The 25 Greatest Historical Epics

From the Red Sea to the beaches of Normandy, lavish history in American film.
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1.
Gone with the Wind (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A manipulative Southern belle carries on a turbulent affair with a blockade runner during the American Civil War. (238 mins.)
Director: Victor Fleming
“ 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. ” - temple1865
 
2.
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
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. (197 mins.)
Director: David Lean
“ David Lean's romantic epic, based on Boris Pasternak's novel set in Revolutionary Russia is a perfect representative of the genre. ” - temple1865
 
3.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and lead the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks. (216 mins.)
Director: David Lean
“ David Lean captures our fascination with the desert in this story of the First World War. A beautiful picture, perfect in every way. ” - temple1865
 
4.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
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. (161 mins.)
Director: David Lean
“ 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. ” - temple1865
 
5.
Schindler's List (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
In Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis. (195 mins.)
“ Spielberg's finest work, one of the most moving films ever released. ” - temple1865
 
6.
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I. (136 mins.)
Director: Lewis Milestone
“ The First World War perfectly represented, another very moving film. ” - temple1865
 
7.
Titanic (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind, but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic. (194 mins.)
Director: James Cameron
“ James Cameron breathing fresh life into the romatic epic genre, one of the all time greatest. ” - temple1865
 
8.
Ben-Hur (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge. (212 mins.)
Director: William Wyler
“ William Wyler take's Lew Wallace's tale to soring heights in this great movie, one of the most moving of all religious epics. ” - temple1865
 
9.
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
The American Civil War divides friends and destroys families, but that's nothing compared to the anarchy in the black-ruled South after the war. (165 mins.)
Director: D.W. Griffith
“ The movie that started it all. D.W. Griffith, the genre's pioneer. ” - temple1865
 
10.
Patton (1970)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton. (172 mins.)
“ 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. ” - temple1865
 
11.
The Ten Commandments (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The Egyptian Prince, Moses, learns of his true heritage as a Hebrew and his divine mission as the deliverer of his people. (220 mins.)
“ Cecil B DeMill's greatest work, the story of Exodus beautifully told with fanstastic performances by Charlton Heston, Yul Brenner and Anne Baxter. ” - temple1865
 
12.
War and Peace (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Napoleon's tumultuous relations with Russia including his disastrous 1812 invasion serve as the backdrop for the tangled personal lives of two aristocratic families. (208 mins.)
Director: King Vidor
“ 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. ” - temple1865
 
13.
Glory (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Robert Gould Shaw leads the US Civil War's first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices of both his own Union army and the Confederates. (122 mins.)
Director: Edward Zwick
“ 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. ” - temple1865
 
14.
Gladiator (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
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. (155 mins.)
Director: Ridley Scott
“ Ben-Hur meets Spartacus with Russel Crowe, need I say more? ” - temple1865
 
15.
Spartacus (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The slave Spartacus leads a violent revolt against the decadent Roman Republic. (197 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ Kubrick's beautiful story of servile insurrection. Kirk Douglas and Lawrence Olivier steal the show. ” - temple1865
 
16.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
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. (153 mins.)
Director: Francis Coppola
“ Francis Ford Coppola's chilling Vietnam story. ” - temple1865
 
17.
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York is portrayed while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on his crime syndicate stretching from Lake Tahoe, Nevada to pre-revolution 1958 Cuba. (202 mins.)
“ When gangster meets epic. ” - temple1865
 
18.
Reds (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A radical American journalist becomes involved with the Communist revolution in Russia and hopes to bring its spirit and idealism to the United States. (195 mins.)
Director: Warren Beatty
“ 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. ” - temple1865
 
19.
Gandhi (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
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. (191 mins.)
“ An epic tale of an epic life. ” - temple1865
 
20.
Cleopatra (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Historical epic. The triumphs and tragedy of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. (192 mins.)
“ Another epic tale of an epic life. ” - temple1865
 
21.
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
The life of Jesus Christ. (225 mins.)
Director: George Stevens
“ Title says it all. ” - temple1865
 
22.
How the West Was Won (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
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. (164 mins.)
“ When western meets epic. ” - temple1865
 
23.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Three trappers protect a British Colonel's daughters in the midst of the French and Indian War. (112 mins.)
Director: Michael Mann
“ Cooper's great piece of American literature perfectly personified by Daniel Day-Lewis. ” - temple1865
 
24.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
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. (169 mins.)
“ Spielberg's story of American heroism in Normandy. ” - temple1865
 
25.
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Two British soldiers in India decide to resign from the Army and set themselves up as deities in Kafiristan--a land where no white man has set foot since Alexander. (129 mins.)
Director: John Huston
“ Kipling's story is adapted into this great representation of the British Empire on film. ” - temple1865