Classroom Hollywood

Some of the movies are too long to show in the classroom, but even showing clips from the films are enough to keep your students entertained, especially if you have the time to show clips for pure entertainment between the lessons. Some are good to assign along with outside reading.

Most of these are geared to the college classroom, but high school teachers might find some of them useful. My classes are always reading, paper, & debate heavy so keep that in mind if you're planing on using any of these, some don't work without the proper texts.

There's also a "showmanship" style to the way I handle my classes, comedy is huge, but I'm not above dressing the part, screaming & yelling, crying, kicking over trashcans, whatever is needed is usually done. I think if you're not willing to go over the top in your classroom, using a lot of movies will probably work against you.
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History of the World: Part I (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Mel Brooks brings his one-of-a-kind comic touch to the history of mankind covering events from the Old Testament to the French Revolution in a series of episodic comedy vignettes. (92 mins.)
Director: Mel Brooks
“ Let's face it, 101 is your bread & butter, furthermore a lot of early history has too few documented facts to really teach. I like to use the first few sketches to bring us up-to-date before we get into the subjects that are not covered based on assumption & conjuncture. And, if you open with Mel Brooks, you get the "unexpected & unorthodox" label from your students & that is a priceless classroom tool. PS, wearing corduroy jackets with arm patches helps as well. Teaching is showmanship with a point, right? ” - generationofswine
Highlander (1992 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Duncan MacLeod is Immortal, and must live in modern society, concealing his true nature while fighting other Immortals. (60 mins.)
“ There's an episode in Season 5, "Archangel," maybe, where Methos proclaims, in an argument with Joe & Duncan, that thinking one man can change the world is the ultimate in human arrogance. I use it to start nearly every non 101 class I teach. Is he right in this argument? Then I use it again at the end of the class? Has their views changed? Why? Give examples. This is the high point of being able to assign papers rather than take tests, you can show a movie on the last day ” - generationofswine
Missing (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
When an idealistic writer disappears during the Right Wing military coup in 1973 Chile, his wife and American businessman father try to find him. (122 mins.)
Director: Costa-Gavras
“ I always show it in class, along with assigning "A Nation of Enemies" to read. They make a good match. If you couple these with Kissinger's order to kill Charles Horman--to be read after the film--you'll actually get to physically see their world view change. ” - generationofswine
Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
The original surreal sketch comedy showcase for the Monty Python troupe. (30 mins.)
“ Yeah, yeah, it's pointless but the Philosophy Football match is great to watch directly before you're about to cover heavy philosophical lessons. I've always believed that good history teachers run heavy on the philosophies of the time as it illustrates how people thought & interpreted the world at the time. ” - generationofswine
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Neo and the rebel leaders estimate that they have 72 hours until 250,000 probes discover Zion and destroy it and its inhabitants. During this, Neo must decide how he can save Trinity from a dark fate in his dreams. (138 mins.)
“ It looks like an odd choice, but you start with kung-fu for fun, then you use it to teach convergent philosophies in the Reformation, specifically Calvinism & predestination, then, if there's time left, you finish with more kung-fu, for more fun. Let's be honest, most 101 students want to be their as much as you do. ” - generationofswine
The Simpsons (1989 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
The satiric adventures of a working-class family in the misfit city of Springfield. (22 mins.)
“ There are far to many to list, but "The Simpsons" have covered just about every philosophical movement the thinkers of the world have generated. Clips make a great introduction to EVERY philosophical topic you will cover. ” - generationofswine
1776 (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A musical retelling of the American Revolution's political struggle in the Continental Congress to declare independence. (141 mins.)
Director: Peter H. Hunt
“ Two birds with one stone. 1) It's a great Representation of our Founding Fathers. 2) It teaches students that musicals are NOT as bad as they think. And I still get a kick out of it, so we'll watch the entire film in class. ” - generationofswine
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Balian of Ibelin travels to Jerusalem during the crusades of the 12th century, and there he finds himself as the defender of the city and its people. (144 mins.)
Director: Ridley Scott
“ It's brilliant to illustrate the value of compromise & it makes the Dark Ages look cool. ” - generationofswine
The Lion in Winter (1968)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
1183 AD: King Henry II's three sons all want to inherit the throne, but he won't commit to a choice. They and his wife variously plot to force him. (134 mins.)
Director: Anthony Harvey
“ I like to use this for political struggles, in order to drive home the point that Aristocracy faced the same party problems as Republics. ” - generationofswine
Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
This film reenacts the Manhattan Project, the secret wartime project in New Mexico where the first atomic bombs were designed and built. (127 mins.)
