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This relatively short "starter" bibliography contains not only key resources directly related to the study of film and history but also contextual material related to the construction and representation of history in general. Please send us your suggestions for additions to this list by contacting Professor Edward J. Gallagher, Department of English, Lehigh University via e-mail at

American Historical Review
AHR has had a regular "film reviews" section since 1988.
American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress
"American Memory is a gateway to the Library of Congress's vast resources of digitized American historical materials. Comprising more than 9 million items that document U.S. history and culture, American Memory is organized into more than 100 thematic collections based on their original format, their subject matter, or who first created, assembled, or donated them to the Library."
Authentic History Center
The Authentic History Center is comprised of artifacts and sounds from American popular culture. It was created to teach that the everyday objects in society have authentic historical value and reflect the social consciousness of the era that produced them.
Web site connected with the A&E television channel contains information on many historical figures. See especially the BIO classroom:
Bolam, Sarah, and Thomas J. Bolam. The Presidents on Film. Jefferson: MacFarland, 2007.
Filmography of 407 films with an American president as a character, though, of course, not all deal with a real event.
Boller, Paul F., Jr. Not So! Popular Myths about America from Columbus to Clinton. New York: Oxford UP, 1995.
Forty-four short essays on popular myths from "Columbus and the Flat-Earthers" to "President Bashing" (which puts Clinton in context) that not only deal with subjects and topics of reel American history like McCarthy and Lincoln but put one in the frame of mind to see history as constructed.
Briley, Ron. "Reel History: U.S. History, 1932-1972, As Viewed Through the Lens of Hollywood." History Teacher 23.3 (1990): 215-36.
Description of a high school course dealing with the Great Depression, World War II, the post-war consensus in the 1940s and 1950s, and the breakdown of that consensus in the 1960s and 1970s, whose major theme is "how consensus and conflict in American history may be illuminated by examining the Hollywood film." Demonstrates how a score or more classic films can be used to analyze American history.
Burgoyne, Robert. Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997.
Essentially, our past is supposed to dictate to the present the means by which it should be written and learned. However, the fact that people accept certain changes in our national history at face value seems to negate the true stories. Therefore, it seems that people yearn to identify with an ideal society. Because of this, historical films, which are usually filled with hyped-up versions of "how it used to be," demonstrate an all-encompassing inclination to rewrite history. To support this idea Burgoyne uses the movies Glory, Thunderheart, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Forrest Gump to argue that films appeal to the memories of our past but the memories seem to lose their meaning along the way.
Burgoyne, Robert. The Hollywood Historical Film. Malden: Blackwell, 2008.
Define five genres of the historical film, with substantial analyses as examples: the war film (Saving Private Ryan), the epic (Spartacus, Gladiator), the biographical film (Schindler's List), the metahistorical film (JFK), and the topical film (United 93, World Trade Center).
Burnett, Eric. History through Film: Volume 1. Raleigh: Lulu Enterprises, 2008.
Chapters on about thirty films (not all about American history) ranging from "Early Man" to "Contemporary World," each containing a short synopsis of the history as well as film analysis, with short bibliography. Rates films on an entertainment v. accuracy scale. Appendix list of 375 historical films. Chapters on films of interest to us include Pocahontas, National Treasure, The Untouchables, Patton, Quiz Show, Capote, Apollo 13, Black Hawk Down, and Blood Diamond.
Cameron, Kenneth M. America on Film: Hollywood and American History. New York: Continuum, 1997.
Surveys American historical films that "include a real person and some version of a real and specific event" (7). Deals with the films in chapters by decade under two broad headings: 1900-1950s as "Celebrating the Past" and the 1950s-1990s as "Democratizing the Past." Discussions of many films span from a paragraph to 1-2 pages. Over 500 films in the filmography, which in itself is worth the purchase price for its helpful categories. Certainly a broad, basic place to start any research.
Carnes, Mark C., ed. Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. New York: Holt, 1995.
