Top 10 US Civil War Movies of All Time

Top 10 US Civil War Movies

Did you know that the US Civil War is one of the most misunderstood events in American history? The war gave shape to the country we know today and has been featured in a great variety of inspirational movies.

Some of these movies are not only entertaining but had a great deal of impact over modern perceptions of the Civil War.

Today we’re taking a look at 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)

Starting us off in the 1999 film Ride with the Devil, directed by Ang Lee. Featuring a Pre-spider man, Tobey Maguire, and a post scream Skeet Ulrich, Ride with the Devil is a revisionist Western which was an adaptation of the book Woe to Levan by Daniel Woodrow.

The story follows a group of pro-Confederacy soldiers known as Bushwackers who participate in a more guerrilla style of warfare.

You would be forgiven for not remembering that Ride with the Devil existed due to its limited theatrical release and the fact that it was lost in the shuffle during a blockbuster season that included Toy Story 2.

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)

Containing a virtual who’s who of movie stars and production crew from the 1960s, How the West Was Won is an epic drama spanning the course of 50 years.

Throughout the 167 minutes runtime, we see the dramatization of the key events leading up to during and after the American Civil War.

How the West Was Won goes beyond being a war movie. It’s an episodic drama showing an ever-expanding nation.

Being that it had so many powerhouse names attached. It’s not an enormous shock that How the West Was Won was a huge success.

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)

Nominated for more than 70 awards, including seven Academy Awards, Cold Mountain gives viewers an interesting glimpse at what life looked like in the Cold Mountain region of North Carolina as the American Civil War wound down.

Following a deserter from the Confederate Army, Cold Mountain took the same approach to casting as how the West Was Won, filling every scene with as many familiar faces as possible.

The film has received scrutiny regarding its rare passing mentions of slavery and also its negative portrayal of Appalachian people.

Despite this, Cold Mountain was a success and continues to be a must-see war movie. 

#7. Shenandoah (1965)

Shenandoah (1965)

Released in 1965, Shenandoah portrays a large family led by widower Charlie Anderson as the Civil war rages and eventually makes its way to the small Virginia town.

Much acclaim was given to James Stewart in his role as Charlie Anderson. Some critics have even stated that this was the best role of his career.

In the time since the release of Shenandoah, a lot of praise was heaped onto the movie due to its overall themes.

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

Regardless of your views, Shenandoah remains a must-see movie. 

#6. Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln (2012)

WatchingDaniel Day‑Lewis play historical figures both real and fictional, is always a delight, and his 2012 role as President Abraham Lincoln did not disappoint.

Lincoln places the audience in 1865 as the Civil War nears its end and the fight to ratify the 14th Amendment of the Constitution heats up.

The film received widespread critical acclaim, including many celebrating the performances of not only Day‑Lewis but also his costars, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones.

But as with many historical dramas, the accuracy of many of the events depicted throughout the movie has come under scrutiny by historians.

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

#5. Friendly Persuasion (1956)

Friendly Persuasion (1956)

Relative to its subject matter, Friendly Persuasion is easily the most lighthearted movie on this list.

Released in 1956, featuring Gary Cooper and a star making turn from Anthony Perkins, Friendly Persuasion gives audiences a view of a small Quaker community in Indiana as the stresses of the war make their way to their town.

The movie was a moderate success, earning back more than double its $3 million budget and receiving warm reviews from critics. Friendly Persuasion did initially receive an Academy Award nomination.

The film was disqualified due to writer Michael Wilson not being credited while he was being questioned by the House of Unamerican Activities.

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)

Adapted from the 1974 novel The Killer Angels and written by Michael Shara, Gettysburg was a made for television’s miniseries, which aired in 1993.

With yet another starstudded cast boasting the likes of Tom Berenger and Martin Sheen, Gettysburg received a short run as a theatrical release as well.

With a whopping 254 minutes runtime, the film was received very positively by general audiences even if critic reviews were mixed.

Gettysburg was not a complete success, though it failed to make back its budget of $20 million, grossing only twelve $7 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) 

Hitting screens for the first time in 1939, Gone with the Wind is an epic war drama set in the American South during the period covering the Civil War and America’s Reconstruction era.

When it was released, Gone with the Wind was extremely successful and remains one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

Much of this success can be attributed to the doomed romance between characters Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, played masterfully by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable respectively, which was pushed to the forefront of the plot.

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)

 

Both directed and starring Clint Eastwood. The Outlaw Josey Wales tells the story of a Missouri farmer who joins Confederate guerrillas in order to get revenge on a group of Union soldiers that murdered his family.

Receiving high praise from none other than Orson Welles for his directing ability, Clint Eastwood further cemented his place among the Hollywood elite with this film.

The Outlaw Josey Wales was a critical success and currently holds a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s one of many Clint Eastwood roles that is considered to be iconic.

#1. Glory (1989)

Glory (1989)

First hitting theaters in 1989, Glory is the first movie revolving around the American Civil War to depict African American contributions to the war effort in a significant way.

Starring Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Matthew Broderick, the movie tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Union’s First African American Regiment.

Despite a few complaints of historical inaccuracies, Glory was extremely well-received among critics and fans alike. To this day, it holds an impressive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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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