Historical films to watch: list

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Cinema and history. An inseparable and natural combination. Cinema is the art of the twentieth century because for the first time it told a story through moving images and the voices of the main characters. To do this, a huge catalog enclosed in a label Historical filmsIn addition to being important, it is also one of the oldest.

As always, such a broad genre includes many sub-genres. From historical epics to historical action films. Up to historical-romantic films. Here we will try to put together a list of the best historical films worth watching. On Netflix, RaiPlay, Prime Video. And also in the movies.

With a basic premise. Movies can tell a piece of history, real events through the eyes of fictional characters. How Dunkirk (2017) author Christopher Nolan. Or actually existed. How darkest hour (2017) author Joe Wright. But films can also tell the stories of the men and women who made history. Biopics that gave us portraits of famous people like Gandhi (1982) author Richard Attenborough. Or about great women, in this case it is unknown. How in Right to count (2016) author Theodore Melfi.

historical movies gladiator

Cinema and history are an inseparable pair. Here is a list of the most beautiful historical films that you should definitely watch. And certainly our excursion cannot miss “Gladiator” (2000) by Ridley Scott with Russell Crowe (photo by Ansa)

Latest historical films

In recent years, cinema has rediscovered history. Every year there are many films dedicated to more or less known facts and more or less important characters. Among the latest historical films, it is appropriate to note Last duel (2021) author Ridley Scott. Written and performed Matt Damon AND Ben Affleckset in France in 1386. It tells the story of the last duel of God that took place between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris. Spencer (2022) author Pablo Larrain is a reenactment of Christmas 1991. Lady Diana at Sandringham. When she decided to divorce her husband. Babylon (2022) author Damine ChazelleOn the other hand, it is a reconstruction of an era when Hollywood experienced the transition from silent to sound films.

Nominees for the 2022 Golden Globes Belfast

A still from Kenneth Branagh’s partially autobiographical film “Belfast” (press office photo)

Among films set in the past, one of our favorites is downton abbeytells about the life of the English aristocracy at the turn of the 20s and 30s. Oppenheimer (2023) Christopher Nolan. This is a portrait of the American physicist who heads the Manhattan Project. A group of scientists who created the atomic bomb in the early 1940s. However, to stay at home, among the must-see Italian historical films are night exterior (2022). Where Mark Bellocchio traces the dramatic days of the Moro kidnapping.

A little-known story concerns me. Problems in Northern Ireland. Luckily he thought about it Kenneth Branagh to remind us how they started in his Oscar-winning semi-biographical film, Belfast (2021). John Amelio he told us how Italy abolished the crime of homosexuality in the film ant lord (2022), which tells the story of Aldo Braibanti and the court he faced in 1964.

Elizabeth Taylor Getty

The unforgettable Elizabeth Taylor in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra (1963) (photo by Getty)

Movies set in antiquity

Although the twentieth century and the present are the main inspirations for cinema, the history of the past also has its own charm. The 20s and 30s of Italian cinema are the heyday of the Basque, Bartholomew Pagano in the role of Maciste and in the glorification of Ancient Rome. And then?

Among the films whose action takes place in antiquity, it is impossible not to mention. Gladiator (2000) Ridley Scott. Who gave the Oscar (deservedly) Russell Crowe. A success the director hopes to repeat: he’s making a sequel. Bye Oliver Stone tells us about the heroic deeds (actually somewhat fictional) of the greatest leader of all time: Alexander the Great. Alexander (2004) tells about his life from childhood to accession to the Macedonian throne, up to the conquest of the East.

To stay in this geographic region, the main product of historical films is Cleopatra. We recommend watching the 1963 film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. And with Liz Taylor AND Richard Burton for the main characters. Perhaps compared to other depictions of the Queen of Egypt, this one is less accurate, but it’s certainly a great movie.

Epic movies to watch

Myths and legends are how our ancestors tried to convey historical facts. For this reason, without taking it literally, one should carefully follow the story they offer. Very interesting in that sense. Legend of Beowulf (2007) author Robert Zemeckis. An adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon epic poem. Beowulf The action takes place in Denmark in the 6th century.

To complete the picture, we mention among the epic films Troy (2004) author Wolfgang Petersen. WITH Brad Pitt like Achilles, Eric Bana at Hector, Orlando Bloom this is Paris and Diane Kruger This is Elena of Troy. This epic blockbuster is based on a poem Iliad Homer, but this is only for ardent fans of Pitt. While a great epic movie is definitely worth watching, Matthew Oak. which takes us back to the timesAeneid With First king (2019). The film takes place in 753 BC, the year of the founding of Rome according to tradition. The film is a reimagining of the myth of Romulus and Remus, who were played respectively Alessio Lapise AND Alessandro Borgo.

