The 25 Best Civil War Movies of All Time

The 25 Best Civil War Movies of All Time

It’s been approximately 150 years ever since the greatest and bloodiest American conflict; of course, it ended up giving some of us the best cinematic gems there are to see.

There are several propagandas, conspiracy theories, and natural divisions that came as a direct result of the war that we have imprinted in our memory via movies and documentaries.

The best civil war movies set sparks figuratively and literally on screens and helped our imagination run wild. Netflix offers one of the biggest content libraries in this genre. In fact, war movies on Netflix are how art and reality come together; most of them are fictitious but bloody true.

Here are some of the best movies to watch, inspired by the Civil War.

1. Gone With the Wind (1939)

gone-with-wind

Directors: Victor FlemingGeorge Cukor, Sam Wood

Writers: Margaret Mitchell (story of the Old South “Gone with the Wind”) Sidney Howard (screenplay by) Oliver H.P. Garrett (contributing writer)

Stars: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Thomas Mitchell

IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

You probably didn’t think that a movie known for its romance would be glorified as an out-and-out Civil War movie, would you? But it is. It is honestly one of the best Civil War movies that have given shape to many TV programs, docuseries, and movies. It helped us understand and visualize how the War actually took place.

The movie is based on Margeret Mitchell’s novel of the same title and is deemed an international bestseller and a sensation worldwide.

This magnum opus has and continues to influence generations of not just America but also around the world; it aids in piecing together one of the most important parts of American history, something that is truly unforgettable. You will see how slavery existed and was deeply ingrained even in the minds of the victims as they maintained loyalty in their hearts.

The movie, is set at a particular time, might seem a bit caricaturish, but it showed us the idea of true happiness and love.

2. The Birth of a Nation (1915)

birth-of-a-nation

Director: D.W. Griffith

Writers: Thomas Dixon Jr. (adapted from his novel: “The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan”), D.W. Griffith, Frank E. Woods

Stars: Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

The second movie on our list of best civil war movies is The Birth of a Nation. Fun fact about this movie: after the movie premiered at the White House, the President at the time said that it was like history written in lightning.

What was the movie about? It was about black rapists, incompetent politicians, and Yankee antagonists as well as so-called heroes that were represented as the regalia of the Klu Klux Klan.

And what’s worse is that most of it was honest and true to the actual events. Of course, the movie misrepresented multiple things and history is not exactly black and white and the film has reconstructed many new fallacies but it was still pretty heartbreaking and horrendous.

3. The Civil War (1990)

civil-war

Directed by: Ken Burns

Written by: Geoffrey C. Ward; Ric Burns

Stars: David McCullough, Sam Waterston, Julie Harris

IMDb Rating: 9.0/10

This one is technically a documentary made by Shelby Foote and voiced by the iconic David McCullough, this piece of content is actually unforgettable. The soundtrack was exceptional and changed the way people viewed docuseries at the time of its release.

Again, like any other historical drama, this one came with its own set of issues. There were accusations of Lost of Cause-ism and other deep sets of flaws.

But the way the camera was used in this documentary is still super relevant and contemporary. The movie is still considered one of the best documentaries of all time.

4. Glory (1989)

glory

Director: Edward Zwick

Writers: Kevin Jarre (screenplay) Lincoln Kirstein (book “Lay This Laurel”) Peter Burchard (book “One Gallant Rush”)

Stars: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

This movie is truly an assessment of what cinema stands for: it shows the command in technical virtues and is one of the finest movies mentioned in this list.

It is about the formation of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry that was initially led by Robert Gould Shaw. It culminated in the service at Fort Wagner.

You will surprisingly find one true representation of the Black community as they would be seen sacrificing themselves for the greater good; something history often neglects.

The Black soldiers literally sacrificed their lives to the Union war effort. You definitely need to give this heart-wrenching movie a go.

5. Gettysburg (1993)

gettysburg

Director: Ron Maxwell

Writers: Michael Shaara (novel “The Killer Angels”) Ron Maxwell (screenplay)

Stars: Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen, Stephen Lang

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

This is a Ken Burns documentary, again, and it got adapted into a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Killer Angels. It went on the big screen so as to grasp the audience by hand and show them what actually happened as a result of the Civil War.

