Top 10 Historical Fiction Movies of All Time

Historical fiction movies are a great way to learn about history and see a world that isn’t our own. Whether they feature war epics, period romantic comedies or political thrillers, these films are sure to make you feel like you’re right there in the action. If you’re looking for a horror movie that’s just as evocative and thrilling as it is entertaining, Brotherhood of the Wolf is an absolute must-see. Combining martial arts with swash-buckling action, the French film has earned a huge cult following over the years.

1. The Diary of Anne Frank

Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who kept a diary during the time she and her family were hiding from the Nazis. Her diary has since become a part of history and has been adapted into several primewire movies. She was 13 years old when she started writing her diary, and it continued for two years. It details her feelings, thoughts, and experiences while in hiding.

2. The Book Thief

The Book Thief is an adaptation of the 2005 best-selling novel of the same name by Australian author Markus Zusak. Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, it is a story of survival and the redemptive power of books. The film follows Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nelisse), a young girl living with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Her foster father helps her learn to read, and she shares stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with a Jewish man concealed in their basement.

3. The Other Boleyn Girl

A lushly photographed and beautifully costumed feast for the eyes, The Other Boleyn Girl is a historical romance about a deadly rivalry between two sisters. Based on Philippa Gregory’s best-selling novel of the same name, this 2008 film features Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. The film is a brisk saga that is more about character than it is about the elaborate dresses and sets that are usually associated with costume dramas. However, history buffs will be forced to groan at the liberties this movie takes with the facts and the way it compresses time in its first half hour.

4. Schindler’s List

The cult classic is not only a powerful example of the power of visual storytelling but also one of the most influential movies about the Holocaust ever made. It helped to shape the way that Holocaust memory was viewed in America and continues to have an impact on the world today. The film is a remembrance of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German industrialist who saved Jewish prisoners from the Nazi death camps. He negotiated with local party officials to bring them to his Krakow enamel factory, where they were given food and better treatment.

5. 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave is an iconic movie about the life of a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. It’s also an important reminder of the brutal realities of chattel bondage in 19th century America, says Anti-Slavery International director Aidan McQuade. The film is based on Northup’s memoirs and features a cast of top-notch actors including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. It has already generated Oscar buzz.

6. Kingdom of Heaven

Kingdom of Heaven takes substantial liberties with historical figures, but it does a good job of explaining the Crusades and the fall of Jerusalem. Balian of Ibelin is a perfect knight and helps the viewer understand what it took to defend Christianity in the Middle East. The movie is also notable for depicting Saladin as a moderate Muslim, something that was a necessity in order to create an olive branch between the Christian and Muslim communities. This message has since been criticized, but it’s still an admirable one.

7. Gladiator

Gladiator was released 20 years ago this month, and it changed the way we looked at ancient history. It pushed the boundaries of cinematography by using CGI to create a believable environment. It also introduced the sword-and-sandals epic to a new generation of audiences. It brought a sense of excitement to the genre, and helped revive an interest in ancient myths and history.

8. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring is a story about a group of hobbits, elves, wizards and humans who set out to destroy a ring that was forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. It is an epic high fantasy adventure written by J. R. R. Tolkien, and based on his own philology, religion, fairy tales and Norse mythology. It is difficult to watch The Fellowship of the Ring today without at least some consideration for the context that has now developed around it. This includes the fact that the movie is only one part of a trilogy.

9. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes) returns to the King Arthur legend for a visually lush trip into 6th century England where Arthur will reach out to grab his destiny. But Vortigern (Jude Law) wants to keep him evil from it.

The fabled sword is stuck in a stone and only responds to Arthur’s touch if he’s the rightful heir to the kingdom. He assembles a commendable multicultural resistance force, including a mystical Mediterranean witch (Astrid Berges-Frisbey).

10. The Wolf of Wall Street

Based on the autobiography of Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street is a black comedy crime film that is often called a Scorsese classic. It features Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey in an ensemble cast that focuses on greed, money and drugs. It follows Belfort’s rise to success as a stockbroker on Wall Street and his downfall in a series of pump-and-dump scams. Despite its extreme characterizations and depictions of office parties and mind-boggling wealth, it is a surprisingly accurate account of a dark side to the world of finance.

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