20+ Classic History Movies to Watch With Older Kids

While Hollywood movies aren’t necessarily “historically accurate,” they do make an impact that sparks people’s interest and encourages people to delve into a subject area in more detail.  Here are some classic movies you might consider watching with your family. Remember, to preview the film first to see if it is appropriate for your family.  When we have watched some of these classic movies together, there are some scenes I’ve chosen to skip depending on the age of my kids.


So here are some suggestions with the general history period it touches. I’ll put a * next to some of the movies we’ve watched with the kids.

  1. Spartacus – Slave uprising against the Roman Republic*
  2. Ben Hur (1959 classic film) – Also set in Rome*
  3. Cleopatra – Classic film set at the time of Julius Caesar *
  4. Lion in Winter – Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, 1183
  5. A Man for All Seasons – Sir Thomas More and Henry VIII (~1530)
  6. Lady Jane – After the death of Henry VIII of England
  7. Elizabeth – Film about the early years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign
  8. 1776 – A musical about the events leading to US independence*
  9. Dancing with Wolves – An officer is sent out West in 1863 and encounters the Sioux*
  10. Glory – An African-American unit that fights for the Union during the Civil War
  11. Gone with the Wind – Film set in the 19th century American South
  12. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 film) – Harrowing account of warfare in WWI
  13. Lawrence of Arabia – WWI time period on the Arabian Peninsula
  14. Casablanca – This classic romantic drama film is set during WWII
  15. The Sound of Music – This classic musical is set as WWII breaks out in Austria*
  16. Schindler’s List – Definitely not for young kids (rated R), but this is a film to keep in mind when the kids are teenagers about a German businessman who saves the lives of more than a thousand Jews
  17. The Holocaust Miniseries – Again, not a movie for younger kids, this made-for-TV mini-series follows the lives of a Jewish family during WWII* (only my oldest)
  18. The Last Emperor – The last emperor of China (~1950)
  19. Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman – Follows the major events of her life from slavery in the South through the Civil Rights Movement*
  20. Forrest Gump – Covers the events of 1942-1989 while following the life of Forrest Gump*
  21. Ruby Bridges – The integration of schools in New Orleans during the Civil Rights Movement, 1960*
  22. The Rosa Parks Story*
  23. Apollo 13 – Dramatizes the aborted Apollo 13 mission to the moon*


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