The movie went on to show epic performances by popular actors but more than that it put the director on the headline as he empowered his cast and created a worldwide phenomenon. This is also one of the best family movies on Netflix to watch with!

6. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

outlaw-josey

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writers: Forrest Carter (book “Gone To Texas”) Philip Kaufman (screenplay) Sonia Chernus (screenplay)

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Chief Dan George

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

This movie is definitely going to show you an incredibly different side of the Civil War. Clint Eastwood plays the role of a Missouri farmer who turned bushwhacker. This movie basically shows you how the guerrilla conflict existed and yet not many speak of it to this date.

Of course, there are some cringe-worthy dialogues that are going to make you uncomfortable. The most haunting experience, however, will be when you will see violence and its aftermath.

We often watch war movies but never what goes on after the war is over and how people are impacted. This movie shows you just that; making it one of the most significant entries on the list.

7. The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

the-red-badge

Director: John Huston

Writers: Stephen Crane (novel “The Red Badge of Courage”) John Huston (screenplay) Albert Band (adaptation)

Stars: Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, Douglas Dick

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Stephen Crane. It is directed by John Ford; it shows us an in-depth story of the most celebrated American veteran of World War II. You watch him transform from a struggling and somewhat cowardly soldier to ferocious combat in the Civil War.

You get a glimpse of his internal struggles and how he coped with the dark side of manhood. Then, eventually, watch him triumph over his weaknesses and fears. Of course, you will be rooting for him throughout the movie; an exceptional watch for sure!

8. Ride with the Devil (1999)

ride-with-devil

Director: Ang Lee

Writers: Daniel Woodrell (novel “Woe to Live On”) James Schamus (screenplay)

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Adapted from a novel titled Woe to Live on, Ang Lee made sure to create a feature screening that is as spectacular as we envisioned while reading it. This is a movie that has a group of confederate bushwhackers.

They were residents of the Missouri-Kansas borderland. You have to agree with one point: this film is as accurate to the actual events as it could get. It has shown the grave image of the Civil War era and its guerrilla warfare.

Jeffery Wright is a slave who hides with the Guerrillas to participate in the Lawrence massacre. In fact, this character is inspired by the actual slave named John Noland. There is no evidence as such but it is genuinely a case that existed and shaped the war. Watch the movie for some heartbreaking truths.

9. The Horse Soldiers (1959)

horse-soldier

Director: John Ford

Writers: John Lee Mahin (written for the screen by) Martin Rackin (written for the screen by) Harold Sinclair (from the novel by)

Stars: John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

In this movie, you will find the protagonist focusing on the glories of war and the life of soldiers rather than the actual Civil War. It will also emphasize the romantic reunion of two individuals, how a boy transforms into a proper, hard-working soldier on the battlefield.

It is one of the best civil war movies yet it is a bit melodramatic so be prepared for some soapy sequences. There are proper backstories given to each character making it extremely great; especially considering the time of romance with a touch of war was made and released.

War movies and romance in it is an interesting combination and if you like a touch of romance so you can also watch these romantic movies on Netflix.

10. Cold Mountain (2003)

cold-mountain

Director: Anthony Minghella

Writer: Anthony Minghella

Stars: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

In this timeless love story set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, a wounded Confederate soldier named W.P. Inman (Jude Law) deserts his unit and travels across the South in search of his young wife, Ada (Nicole Kidman), whom he left behind to tend their farm.

Ada struggles to keep their home intact as Inman makes his perilous journey home, with the help of Ruby (Renée Zellweger), a mysterious drifter sent to help her by a kind neighbor.

Also Read: Stream X men Movies in Order

11. How the West Was Won (1962)

how-west-won

Directors: John Ford, Henry Hathaway

Writer: James R. Webb

Stars: James Stewart, John Wayne, Henry Fonda

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10

In the 1830s, the Prescott family embarks on a journey to the west and meets a man named Linus (James Stewart), who assists them in fighting off a gang of thieves. Linus then marries Eve Prescott (Carroll Baker), and 30 years later, with their son, goes off to fight in the Civil War, with bloody results.

