The 25 Greatest Historical Epicsby temple1865 | last updated - 02 Dec 2010 | Public
From the Red Sea to the beaches of Normandy, lavish history in American film.
- Instant Watch Options
- Movies or TV
- IMDb Rating
- In Theaters
- On TV
- Release Year
1. Gone with the Wind (1939)
G | 238 min | Drama, History, Romance
A manipulative woman and a roguish man conduct a turbulent romance during the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods.
Votes: 238,211 | Gross: $198.68M
Margrett Mitchell's tale of Georigans living through the Civil War and Reconstruction told in glorious technicolor. Filled with legendary performances by Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel, topped off by one of film's greatest orchestral scores and four hours long. It does not get more eipc than this.
2. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Approved | 197 min | Drama, Romance, War
The life of a Russian physician and poet who, although married to another, falls in love with a political activist's wife and experiences hardship during the First World War and then the October Revolution.
Votes: 59,899 | Gross: $111.72M
David Lean's romantic epic, based on Boris Pasternak's novel set in Revolutionary Russia is a perfect representative of the genre.
3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
PG | 216 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama
The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.
Votes: 215,319 | Gross: $44.82M
David Lean captures our fascination with the desert in this story of the First World War. A beautiful picture, perfect in every way.
4. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
PG | 161 min | Adventure, Drama, War
After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
Votes: 166,319 | Gross: $44.91M
David Lean's first epic, a POW movie set in the Pacific during World War II, both thirlling and inspiring, one of the best in a genre full of greats.
5. Schindler's List (1993)
R | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History
In German-occupied Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazi Germans.
Votes: 969,331 | Gross: $96.07M
Spielberg's finest work, one of the most moving films ever released.
6. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Unrated | 136 min | Drama, War
A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.
Votes: 50,181 | Gross: $3.27M
The First World War perfectly represented, another very moving film.
7. Titanic (1997)
PG-13 | 194 min | Drama, Romance
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.
Votes: 871,585 | Gross: $0.59M
James Cameron breathing fresh life into the romatic epic genre, one of the all time greatest.
8. Ben-Hur (1959)
G | 212 min | Adventure, Drama, History
When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.
Votes: 180,485 | Gross: $74.70M
William Wyler take's Lew Wallace's tale to soring heights in this great movie, one of the most moving of all religious epics.
9. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Not Rated | 195 min | Drama, History, War
The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.
Votes: 18,701 | Gross: $10.00M
The movie that started it all. D.W. Griffith, the genre's pioneer.
10. Patton (1970)
GP | 172 min | Biography, Drama, War
The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.
Votes: 82,553 | Gross: $61.70M
George C. Scott's performace is one of the greatest in movie history. The Greatest of all World War II movies about Americans on the western front.
11. The Ten Commandments (1956)
Approved | 220 min | Adventure, Drama
The Egyptian Prince, Moses, learns of his true heritage as a Hebrew and his divine mission as the deliverer of his people.
Votes: 52,412 | Gross: $93.74M
Cecil B DeMill's greatest work, the story of Exodus beautifully told with fanstastic performances by Charlton Heston, Yul Brenner and Anne Baxter.
12. War and Peace (1956)
PG | 208 min | Drama, Romance, War
Napoleon's tumultuous relations with Russia including his disastrous 1812 invasion serve as the backdrop for the tangled personal lives of two aristocratic families.
Votes: 7,479 | Gross: $12.50M
Often maligned and usually condiered inferior to its Russian counterpart, Paramount's War and Peace has everything an epic needs to be considered great, well directed, beautifully photographed and chalk full of stars. Audrey Hepburn's performance is one of the greatest in her legendary carrer.
13. Glory (1989)
R | 122 min | Biography, Drama, History
Robert Gould Shaw leads the U.S. Civil War's first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices from both his own Union Army, and the Confederates.
Votes: 107,914 | Gross: $26.83M
The story of one of the first all black regiments to serve for the Union in the American Civil war wonderfully told, Denzel Washington's performance is legendary.
14. Gladiator (2000)
R | 155 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
When a Roman General is betrayed, and his family murdered by an emperor's corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.
Votes: 1,093,764 | Gross: $187.71M
Ben-Hur meets Spartacus with Russel Crowe, need I say more?
15. Spartacus (1960)
PG-13 | 197 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama
The slave Spartacus leads a violent revolt against the decadent Roman Republic.
Votes: 105,686 | Gross: $30.00M
Kubrick's beautiful story of servile insurrection. Kirk Douglas and Lawrence Olivier steal the show.
16. Apocalypse Now (1979)
R | 147 min | Drama, War
During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.
Votes: 496,867 | Gross: $83.47M
Francis Ford Coppola's chilling Vietnam story.
17. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
R | 202 min | Crime, Drama
The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York City is portrayed, while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate.
Votes: 887,943 | Gross: $57.30M
When gangster meets epic.
18. Reds (1981)
PG | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History
A radical American journalist becomes involved with the Communist revolution in Russia, and hopes to bring its spirit and idealism to the United States.
Votes: 17,807 | Gross: $40.38M
Warren Betty's story of American Jack Reed and Louise Bryant (played by Diane Keaton) in the Russian Revolution is one of the best of the Romantic Epics.
19. Gandhi (1982)
PG | 191 min | Biography, Drama, History
Gandhi's character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence. Through his patience, he is able to drive the British out of the subcontinent. And the stubborn nature of Jinnah and his commitment towards Pakistan is portrayed.
Votes: 189,354 | Gross: $52.77M
An epic tale of an epic life.
20. Cleopatra (1963)
G | 192 min | Biography, Drama, History
Queen Cleopatra of Egypt experiences both triumph and tragedy as she attempts to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome.
Votes: 24,059 | Gross: $57.78M
Another epic tale of an epic life.
21. The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
G | 225 min | Biography, Drama, History
An all-star, large scale epic film that chronicles the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Votes: 7,085 | Gross: $15.47M
Title says it all.
22. How the West Was Won (1962)
Approved | 164 min | Western
A family saga covering several decades of Westward expansion in the nineteenth century - including the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the railroads.
Votes: 15,590 | Gross: $46.50M
When western meets epic.
23. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
R | 112 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Three trappers protect a British Colonel's daughters in the midst of the French and Indian War.
Votes: 124,412 | Gross: $75.51M
Cooper's great piece of American literature perfectly personified by Daniel Day-Lewis.
24. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
R | 169 min | Drama, War
Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
Votes: 992,011 | Gross: $216.54M
Spielberg's story of American heroism in Normandy.
25. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
PG | 129 min | Adventure
Two British former soldiers decide to set themselves up as kings in Kafiristan, a land where no white man has set foot since Alexander the Great.
Kipling's story is adapted into this great representation of the British Empire on film.