The Greatest Historical Movies of All Time

by jedp15 | created - 30 Jan 2011 | updated - 23 Sep 2015 | Public

Movies that are both great and based around true events and/or situated in events that happened in our history.

The movies on this list are my preference only; Including, but not limited to: being enjoyable, thought provoking, exciting, technically smart, having fine-honed costuming/props/set pieces, and/or having engaging dialogue. These movies are, for me, the reasons why I keep watching cinema.

side note: Only the movies I have seen are on the list. As I watch more, I will update accordingly.

 Refine See titles to watch instantly, titles you haven't rated, etc
  • Instant Watch Options
  • Genres
  • Movies or TV
  • IMDb Rating
  • In Theaters
  • On TV
  • Release Year
  • Keywords






IMDb user rating (average) to
Number of votes to »




Reset



Reset
Release year or range to »




































































































1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

R | 169 min | Drama, War

91 Metascore

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.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns

Votes: 1,086,173 | Gross: $216.54M

2. Gladiator (2000)

R | 155 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

67 Metascore

A former Roman General sets out to exact vengeance against the corrupt emperor who murdered his family and sent him into slavery.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed

Votes: 1,188,695 | Gross: $187.71M

3. Schindler's List (1993)

R | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History

93 Metascore

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.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall

Votes: 1,064,493 | Gross: $96.07M

4. Blood Diamond (2006)

R | 143 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

64 Metascore

A fisherman, a smuggler, and a syndicate of businessmen match wits over the possession of a priceless diamond.

Director: Edward Zwick | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, Kagiso Kuypers

Votes: 457,307 | Gross: $57.37M

5. Black Hawk Down (2001)

R | 144 min | Drama, History, War

74 Metascore

160 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana

Votes: 334,991 | Gross: $108.64M

6. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

R | 112 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

76 Metascore

Three trappers protect the daughters of a British Colonel in the midst of the French and Indian War.

Director: Michael Mann | Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig

Votes: 134,192 | Gross: $75.51M

7. Braveheart (1995)

R | 178 min | Biography, Drama, History

68 Metascore

When his secret bride is executed for assaulting an English soldier who tried to rape her, William Wallace begins a revolt against King Edward I of England.

Director: Mel Gibson | Stars: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Angus Macfadyen

Votes: 878,620 | Gross: $75.60M

8. Apollo 13 (I) (1995)

PG | 140 min | Adventure, Drama, History

77 Metascore

NASA must devise a strategy to return Apollo 13 to Earth safely after the spacecraft undergoes massive internal damage putting the lives of the three astronauts on board in jeopardy.

Director: Ron Howard | Stars: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise

Votes: 241,650 | Gross: $173.84M

9. Fury (2014)

R | 134 min | Action, Drama, War

64 Metascore

A grizzled tank commander makes tough decisions as he and his crew fight their way across Germany in April, 1945.

Director: David Ayer | Stars: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña

Votes: 374,948 | Gross: $85.82M

10. Joyeux Noel (2005)

PG-13 | 116 min | Drama, History, Music

70 Metascore

In December 1914, an unofficial Christmas truce on the Western Front allows soldiers from opposing sides of the First World War to gain insight into each other's way of life.

Director: Christian Carion | Stars: Diane Kruger, Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Natalie Dessay

Votes: 25,386 | Gross: $1.05M

11. Ben-Hur (1959)

G | 212 min | Adventure, Drama, History

90 Metascore

When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge.

Director: William Wyler | Stars: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet

Votes: 198,499 | Gross: $74.70M

12. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

PG-13 | 121 min | Biography, Drama, History

79 Metascore

Paul Rusesabagina was a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda.

Director: Terry George | Stars: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix, Xolani Mali

Votes: 309,627 | Gross: $23.53M

13. The Great Debaters (2007)

PG-13 | 126 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

65 Metascore

A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.

Director: Denzel Washington | Stars: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Kimberly Elise, Nate Parker

Votes: 52,892 | Gross: $30.23M

14. The Last Samurai (2003)

R | 154 min | Action, Drama, History

55 Metascore

An American military advisor embraces the Samurai culture he was hired to destroy after he is captured in battle.

Director: Edward Zwick | Stars: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, William Atherton

Votes: 365,331 | Gross: $111.11M

15. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

PG | 216 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

100 Metascore

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.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins

Votes: 237,448 | Gross: $44.82M

16. Rudy (1993)

PG | 114 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

Rudy has always been told that he was too small to play college football. But he is determined to overcome the odds and fulfill his dream of playing for Notre Dame.

