Classroom Hollywood

by generationofswine | created - 12 Dec 2010 | updated - 12 Dec 2010 | Public

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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1. History of the World: Part I (1981)

R | 92 min | Comedy, History

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.

Director: Mel Brooks | Stars: Mel Brooks, Gregory Hines, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn

Votes: 40,642 | Gross: $31.67M

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?

2. Highlander (1992–1998)

TV-14 | 60 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Duncan MacLeod is Immortal, and must live in modern society, concealing his true nature while fighting other Immortals.

Stars: Adrian Paul, Stan Kirsch, Jim Byrnes, Alexandra Vandernoot

Votes: 11,205

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

3. Missing (1982)

PG | 122 min | Biography, Drama, History

78 Metascore

When an idealistic American writer disappears during the Chilean coup d'état in September 1973, his wife and father try to find him.

Director: Costa-Gavras | Stars: Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek, Melanie Mayron, John Shea

Votes: 15,705 | Gross: $14.00M

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.

4. Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974)

TV-14 | 30 min | Comedy

The original surreal sketch comedy showcase for the Monty Python troupe.

Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle

Votes: 53,512

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.

5. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

R | 138 min | Action, Sci-Fi

62 Metascore

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.

Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski | Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

Votes: 458,240 | Gross: $281.49M

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.

6. The Simpsons (1989– )

TV-14 | 22 min | Animation, Comedy

The satiric adventures of a working-class family in the misfit city of Springfield.

Stars: Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith

Votes: 312,026

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.

7. 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.

Director: Peter H. Hunt | Stars: William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Ken Howard, Donald Madden

Votes: 6,740 | Gross: $6.10M

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.

8. 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: 239,928 | Gross: $47.40M

It's brilliant to illustrate the value of compromise & it makes the Dark Ages look cool.

9. The Lion in Winter (1968)

PG | 134 min | Biography, Drama, History

1183 A.D.: 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.

Director: Anthony Harvey | Stars: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, John Castle

Votes: 25,604 | Gross: $22.28M

I like to use this for political struggles, in order to drive home the point that Aristocracy faced the same party problems as Republics.

10. Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

PG-13 | 127 min | Biography, Drama, History

This film reenacts the Manhattan Project, the secret wartime project in New Mexico where the first atomic bombs were designed and built.

Director: Roland Joffé | Stars: Paul Newman, Dwight Schultz, Bonnie Bedelia, John Cusack

Votes: 5,960 | Gross: $3.56M

The best movie about the atomic project out there, & short enough where you can watch the entire film.

11. Band of Brothers (2001)

TV-MA | 594 min | Action, Drama, History

The story of Easy Company of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division, and their mission in World War II Europe, from Operation Overlord, through V-J Day.

Stars: Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Shane Taylor

Votes: 287,658

It's shorter than "Schindler's List," and the episode where the soldiers liberate the camp is priceless.

12. Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

PG | 93 min | Biography, Drama, History

80 Metascore

Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow looks to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Director: George Clooney | Stars: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels

Votes: 88,238 | Gross: $31.50M

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.

13. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

R | 118 min | Drama, Fantasy, War

98 Metascore

In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.

Director: Guillermo del Toro | Stars: Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú

Votes: 540,473 | Gross: $37.63M

Again, assigned with outside reading "The Battle for Spain," with the singular point that sometimes the losers get to write the history.

14. Thirteen Days (2000)

PG-13 | 145 min | Drama, History, Thriller

67 Metascore

In October 1962, the Kennedy administration struggles to contain the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Director: Roger Donaldson | Stars: Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Shawn Driscoll, Drake Cook

Votes: 48,860 | Gross: $34.59M

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.

15. The Pentagon Wars (1998 TV Movie)

R | 104 min | Comedy, War

Story of a cover up in the military.

Director: Richard Benjamin | Stars: Kelsey Grammer, Cary Elwes, Viola Davis, John C. McGinley

Votes: 2,830

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.

16. Easy Rider (1969)

R | 95 min | Adventure, Drama

86 Metascore

Through the open country and desert lands, two bikers head from L.A to New Orleans, and along the way, meet a man who bridges a counter-culture gap they are unaware of.

Director: Dennis Hopper | Stars: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Antonio Mendoza

Votes: 83,587 | Gross: $41.73M

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.

17. Barcelona (1994)

PG-13 | 101 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

74 Metascore

Ted, a stuffy white guy from Illinois working in sales for the Barcelona office of a US corporation, is paid an unexpected visit by his somewhat less stuffy cousin Fred, who is an officer ... See full summary »

Director: Whit Stillman | Stars: Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, Tushka Bergen, Mira Sorvino

Votes: 5,002 | Gross: $7.27M

It's great for US Foreign Policy as viewed from the outside. Either clips in the classroom or watching accompanying Pierson's book.