Carnes has assembled essays on close to one hundred historical movies, not all about America, that are assembled in chronological order from Jurassic Park to All the President's Men, and including Wyatt Earp, The Molly Maguires, They Died With Their Boots On, Malcolm X, The Last of the Mohicans, and others. The reviewers are dozens of history professors and writers who examine movies that deal with the history of their chosen fields. Themes include the factual accuracy of the films as well as the way the films reflect upon the era in which they were made. Each section also provides side notes on related historical facts concerning both the movie and the event on which it is based. Also includes a conversation between Columbia History professor Eric Foner and film writer John Sayles in which they discuss the issues involved in making an historical movie work factually, engagingly, and financially.
Chopra-Gant, Mike. Cinema and History: The Telling of Stories. London: Wallflower, 2008.
Most useful to us are chapters three and four. The former looks in general at the historical film and asks how reliable and faithful to facts these films are and what the implications are for the validity of films as a way of understanding history. The latter has case studies of Gangs of New York and various films on the events of 9/11.
Christensen, Terry. Reel Politics: American Political Movies from Birth of a Nation to Platoon. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987.
Seventeen essays dealing with an average of four-five films each on such topics as "Hollywood at War," "Cynicism and Paranoia in the Seventies," "Workers, Unions, and Nuclear Power," "Nostalgia in the Age of Reagan," and "The New Patriotism." Films relevant to our project include Birth of a Nation, The Great Dictator, Wilson, All the King's Men, Salt of the Earth, All the President's Men, Norma Rae, Silkwood, Reds, Missing, The Killing Fields, and more.
Controversial Films [Film & History]
A special section of the Film & History journal's web site that will contain discussions of such films pertinent to this project as Good Night, and Good Luck.
Crowdus, Gary, ed. The Political Companion to American Film. Chicago: Lakeview P, 1994.
"All films are political," begins the preface. This book is a collection of over one hundred essays on individual filmmakers (Oliver Stone, Arthur Penn), genres (war, crime), sub-genres (prison, spy), racial and ethnic representations (black, Native Americans), and social characterizations (politicians, business men), many of which will be very helpful in orienting study on film and history.
Custen, George F. Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1992.
Custen tries to explain how motion pictures created during Hollywood's "golden era" helped sculpt and mold America today. From the 1930's until the late 1950's, many movies were made that were loosely based on real people or real events. "This book, then, is the study of how Hollywood biographical film [the 'biopic'] routinely integrates disparate historical episodes of selected individual lives into a nearly monochromatic 'Hollywood view of history ' " (3). There is no distinct line between fact and fiction. The audience has no indication as to what is real or what is a creative embellishment of the truth for better cinematography by the movie creators. In many instances, the audience has no choice but to take the director's view towards an event or a person because that alone is what is presented.
The "DoHistory" website enables the user to "do history" by using a case study involving the diary of Martha Ballard, a post-Revolutionary War midwife, and a modern historical account by Laura Ulrich, A Midwife's Tale, which is also available on video. Puts one in the frame of mind to see history as constructed.
Famous Trials
Comprehensive collection of documents relating to trials that could provide the basis for the "real" element of many a "reel" project. Such trials as Salem Witchcraft, the Boston massacre, Amistad, the Lincoln conspiracy, the Black Sox, Sacco-Vanzetti, Scopes, Scottsboro Boys, Lindbergh, Nuremberg, Mississippi Burning, My Lai, Manson, Earp, Peltier, Falwell and Flynt, Moussaoui.
Film & History
The home page for the most important journal in this field. Features an index to all past issues of the journal, links to sites and articles, archives of discussions, and, especially, a section on controversial films (see separate entry above for direct link to "Controversial Films").
FitzGerald, Frances. America Revised: History Schoolbooks in the Twentieth Century. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.
FitzGerald explains how history in school textbooks is remade through the decades in order to affect the children of that decade. She also explains how racism, editors, political powers, and large groups of protesters have been able to change history texts so that they contain more compromise than real history. Fostering nationalism is a major concern of history books, and book publishers seem the most influential shapers of content. Fundamental for understanding that history is constructed
Gallagher, Edward J. "Reel American History: An Archive Built by Novices." Film & History 32.2 (2002): 82-86.
An overview article designed to introduce potential users to the origin, nature, and history of this Reel American History project.
