HISTORY AND LEGEND ON FILM AND TVby Tony-Scheinman | created - 10 Oct 2012 | updated - 15 Oct 2012 | Public
The following titles are a mixture of history, historical fiction and legend. While they are not in any particular order, each one of them is worth watching.
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1. The Last of the Mohicans (1971– )
344 min | Adventure, Drama, War
A BBC classic serial adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's famous novel.
The absolute best and most faithful adaptation of Cooper's novel I have ever seen! A bit wordy at times and the productions values aren't up to much by today's standards, but the acting is superb!
2. 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: 124,490 | Gross: $75.51M
Of the film versions of Cooper's novel, this one is heads and shoulders above all the rest! Liberties are taken with the story and characters, but if you're not too much of a purist this film should be a part of your historical fiction library!
3. 1776 (1972)
G | 141 min | Drama, Family, History
A musical retelling of the American Revolution's political struggle in the Continental Congress to declare independence.
Votes: 6,671 | Gross: $6.10M
The film version of the Broadway musical, and not only using almost all of the original actors from the stage version but also using events that really happened and lines the actual historical characters spoke! Now in a completely restored version.
4. The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970– )
540 min | Drama, History, Romance
A six-episode dramatization of Henry VIII's relationships with each of his six wives. Each episode is devoted to one wife, and is a complete play in itself.
In my opinion, Keith Michell completely supplanted Charles Laughton as the "perfect" Henry VIII!
5. Elizabeth R (1971– )
85 min | Biography, Drama
When Elizabeth Tudor comes to the throne, her (male) advisers know she has to marry. Doesn't she? Thus starts a decades-long political/ matrimonial game, during an age of high passions and high achievement.
Just as Keith Michell was the "perfect" Henry VIII, Glenda Jackson for many years was the ideal Queen Elizabeth I!
6. Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
PG-13 | 128 min | Biography, Drama, History
During the sixteenth century, the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots engages in over two decades of religious and political conflict with her cousin, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England, amidst political intrigue in her native land.
This was the perfect battle of rival queens, with Glenda Jackson re-creating her role as Elizabeth and Vanessa Redgrave bringing life to Mary. Of course, some historical facts have been altered, but that's just being picky.
7. Robin Hood (1984–1986)
60 min | Action, Fantasy, Drama
A forest mystical being appoints two men in succession as the legendary outlaw defender of the oppressed.
When I first saw this series, I was a bit bothered at the mysticism that the series brought to the character and legend of Robin Hood, but the music of Clannad and the performances (not to mention how the writers reconciled the problem of two different Robin Hood legends) won me over at last!
8. The Legend of Robin Hood (1975– )
I remember this as a public television mini-series, but it was close to the traditional stories I read as a child, and as always the BBC provides actors and acting of incredible quality (especially Paul Darrow of BLAKE'S 7 fame as the slimy Sheriff of Nottingham!).
9. I, Claudius (1976)
Not Rated | 669 min | Biography, Drama, History
The history of the Roman Empire as experienced by one of its rulers.
No historical fiction library should be without THIS! An all-star cast, writing and acting of the highest quality and enough blood, sex and violence to satisfy anybody, all set against the grandeur, glory, might and decadence of Imperial Rome! I do advise that you read the two Robert Graves books it was based on before seeing the mini-series.
10. I, Claudius (1937)
The life and times of the Roman emperor Claudius (10 B.C.-A.D. 54).
While this film is considered lost, enough scenes and clips have been found and put into a documentary about it ito assure me that this would have been a masterpiece if ever completed! Charles Laughton was fantastic as Claudius, as was Flora Robson as Livia. The documentary can be found as one of the extras on the BBC mini-series DVD set, and I strongly recommend that you see it.
11. Two of Us (2000 TV Movie)
PG-13 | 89 min | Biography, Drama, Music
John Lennon and Paul McCartney have a chat about their lives, and if "The Beatles" will ever reunite. The movie takes place in 1976.
This is one of those "What-If" films, in this case what would have happened if John Lennon and Paul McCartney had gotten together just before John's death. While purely fictyional, I think this film is good enough to be classfied as Historial Fiction and definitely worth seeing.
12. Roots (1977)
TV-14 | 570 min | Biography, Drama, History
A dramatization of author Alex Haley's family line from ancestor Kunta Kinte's enslavement to his descendants' liberation.