Lily (Debbie Reynolds), Eve’s sister, travels further west and has adventures with a professional gambler (Gregory Peck) that take her all the way to San Francisco and into the 1880s.

12. Gangs of New York (2002)

gangs-of-newyork

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: Steven Zaillian

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Day-Lewis

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young Irish immigrant who has recently been released from prison. He returns to the Five Points in search of revenge against his father’s assassin, William Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), a powerful anti-immigrant gang leader.

He understands that the only way to exact revenge is to infiltrate Cutting’s inner circle. Amsterdam’s journey becomes a struggle for personal survival as well as finding a place for the Irish in 1860s New York.

13. Friendly Persuasion (1956)

persuasion

Director: William Wyler

Writer: Michael Wilson

Stars: Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

When the Civil War approaches his close-knit Indiana community, Jess Birdwell (Gary Cooper), the patriarch of a peace-loving Quaker family, begins to question his pacifist values. Meanwhile, Jess’s daughter, Mattie, is in love with a soldier, and her brother, Josh (Anthony Perkins), is considering picking up arms to defend his home in order to avoid being labeled a coward.

As Confederate forces approach, the Birdwell’s are forced to make some difficult, life-changing decisions.

14. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

the-good-bad-and-ugly

Director: Sergio Leone

Writer: Agenore Incrocci

Stars: Eli Wallach, Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef

IMDb Rating: 8.8/10

During the Civil War in the Southwest, a mystifying stranger, Joe (Clint Eastwood), and a desperado Mexican, Tuco (Eli Wallach), form an alliance: Joe turns in the bandit to get the reward money, then saves him when he is about to be hanged.

When Joe’s shot at the noose fails during one of their adventures, an enraged Tuco attempts to get him murdered. The men re-team suddenly, however, to defeat a cruel criminal including the Union army and recover $20,000 buried in the desert by a soldier.

15. Lincoln (2012)

lincoln

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Tony Kushner

Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

With the nation embroiled in yet another year of the Civil War’s high death toll, President Abraham Lincoln devotes all of his passion, humanity, and political skill to what would become his defining legacy: ending the war and permanently ending slavery through the 13th Amendment.

Lincoln pushes forward with great courage, acumen, and moral fortitude to compel the nation, and those in government who oppose him, to aim for a greater good for all mankind.

16. Pharaoh’s Army (1995)

pharoahs-war

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Tony Kushner

Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

Abston (Chris Cooper), a Union Army captain, leads his Civil War regiment to Sarah Anders’ (Patricia Clarkson) Kentucky farm, where her husband is fighting for the Confederates.

Although Abston and Sarah develop a friendly relationship, war-related incidents cause mounting difficulties and shifting loyalties. Sarah’s young son draws the local preacher (Kris Kristofferson) into the situation, and a bloody confrontation ensues after a stirring sermon.

17. The Beguiled (1971)

the-beguiled

Director: Sofia Coppola

Writer: Sofia Coppola

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst

IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

Cpl. John McBurney is an injured Union soldier who becomes a deserter during the Civil War. He seeks refuge at an all-girls Southern boarding school, where the teachers and students appear to be more than willing to assist.

Sexual tensions quickly escalate into dangerous rivalries as the women tend to his injured leg while providing comfort and companionship.

18. Shenandoah (1965)

shenandoah.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Writer: James Lee Barrett

Stars: James Stewart, Doug McClure, Glenn Corbett

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

A Civil War film about a wealthy widower who has remained steadfast in his moral opposition to the war. His son-in-law is called to serve in the Confederate forces, his youngest son is captured by the Union army, and another son and his pregnant daughter-in-law are killed by looters, forcing him to become involved in the conflict.

19. Major Dundee (1965)

major-dundee

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Writer: Oscar Saul

Stars: Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, Jim Hutton

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10

Major Dundee guards Confederate prisoners, Union deserters, and ordinary hard-bitten criminals in a remote fort near the end of the Civil War.

When Apaches attack the fort and kidnap three children, Dundee must form a posse that includes Confederates who must choose between joining up or being shot. A sultry Mexican widow adds fuel to the fire between Dundee and Tyreen.

