THE BEST OF TEACH WITH MOVIES
Based on our own experience and recommendations from TWM Users, each of these movies will present a stellar educational experience for World History classes. We couldn’t limit it to ten.
Give us your input! Email your nominations and a description of your reasons, including your experience with the film. Tell us the name of your school and what grades you teach. You might find yourself in print.
Don’t ignore the great teaching opportunities from other movies! There are about a hundred excellent movies on American History that didn’t make this list. Take a look at them, too! Review TWM’s extensive Index of Movies on U.S. History and Culture.
Check the list from time to time. We’ll change it depending on your feedback and our experience. It’s an ongoing conversation.
The movie itself has many flaws from the historical standpoint, however, it is the best description on film of Hypatia, one of the most remarkable women of the Hellenistic Civilization. It also is an entre into a study of Alexandria, Egypt, second only to Rome in its importance to the Ancient world. TWM’s Lesson Plan on Ancient Alexandria, Hypatia, and the Decline of Greco-Roman Civilization — using the Film Agora will help teachers bring out the film’s strengths and correct for its weaknesses. (World/Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome; Religions (Christianity & Judaism); SEL: Female Role Model; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Respect) [14+]
All Quiet on the Western Front
This is the classic view of the First World War from the German side and one of the most important anti-war films ever made. (World/Germany & WWI; SEL: Courage in War; Peace/Peacemakers; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness; Respect; Citizenship; Caring) [12+]
A Man for All Seasons
This film presents an incorrect and overly-flattering picture of a man who burned Protestants at the stake and would not abandon his Catholic faith. However, Thomas More was a remarkable man and his story reveals much about England in the 16th century. TWM’s Learning Guide will show teachers how to correct for the problems and accentuate the strengths of the film. (Biography/Thomas More; World/England & the Renaissance; Religions/Christianity; Drama/England; SEL: Courage; Male Role Model; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness) [12+]
The Book Thief
This is fiction, but the book deserves to be read (or, if not, the movie should be shown) in History classes. The Book Thief is an excellent description of what life was like in WWII Germany. The viewer comes to love several German civilians who are killed — by our flyers in an air raid. The movie brings home the meaning of “civilian casualties.” (World/Germany, WW-II, ELA (theme, personification, symbol, & irony); SEL: Families in Crisis; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Responsibility, Caring) [13+]
The progression of Rick’s character shows the path of the U.S. from the isolationism of the 1920s and 1930s to involvement in the affairs of the world. It also provides a glimpse of Vichy France and its colonies in North Africa during WWII. (U.S./1941 – 1945; World/WWII, France & Morocco; SEL: Romantic Relationships; Redemption; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Responsibility; Caring; Citizenship) [12+]
A crazy U.S. Air Force general launches an unprovoked nuclear attack on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This film explores the ironies of the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction which has kept the world free of nuclear war for more than 70 years. (U.S./1945 – 1991; SEL: Leadership; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness) [10+]
For Love or Country — The Arturo Sandoval Story
The great jazz trumpeter, Arturo Sandoval was trapped in Communist Cuba where he was not permitted to play the music he loved. This is the story of his escape. TWM has provided a Lesson Plan on Artistic Freedom As a Human Right to go along with this movie. (Music/Jazz; World/Cuba and the Cold War Era; (Biography; SEL: Human Rights; Courage; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness; Citizenship) [12+]
A Force More Powerful
This film presents, in six short subjects, examples of nonviolent direct action (adaptations of Gandhi’s Satyagraha) that have peacefully changed regimes or served as the catalyst for important social reforms throughout the world. TWM’s Learning Guide to the movie presents the historical background for the film’s thesis that nonviolent direct action was the most important political development of the 20th century. (World/India, Poland, Denmark, Chile, South Africa; 1800s – the Present; U.S./1945 – the Present; Civil Rights Movement, Tennessee; SEL: Peace/Peacemakers; Moral-Ethical: — Citizenship) [12+; Six sections, each between 20 and 30 minutes in length]
Gandhi was probably the most influential man of the 20th century. Various forms of non-violent direct action (adaptations of Gandhi’s Satyagraha) have peacefully changed regimes or served as the catalyst for important social reforms in over a hundred nations throughout the world. See Learning Guide to A Force More Powerful discussed below. (Biography; World/India, South Africa, England & 1800s – Cold War Era; U.S./Diversity; Religions; SEL: Rebellion; Peace/Peacemakers; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness; Respect; Responsibility; Fairness; Caring; Citizenship) [10+]
Grave of the Fireflies
One of the most beautiful and gripping animated films ever made, Grave of the Fireflies is the tragic take of two orphaned children in post-WWII Japan. (U.S./1941 – 1991; World/WW-II and Japan; Cinema; SEL: Human Rights; Surviving; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Caring) [13+]
This is the story of the Irish revolution against the British and the only example, perhaps until ISIS, in which terrorism was used to obtain independence for a country (Biography; World/Ireland; SEL: Courage in War; Breaking Out; Peace/Peacemakers; Rebellion; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness; Respect) [14+]
This movie provides a glimpse of the Jesuit missions in South America which offered a near-utopian refuge for the indigenous peoples from the slavers of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. (Religions/Christianity; World/South America, Paraguay, Brazil; SEL: Redemption; Courage; Brothers; Rebellion; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Respect) [13+]
This film is the quintessential Allied propaganda of the Second World War. (World/England & WWII; SEL: Families in Crisis; Female Role Model; Courage in War; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness) [10+]
(Biography; World/WWII; SEL: Courage; Rebellion; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness; Respect; Caring) [15+]
Sometimes in April
This film recounts the story of the Rwandan Genocide of the Tutsi minority. (World/Rwanda & the Post-Cold War Era; SEL: Human Rights; Courage; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Responsibility; Citizenship) [14+]
This film provides a glimpse of what life was like for gladiators in ancient Rome. (Biography; World/Ancient Rome; SEL: Rebellion; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Respect) [13+]
This is a story of President Kennedy’s measured and inspired reaction to Nikita Kruschev’s gamble when he placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. (U.S./1945 – 1991; World/Russia & The Cold War; SEL: Leadership; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Responsibility) [12+]
Tora! Tora! Tora!
This movie describes the events surrounding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, from both the Japanese and the American points of view. (U.S./1941 – 1945; World/Japan & WWII; Seafaring; SEL: Courage in War; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness) [10+] (Portions in Japanese with English subtitles)
This movie is the story of child-widows in India in the 1930s. The TWM Learning Guide to this film shows teachers how to use the movie as a springboard for discussions of the difficulties women face in countries that do not value the worth of their female citizens. (World/India; Religions/Hinduism; ELA; SEL: Human Rights; Suicide; Breaking Out; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Respect; Caring; Fairness) [12+; Literary devices analyzed: character, symbols, subplot, foils, and irony]
The White Rose
Hans and Sophie Scholl were students in WWII Germany; the formed a cell to publicize their disagreement with the policies of the Nazis. This story shows their work, apprehension, and quick execution. (World/Germany & WWII; SEL: Rebellion; Courage; Moral-Ethical Emphasis: Trustworthiness) (13+)