Director: David Anspaugh | Stars: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty, Greta Lind

Votes: 49,503 | Gross: $22.75M

17. The Right Stuff (1983)

PG | 193 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

91 Metascore

The story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts and their macho, seat-of-the-pants approach to the space program.

Director: Philip Kaufman | Stars: Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid

Votes: 51,431 | Gross: $21.50M

18. Cinderella Man (2005)

PG-13 | 144 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

69 Metascore

The story of James Braddock, a supposedly washed-up boxer who came back to become a champion and an inspiration in the 1930s.

Director: Ron Howard | Stars: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Craig Bierko, Paul Giamatti

Votes: 165,023 | Gross: $61.65M

19. The Pianist (2002)

R | 150 min | Biography, Drama, Music

85 Metascore

A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox

Votes: 627,426 | Gross: $32.57M

20. Zulu (1964)

Not Rated | 138 min | Drama, History, War

Outnumbered British soldiers do battle with Zulu warriors at Rorke's Drift.

Director: Cy Endfield | Stars: Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth

Votes: 32,908

21. Les Misérables (1998)

PG-13 | 134 min | Crime, Drama, History

Valjean, a former criminal, has atoned for his past and now finds himself in the midst of the French Revolution, avoiding a law-obsessed policeman hell-bent on capturing him.

Director: Bille August | Stars: Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, Christopher Adamson

Votes: 35,636 | Gross: $14.10M

22. Amazing Grace (2006)

PG | 118 min | Biography, Drama, History

65 Metascore

The idealist William Wilberforce maneuvers his way through Parliament, endeavoring to end the British transatlantic slave trade.

Director: Michael Apted | Stars: Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Romola Garai

Votes: 22,758 | Gross: $21.21M

23. Henry V (1989)

PG-13 | 137 min | Action, Biography, Drama

83 Metascore

In the midst of the Hundred Years War, the young King Henry V of England embarks on the conquest of France in 1415.

Director: Kenneth Branagh | Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Simon Shepherd, James Larkin

Votes: 26,223 | Gross: $10.16M

24. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

R | 144 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

63 Metascore

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.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson, Martin Hancock

Votes: 247,558 | Gross: $47.40M

25. Enemy at the Gates (2001)

R | 131 min | Drama, History, War

53 Metascore

A Russian and a German sniper play a game of cat-and-mouse during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud | Stars: Jude Law, Ed Harris, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz

Votes: 221,452 | Gross: $51.40M

26. American Sniper (2014)

R | 133 min | Action, Biography, Drama

72 Metascore

Navy S.E.A.L. sniper Chris Kyle's pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can't leave behind.

Director: Clint Eastwood | Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner, Cole Konis

Votes: 395,057 | Gross: $350.13M

27. The Hurt Locker (2008)

R | 131 min | Drama, Thriller, War

94 Metascore

During the Iraq War, a Sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow | Stars: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce

Votes: 386,935 | Gross: $17.02M

28. 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.

Director: Edward Zwick | Stars: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman

Votes: 112,117 | Gross: $26.83M

29. Rob Roy (1995)

R | 139 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

55 Metascore

In 1713 Scotland, Rob Roy MacGregor is wronged by a nobleman and his nephew, becomes an outlaw in search of revenge while fleeing the Redcoats, and faces charges of being a Jacobite.

Director: Michael Caton-Jones | Stars: Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth

Votes: 38,004 | Gross: $31.60M

30. Sometimes in April (2005 TV Movie)

TV-MA | 140 min | Drama, History, War

When the Hutu nationalists raised arms against their Tutsi countrymen in Rwanda in April 1994, the violent uprising marked the beginning of one of the darkest times in African history which resulted in the deaths of almost 800,000 people.

Director: Raoul Peck | Stars: Idris Elba, Carole Karemera, Pamela Nomvete, Oris Erhuero

Votes: 4,540

31. The Patriot (2000)

R | 165 min | Action, Drama, History

63 Metascore

Peaceful farmer Benjamin Martin is driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolution when a sadistic British officer murders his son.

Director: Roland Emmerich | Stars: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs

Votes: 234,636 | Gross: $113.33M

32. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

PG-13 | 138 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

81 Metascore

During the Napoleonic Wars, a brash British captain pushes his ship and crew to their limits in pursuit of a formidable French war vessel around South America.

Director: Peter Weir | Stars: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D'Arcy

Votes: 187,647 | Gross: $93.93M

33. Apocalypto (2006)

R | 139 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

68 Metascore

As the Mayan kingdom faces its decline, a young man is taken on a perilous journey to a world ruled by fear and oppression.