H-Net Discussion Networks
List of and links to many scholarly discussion groups of possible relevance to the study of the representation of history: H-Amstdy/American Studies, H-Film/Cinema History; H-High-S/Teaching High School History and Social Studies, H-HistoryDay/ National History Day Forum, H-PCAACA/Popular Culture Association, H-Public/Public History, H-Survey/ Teaching United States History Survey Courses, H-Teach/Teaching College History, and so forth.
Hirsch, E.D., Jr. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
One of the key documents in the so-called "culture wars." Hirsch writes at a time when multicultural emphases are challenging the consensus about what should be taught to children. He believes that "human communities are founded upon specific shared information" (xv), that "the basic goal of education in a human community is acculturation" (xvi), and that without cultural literacy -- that is, the knowledge shared by adults -- children will not be prepared to value and continue our society. Shared culture requires the transmission of specific information to children. The furor his book caused stems from an implication that there is one history, one tradition that someone(s) decide to transmit to the exclusion of other aspects, and controversy centers on what should be in (and not in) a "list" of "what literate Americans know" (see 152-215). Has implications for understanding the constructedness of history.
Historical Thinking Matters
"A website focused on key topics in U.S. history, that is designed to teach students how to critically read primary sources and how to critique and construct historical narratives. . . . Boring names, facts, dates - this is history for a lot of people. But historians think about history differently. They see themselves as detectives, often unsure about what happened, what it means, and rarely able to agree amongst themselves. This process of trying to figure out things you don't already know is as different from mindless memorization as you can get." Units on the Spanish-American War, The Scopes Trial, Social Security, and Rosa Parks.
The History Channel
This web site for the popular television channel contains much interesting historical information.
History Matters
"Designed for high school and college teachers of U.S. History courses. This site serves as a gateway to Web resources and offers useful materials for teaching U.S. history."
History News Network
Lively, current, and continuously updated collection of material on all aspects of the representation of history.
History Now [Archived]
A quarterly online journal for American history teachers and students by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Separate topic each issue with variety of study materials: slavery, immigration, civil rights, Lincoln, etc.
The History Project
A very large collection of images relating to American history that might be useful for creating web pages associated with a RAH project.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
Huge film database. The place to start for basic filmography as well as links to reviews, trailers, posters, and lots of other information.
Journal of American History
Since 1986 JAH has published a collection of "Movie Reviews" of documentaries and feature films on historical subjects in each December issue.
Karsten, Eileen. From Real Life to Reel Life: A Filmography of Biographical Films. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1993
Short entries identifying over 1000 bio-pic films to 1993. Helpfully indexed by subject (pilots, outlaws) and date.
Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: Touchstone, 1996.
Loewen examines what he feels has "gone wrong" with American history textbooks by discussing and disputing the version of history presented by these texts. In ten chapters chronologically highlighting some "amazing stories" (16) of American history (Columbus, first Thanksgiving, treatment of Native Americans, racism and anti-racism of the Civil War period, America as land of opportunity, function of American government, role of big business, Vietnam war), Loewen presents an alternate view of these histories that textbooks often neglect (or refuse) to mention. Two chapters follow that analyze textbook creation and the effects in the classroom of using standard American history texts. Loewen's angry and skeptical analysis of mainstream history may just be the way to approach the study of history in film.
Loewen, James W. Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited about Doing History. New York: Teachers College Press, 2009.
Another battle in Loewen's continuing war with teaching history through the huge textbook, this one more focused on classroom experience and pedagogical methods.
Marcus, Alan S., ed. Celluloid Blackboard: Teaching History with Film. Charlotte: Information Age, 2007.
An anthology of essays that tries to remedy the lack of discussion about the teaching of history through film. Articles provide a variety of frameworks for analyzing history-based films, a description of four research studies examining how films help or hinder students making sense of the past, and how using film to explore the past translates into daily practice in the classroom. Among the films and subjects discussed are Good Night and Good Luck, The Aviator, The Alamo, The Patriot, Dances with Wolves, The Searchers, Iron Jawed Angels, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Far and Away, Do the Right Thing, the Holocaust, and the Sixties.
Marcus, Alan S., Scott Alan Metzger, et al. Teaching History with Film: Strategies for Secondary Social Studies. New York: Routledge, 2010.
