15 Best American Civil War Movies Of All Time

POSTED BY Ali Raza, UPDATED ON January 19th, 2023

Best American Civil War Movies of All Time

America’s rich history has seen many civil wars. So, it stands to reason that the entertainment industry has had many reiterations of such events. From heroic stories to tragic events, here are the 15 best American civil war movies of all time:

 

15. Free State Of Jones (2016)

Free State Of Jones 2016

Free State Of Jones is a rare film since it wasn’t received well by the critics. However, these factors don’t take away the gripping story and a remarkable depiction of the era-based story.

The film tells the true story of Newton Knight, who leads the famous band of confederate soldiers called the Knight Company.

 

14. Cold Mountain (2003)

Cold Mountain 2003

Cold Mountain is one of the best romance films ever made. While it may not seem like a war-driven film at first, it does get gruesome soon. The film is known for its precise portrayal of the civil war era.

Amidst all the doom and gloom, a hopeless lover, also a wounded soldier, takes up a journey of life or death. All to meet the love of his life. The great part about this film is that it has something for both sides — those who love civil war films and those who wish to see outstanding romance.

 

13. Dances With Wolves (1990)

Dances With Wolves 1990

Dances with Wolves is one of a kind of story set in the civil war era. The main character John Dunbar (Kevin Costner), is sent to helm an outpost. However, things begin to turn around for the lieutenant when he befriends his foes—the Indians.

However, the unlikely friendship with a Wolf earns him the titular nickname. A gripping story and an extended runtime of this remarkable story fly by. Warranting its entertainment value and precise historical accuracy.

 

12. Ride With The Devil (1999)

Ride With The Devil 1999

Ride With The Devil is one of the best performances of Tobey Maguire. But, the Civil War-era accuracy gives this film a place on this list. Telling us the story of Missouri Bushwhackers, this Civil War film takes to the thick of battle.

All these factors make it one of the most entertaining war-time stories. It’s a mixture of various side stories as well, including romance, tragedy, and of course, the horrors of war.

 

11. Little Women (2019)

Little Women 2019

Little Women is proof that not every war film needs to be about the intensity of battle. This all-female cast tells the story of the March Sisters. The film thoroughly captures what life was like for women in the Civil War era.

The stellar story, remarkable acting, and unique plot of this movie, helmed by Greta Gerwig, earned it a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a box office of around $220 million.

 

10. Major Dundee (1965)

Major Dundee 1965

Major Dundee is a Sam Peckinpah special. Often hailed by many screenwriters as the pinnacle of storytelling, this Civil War-era story takes us on a journey with the titular character.

With many plot points clashing against one another, this movie will keep you on the edge of your seat. All the while taking you on an in-depth journey in mid-1800s America.

 

9. Buffalo Soldiers (1997)

Buffalo Soldiers 1997

Buffalo Soldiers is a rare name in the Civil War genre. It was mainly because it wasn’t a theatrical release; rather, it was ousted on television.

However, there’s no doubt about the film’s gripping story, which surrounds Washington Wyatt (Danny Glover) as a formerly enslaved person/soldier. Besides the tensions of the time, it depicts the racial tension between the soldier and his new superiors.

 

8. Gangs of New York (2002)

Gangs of New York 2002

Gangs Of New York gives you many reasons to watch it. First off, it’s led by Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio. The never-ending stellar cast also features many other names, but it’s the gripping story and intriguing style of Martin Scorsese that makes this Civil War Drama outstanding.

The plot revolves around Amsterdam’s (DiCaprio) journey to avenge his father. He gets caught up with a local gang, led by the charismatic Bill The Butcher (Day-Lewis). Besides a strong narrative, the historical element will surely keep you entertained for 2 hours and 47 minutes.

 

7. The Patriot (2000)

The Patriot 2000

The Patriot is perhaps the most famous Civil War film of the 2000s. The film, led by Mel Gibson and directed by Roland Emmerich, took home 215 million USD – which was a lot 22 years ago.

It’s a great watch besides the historical era setting because of the story. Thoroughly embodying the horrors of the Civil War, this war drama has everything you’d hope for in such a film.

 

6. 12 Years A Slave (2013)

12 Years a Slave 2013

12 Years A Slave features another lead-actor Oscar winner, Chiwetel Ejiofor. The story surrounds Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), who is promised a job by his fellows. Instead, what he gets is sold into slavery.

This film thoroughly captures the essence of the Civil War times and the racial biases of the time. So, there’s no doubt why this film took home three Oscars, including Best Actor and Best Motion Picture of the Year.

 

5. Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford 2007

Based on the true story of legendary outlaw Jesse James, the film actually focuses on the man who finally killed him – the Coward Robert Ford. The film tells us why he earned that nickname. If you like civil war period films, then this film has everything. However, it’s the story you’ll find the most intriguing.

Robert Ford, who has idolized Jesse since he was a child, finally joins the gang of his hero. However, a twisted turn of events leads to the titular event of the film—earning him the moniker of Coward, while the outlaw is hailed as the brave one.

 

4. Gettysburg (1993)

Gettysburg 1993

Gettysburg tells us the story of the famous and the biggest battle of the American Civil War and the events leading up to it. Including a stellar cast alongside a gripping story, the film thoroughly portrays the events as they unfolded.

It’s the direction of Ronald F. Maxwell that you’ll find out of this world. Not only because he delivers a visually astounding film, but he thoroughly captures the soul of the most important event of the American Civil War.

 

3. The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant 2015

Based on a true story, the Revenant sees Leonardo DiCaprio go back to the Civil War times. The story is of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), whose legend is almost unbelievable. His unlikely survival commences after the frontiersman was injured to near death by a bear.

The film has everything, gruesome scenes, a bear attack, and elements that might make your stomach churn. But, if a film finally got Leonardo DiCaprio’s long-awaited Oscar, then you know it’s about his work that made the film great.

 

2. Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln 2012

Lincoln is perhaps one of the best performances by the most prolific actors of our era – Daniel Day-Lewis. He plays the titular character to absolute perfection in this Civil War drama.

This film thoroughly portrays the struggles and fights that Abraham Lincoln fought. The man Widely renowned as the Great Emancipator is shown to battle on various ends, as this civil war drama takes historical accuracy to another level.

 

1. Glory (1989)

Great War Movie Glory 1989

Glory is the definition of a stellar-cast film. You can find in it Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and a lesser-known Andre Braugher at the time. But, despite an amazing cast, it’s the story that’ll keep your interest.

Following backlash from superior officers, enemy soldiers, and fellows, Robert Shaw (Broderick) leads a battalion of black solider in the midst of the American Civil War. But, you can guess by the name why this film is renowned the way it is.

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