Images of America

A Social and Historical Look
at America Through the Movies

Other Movies Considered

1607 : English settlers land on what comes to be called Jamestown, Virginia.
Movie : The New World(2005)
Genres : historical drama


Reason Not Used
This movie was very close to being very good, but ultimately it was the arrogance of the director that hurt it. I enjoyed it but I wouldn't want to subject students to scene after scene of babbling brooks. The director seems to feel that beautiful scenes will make up for a strong narrative structure. He wants to beat you over the head with his message that the beautiful natural world was ruined by the incoming invaders. I really think Malick needs to watch Sullivan's Travels a few times. He could have gotten his message across, made the movie more fun to watch and cut the movie by forty minutes.


1620 : The Pilgrim's land at Plymouth Rock
Movie :Plymouth Adventure (1952)
Genre : drama/historical

Reason Not Used
A beautifully filmed movie with great special effects for the Mayflower. But the movie concentrated on a supposed love affair between the Captain (Spenser Tracy) and Mrs. William Bradford (Gene Tierney). It presented the landing at Cape Cod as a conspiracy formulated in England. It also said nothing about the time the Pilgrims spent in Cape Cod or the journey to Plymouth. It doesn't say anything about the make up the majority of the passengers (the Strangers). It made the Captain out to be the hero as he stayed with the Pilgrims during their first winter, even though he really stayed because it got too late and the winter sailing was too rough. Didn't even show an Indian. Mrs. Bradford did jump over board when the Mayflower got to Plymouth but there is otherwise very little history in this movie.
This is the kind of movie that gives historical movies a bad name.


1770ís : Shortly before the Revolutionary War farmer Martin brings his bride to the Mohawk Valley where they are burned out by Indians.
Movie : Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
Genres : adventure/war/historical fiction

Reason Not Used
The presentation of the Native Americans is too stereotypical. Topic covered much better in Last of the Mohicans (1992). It does have a nice representation of what life was like on the frontier in that time period.


1776 : George Washington leads the troops accross the Delaware.
Movie : The Crossing(2000)
Genres : historical

Reason Not Used
I liked it, I just didn't think it was that good. It is supposed to be pretty accurate. My main problem is I have just seen Jeff Daniels in so many goofy roles I have a tough time visualling him as the dignified, heroic George Washington. I kept expecting him to break out in a dance or something. It really should be a very important movie, showing how Washington's personality helped overcome great difficulties.
Close, but no cigar. (I'm going to watch it again, though.)


1776 : A South Carolina plantation owner would like to keep his family out of the oncoming war against the British.
Movie : The Patriot(2000)
Genres : adventure/war/historical fiction

Reason Not Used
Ultimately, even though there many interesting scenes, the movie came down to a show down between the American Psycho and Jack the Ripper. The battle scenes, battle tactics and representation of the climate of the times were interesting. It's too bad the movie veered away from a historical representations of the times to a personal battle between the antagonist and protagonist. I also wasn't really happy with the representation of all those happy slaves and free blacks in 1776 South Carolina either.


1859 : West Point graduates capture the fanatical John Brown
Movie : The Sante Fe Trail(1940)
Genres : adventure/war/historical fiction

Reason Not Used
Besides the faulty history (Custer hadn't even graduated from West Point yet), the movie is an apology for the slave culture of the South. It blames the abolitionists and John Brown for the Civil War and not slavery,


1850ís : Life on a southern plantation before, during and after the Civil War.
Movie :Gone With The Wind (1939)
Genre : drama/historical

Reason Not Used
May show clips of Atlanta after Sherman's March and some of the early plantation scenes. Also may show some of the stereotyped and racist representations of the slaves for mirror into 1930's America.
Ultimately, the scene that took this off my list was the one in which Big Tom comes out on to the streets of Atlanta and Tells Scarlett that he and the other Tara slaves are going off to "dig for the South". To me this scene was an attempt to portray slavery as a paternalistic sort of institution that was destroyed by the meddling Yankees. If someone got their history from this movie they would blame the Yankees for starting the Civil War.


1860ís : Lt. John Dunbar gets assigned to a deserted outpost and comes to adapt the Sioux way of life.
Movie : Dances with Wolves (1990)
Genre : drama/war/Western

Reason Not Used
I really liked that they used the native languages and it had good depictions of Indians' way of life. I don't , however, think it was a balanced movie. The Cheyenne were too good, Pawnee and whites were too bad and the movie was just too long. If you want to look at this movie from the point of view of having Dunbar as the villain because he personifies how the Europeans corrupted the Indian way of life and changed the way they fought, it becomes much more interesting.


1862 : Immigrants have conflicts in New York City
Movie : Gangs of New York(2002)
Genre : drama / historical fiction

Reason Not Used
Just not as good as it should have been. Almost more soap opera than historical drama. Could have been so good.


1863 : The Union and Confederate armies meet at a little town in Pennsylvania.
Movie : Gettysburg (1993)
Genre : drama / historical fiction

Reason Not Used
I love this movie but it was over four hours long. I will definitely show some scenes from it including Pickett's Charge. The book that this movie is based on, Killer Angels, is definitely one I would have my students read.


1910ís : Set in White Plains, New York, Ragtime finds black piano player Coalhouse Walker Jr. being wronged and wanting justice.
Movie : Ragtime (1981)
Genre : drama

Reason Not Used
I really liked the Coalhouse Walker Jr. thread in this movie but the other threads really don't mesh too well and it makes the movie kind of confusing (particularly on a first viewing). Foreman was probably too ambitious. He would have had a better movie if he stuck to one storyline.