"The goal of this book is to provide educators with models that illustrate powerful history teaching using motion pictures." The book presents "real practice," "actual practice," that is, in-depth descriptions of what specific teachers do. Topic headings include how to use films to teach history, develop empathy, develop analytical skills, discuss controversial issues. Such films as Glory, Gran Torino, Kingdom of Heaven, The Jazz Singer.
McCrisken, Trevor B., and Andrew Pepper. American History and Contemporary Hollywood Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2005.
Discusses a few specific films each under such categories as the American Revolution, slavery, the Civil War, World War II, Oliver Stone and the 60s, African Americans and civil rights, post-Cold War interventions. Films highlighted are Revolution, The Patriot, Roots, Amistad, Gettysburg, Glory, Ride with the Devil, Cold Mountain, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, U-571, Pearl Harbor, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven and Earth, JFK, Nixon, Panther, Mississippi Burning, The Hurricane, Malcolm X, Ali, Three Kings, Black Hawk Down.
Mintz, Steven, and Randy Roberts, eds. Hollywood's America: United States History through Its Films. St. James: Brandywine Press, 1993. [Revised as Hollywood's America: Twentieth-Century America through Film. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.]
An assortment of essays written by a variety of people who examine movies spanning the century as "sociological and cultural documents" -- beginning with the controversial Birth of a Nation, covering movies of the Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam War, and culminating in the films of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. The essays explore the content and significance of many movies like The Grapes of Wrath and Wall Street as both a form of entertainment and a tool with which to decipher the public's position on societal issues and concerns. Much of this is done by detailing the events of the time in which the movie is made, in an effort to compare and refute the historical accuracy of each. Readers will find an impressive bibliography at the end, appropriately titled "A Guide to American Film History." This bibliography is so well organized that students and scholars alike are able to take advantage of the sources that range in topic from silent films to westerns.
Nash, Gary B., Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross E. Dunn. History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
"Imagine an outline for the teaching of American history in which George Washington makes only a fleeting appearance and is never described as our first president" (3). Such was the criticism aimed at the 1994 National Standards for History formulated by Nash and others pursuant to statements by such leaders as President Bush that "the time has come to establish clear national performance goals." Nash, Crabtree, and Dunn provide historical background on the teaching of history in the United States and thoroughly document, from their perspective as participants, the political battle by conservative elements against adoption of the Standards. This book provides a good recent example of why history is controversial.
National Standards for History [Archived]
The curriculum plan that in causing such a national furor (see Nash et. al. above) over the representation of history in schools as part of the "culture wars" is very instructive about issues that arise in the study of history in film.
Niemi, Robert. History in the Media: Film and Television. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2006.
Short descriptions and contextual groupings of 375 films make this more helpful than just a listing of films. Groupings include war (several groupings), sports, music, art, labor, business, political history, race relations, and crime. Each grouping is subdivided into chronological periods (70s, 80s, 90s) or topic (sports is broken down by baseball, boxing, football, etc.).
O'Connor, John E., and Martin A. Jackson, eds. American History/American Film: Interpreting the Hollywood Image. New York: Ungar, 1979.
Seminal work. O'Connor and Jackson are trying to encourage teachers and students to reconsider the Hollywood film as a valid and respectable subject for research. Fourteen contributors each concentrate on a specific film to show how its visual text -- as well as the details of its production, release, and reception -- relate to the broader historical and cultural questions of the day The films are Way Down East, The Big Parade, The Scar of Shame, Public Enemy, Steamboat ‘Round the Bend, Drums Along the Mohawk, Mission to Moscow, The Best Years of Our Lives, Red River, Viva Zapata!, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dr. Strangelove, Bonnie and Clyde, and Rocky.
Pitts, Michael R. Hollywood and American History: A Filmography of Over 250 Motion Pictures Depicting U.S. History. Jefferson: McFarland, 1984.
Provides names, dates, and other factual information relating to production of the films that one expects in a traditional filmography, but this book is especially useful for the essays, some actually quite long, on each film. The essays cover a broad range, from information on the historical subject to production details, film quality, audience reception, and related films. Very useful as a first stop when looking for a film to research or when doing research on a specific film.
Rollins, Peter C., and John E. O'Connor, eds. Hollywood's Indian: The Portrayal of the Native American in Film. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1998.