Director: Roland Joffé
“ The best movie about the atomic project out there, & short enough where you can watch the entire film. ” - generationofswine
Band of Brothers (2001 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.5/10 X  
The story of Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission in WWII Europe from Operation Overlord through V-J Day. (594 mins.)
“ It's shorter than "Schindler's List," and the episode where the soldiers liberate the camp is priceless. ” - generationofswine
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow looks to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy. (93 mins.)
Director: George Clooney
“ I assign "The Crucible" to read--don't bother showing them the movie, they will hate it as much as you do--then I show this film as a supporting piece to keep them entertained. ” - generationofswine
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world. (118 mins.)
“ Again, assigned with outside reading "The Battle for Spain," with the singular point that sometimes the losers get to write the history. ” - generationofswine
Thirteen Days (2000)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A dramatization of the Kennedy administration's struggle to contain the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. (145 mins.)
Director: Roger Donaldson
“ It's not hard to drive home the point that a nuclear holocaust is a bad thing, however, America's "Brinkmanship" Strategy of dealing with the USSR is as hard to teach as it is to believe. There are clips in here that show that strategy in all it's idiotic action. ” - generationofswine
The Pentagon Wars (1998 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Story of a cover up in the military. (104 mins.)
“ I think it's funny, so we'll watch the entire film in class, but if you ever wanted to teach how bureaucracy works this is the movie to watch, and then open up the classroom for debate on the system in general & how to correct it's short comings. ” - generationofswine
Easy Rider (1969)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Two counterculture bikers travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America. (95 mins.)
Director: Dennis Hopper
“ I wasn't alive for it, but the Library of Congress listed it as a great way to understand the '70's so it works as an "assigned watching" item. ” - generationofswine
Barcelona (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Ted, a stuffy white guy from Illinois working in sales for the Barcelona office of a US corporation... (101 mins.)
Director: Whit Stillman
“ It's great for US Foreign Policy as viewed from the outside. Either clips in the classroom or watching accompanying Pierson's book. ” - generationofswine
Lord of War (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
An arms dealer confronts the morality of his work as he is being chased by an Interpol agent. (122 mins.)
Director: Andrew Niccol
“ Here you have "The Arms Trade," "Child Soldiers," "Blood Diamonds," "Post Colonial Africa," "Globalization," & "US Foreign Policy." Pick a point for your lesson & use this to drive it home. ” - generationofswine
Salvador (1986)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
An American photojournalist gets caught in a political struggle at El Salvador in 1980. (122 mins.)
Director: Oliver Stone
“ Most of my non 101 classes deal with Latin America. I like to Assign this to watch with reading by Archbishop Romero & books dealing with The School of the Americas. Sometimes, for sick fun, I'll make them read Clinton's NAFTA bill, then we'll watch this, as a surprise, rather than discussing the reading. ” - generationofswine
300 (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
King Leonidas of Sparta and a force of 300 men fight the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. (117 mins.)
Director: Zack Snyder
“ Let's face it, re-teaching history to freshmen is an ugly necessity, ancient history doubly so, sometimes you just need to break the monotony in the classroom. They don't want to be there any more than you do. I just use clips & just for fun. ” - generationofswine
Reefer Madness (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3.8/10 X  
Cautionary tale features a fictionalized and highly exaggerated take on the use of marijuana. A trio of drug dealers lead innocent teenagers to become addicted to "reefer" cigarettes by holding wild parties with jazz music. (66 mins.)
Director: Louis Gasnier
“ I'll threaten this movie on the first day, everyone thinks I'm joking, & then we'll watch it halfway through the semester when discussing propaganda. Or rather, we'll watch clips. ” - generationofswine
Top Gun (1986)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
As students at the United States Navy's elite fighter weapons school compete to be best in the class, one daring young pilot learns a few things from a civilian instructor that are not taught in the classroom. (110 mins.)
Director: Tony Scott
“ It's not something I show in the classroom, but I add this on the assigned viewing list for the "propaganda" topic. ” - generationofswine
Down with Love (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
In 1962 New York City, love blossoms between a playboy journalist and a feminist advice author. (101 mins.)
Director: Peyton Reed
“ I do like musicals, I like showing them in class, I also liked "The Taming of the Shrew," so it makes sense to use this for teaching Women's Liberation, & it's a lot of fun. ” - generationofswine
Downfall (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Traudl Junge, the final secretary for Adolf Hitler, tells of the Nazi dictator's final days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII. (156 mins.)