1923 : The predominantly black town of Rosewood, Florida is burnt to the ground when a white woman charges that she was raped by a black stranger.
Movie : Rosewood (1997)
Genre : drama

Reason Not Used
I may use this movie in the future. It is a little long (140 minutes) and I wish they didn't create the fictional character of Mann who rides in to town to save the day. I think the events were dramatic enough without having to create him to help the narrative.


1930ís : Henpecked Egbert SousŤ has comic adventures as a substitute film director and unlikely bank guard.
Movie : The Bank Dick (1940)
Genre : comedy

Reason Not Used
As much as I love this movie I was having trouble justifying the historical or sociological importance of it. Just see it if you get the chance.


1937 : Jake Gittes is a detective who finds murder and corruption in 1930's Los Angeles.
Movie : Chinatown (1974)
Genre : crime / mystery / film noir

Reason Not Used
I really love Chinatown but it is perhaps a little too bizarre and confusing on a first viewing for high school students. Some movies need to be seen multiple times to be appreciated and this is one of them.


1938 : David is waiting for a bone to complete his dinosaur and then he meets Susan and a leopard that has escaped from the circus in Bridgeport.
Movie : Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Genre : Screwball Comedy

Reason Not Used
I showed it as an example of screwball comedy and the students really didn't like it. I think screwball comedies are an acquired taste.


1941 : The Japanese attack pearl harbor.
Movie : Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Genre : Historical Drama

Reason Not Used
I really like this movie. However its docu-drama style with all the characters in and out is a little hard to follow in the classroom setting. It is an excellent movie and any one who likes war movies should have this near the top of their list.


1941 : Private Eye Sam Spade gets involved in the hunt for a priceless statue.
Movie : The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Genre : drama/mystery

Reason Not Used
I love The Maltese Falcon and I think it is an excellent representative of film noir, however, I'm definitely showing Bogart in Casablanca and I'm definitely showing Double Indemnity so no room for this.


1943 : When a US Naval captain shows signs of mental instability that jeopardizes the ship, the first officer relieves him of command and faces court martial for mutiny.
Movie : The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Genre : drama / war

Reason Not Used
As much as I love this movie, it really isn't a historical study as much as it is a psychological study.


1945 : US scientists think that they have invented a new gadget that could change the way warfare is fought. The question now because if we should use and how we should use it.
Movie : Hiroshima (1995)
Genre : drama / war

Reason Not Used
I really liked this Canadian, made for TV, exploration of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. It was very informative and also did a very good job of presenting the Japanese point of view. It runs over three hours. If it was shorter I would definitely use it.


1945 : Chronicles the development of the atomic bombs for use in World War II.
Movie : Fat Man and Little Boy(1989)
Genre : drama / war

Reason Not Used
What should have been a fascinating topic was rendered kind of boring by this treatment. Even Paul Newman was like a cardboard character here.


1946 : Nick Smith, the middle-aged proprietor of a roadside restaurant, hires drifter Frank Chambers as a handyman...
Movie : The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Genre : film noir/ drama

Reason Not Used
I love this movie, but it's not Double Indemnity.


1950ís : In this Hitchcock classic based on a true story, an innocent man is arrested and imprisoned.
Movie : The Wrong Man (1956)
Genre : drama / crime

Reason Not Used
I originally picked this because the character was Hispanic and I wanted some movies with Hispanic themes. However this movie really doesn't have anything to say about Hispanic culture and the lead wasn't even played by an Hispanic actor. I like this movie but its pretty far down on my list of Hitchcock films.


1976 : A TV network reporter begins to lose his mind on air and is exploited for the ratings he brings in.
Movie : Network(1976)
Genre : drama

Reason Not Used
There are some really great performances in Network and I really think the movie has a lot to say about the news business and contemporary society. I do think the movie tends to come a part a little towards the end. For the purposes of this class All The President's Men is much better.


1964 : Two FBI agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.
Movie : Mississippi Burning (1988)
Genre : drama/historical

Reason Not Used
Historical inaccuracies make this film more trouble than it is worth. Three civil rights workers were killed but that is about the only thing this film gets right. Having two white FBI agents come in and save the day while the black community silently watches makes this movie closer to science fiction than drama.


1971 : The high school in Alexandria Virginia is being integrated and so is the football team.
Movie : Remember the Titans (2000)
Genre : drama/sports/historical

Reason Not Used
Too much of a Hollywood production of a time that really wasn't as pleasant as it was portrayed in the movie. Movie might actually have done a disservice to the people who had to go through those very difficult times.


1993 : A vice president at a tobacco company decides to testify on 60 Minutes that tobacco companies intentionally try to hook people on nicotine.
Movie : The Insider (1999)
Genre : biography/drama/history

Reason Not Used
I really think that this is an excellent movie. It addresses the very important issue of American corporations' influence on the media. While I found the movie fascinating and gripping, I'm afraid the students would find it slow and dull. It runs a little too long at 157 minutes.


1995: A lawyer sacrifices everything he owns to pursue an environmental case.
Movie :A Civil Action (1998)
Genre : drama

Reason Not Used
I liked the movie. I don't think it was as good as The Insider but it was a nice expose on the dangers of taking on big business. The real problem that I have with the movie is the message that I got from it. To me, the movie is saying you are crazy to try to pursue a case against a big corporation because you really can't win. This is probably a really good movie to show to law students.






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