Rollins and O'Connor show how film created the popular image of Native Americans, a phenomenon that has not occurred with any other ethnicity in America. The image of the Native American in films, however, is not one but many -- ranging from a menace to whites to noble helper of fellow man. This book allows the audience to see the effects that Hollywood has on Native Americans in films. Films include The Vanishing American, Broken Arrow, Tell them Willie Boy is Here, Little Big Man, Powwow Highway, Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans, Pocahontas, and The Indian In the Cupboard.
Rollins, Peter C., and John E. O'Connor, eds. Hollywood's World War I: Motion Picture Images. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State U Popular P, 1997.
Rollins and O'Connor investigate the portrayal of World War I in various American films, uncovering two "competing visions of the war" (5). In fourteen chapters focusing on a diverse group of war films, including The Training of Colored Troops, Hearts of the World, What Price Glory?, The Big Parade, The Dawn Patrol, Hell's Angels, All Quiet on The Western Front, The Fighting 69th, Sergeant York, Paths of Glory, and Johnny Got His Gun. Rollins and O'Connor contend that Hollywood portrays the "Great War" in "two contradictory ways" (2): the Heroic Vision, a nationalistic view, vs. the Nightmare Vision, an activist, anti-war stance. The final five chapters concentrate on various other topics, including the comparison of the Great War to Vietnam, the analysis of news reports and documentaries, the perspective of homecoming veterans, and a filmography.
Rollins, Peter C., ed. Hollywood as Historian: American Film in a Cultural Context. Louisville: UP of Kentucky, 1998.
Essays on the historical relevance and impact of some of America's best known films (The Birth of a Nation, City Lights, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, The Grapes of Wrath, Wilson, The Negro Soldier, The Snake Pit, On the Waterfront, Dr. Strangelove, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Apocalypse Now). Each essay connects its film or films to the historical event and discusses production history, the film-maker's creative process, and any personal connection to the events.
Rollins, Peter C., ed. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.
Close to if not "the" place to start for a broad overview of films about American history. Almost 100 essays broken down into eight major categories divided into as many as a dozen subcategories: Eras (1920s, 1980s), Wars and Other Major Events (Korean War, World War I), Notable People (The Founding Fathers, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig), Groups (Asian Americans, Radicals), Institutions and Movements (Congress, The Political Machine), Places (New York City, The South), Themes and Topics (Feminism, Slavery), Myths and Heroes (The American Adam, The Machine in the Garden).
Rommel-Ruiz, W. Bryan. American History Goes to the Movies: Hollywood and the American Experience. New York: Routledge, 2011.
"Shows how popular representations of historic events shape the way audiences understand the history of the United States, including American representations of race and gender and stories of immigration, especially the familiar narrative of the American Dream": Civil War, the West, assassination of JFK, 9/11. Such films as The Crucible, Birth of a Nation, Last of the Mohicans, The Searchers, How the West Was Won, Little Big Man, Far and Away, Gangs of New York, Mi Familia, JFK, United 93, World Trade Center.
Roquemore, Joseph. History Goes to the Movies: A Viewer's Guide to the Best (and Some of the Worst) Historical Films Ever Made. New York: Doubleday, 1999.
Handy reference work. Entries on over 200 films contain a plot summary, short essay on the historical subject, resources for studying the history, and comparison films. The films are divided into such categories as early American history, the Civil War, the West, World War I, 1920-1940, World War II, the Korean War, 1950-1975, the Vietnam War, the Cold War.
Rosenstone, Robert A. Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to Our Idea of History. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995.
Rosenstone sees himself as a pioneer in the print media examining "the meeting of traditional historical consciousness with the increasingly insistent demands of the visual media" (2). He narrows his focus into three headers: History in Images/ History in Words, The Historical Film, and The Future of the Past. In ten chapters he illustrates alternatives to the typical Dragnet approach of "Just the facts ma'am" (7). His main focus and point is to make the claim that a) a film is not a book, i.e., an image is not a word, and b) film is history as vision. Rosenstone uses the films Reds, JFK, The Good Fight, Walker, and Sans Soleil to back this claim up and further prove his view that, indeed, "film, the contemporary medium, [is] still capable of both dealing with the past and holding a large audience" (24).
Rosenstone, Robert A. History on Film/Film on History. New York: Longman/Pearson, 2006.
