Top 10 US Civil War Movies of All Time

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The US Civil War was a watershed event in American history. Many movies have been made about the war, and it is easy to get lost between all American Civil War Movies.

So after lots of research, I have put together a list of what I consider to be the top 10 US Civil War movies of all time.

Here is the list of the top ten US Civil War movies of all time.

10 Best US Civil War Movies

There are a staggering amount of Civil War movies out there; so many that it can be hard to know where to start. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place for help on picking the best Civil War movies of all time.

With this list of top 10 Best US Civil War movies, you’ll soon be enjoying them in no time!

#10. Ride with the Devil (1999)

Ride with the Devil (1999)

We’ll begin with Ang Lee’s picture Ride with the Devil, which was released in 1999. Ride with the Devil is a revisionist Western starring Tobey Maguire as a pre-spider man and Skeet Ulrich as a post-scream Skeet Ulrich. It is based on Daniel Woodrow’s novel Woe to Levan.

The plot follows the Bushwackers, a group of pro-Confederacy soldiers that fight in a more guerilla manner of combat.

Due to its limited theatrical distribution and the fact that it got lost in the shuffle during a blockbuster season that included Toy Story 2, you’d be excused for forgetting about Ride with the Devil.

Ride with the Devil received mixed reviews upon release and currently holds a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite this, many praised, the film’s examination of violence and politics during this era. 

#9. How the West Was Won (1962)

How the West Was Won (1962)

How the West Was Won is a 50-year epic drama that features a virtual who’s who of 1960s cinema performers and production team.

We watch the dramatization of significant events leading up to, during, and after the American Civil War during the course of the 167-minute length.

How the West Was Won is more than a war film. It’s an episodic drama about a rapidly developing country.

It had a lot of big names associated to it, so it was a no-brainer. It should come as no surprise that How the West Was Won was a big hit.

The movie won three Academy Awards, was nominated for five others, and to date has grossed an excess of $50 million against a $15 million budget.

#8. Cold Mountain (2003)

Cold Mountain (2003)

Cold Mountain was nominated for almost 70 awards, including seven Academy Awards, and gives viewers an inside look at life in the Cold Mountain region of North Carolina as the American Civil War came to a close.

Cold Mountain, which follows a Confederate Army deserter, used the same casting method as How the West Was Won, stuffing as many familiar faces into every scene as possible.

The film has been chastised for making subtle parallels to slavery and portraying Appalachian people in a negative light.

Regardless, Cold Mountain was a box office success and is now considered a must-see military picture.

#7. Shenandoah (1965)

Shenandoah (1965)

Shenandoah, a 1965 film, features a large family led by widower Charlie Anderson while the Civil War rages and eventually reaches the little Virginia town.

James Stewart garnered a lot of appreciation for his depiction of Charlie Anderson. Some critics have even claimed that this was his best performance ever.

Because of its overall themes, Shenandoah has gotten a lot of praise in the time since its release.

The film’s powerful antiwar message resonated with many as attitudes regarding American involvement in the Vietnam War altered.

Shenandoah is a must-see film regardless of your viewpoint.

#6. Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln (2012)

It’s always a treat to see Daniel Day Lewis play historical figures, both real and fictitious, and his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln in 2012 did not disappoint.

As the Civil War draws to a close and the campaign to enact the 14th Amendment to the Constitution heats up, Lincoln sets the audience in 1865.

The film gained considerable critical praise, with many praising DayLewis’, as well as his co-stars Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones’, performances.

However, historians have questioned the veracity of many of the events presented in the film, as they do with numerous historical dramas.

Regardless of this, Lincoln has impressed many audiences and currently holds a fantastic 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

#5. Friendly Persuasion (1956)

Friendly Persuasion (1956)

Friendly Persuasion is by far the lightest film on our list, despite its subject matter.

Friendly Persuasion was released in 1956 and stars Gary Cooper and Anthony Perkins in a star-making role. It depicts a little Quaker community in Indiana as the tensions of the war find their way to their hamlet.

The film was a middling success, grossing more than double its $3 million budget and gaining positive critical reviews. Friendly Persuasion was nominated for an Academy Award at first.

Because writer Michael Wilson was not acknowledged while being questioned by the House of Unamerican Activities, the picture was rejected.

A short-lived government body that blacklisted anyone in Hollywood deems to be a Communist regardless of their actual political affiliations.

#4. Gettysburg (1993)

Gettysburg (1993)

 

Gettysburg was a made-for-television drama that aired in 1993, adapted from the 1974 novel The Killer Angels and written by Michael Shara.

Gettysburg had a brief theatrical run, thanks to a star-studded ensemble that included Tom Berenger and Martin Sheen.

Despite mixed critical reviews, the picture was well welcomed by popular audiences, despite its long length of 254 minutes.

Gettysburg was not a complete failure; it failed to recoup its $20 million budget, generating just $12 million at the time.

However, the movie received high ratings on the IMDb website. One of the biggest highlights was the enormous battle scenes, which alone makes Gettysburg a must-watch.

#3. Gone with the Wind (1939) 

Gone with the Wind (1939) 

Gone with the Wind is an epic war drama set in the American South during the period encompassing the Civil War and America’s Reconstruction Period, which initially premiered in 1939.

Gone with the Wind was a huge hit when it came out, and it’s still one of the highest-grossing pictures of all time.

Much of the film’s popularity may be ascribed to the tragic romance between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, which was pushed to the foreground of the storyline by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, respectively.

In more recent years, many audiences and critics have taken to criticizing Gone with the Wind due to a perceived revisionist history which glorified slavery.

Regardless of this, Gone with the Wind is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made.

#2. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

 

Clint Eastwood directed and starred in both films. The narrative of a Missouri farmer who joins Confederate guerrillas in order to get revenge on a troop of Union soldiers who slaughtered his family is told in The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Clint Eastwood established his spot among the Hollywood elite with this film, which received great accolades from none other than Orson Welles for his directing abilities.

The Outlaw Josey Wales was a critical and commercial triumph, with a 90 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating. It’s one of many great Clint Eastwood performances.

#1. Glory (1989)

Glory (1989)

Glory is the first film set during the American Civil War to feature African American contributions to the war effort in a substantial degree. It was released in 1989.

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Union’s First African American Regiment, is the subject of this film, which stars Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Matthew Broderick.

Despite a few historical mistakes, Glory garnered mostly positive reviews from reviewers and fans alike. On Rotten Tomatoes, it now has a score of 93 percent.

Glory was nominated for over 20 awards overall, with three Academy Award wins, including Best supporting actor for Denzel Washington of the tragic deserter turned hero Private Trip.


Civil War was a terrible, dark episode in American history, but made for some fantastic cinema! This was our top 10 list of the best US Civil War Movies of All Time, so what about yours?.

Do you agree with our list? If you have any suggestions or comments please shoot them down in the comments below.  

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