Studying history is lots of fun however remembering all those facts simply by reading them off a piece of paper is not. If you’re looking for a cool and interesting way to test your historical knowledge look no further.

I focused study that includes a variety of textual mediums. I would watch a movie related to the topic and then write poems and songs to help me remember, which also makes me happy as I enjoy being creative. This all leads to a sort of immersion, and that is when I retain everything. – Alyssa 98.4

Watching tv shows and movies have a lot of benefits but they can also be a great way to procrastinate so we’ve merged the two to give you a fun and easy way to test your historical knowledge.

So without further ado, here’s 30+ of the best TV shows and movies to watch for Modern History!

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Why films and TV shows?

Films and tv shows are great for a number of reasons.

  1. They give you a visual representation of the historic event. It’s hard to imagine a hundred thousand people packed into a stadium watching Hitler’s propagandist speech. Seeing a visual picture of this is able to show you just how easy it was for individuals to get swept up by Hitler’s charisma as Leni Riefenstahl once stated.
  2. Films and tv shows tell a story. History is not just a linear series of events that are not related to one another rather it’s things that happened to people  that were affected by other events. The great thing about movies is they give you an overview of the ‘big picture’.
  3. Reinforces historical information. Watching a film about a topic you have already studied helps you solidify your knowledge. Seeing the events, people and situations portrayed in a more realistic way can help to jog your memory when you are in an exam.

‘Triumph of the Will’, 1936

How can I use them to study?

Films and tv shows can be a great way to test your historical knowledge by assessing how historically accurate the film is.

Action point
– Choose a film that links to your syllabus or check-out the ones we have provided below.
– Write a list of questions to consider while watching the film

 

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– Watch the film and make note of any historical information that might answer the questions you have written.

 

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– Check any historical facts mentioned in the movie against a reputable historical source such as your textbook (or once that’s done google “film name historical accuracy”
– Have a short break and get a family member/yourself to quiz you on the syllabus dot points that link to the film/tv you watched.

Film and TV suggestions according to the syllabus

WWI: A Source based study

‘War Horse’, 2011

  • Wings, USA, 1927
  • All Quiet on the Western Front, USA, 1930
  • War Horse, UK, 2011

Anglo-Irish Relations 1968–1998

  • 71, UK, 2014 – 1971 Belfast Riots
  • Hunger, UK/Ireland, 2008 – 1981 hunger strikes
  • In the Name of the Father, Ireland/UK/USA 1993 – Guildford pub bombings
  • Bloody Sunday, Ireland, 2002 – 1972 Bloody Sunday

Conflict in Europe 1935 – 1945

The Malmedy Massacre Trial uncut footage, 1946

The Malmedy Massacre Trial uncut footage, 1946

  • Band of Brothers, USA, 2001 – D-day to Post-VE Day
  • Stalingrad, East Germany, 1993 – Wehrmacht in the Battle of Stalingrad
    • Elizabeth’s tip: This is not to be mistaken for the tragically awful 2013 Russian production, which is just generally horrible for historical accuracy!
  • 1944, Estonia, 2015 – Battle of Tannenberg Line
  • Fury, USA, 2015 – Highly dramatised depiction of a US Armored Platoon in the final days of Nazi Germany
  • Downfall, Germany 2004 – Hitler’s last days in the Führerbunker
  • Schindler’s List, USA, 1992 – Liquidation of the Ghettos, Holocaust
  • NaPoLa, Germany, 2003 – Hitler Youth in Germany
  • Generation War, Germany, 2013 – German Wehrmacht, Holocaust, Polish partisan resistance
  • Triumph of the Will/Triumph des Willens, Nazi Germany, 1935 – Nazi German propaganda film by Leni Riefenstahl
  • Das Boot, West Germany, 1981 – U-96 submarines during World War II
  • The Round Up, France, 2010 – 1942 Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, French police assisting Nazis in the arrest of Jews in July 1942
  • The Malmedy Massacre Trials at Dachau, USA, 1946 – Raw uncut footage of the Malmedy Massacre trial of Waffen-SS officers at the former Dachau Concentration Camp in 1946.

Conflict in Indochina 1954–1979

  • We Were Soldiers, USA, 2002 – Battle of Ia Drang
  • Forrest Gump, USA, 1994
  • Born on the Fourth of July, USA, 1989 – PTSD and veterans affairs
  • The 317th Platoon, France, 1965 – French Platoon trapped behind enemy lines

Conflict in the Pacific 1937–1951

‘The Pacific’, 2010

  • The Pacific, USA, 2010 – Pacific Theatre, experience of soldiers, PTSD
  • Fat Man and Little Boy, USA, 1989 – Building of atomic bomb
  • Battle of the Coral Sea, USA, 1959
  • Pearl Harbour, USA, 2001
    • Elizabeth’s tip: The film is highly inaccurate, but it gives a good sense of the state of emergency at the moment of the bombings. 

The Arab–Israeli Conflict 1948–1996

  • Six Days in June, Israel, 2007 – Six Day War
  • Lebanon, Israel, 2009 – Israeli invasion of Lebanon
  • Rabin: The Last Day, Israel/France, 2015 – Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin
  • As Always Hadassah, USA, 1974 – Yom Kippur War

The Cold War 1945–1991

‘Deutschland 83’, 2015

  • Bridge of Spies, USA, 2015 – US-German relations in a prisoner exchange
  • Fail Safe, USA, 1964
  • Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy, UK, 2011 – Cold War politics
  • Thirteen Days, USA, 2000 – Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Deutschland 83, Germany, 2015 – politics and espionage by East Germany
    • Elizabeth’s tip: A fun TV series which illustrates the ‘forgotten’ decade of the 1980s in film. A good illustration of emerging technologies and military/civilian tensions, and uses existing Stasi buildings. Also has amazing music!

The United Nations as Peacekeeper 1946–2001

  • U.N. Me, USA, 2009 – Documentary about UN
  • The Peacemaker, USA, 1997 – Yugoslav Wars
  • Black Hawk Down, USA, 2001 – Civil War in Somalia
  • Hotel Rwanda, USA, 2004 – Rwandan Genocide
  • The Interpreter, USA/UK/France/Germany, 2005 – fictional, but reflects the UN’s role in diplimatic communications
  • Shake Hands with the Devil, Canada, 2007 – Roméo Dallaire as Major-General of UNAMIR during Rwandan Genocide

Have you got any more suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

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Milana Gusavac thought she had seen the end of HSC until she realised that others out there needed help surviving year 12 just like she had. Now she’s a member of the Art of Smart team while perusing her studies at the University of Sydney, studying a Bachelor of Psychology. When not learning or helping others Milana can be found with her nose in a book or marathoning TV shows.