There are many, many films that can be said to depict eras or aspects of American history, but for the purposes of the Reel American History project, and following the lead of Robert Brent Toplin and Kenneth M. Cameron, we focus on feature films based on "real people and actual events." In doing so, for instance, we necessarily and regrettably subordinate some classic films like, say, The Grapes of Wrath, which captures the spirit of the Great Depression, because we are primarily interested in studying what film-makers do with a very specific historical record. In this respect the advice to students about selecting individual film projects might be helpful in identifying the kinds of films we feel are most appropriate for our archive. This is a working list of about 500 films, far from complete, and should be supplemented by lists in such works in our bibliography by Sarah and Thomas Bolam, Kenneth Cameron, Eileen Karsten, Robert Niemi, Michael Pitts, Peter Rollins, Joseph Roquemore, Michael Stevens, Grant Tracey, and several others.
Links are provided for film projects that are already part of the archive.
For more information on specific films, we suggest consulting the Internet Movie Database.
For help locating films to purchase, consult our list of sources.