For the more daring and daring there is also Alexander Nevskiy (1938) author Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein. An epic about a national folk hero who liberates the Russian land from the Teutonic Knights and the Roman Church. Made as part of Stalin’s anti-Nazi propaganda. Masterpiece.

Historical movies to watch

It’s not easy to make a list of must-see historical films. Because there are many of them, perhaps also belonging to other genres. For when this is a fictional story, how can you not insert a movie like Life is Beautiful? This is no less important than Schindler’s list, which, however, shows the world the figure of a German who did not turn his face away. Always stay on the side Steven Spielbergno one has ever filmed such war scenes as he did. Save Private Ryan (1998). A film for fans of the historical setting, which cannot be missing from this list.

But this also applies to two completely opposite films. Myself Mel Gibson refreshed Scottish heroism (and the spirit of independence) with Braveheart – Braveheart (1995) Stanley Kubrick literally took us to the eighteenth century with Barry Lyndon (1975).

Barry Lyndon

Stanley Kubrick on the set of Barry Lyndon with Ryan O’Neal (photo by LaPresse)

We cannot ignore such a cornerstone of Italian revealing cinema as Salvatore Giuliano (1962) author Francis Rosie. Which tells of the massacre at Portella della Ginestra. OR rubber wall (1991) author Marco Rice. Who fearlessly delve into the mysteries of the massacre in Ustica.

There are two must-see films across the ocean. The first one is All the President’s people (1976) author Alan J. Pakula With Dustin Hoffman AND Robert Redford. Based on an essay of the same name by journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, it traces the Washington Post investigation that led to the 1974 Watergate scandal and the resignation of Richard Nixon as president of the United States. Another John F. Kennedy – Case still open (1991) Oliver Stone. Which debunks the official thesis that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only material perpetrator of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

John F. Kennedy - The case is still open

“John F. Kennedy: Case Still Open” (1991). A great reenactment of what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Oliver Stone and Kevin Costner try to explain

Historical films you can watch for free in Italian

If you can’t wait for the TV schedule. And you don’t have access to streaming or satellite platforms. The best way to enjoy historical movies and watch them for free in Italian is Raiplay. Whether it’s on the website or through the app on smart TVs, there are a large number of top-level movies to watch.

Among the beautiful historical films that can be found, there are certainly 1918 – Days of Courage (2017) author Saul DibbWith Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield AND Paul Bettany. Which chronicles the last stages of World War I from a trench on the Western Front of France. It is also of great value Silence. 2016 film director Martin Scorsese which tells about the persecution of Christians in Japan during the Tokugawa period in the seventeenth century, as well as the story of the real Jesuits Cristován Ferreira and Giuseppe Chiara.


Scene from the film “I cento passi” by Marco Tullio Jordan (photo by the press office)

If you haven’t seen it yet, we advise you to watch it too. green book (2018) author: Peter FarrellyBest Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. Which, in addition to the true story, gives an incredible insight into American racial segregation in the 50s and 60s. Going back to our days and the MeToo movement, Raiplay is also present Bomb – the voice of scandal (2019) author Jay Roach. Film starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman AND Margot RobbieBased on the testimony of women at Fox News who decided to sue CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.

Italian historical movies you can watch for free

But here you will find great Italian cinema. Beginning with good morning night, a 2003 film directed by Marco Bellocchio. Which tells about the kidnapping, detention and murder of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in 1978. And then such a wonderful film as One hundred steps (2000) author Marco Tullio Jordana. Dedicated to the life and murder of Peppino Impastato, an activist involved in the fight against Cosa Nostra in his homeland, Sicily.

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We remain on the mafia stage with two films not to be missed. The first one is Judge Boy (1994) author Alessandro Di Robilant. Focus on the life of Sicilian judge Rosario Livatino (Giulio Scarpati), from joining the judiciary to his involvement in the fight against the mafia until his assassination on September 21, 1990. Second – Leah (2015) Marco Tullio Jordan. Where is the magnificent Vanessa Scalera brings to the screen the heroic story of Leah Garofalo, a witness to justice who was murdered by the ‘Ndrangheta on November 24, 2009.


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