“ As a rule, for purely mechanical reasons, subtitles never appear in class room viewing. But "Downfall," will appear on the required watching list, people, especially 101 students tend to dehumanize Hitler to something otherworldly, it's necessary to drive home the point that Hilter was just a man like everyone else, otherwise he becomes unbelievable, & that harms the way people view history's monsters & allows them to believe that "it won't happen again." ” - generationofswine
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Ron Burgundy is San Diego's top-rated newsman in the male-dominated broadcasting of the 1970s, but that's all about to change for Ron and his cronies when an ambitious woman is hired as a new anchor. (94 mins.)
Director: Adam McKay
“ It's only one clip, but it's brilliant for driving home points on women's liberation. ” - generationofswine
Michael Collins (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Neil Jordan's historical biopic of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins, the man who led a guerrilla war against the UK, helped negotiate the creation of the Irish Free State, and led the National Army during the Irish Civil War. (133 mins.)
Director: Neil Jordan
“ For historical reasons, I hate assigning Che's "Guerrilla Warfare," but it is a necessity, to counter it "Michael Collins," the movie & Tim Pat Coogan's book of the same name are on the "suggested" list. "The Field Guide of the IRA," is on the required reading list. If fate dictates that I must teach Guerrilla Warfare I want my students to know how to do it right. And Collins is a great example to counter what Che did wrong. ” - generationofswine
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son. (92 mins.)
Director: Jason Reitman
“ This is sometimes used. at least clips, to cover propaganda. "Reefer Madness" is better, the student's enjoy it more, but it all depends on the atmosphere your students bring to the classroom ” - generationofswine
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Three years into the Clone Wars, the Jedi rescue Palpatine from Count Dooku. As Obi-Wan pursues a new threat, Anakin acts as a double agent between the Jedi Council and Palpatine and is lured into a sinister plan to rule the galaxy. (140 mins.)
Director: George Lucas
“ I only use clips, but religion can be a touchy subject to cover, especially today, using bits and pieces of this allows you to cover religious fanaticism without directly pointing fingers at any religion, the student's will open up more if you don't directly name the religions, but refer to them as "Jedi" & "Sith," Was the initial persecution of the Sith what caused this uprising? Do you thing there was a crusade event in the Old Republic? It allows you to take politics out of history, at least for the moment. ” - generationofswine
The Living Daylights (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
James Bond is living on the edge to stop an evil arms dealer from starting another world war. Bond crosses all seven continents in order to stop the evil Whitaker and General Koskov. (130 mins.)
Director: John Glen
“ Just like the below, here we see, in a few clips, the western world supporting the Taliban as they fight the soviets in Afghanistan. ” - generationofswine
GoldenEye (1995)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
James Bond teams up with the lone survivor of a destroyed Russian research center to stop the hijacking of a nuclear space weapon by a fellow agent formerly believed to be dead. (130 mins.)
Director: Martin Campbell
“ There are a few clips with 006 that allows you to illustrate how terrorist states are made generations after colonial actions. To be used with "The Living Daylights," & in the same lesson. ” - generationofswine
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue. (116 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ "visit interesting countries, meet interesting people, & kill them." The movie falls apart after boot camp, but there quotes in this that make a brilliant point about both sides of the Vietnam debate. ” - generationofswine
And the Band Played On (1993 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The story of the discovery of the AIDS epidemic and the political infighting of the scientific community hampering the early fight with it. (141 mins.)
“ I've never taught a lesson on AIDS, but I have taught a lot of politics in my history classroom & this film has clips that do a great job of showing your students how AIDS was ignored in the 80s, for political reasons based on prejudice. ” - generationofswine
JFK (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A New Orleans DA discovers there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story. (189 mins.)
Director: Oliver Stone
“ Relax, I don't even touch the "Who killed Kennedy" debate, but I will use the Donald Sutherland clip to introduce US involvement to my Latin American History classes, my US Foreign Policy, & my Problems in History classes. ” - generationofswine
In Country (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
Samantha Hughes, a teenaged Kentucky girl, never knew her father, who died in Vietnam before her birth... (120 mins.)
Director: Norman Jewison
“ It's on a suggested watching list, along with & above "Rambo: First Blood," with the intent of giving a better understanding of what Vietnam Vets had to deal with upon returning to the United States. ” - generationofswine
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. (145 mins.)
Director: Oliver Stone
“ I start with pro War in Vietnam clips, followed by a classroom debate, then switch it to anti-war clips followed by a debate. Either way things get heated & you will be shocked at the amount of students that still believe in their heart-of-hearts that the US won the War in Vietnam.

Of course "America's Longest War," is the best book to assign to read, no matter what side you're on. ” - generationofswine