30 History Movies for Middle School

Ian is starting a new film study unit in our homeschool.  He loves watching movies and when I found the Thinking Tree Film Study Journal I just knew Ian would love the opportunity to watch movies as part of his homeschooling day.

I set to work writing up a list of movies I thought he'd enjoy watching.  These are just some of the movies I found that I thought he'd enjoy watching as part of our history lessons.

1.  Secretariat-- A story about a horse that won the Triple crown in 1973; the first American Thoroughbred to win in 25 years.


2.  Captain Philips- A movie about the 2009 hijacking of a US Container ship by a crew of pirates.

Captain Phillips

3.  Sully- Based on the "Miracle on the Hudson" this movie takes us through the plane that landed in the Hudson river.

Sully (DVD)
4.  A League of their Own- A fictional story of the All-American Girls Baseball League of 1943

5.  Gung- Ho-- When the Japanese re-open an American auto plant the workers have to learn to bend to the new management methods of the Japanese.

Gung Ho

6.  Wild Hearts Can't be Broken-- The real life story of Sonora Webster, a horse jumper that went blind and still continued to compete.

7.  I am David-- When David (age 12) escapes from a Bulgarian concentration camp he sets out on a journey to reach Denmark and is told to "trust no one."

I Am David

8.  Far & Away- When Joseph Donelly is sent to America, accompanying his landlord's daughter Shannon on a quest for new land, he discovers that he too can find his own place in America and own his own land.

Far and Away

9.  Newsies-- Based on the actual events of the newsboys strike of 1899 in New York City.

Newsies (Collector's Edition)

10.  October Sky-- set in coal mining Virginia in 1957, one boy sets off to build his own rocket and leave the coal mines behind after seeing the Sputnik satellite.

October Sky (Special Edition)

11.  McFarland USA-- The story of a cross country team that was formed in McFarland California.

12.  Concussion-- The story of an American immigrant doctor who made a discovery about brain injury and football.  He then stood up to the NFL.

13.  The Pursuit of Happyness-- Based on the true story of Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman who is trying to find a better life for himself and his son.  When Chris takes an unpaid internship in a stockbroker training program they become homeless but Chris never gives up on his dream.

14. Dances with Wolves-- When a soldier leaves the Civil war an goes out to live on the plains, making friend with the Sioux Indians that live there.

Dances With Wolves

15.  The Three Musketeers-- The three musketeers take on a new recruit in helping them protect the king of France in this historical fiction comedy.

The Three Musketeers

16.  Truman- A movie based on the life of president Truman.


17.  Places in the Heart- A story set in the south during the great depression.

Places in the Heart

18.  First Knight-- In this tale King Arthur, Lady Guinevere  is torn between marrying the king and falling in love with the dashing knight sir Lancelot.

First Knight

19.  U-571-- During World War II, when a German submarine sends out an SOS signal the allies realize that they could turn the tide of the war if they can get their hands on the coding machine but in order to be successful they'll have to board the boat masquerading as German soldiers.

U-571 (Collector's Edition) by Universal Studios

20.  The Monuments Men-- Based on the true story of a World War II platoon that was in charge of going into Germany to stop priceless works of art from falling into the hands of the Nazi's.

The Monuments Men

21.  Deepwater Horizon -- The story of the offshore oil drilling rig that blew up in April 2010.

22.  Bridge of Spies--  The story of negotiating for an American pilot in Russia during the Cold War.

Bridge of Spies DVD

23.  The Finest Hours-- Based on the true story of the coast guard's rescue of USS Pendelton; off the coast of Cape Cod in February of 1952.

The Finest Hours

24. Race-- Based on the life story of Olympian Jesse Owens; who competed in the Berlin Olympics during Hitler's reign.  


25.  Remember the Titans- Set in Virginia in 1971, the effort to improve racial relations after the integration of the TC Wiliams High School falls to the football team.

Remember the Titans (Widescreen Edition)

26.  k-19-- Inspired by the true story of 

K-19: The Widowmaker

27.  Titanic-- A fictionalized story of the sinking of the Titanic.

28.  Saving Mr. Banks-- The story of how Walt Disney tried for 20 years to bring the story of Mary Poppins to life. 

Saving Mr. Banks

29.  The Sum of All Fears-- The fictional story of a CIA agent trying to find a missing nuclear bomb.

 The Sum of All Fears (Special Collector's Edition)

30.  13 Days -- A movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis.


  1. I used many of these with my kids, but just a caution - some contain a lot of bad language (eg 13 Days)

    1. Yes, thank you! I was aware of that but while my son has heard most of the words before he knows enough not to use them.

  2. What a wonderful list! Amazing messages in them all! Remember the Titans is our boy's favorite movie of all time!

  3. Can't remember the last time I took notes on a blog post! This was great! Thank you!

  4. Thank you! I'm always interested in recommendations from other home educators. Movies like these are a great way to sneak in a little extra learning. Pinned!
    Blessings, Leigh

    1. Exactly! I love looking for fun ways to sneak in a little extra learning.

  5. Great post! This will be a go to list for me. Finding movies that our whole family can enjoy is a challenge but I think there are many here that will fit. Thanks!

  6. These look great! There are many here that our entire family would enjoy. I'm sure that there could be a lot of learning and wonderful discussions :)

  7. As a former history teacher I'd like to suggest 1776 which was made into a movie after a successful run on Broadway as an addition to the list. It is a musical but since kids remember things set to music that is actually a bonus. The story was conceived by a former history teacher and is very accurate (there is one place where literary license is taken though). It is a wonderful movie that truly makes the founding fathers come to life.

    1. I'll definitely be adding that to our list; thank you for the suggestion!

  8. I've seen so many of these movies, and some I have to yet to see. I've had the Disney Banks movie on Netflix list forever. So hard to find the time to watch everything I want to. Definitely watch Dances With Wolves BEFORE you go to Custer State Park.

    1. That's a great idea; we'll definitely have to re-watch Dances With Wolves before we go.


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