20. Journey to Shiloh (1968)

shilnoh

Director: William Hale

Writer: Gene L. Coon

Stars: James Caan, Michael Sarrazin, Brenda Scott

IMDb Rating: 5.6/10

Buck Burnett leads and guides six of his friends. At the dawn of the Civil War, the group of Texas cowboys leaves home to fight alongside the Confederate army in Tennessee on a long horseback journey from Texas.

They learn harsh lessons about the realities of war along the way. Watch this movie to see how their spirit of adventure soon fades away when they meet the brutal realities of war.

21. Gods and Generals (2003)

gods-and-generals

Director: Ron Maxwell

Writer: Ron Maxwell

Stars: Stephen Lang, Mark Aldrich, George Allen

IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

The epic prequel to ‘Gettysburg’ looks at the early days of the American Civil War through the eyes of three historical figures. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain must leave his quiet academic career behind, General Thomas Stonewall Jackson must claim with his deep religious faith, and General Robert Lee must choose between his loyalty oath and his love for the Southern states.

22. Mysterious Island (1961)

mysterious-islands

Director: Cy Endfield

Writer: John Prebble

Stars: Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Capt. Harding (Michael Craig), Cpl. Neb Nugent (Dan Jackson), and Sgt. Pencroft (Percy Herbert) crash into the ocean after escaping from a Confederate prison camp in a hot air balloon. They are later washed up on the beach of an unknown island.

The men quickly come into conflict with the local wildlife, which includes giant crabs and prehistoric creatures. To make matters worse, the island’s central volcano begins to erupt, threatening to destroy the entire island.

23. Rio Lobo (1970)

Rio-lobo

Director: Howard Hawks

Writer: Burton Wohl

Stars: John Wayne, Jorge Rivero, Jennifer O’Neill

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

The third last movie on our list of best civil war movies. Cord McNally (John Wayne) is the Union commander who is protecting a routine gold shipment when his troops are attacked by Confederate forces. He not only loses the gold but one of his most powerful officers is killed in the raid.

McNally learns at the end of the Civil War that the raiders had help, and he vows to find the two traitors. McNally travels to Rio Lobo after a chance encounters with one of the traitors and makes an unexpected discovery.

24. Of Human Hearts (1938)

oh-human-hearts

Director: Clarence Brown

Writer: Bradbury Foote

Stars: Walter Huston, James Stewart, Gene Reynolds

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

The second last movie on our list of best civil war movies. When preacher Ethan Wilkins (Walter Huston) moves to a small, hardscrabble town on the Ohio River, he is taken aback by the poor treatment he receives from the locals, but he bears it quietly. His son, Jason (James Stewart), on the other hand, despises the town.

Despite his father’s wishes, he aspires to be a doctor and demands that his mother (Beulah Bondi) sell her few possessions to fund his education. When the Civil War breaks out, he achieves success as a surgeon but is estranged from his family.

25. The Great Locomotive Chase (1956)

the-great-locomotive-chase

Director:Francis D. Lyon

Writer: Lawrence Edward Watkin

Stars: Fess Parker, Jeffrey Hunter, Jeff York

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

The last movie on our list of best civil war movies. A real-life locomotive chase in 1862 inspired several retellings, including this Disney adventure film. Fess Parker and his associates, disguised as Union spies, sneak behind enemy lines to hijack a Confederate train.

The event’s real-life steam engine is still on display at The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

Conclusion

There you have it, folks. A great list is made of movies dedicated to the best civil war movies that will also give you the flavor of thriller movies on Netflix , Horror Movies on Netflix and action movies on Netflix.

It is an important chapter of American history, hence, making all of the aforementioned western movies is extremely important and heartbreaking. You will find yourself getting emotional.

It is going to be a tumultuous ride for history geeks for sure. Anyway, do let us know if you enjoyed watching any of the movies above. And if you already have seen these gems or know interesting facts about these movies.

Happy Streaming

Jane Davies

Jane Davies

An entertainment enthusiast located in Austin. She is a tech geek, movie fan, and a dedicated binge-watcher. She is someone who enjoys keeping up with the current events and entertainment gossips.


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