18. Lord of War (2005)

R | 122 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

62 Metascore

An arms dealer confronts the morality of his work as he is being chased by an Interpol Agent.

Director: Andrew Niccol | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan

Votes: 268,266 | Gross: $24.15M

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.

19. Salvador (1986)

R | 122 min | Drama, History, Thriller

An American photojournalist gets caught in a political struggle at El Salvador in 1980.

Director: Oliver Stone | Stars: James Woods, Jim Belushi, Michael Murphy, John Savage

Votes: 16,866

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.

20. 300 (2006)

R | 117 min | Action, Fantasy, War

52 Metascore

King Leonidas of Sparta and a force of 300 men fight the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.

Director: Zack Snyder | Stars: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West

Votes: 665,457 | Gross: $210.61M

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.

21. Reefer Madness (1936)

PG | 66 min | Drama, Thriller

70 Metascore

Cautionary tale features a fictionalized 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.

Director: Louis J. Gasnier | Stars: Dorothy Short, Kenneth Craig, Lillian Miles, Dave O'Brien

Votes: 6,905

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.

22. Top Gun (1986)

PG | 110 min | Action, Drama, Romance

50 Metascore

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.

Director: Tony Scott | Stars: Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer

Votes: 245,563 | Gross: $179.80M

It's not something I show in the classroom, but I add this on the assigned viewing list for the "propaganda" topic.

23. Down with Love (2003)

PG-13 | 101 min | Comedy, Romance

52 Metascore

In 1962 New York City, love blossoms between a playboy journalist and a feminist advice author.

Director: Peyton Reed | Stars: Ewan McGregor, Renée Zellweger, David Hyde Pierce, Sarah Paulson

Votes: 36,128 | Gross: $20.30M

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.

24. Downfall (2004)

R | 156 min | Biography, Drama, History

82 Metascore

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.

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel | Stars: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ulrich Matthes, Juliane Köhler

Votes: 287,935 | Gross: $5.51M

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."

25. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

PG-13 | 94 min | Comedy

63 Metascore

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.

Director: Adam McKay | Stars: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd

Votes: 294,768 | Gross: $85.29M

It's only one clip, but it's brilliant for driving home points on women's liberation.

26. Michael Collins (1996)

R | 133 min | Biography, Drama, Thriller

60 Metascore

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.

Director: Neil Jordan | Stars: Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Julia Roberts, Ian Hart

Votes: 26,486 | Gross: $11.09M

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.

27. Thank You for Smoking (2005)

R | 92 min | Comedy, Drama

71 Metascore

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.

Director: Jason Reitman | Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello, Joan Lunden

Votes: 201,665 | Gross: $24.79M

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

28. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)

PG-13 | 140 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

68 Metascore

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.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson

Votes: 602,458 | Gross: $380.26M

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.

29. The Living Daylights (1987)

PG | 130 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

60 Metascore

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.

Director: John Glen | Stars: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbé, Joe Don Baker

Votes: 76,638 | Gross: $51.19M

Just like the below, here we see, in a few clips, the western world supporting the Taliban as they fight the soviets in Afghanistan.

30. GoldenEye (1995)

PG-13 | 130 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

65 Metascore

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.

Director: Martin Campbell | Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen

Votes: 214,584 | Gross: $106.60M

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.

31. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

R | 116 min | Drama, War

76 Metascore

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.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D'Onofrio, Adam Baldwin

Votes: 568,752 | Gross: $46.36M

"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.

32. And the Band Played On (1993 TV Movie)

PG-13 | 141 min | Drama

The story of the discovery of the A.I.D.S. epidemic, and the political infighting of the scientific community hampering the early fight with it.

Director: Roger Spottiswoode | Stars: Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Patrick Bauchau, Nathalie Baye

Votes: 8,403

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.

33. JFK (1991)

R | 189 min | Drama, History, Thriller

72 Metascore

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison discovers there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.

Director: Oliver Stone | Stars: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau

Votes: 125,461 | Gross: $70.41M

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.

34. In Country (1989)

R | 120 min | Drama, Romance, War

A young girl whose father died in the Vietnam War becomes determined to find out more about him and his experiences.

Director: Norman Jewison | Stars: Emily Lloyd, Bruce Willis, Joan Allen, Kevin Anderson

Votes: 2,448 | Gross: $3.53M

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.

35. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

R | 145 min | Biography, Drama, War

75 Metascore

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.

Director: Oliver Stone | Stars: Tom Cruise, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava, Josh Evans

Votes: 85,467 | Gross: $70.00M

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.