Best Civil War movies

I watched Ang Lee’s Ride With the Devil today and was really impressed. The dialogue, the houses, the sets, the clothing and the way they handled the guns, horses, etc., were all waaaaayy above usual North & South Civil War on film dreck. I don’t know why this movie (set in the border state of Missouri with Quantrill’s Raiders a plot device) didn’t get more attention, but it was one of the most “real” of the Civil War films I’ve seen. Special kudos to the acting and writing of Jeffrey Wright’s portrayal of Holt, a Confederate soldier and ex-slave who’s incomparably more 3-D than the usual slaves or Confederates in movies, and the lack of mawkish dialogue throughout.

I liked the reenactment of The Battle of the Crater at the beginning of Cold Mountain and I thought the sets and scenery were good (even if it was filmed in Transylvania rather than NC) but largely the movie bit due to hack screenwriting and bad dialogue and comic book villains. Birth of a Nation was of course as good a piece of filmmaking and as horrible a piece of propaganda as its reputation says it was, but the the battle scenes were fascinating only for the consulting and actual participation of actual Civil War veterans. There are several Civil War flicks coming out soon, but in general, what are your votes for the best Civil War movies? This is particularly in regard to realism but can also be story, acting, battle scenes, etc…


For all it’s smarmy Hollywoodization, Gone With The Wind gives an interesting perspective (southern, of course) before, during and after the war.
One I just discovered, Gangs of New York touches on a side effect of the war. The late (1863?) draft, and the repercussions of that.

Well, it’s a very limited scope film, but I really was impressed with the USA’s dramatization of the story of the CSS Hunley. Certainly much of the drama was fiction, but they did a very good job of presenting facts along with the drama.

John Huston’s The Red Badge of Courage. I saw the remake once starring Richard Thomas and it was very good too.

Glory with Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.

I know it’s essentially a comedy, but Buster Keaton’s “The General” has an excellent battle scene.

Another vote for Gettysburg.

Also Andersonville, about the infamous CSA POW camp. I had a great-great-grandfather incarcerated there, and he told his granddaugther(my maternal grandmother) about how awful it was.

**Gods and Generals ** I believe it’s connected to Gettysburg. Very good. There’s a scene where Martin Sheen as a confedertate General is asks his black slave to pray with him.

The very movie I came here to mention. It is one of the most realistic Civil War films around, and is my own favorite CW movie.

Gettysburg is the definitive Civil War flick (not counting Ken Burns’ documentary of course). Glory is a very close second (the battle sequences at least, though the whole thing works as an enjoyable movie).

Can’t say I was too impressed with The Hunley TV movie. 95% melodramatic nonsense, 5% good civil war stuff (though I am amazed at how they actually found the commander’s coin when the real sub was recovered!)

I can’t agree for two reasons:

  1. Too many old, fat re-enactors.
  2. Martin Sheen is awful as Lee.

Glory is a good one.

Oh, we’ll rally 'round the flag, boys,
Rally once again!
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
Oh, we’ll gather from the mountains
And gather in the plains!
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The Union forever!
Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor!
Up with the Star!
And we’ll rally 'round the flag, boys,
Rally once again
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

We’ll welcome to our number
The loyal, true and brave!
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And though he may be poor
Not a man shall be a slave!
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The Union forever!
Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor!
Up with the Star!
And we’ll rally 'round the flag, boys,
Rally once again
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

BTW – I had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Noble warriors in a shameful cause.

What unit? My greatX5 grandfather was in Kershaw’s Brigade at Gettysburg.

My Gettysburg ancestor was in the 16th Alabama infantry (and he looked like Moses).

I’ve been invited to participate in Civil War reenactments but I want to lose about 50 pounds first. I was told “You’re fine as you are, we got guys a lot bigger than you” but the inaccuracy bothers me. There was a word for fat 39 year olds in the Civil War: Senator.

PS- The Birmingham (AL) newspaper had an interesting article on Sunday about reenactors. I was surprised how many black reenactors there are, and some actually “fight” for the Confederacy. (I knew there were a few black Confederate soldiers- no black regiments or anything like that, but the occasional “bent rule”- but hard to believe blacks today would do that; there was also a biracial couple [white husband/black wife] profiled who participated- he plays a rebel soldier and she’s a nurse [the CSA had many black nurses]).
The book MANHUNT about the search for J. Wilkes Booth and his conspirators has been optioned for a movie. It’s going to star Harrison Ford as Col. Everton Conger, an extremely minor real life character in the book, but like Vasily Zeitsev in Enemy at the Gates but has apparently been rewritten as the lead. The author says he’d like to see Matthew McConaughey play Booth due to his accent and their resemblance.

My favorite movie that takes place during the Civil War, is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, which while not being ABOUT the Civil War, uses it as a rather effective backdrop for the story (I mean, the movie is great just for “The Extacy of Gold”, yaknow?) :slight_smile:

Also, since the OP doesn’t seem to specify that we can only pick movies that take place during the American Civil War, I’m gonna have to throw in a vote for Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back :smiley:

16th Alabama? The 16th wasn’t at Gettysburg.

I agree with George Carlin. They should fight the Civil War reenactments with live ammunition, and clean up the gene pool! :smiley:

Oops. Wrong Confederate ancestor (I had quite a few). The one at Gettysburg was in the 47th Alabama. His daughter would later marry my great-grandfather whose father was at Vicksburg the same day. Both men were from Coosa County, AL where half of my father’s farm was located when I was a kid (the farm wasn’t huge but was on the county line).

The main story that survived in my family is of a colorful old uncle who had been a teenaged cavalry sergeant in the war. He was captured at Sharpsburg, imprisoned at a hellhole that rivalled Andersonville, escaped but lost a leg in the process (shot by a search party and developed gangrene) but with the help of Confederate sympathizers (paging Dr. Mudd?) managed to have his leg amputated, treated, craft himself a staff and hide out while making his way back south. He walked back to Alabama.
He never married but he had a longtime (several decades) monogamous relationship with one of his family’s former slaves that produced many children. As an old man he sent his attractive teenaged (illegitimate and biracial) daughter to deliver a cow he sold to a preacher, and on her way back she was stopped by two “whitetrash” country boys who’d harassed her several times before. They took the money and each of them raped her and when her father, in his 60s or 70s by then and one legged but still a good rider and hot tempered and who always carried his cavalry pistol and several knives, demanded the boys arrests the sheriff refused saying that it was her word against theirs and even if she was telling the truth “they were just up to mischief”. No sense ruining their lives over something as simple as gang raping a black girl.

When the old man was arrested for the murders of the two boys the next day (one was found shot to death in the shack they shared, the other was found miles away having been drug to death behind a horse) the sheriff sent a dozen men to take him in because even as an old, one legged and little man he was known to be mean and dangerous and extremely well armed. They found him at his tiny house (he didn’t live with his concubine) surrounded by his elderly white sisters and his young biracial sons, all of whom were armed, and to stop a bloodbath he agreed to go voluntarily. He was acquitted when the murders of the two boys were ruled justifiable. The reason the murders were justified: they’d stolen his property [the money for the cow]. According to the old people in my family who remember him, though, one if not both of the white boys was killed by their victim’s brother, but the old sergeant took the credit/blame/rap for it because even with the just cause he had, a black man avenging his sister’s rape by killing white men would have met a lynch mob even if the court didn’t convict him (which it would have).

Sorry for the hijack.