewall”, who combines religious fanaticism with military prowess, and other historical figures who embody the indomitable spirit of the South.

Original title:
Gods and Generals

Genre:
Drama, military, biography

Actors:
Robert Duvall, Steven Lang, Kali Rocha …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.5, IMDb – 6.3

Age restrictions:
16+


Cold Mountain (2003)

A dramatic film about love that survived a four-year war in the United States between the armies of the South and the North. Bloody events separated the lovers – the carpenter Inman and the daughter of the priest Adu. The guy was drafted into the army, and his beloved could only read letters from the front line and pray that he would stay alive. Prayers were answered – Inman escaped with a severe wound. Having healed a little, the hero runs from the field hospital to see Ada. Inman is declared a deserter and hunted down. Are the lovers destined to meet again?

Original title:  
Cold Mountain

Genre:
Drama, romance, adventure

Actors:  
Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Natalie Portman …

Country:  
UK, Italy, Romania, USA

Rating:  
Myreleasedate – 7.9, IMDb – 7.2

Age restrictions:  
16+


Bonfire of War (2002)

This realistic war drama that won several independent film festivals takes place in 1864. The confrontation between the North and the South is coming to an end, the winner is already known, but the fierce battles do not subside. The night after one of the battles brings six lost heroes into the forest. In the dark, everyone is equal, they help each other and even strike up intimate conversations. But at dawn it will become clear that soldiers of different armies have met, and this meeting will not end well.

Original title:
Wicked Spring

Genre:
Drama, western, military

Actors:
Brian Merrick, DJ Perry, Terry Jernigan…

Country:
USA

Rating:
IMDb – 4.9

Age limit:
16+


Chasing with the Devil (1999)

During the military conflict between the North and the South, Missouri was a border state between the Union and the Confederacy, so there were supporters of both forces on its territory. Three southerners, who have lost their lands and relatives, and with them a freed slave who did not want to leave his master, raid the forces of the northerners. Between daring diversions, the squad hides in a shelter located on the site of a young widow, with whom one of the guys falls in love. But not only this will divide true friends …

Original title:
Ride with the Devil

Genre:
Drama, melodrama, western

Actors:
Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel Kilcher …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.3, IMDb – 6.7

Age restrictions:
16+


Last Stand on Saber River (1997)

At the end of hostilities, Confederate soldier Paul Cable is reunited with his wife, Martha, and two children who thought he was dead. The family wants to quickly return home to Arizona and forget about the horrors of the Civil War. But the Cable house is occupied by Northern squatters. The Kidston brothers are not going to vacate someone else’s family nest. Paul has to take up arms again to defend his property and honor.

Original title:
Last Stand at Saber River

Genre:
Action, drama, western

Actors:
Tom Selleck, Susie Amis, Rachel Duncan…

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.3, IMDb – 6.9

Age restrictions:
12+


Gettysburg (1993)

130th Anniversary Fiction Miniseries based on Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels documentary about the decisive battle of the American Civil War. The bloody three-day battle near Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, which claimed tens of thousands of lives on both sides, is shown with documentary accuracy. The film features historical figures who show heroism and make mistakes. The Battle of Gettysburg became decisive in the confrontation between the North and the South, where the Northerners had the advantage, but the victory was given to them at too high a price.

Original title:
Gettysburg

Genre:
Drama, military, history

Actors:
Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen, Stephen Lang …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.4, IMDb – 7.7

Age restrictions:
16+


Valor (1989)

Based on a true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment of the US Army, which consisted of black soldiers. In 1862, a young colonel, the son of abolitionists, Robert Gould Shaw, took command of the unit. He had to overcome the racial prejudice of colleagues and the condemnation of friends who believed that former slaves were not familiar with discipline. Shaw’s regiment took part in the bloodiest battles, risking being captured by Confederate slave owners, showing real heroism and inspiring other black volunteers.

Original title:
Glory

Genre:
Drama, military, biography

Actors:
Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman…

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.4, IMDb – 7.8

Age restrictions: 16+


Gone with the Wind (1939)

A cult historical melodrama based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell, the most expensive film of its time, which paid back its budget a hundredfold and received 8 Oscars. Young and wayward Scarlett O’Hara enjoys life at the Tara family estate. She carelessly falls in love and dances at balls, not suspecting that war will soon burst into her destiny and take away all the most precious things. In the struggle for the family nest and for the survival of the family, the girl shows a remarkable character, which attracts the mysterious and dangerous Rhett Butler. But Scarlett herself did not understand for many years who she really loves.

Original title:  
Gone with the Wind

Genre:
Melodrama, history, drama

Actors:  
Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard …

Country:  
USA

Rating:  
Myreleasedate – 8.4, IMDb – 8.2

Age restrictions:  
12+


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Jared Lambert/ author of the article

I’ve been writing about movies, TV shows and anime for over 3 years, and you may have seen my reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

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