"The important questions raised by the telling of the past in the visual media have yet to be answered -- or even really asked. Do such depictions really count as history? Do they add to or detract from our knowledge of the past? Can any depiction of the past on the screen be takien seriously? Does any film count as 'historical thinking' or contribute to something we might call 'historical understanding'? Can any such visual work be properly labelled with that capitalized term, History? Attempts to answer such questions will occupy the rest of this book."
Screening the Past
An international electronic journal of visual media and history, based in LaTrobe University, Australia. Contains a searchable archive that features all material previously published in the journal.
Stevens, Donald R., ed. Based on a True Story: Latin American History at the Movies . Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 1997.
Historians provide case studies of the contexts of thirteen films about Latin American history. That stretches the term "America," but the following films about exploration, discovery, and early settlement of the Americas would certainly be relevant: 1492; The Conquest of Paradise; Aguirre, The Wrath of God; I, the Worst of All; The Mission; and The Last Supper. The other films are Camila, The Other Francisco, Lucia, Gabriela, Like Water for Chocolate, Miss Mary, The Official Story, and Pixote.
Stevens, Michael G. Reel Portrayals: The Lives of 640 Historical Persons on Film, 1929 through 2001. Jefferson: McFarland & Co., 2003.
1-2 sentence biographies plus filmography. American entries range from John Adams and Lope de Aguirre to Brigham Young and Cole Younger, with an appendix on American presidents.
Suid, Lawrence H., and Dolores A. Haverstick. Stars and Stripes on Screen: A Comprehensive Guide to Portrayals of American Military on Film. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2005.
Very comprehensive, though, of course, not all of these films have a "real" basis." Especially helpful might be such category breakdowns as "Films by Subject or Period" (Mexican War, Civil War, World War I, etc.).
Toplin, Robert Brent. History by Hollywood: The Use and Abuse of the American Past. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1996.
Toplin remedies the neglect of "the phenomenon of film as interpreter of history" by providing case studies of eight films by "cinematic historians" (viii) that focus on "real people and real situations from the American past" (ix). Essays on Mississippi Burning, JFK, Sergeant York, Missing, Bonnie and Clyde,Patton, All the President's Men, and Norma Rae are organized by what he calls the "four principal methods of cinematic history" (13).
Toplin, Robert Brent. Reel History: In Defense of Hollywood. Lawrence: UP of Kansas, 2002.
The sub-title states Toplin's goal. He aims to challenge "familiar negative assessments" regarding license, manipulation, and invention and to recommend understanding that movies can "arouse emotions, stir curiousity, and prompt viewers to consider significant questions" (1). Among criteria for judging historical films are "communicating the feeling of a different time and place, interpreting an important historical situation, examining the past through a biographical perspective, and interpreting history through multiple perspectives" (2).
Toplin, Robert. "In Defense of the Filmmakers." Lights, Camera, History: Portraying the Past in Film. Ed. Richard Francaviglia and Jerry Rodnitsky. College Station: Texas A&M P, 2007. 113-35.
Five commonly articulated "problems" with historical films are the "great person" approach, focus on specific events rather than exploring big ideas, limited rather than comprehensive views of the past, the necessity of leaving out so much, and disproportionate depictions of war. Though such films can help students "develop an emotional appreciation for conditions of life in an earlier time and different place," demands for "accuracy" and "truth" are hard to satisfy. Such "finicky" critics fail to realize that a "Hollywood artist may adjust small details about a historical situation in order to draw the audience's attention to an important subject that needs serious consideration." "Hollywood movies do not bring closure to discussions about history. But they do have the potential to open them."
Tracey, Grant. Filmography of American History. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002.
Compact essays with suggestions for further reading on over two-hundred films broken down into fourteen historical categories from "America Before the Civil War" to "Watergate, Political Cynicism, and Hope, 1972-Present." Unbelievably useful reference work.
Vankin, Jonathan, and John Whalen. Based on a True Story: Fact and Fantasy in 100 Favorite Movies. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2005.
3-4 page essays with a few critical sources on 100 films broken into nine categories: "Keeping It Reel," "Showbiz Phonies," "Out of the Past." Almost all of the films discussed look very pertinent to our project.