DEFINITLEY ANOTHER MUST-HAVE! This mini-series speaks for itself without any help from me! The acting is wonderful, the stories are rivetting and the production is unbelieveable! This is not just about history ... this IS history!
13. Roots: The Next Generations (1979)
840 min | Drama, History, War
The dramatization of Alex Haley's family line from post Civil War America to the writer's search for his roots.
See ROOTS above.
14. Roots: The Gift (1988 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 100 min | Drama, History
The characters of Kunta Kinte and Fiddler from Roots are back in this movie. In this movie the two of them accompany their owner to another plantation at Christmas time and they learn that ... See full summary »
See ROOTS and ROOTS: THE NEXT GENERATIONS. While a separate production from the mini-series, it's definitely a keeper!
15. The Great Train Robbery (1978)
PG | 110 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama
In Victorian England, a master criminal makes elaborate plans to steal a shipment of gold from a moving train.
Votes: 12,827 | Gross: $13.03M
The facts are mostly true; only the details have been changed! There actually WAS a robbery from a moving train; only author/director Michael Crichton fictionalized the facts and details. Despite this, both the book and film are accurate representations of life in Victorian England and the performances of Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, Lesley Anne-Down keep everyone entertained.
16. The Winds of War (1983– )
883 min | Drama, Romance, War
The trials of the Henry and Jastrow families in the early years of World War II.
Another Must-have for a historical fiction library!
17. War and Remembrance (1988– )
1,620 min | Drama, War
The trials of the Henry and the Jastrow families amidst the events after the U.S.'s entry into World War II.
See THE WINDS OF WAR.
18. Skokie (1981 TV Movie)
125 min | Drama
A dramatization of the controversial trial concerning the right for Neo-Nazis to march in the predominately Jewish community of Skokie.
If only for the performance of Danny Kaye, this is a keeper! More powerful performances I have rarely seen!
19. 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: 238,388 | Gross: $198.68M
While personally not one of my favorite historical fiction dramas, I have to give the devil his due: this film is a masterfully done giant canvas captures the world of South during the Civil War at its best and its worst.
20. Tom Jones (1963)
Not Rated | 128 min | Adventure, Comedy, History
The romantic and chivalrous adventures of adopted bastard Tom Jones in 18th century England.
Votes: 9,250 | Gross: $37.60M
You might not be able to get through the entire book by Henry Fieldling, but this film and the performances in it will help you get a lot more than just the gist! It earned every award it ever won!
21. The Duellists (1977)
PG | 100 min | Drama, War
A small feud between two Napoleonic officers evolves into a decades-long series of duels.
During the Napoleonic Wars, a duel fought between two officers from different backgrounds for no discernible reason turns into an obsession lasting years. The performances of Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine are beautiful (there's no other word for it!) and the time periods the feud covers are portrayed in a way that definitely shows that war in any time period is an ugly business.
22. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1982)
540 min | Drama
A young, compassionate man struggles to save his family and friends from the abusive exploitation of his cold-hearted, grasping uncle.
The RSC outdid themselves when they brought Charles Dickens' novel to life! Dickens himself would have loved how his characters have been brought to life on stage in a way that no film version has matched before or since! In this stage production, all of the dirt, grime, and darkness rub shoulders with the light, upperclass finery and upperclass manners, and there are scenes that will touch your heart and shock you to the core as well as make you cheer at the downfall of the villains!
23. Excalibur (1981)
PG | 140 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Merlin the magician helps Arthur Pendragon unite the Britons around the round table of Camelot even as forces conspire to tear it apart
Votes: 50,037 | Gross: $34.97M
The best adaptation of the King Arthur legend I've ever seen!
24. Quest for Fire (1981)
R | 100 min | Adventure, Drama, History
This story takes place in prehistoric time when three tribesmen search for a new fire source.
Votes: 17,742 | Gross: $20.96M
Must be seen, if only for the original language created by Anthony Burgess and for its representations of the different levels of primitive/prehistoric Man.
25. Danton (1983)
PG | 136 min | Biography, Drama, History
Action opens in November of 1793, with Danton returning to Paris from his country retreat upon learning that the Committee for Public Safety, under Robespierre's incitement, has begun a ... See full summary »
A marvelous dramatization of the conflicts between Danton and Robespierre during the French Revolution that would end in the destruction of one of them. One of Gerard Depardieu's lesser known works, but still one that shows his prowess with historical and literary roles.