Director: Mel Gibson | Stars: Gerardo Taracena, Raoul Max Trujillo, Dalia Hernández, Rudy Youngblood

Votes: 267,819 | Gross: $50.87M

34. Saints and Soldiers (2003)

PG-13 | 90 min | Action, Drama, War

56 Metascore

Four American soldiers and one Brit fighting in Europe during World War II struggle to return to Allied territory after being separated from U.S. forces during the historic Malmedy Massacre.

Director: Ryan Little | Stars: Corbin Allred, Alexander Polinsky, Kirby Heyborne, Larry Bagby

Votes: 19,122 | Gross: $1.31M

35. Defiance (I) (2008)

R | 137 min | Action, Drama, History

58 Metascore

Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe escape into the Belarussian forests, where they join Russian resistance fighters, and endeavor to build a village, in order to protect themselves and about one thousand Jewish non-combatants.

Director: Edward Zwick | Stars: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos

Votes: 129,130 | Gross: $28.64M

36. Valkyrie (2008)

PG-13 | 121 min | Drama, History, Thriller

56 Metascore

A dramatization of the July 20, 1944 assassination and political coup plot by desperate renegade German Army officers against Adolf Hitler during World War II.

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Carice van Houten, Kenneth Branagh

Votes: 211,387 | Gross: $83.08M

37. Mississippi Burning (1988)

R | 128 min | Crime, Drama, History

65 Metascore

Two F.B.I. Agents, with wildly different styles, arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.

Director: Alan Parker | Stars: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif

Votes: 77,504 | Gross: $34.60M

38. Titanic (1997)

PG-13 | 194 min | Drama, Romance

75 Metascore

A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates

Votes: 937,997 | Gross: $659.33M

39. Freedom Writers (2007)

PG-13 | 123 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

64 Metascore

A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves and pursue education beyond high school.

Director: Richard LaGravenese | Stars: Hilary Swank, Imelda Staunton, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Glenn

Votes: 61,096 | Gross: $36.61M

40. Spartacus (1960)

PG-13 | 197 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

87 Metascore

The slave Spartacus leads a violent revolt against the decadent Roman Republic.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton

Votes: 111,763 | Gross: $30.00M

41. Jeremiah Johnson (1972)

GP | 108 min | Adventure, Drama, Western

75 Metascore

A mountain man who wishes to live the life of a hermit becomes the unwilling object of a long vendetta by Indians, and proves to be a match for their warriors in one-on-one combat on the early frontier.

Director: Sydney Pollack | Stars: Robert Redford, Will Geer, Delle Bolton, Josh Albee

Votes: 25,508 | Gross: $47.74M

42. Patton (1970)

GP | 172 min | Biography, Drama, War

91 Metascore

The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner | Stars: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, Michael Strong

Votes: 87,070 | Gross: $61.70M

43. Rescue Dawn (2006)

PG-13 | 120 min | Action, Adventure, Biography

77 Metascore

A U.S. fighter pilot's epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission over Laos during the Vietnam War.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies, Zach Grenier

Votes: 94,207 | Gross: $5.49M

44. Anna and the King (1999)

PG-13 | 148 min | Drama, History, Romance

56 Metascore

The story of the romance between the King of Siam and widowed British schoolteacher, Anna Leonowens, during the 1860s.

Director: Andy Tennant | Stars: Jodie Foster, Yun-Fat Chow, Bai Ling, Tom Felton

Votes: 33,895 | Gross: $39.26M

45. Hidalgo (2004)

PG-13 | 136 min | Action, Adventure, Biography

54 Metascore

In 1890, a down-and-out cowboy and his horse travel to Arabia to compete in a deadly cross desert horse race.

Director: Joe Johnston | Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif, Zuleikha Robinson, Louise Lombard

Votes: 73,196 | Gross: $67.29M

46. Elizabeth (1998)

R | 124 min | Biography, Drama, History

75 Metascore

The early years of the reign of Elizabeth I of England and her difficult task of learning what is necessary to be a monarch.

Director: Shekhar Kapur | Stars: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Fiennes

Votes: 84,826 | Gross: $30.08M

47. Joan of Arc (1999– )

Unrated | 180 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

Spurred by divine voices and visions, a 15th-century teen leads French forces against the English.

Stars: Leelee Sobieski, Chad Willett, Peter O'Toole, Neil Patrick Harris

Votes: 5,389

48. The Young Victoria (2009)

PG | 105 min | Biography, Drama, History

64 Metascore

A dramatization of the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria's rule, and her enduring romance with Prince Albert.

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée | Stars: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson

Votes: 53,276 | Gross: $11.00M

49. We Are Marshall (2006)

PG | 131 min | Drama, Sport

7.1