Summer Movies—Extra Credit

AP U.S. History Movie List

Recommended viewing—Extra Credit:

Watch one movie from each time section—see list on my webpage—you choose which ones you want to watch. If you find a movie from a time frame that isn’t listed, you may substitute your choice—you are not limited to the list below.

After watching the movies, write a summary for each movie (A TOTAL OF FIVE SUMMARIES!!). Use the summary description below to guide your writing. This EXTRA CREDIT Assignment will be due on Friday 9/18/20. Note that extra credit is RARE for AP classes, so you are encouraged to take the opportunity. Summary: 150-200 words each, typed, should include:

  • *a brief description of the historical event or person including time frame
  • *where the event took place or the person lived (setting)
  • * the major historical lesson to be learned from that event or person
  • *What connection can be made between the past (event of movie) and the present?
  • * How did you like the film and did it sparked any interest?


HINT: You & your friends can watch the SAME movie BUT YOU HAVE TO TURN IN SEPARATE SUMMARIES. Watch the movie together and have a discussion on it, so you understand it better!! ☺


AP US History

1) Early American History
Black Robe – Actually set in Canada, this movie is about the earliest settlers and their attempts to Christianize the Indians. It involves a little violence and sex, but is mostly an introspective movie set in early colonial times
The Crucible – This concerns the Salem Witch Trials and is not completely accurate but close.
The Last of the Mohicans – An excellent movie and decent adaptation of the book, it is set during the French and Indian Wars. Notice the relationship between the colonists and the British and the expectations the British had of Colonial obedience. Remember, of course, that this is based on a book that was written in the 1800s, after the Revolutionary War.
1776 – A musical version of the 2nd Continental Congress and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It has some minor inaccuracies, but it is basically truthful and informative. It is also a fairly entertaining musical if you like musical films.
The Patriot – Set in the Revolutionary War, not completely factually accurate but based on factual events. Basically it is a "hollywoodized" epic account.
Jefferson in Paris – A decent movie concerning the 1780s and early 1790s.

2) Nineteenth Century


Amistad – A Spielberg directed film set in 1839-40 about a group of escaped slaves on trial for mutiny.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – It would be better to read the book, but this story does tell you a little about life along the Mississippi River in the mid-19th Century, from the existence of slavery, to the scandalous behavior of traveling "snake oil" salesmen, etc.
Gettysburg – A film based on Jeff Sharra’s book The Killer Angels. Outstanding book and a moving film set in and around the Battle of Gettysburg.
Glory – A really good movie about the 54th of Massachusetts during the Civil War, it features Denzell Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Matthew Broderick.
Sommersby – An American adaptation of the French film The Return of Martin Guerre. It features Richard Gere as a soldier returning from the Civil War and Jody Foster as his wife, or is she?
Gone With the Wind – This classic love story is set in Georgia before, during and after the Civil War; it is basically a great love story, but it does portray the opulence of the aristocratic South as well as the devastation of the war. Make note of the somewhat racist stereotyping of the blacks in the movie, noting that the film was made in the 1930s. Compare this to Glory or A House Divided.
A House Divided – A good story but poorly made film about a family in Hancock county Georgia before and after the Civil War. It involves racial issues as well as property rights etc. Warning: it has a short, but not particularly violent or sexual, rape scene in it that could be disturbing to some people.
Dances with Wolves – This is a great movie about an American soldier who is greatly influenced by the Indians during his time stationed on the frontier. It stars Kevin Costner.

3) Early 20th Century

Iron Jawed Angels – A powerful movie, starring Hillary Swank, about the efforts of Alice Paul to get the vote for women.
Eight Men Out --About the Chicago White Sox scandal involving the World Series in 1919. It involves issues of ownership power and of the unions.
Matewan – This is another John Sayles movie set in the early 1900s. It is about wildcat miner strikers and has some great actors in it, including James Earl Jones.
Birth of a Nation – An infamous, racist silent movie about the founding of the KKK. In the film the founder of the KKK is made out to be a hero and the savior of American culture.
Rosewood – Set in the segregated South in the 1920s, this movie is about a white family living in a black town and about the racism of the white town nearby.
Inherit the Wind - Make sure you get the older version with Frederick March and Spencer Tracy. It is a classic movie depicting the Scopes Monkey Trial. But it is really more about the McCarthy Era of the 1950s.
The Great Gatsby – This is a fairly good adaptation of the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Like most film adaptations of classic novels, it disappointed many purists, but it was a pretty good movie. It was painstaking in its recreation of the time period.

