According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a genre is a “category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content.” We would add the idea that nearly any form of media (written, auditory, or visual) can be categorized by genres. It’s just one of many different ways that a person can discuss books, television programming, short stories, movies, and more. Over the next few weeks, we thought it would be fun to look at over a dozen different film genres (ranging from animated to westerns), briefly defining certain characteristics common to any film in that genre, and then listing some of our favorite movies from the given category. We’d love to have your input, as well! Share with others what your favorite films are from each genre are and why. We look forward to being introduced to new-to-us titles, or being reacquainted with film ideas we had forgotten! Please realize that we are not advocating all of these films for every age of child in your family. We provide the Motion Picture Association of America’s film rating with each film; however, the MPAA’s standards can be rather warped. Viewer discretion is always advised.
Here is a look at the historical genre.
Historical – An historical film is set in a specific period of history, or centers around a particular event in history. Historical films have the unique ability to “transport” the viewer into a time and place completely unique from the current day, but they also have the responsibility of providing as historically accurate a portrayal into that time as possible. (Remember that every movie contains a worldview—sometimes several worldviews.) The historical movie does not intend to be as focused on historical accuracy as a documentary, for instance, should be. Nevertheless, the costuming, language, transportation used, architecture, people in power, props, and other elements in the film should be true to the period in which the film is set. Some historical movies may be fictional in nature (set in the time period, but centering around a fictitious character), while others are biographical in nature, but include elements of “poetic license” or “directorial liberty” in the midst of historical fact. Our list of historical films (in no particular order) contains both fictional and biographical movies.
- Ben-Hur (MGM Studios, 1959: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, and Stephen Boyd; William Wyler-director) TV-PG – Set during Roman times, this is a classic story of forgiveness versus vengeance, and how Christ’s redemption changes lives.
- Scarlet Pimpernel (TV Movie, 1982: Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen; Clive Donner-director) NR – Romance, disguises, and narrow escapes make this a unique way to learn about life during the French Revolution.
- Amazing Grace (Walden Media, 2006: Ioan Gruffudd, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Albert Finney; Michael Apted-director) PG – Wilberforce’s battle to end the slave trade in England is an incredible study of perseverance, courage, compassion, and grace.
- Gods and Generals (Turner Pictures, 2003: Jeff Daniels, Robert Duvall, Stephen Lang, and Bruce Boxleitner; Ronald F. Maxwell-director) PG-13 – Centered around Stonewall Jackson’s military life and godly character, this is a long film, but it is a unique study of this Civil War leader’s successes against the Union from 1861 to 1863.
- Boy in Striped Pajamas (Miramax Films, 2008: Asa Butterfield, Domonkos Nemeth, Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis; Mark Herman-director) PG-13 – A haunting story of friendship between a young German boy who is being protected from the evils of the war by his parents, but develops a friendship with a Jewish boy in a nearby concentration camp. This friendship may forever change everyone’s lives.
- Apollo 13 (Universal Pictures, 1995: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon; Ron Howard-director) PG –The true-life drama of trying to devise a way to bring back the astronauts of a malfunctioning rocket safely from their troubled moon-bound mission creates a tension that is memorable.
- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation: 2003: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, and James D’Arcy; Peter Weir-director) PG-13 – Set during the Napoleonic Wars, a British ship is ordered to capture or destroy a French ship sailing around the South American coast. There is internal conflict, relational conflict, and naval conflict to spare in this dramatic action-adventure film.
- A Man for All Seasons (Highland Films, 1966: Paul Schofield, Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, Robert Shaw, and Orson Welles; Fred Zinnemann-director) TV-PG – Thomas More stood up to King Henry VIII when the king rejected the Roman Catholic Church because it would not allow him to divorce and remarry. More objected so strongly to King Henry’s “heresy” that he resigned as chancellor, and eventually even lost his life for his beliefs. His commitment to what is right and good is admirable to this day.
Share your favorites below in the comments area.