The Sting and The Road to Perdition are two very good movies set in crime circles during the 20s and 30s, especially during prohibition.
Cinderella Man & Seabiscuit - Sports movies set in the 1930s and based on true stories.

The Great Debaters - It is a factual story about a debate team from a small black college that accepted an invitation to debate at Harvard. It concerns segregation, the Thirties, debating, regionalism, and power.

The Grapes of Wrath – Set in the Depression, this movie is a classic which portrays the Oklahoma dust bowl, the growth of paternalism in government, and the greed of the wealthy California land owners, etc.
Of Mice and Men – This is a film adaptation of another John Steinbeck novel. It is a powerful story partially about the effects of the economic devastation of the Depression on the relationship between two men. It also explores the dark side of mental illness.




Saving Private Ryan-- U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Band of Brothers (1 episode) –Spielberg mini-series, US airborne behind enemy lines in 1944

Pearl Harbor

Patton—Biographical film about US Tank commander

Gentlemen’s Agreement --Anti-Semitism in the US

The Great Escape—Escape from a German prison camp.

Tora Tora Tora!Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

Midway-- Battle of Midway, June 5, 1942

The Longest Day--The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view

Tuskeegee Airmen­—African American pilots in segregated training in WWII.

Flags of Our Fathers-- story of the men behind the second raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima

Letters from Iwo Jima-- the battle for Iwo Jima presented from the Japanese perspective

The Bridge over the River Kwai – Allied POWs in a Japanese prison camp. (Compare this with Bridges at Toko-Ri)
The Bridges at Toko-Ri –A Korean War movie that takes a somewhat critical view of war, quite a change from the WWII era movies. This is important because it is an early anti-war movie.


5) Late 20th Century Movies

To Kill a Mockingbird – Based on the great book by Harper Lee, this basically true story is presented well in the 1960s era movie starring Gregory Peck. It captures racial attitudes in the Jim Crow South.
Far From Heaven – A recent movie with Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid that is an indictment of the conservatism of the 1950s. The story involves a wealthy suburban couple that ends up divorcing, but not until they deal with some major issues.
Quiz Show – Another relatively recent film directed by Robert Redford about a scandal involving a quiz show in the 1950s. The set, the costumes, the cars etc. are all excellently portrayed.
Good Night and Good Luck – 2005 movie about the life of newscaster, Edward R. Murrow during McCarthy era.
Rebel Without a Cause - Starring James Dean. This captures the iconoclastic attitude of some of the people in the fifties who, despite all the affluence, felt they did not fit in and that something must be wrong.
October Sky - About a teenager and his science project during Sputnik Era.
The Front – An early Woody Allen movie that deals with the dark side of the Red Scare, the blacklist, it features a few actors who were blacklisted. More recently The Majestik with Jim Carey dealt with some of the same issues.
JFK – Oliver Stone movie, presents an explanation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy

Thirteen Days - Account of the inside workings of the Kennedy White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Mississippi Burning –The disappearance of three civil rights workers in Mississippi.
Malcolm X –The life and times of Malcolm X, with Denzell Washington..
The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, or Born on the Fourth of July, all feature disillusionment of soldiers or ex-soldiers after their experience in Vietnam. They are all a bit depressing and dark.
Platoon – Excellent war movie set in Vietnam. Also set in Vietnam are Hamburger Hill & Full Metal Jacket. Nixon–About one of America’s greatest “villains”?

All the President’s Men – An adaptation of the book by Woodward and Bernstein; it features Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as the two newsmen who uncovered the Watergate scandal.
The Insider - An indictment of the tobacco industry starring Russell Crowe as a former employee testifying against them.
Miracle – A powerful sports movie about the 1980 Olympic hockey team. Historical significance is in the first five mins.
Food Inc. – a great documentary about the power of big business in the food industry.


From accessed and adapted on 6/4/13


accessed and adapted on 6/4/13