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History Movie Reviews Samples For Students
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Bollywood and Hollywood both have many similarities and differences in regards to their portrayal of romance in film. The term “Bollywood” is defined as, “films produced by the Mumbai film industry, primarily in the Hindi language, distributed across the normal commercial film circuits of northern India, and containing song and dance item numbers as an integral part of the plot.” (Brief History). Hollywood film is defined as, “the cinema of the United States since the early 20th century.” (Brief History).
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A. What reasons do your authors give to explain the historical inaccuracies in the films? Give an example from one of the articles.
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Value of Film in Explaining History
Introduction, cons of antiquity films, pros of antiquity films, value for the audience and drawing interest, personal vision, works cited.
Cinematograph has become a powerful medium at storytelling in modern times. Film is a way that allows the viewer to immerse themselves in the context of the setting and story. Since the inception of film as a popular medium, it has used the stories of the past as the basis or at the very least inspiration for the plot. After all, these stories of history hold all the elements of a great movie, with tragic heroes, sacrifice, high values, and actionable plots. At the same time, virtually every movie takes artistic liberties as history is also often dry, and sometimes decades pass between events. Films strive to tell the core of the story while also being a piece of entertainment. This paper will focus specifically on films about Antiquity. It can be argued that despite the shortfalls of adaptation this medium has, film holds much value in explaining the past and often serves as the entry point for the audience to seek out reliable information behind the people and events depicted.
It is important to address the negatives of creating films regarding history and Antiquity, as many of these arguments are relatively superficial and are potentially disproved by the rest of the paper. One of the biggest arguments is that whenever such films are made, they are grossly inaccurate. Starting from small details in costumes and army formations to severely distorting historical events for the purpose of entertainment value, these errors are inaccurate. Therefore, given that film is such a prevalent medium that influences perspectives of tens of millions of people, it essentially ‘teaches’ history in a completely wrong way via wrongful portrayal. The criticism goes beyond pettiness of arguing that Cleopatra, for example, did not dress as such or act in this manner. This can have an effect on societies, not knowing accurately their own histories, as well as the past and cultures of others. A study from Washington University showed that when facts from a movie contradicted what students learned in class, the students tended to remember the film events in the long-term (Viadero). It creates a misinformed generation with the knowledge of history based on movies for the most part.
For a vocal minority, the inaccuracy of historical films is equivalent to defiling something sacred, it is at the very least offensive and at most wrong. For antiquity films, this often touches the topic of religion, such as some Christians may be offended by the portrayal of early Christians or even Jesus Christ himself. Meanwhile, for other religions, such as Islam, it is absolutely forbidden to depict the Prophet in visual media. However, for films portraying more recent events, it may hurt survivors to see such blatant disregard for what they lived through, it demonstrates complete disrespect. Some films, no matter the era portrayed, take great care in attempting to remain accurate as much as possible and respecting cultures and the subject matter of the film, gaining insight from scholars and witnesses. However, many others attempt to cut corners or choose to represent issues and events the way they see fit.
Films portraying ancient history of Classical or Antiquity films are highly beneficial from an educational and entertainment perspectives. For many, watching these films becomes a means of engaging with the history that they have studied in school and beyond, either passively or actively. Many of the stories told through the film represent the first elements of humanity’s civilization building, it shows the history, the great and horrible events of the past, and brings to screen some of the well-known ‘characters.’ At its core, historical movies are not much different from a fiction based on a book, retelling the basis of the story with some artistic freedoms.
Antiquity and Classics experience continuous re-emergence on screen. The original Ben Hur released in 1959 based on a 19th century novel of the same name was a masterpiece classic. It was one of the first films made in the style of a film epic, lasting almost 4 hours long, but it also secured in place many iconic scenes and representations of the Classical world. One of them is the famous chariot race scene, which rather accurately represented the violence and dangers of the races in Ancient Rome (Snider). Similarly, The Gladiator released in 2001 demonstrated the life of slaves fighting for their lives for the entertainment of citizens of the Roman Empire. Each of the films established some well-known film tropes, garnered significant public interest in antiquity history, and began a short era of other filmmakers producing movies about the era.
Back in 1915, when film just began to emerge, a classical history scholar B.L. Ulman voiced his support for cinematography as a medium. Despite the inconsistencies in film, “the cause of the Classics will be greatly benefited, for the people as a whole will become familiar with classical life and history” (Day 2). Therefore, there is much benefit to keep making films on Antiquity, particularly as film and immersive technology progresses, allowing to create bigger worlds and greater detail on screens than ever before.
Modern media has a significant effect of influencing many people, largely due to the ‘word-of-mouth’ sharing of experiences on social media. Therefore, when a film or series achieves tremendous popularity, it immediately draws significant attention to the topic on which they focused. It has been recently coined as the ‘Netflix effect’ after the popular streaming service, such as when the miniseries The Queen’s Gambit was released it led to immediate uptick in interest in chess around the world. However, this effect has been in existence long before.
For example, when the film 300 by Zack Snyder was released in 2007, it became a cultural hit. Suddenly, there was an increased interest in Spartan culture and the historical Battle of Thermopylae. In fact, it is used to this day by many professors of Antiquity history courses as a means to draw interest to the subject, then using the time to discuss the differences between film and reality. As discussed in her article on popular culture and history, Stafford indicates that “cinematic output can be an important vehicle for discussing the values, history, and cultural politics of the classical past” (8).
The film 300 is based on a comic that, in turn, is loosely based on the real-world events. However, the movie’s gory violence, mythical elements, and amazing special effects made it a cultural phenomenon. As a result, it actually drew public interest to Spartan culture. This includes the training of males as soldiers from an early age, being one of the first democratic and gender-egalitarian societies, and being the first resistance to the Persian Empire during the Second Invasion of Greece. These lessons learned through movies and after are just as important as reading a textbook, and for some, may potentially be the only exposure to the information through this medium of film.
The personal vision of the author of this paper is that films about history should be made. They are often highly interesting to see, a visualization of some of humanity’s highest and lowest points. Furthermore, they play to the fantasy of immersing oneself into those worlds, which is hard to do in other mediums other than maybe video games. It is understandable that accurate films, particularly about ancient times are difficult to make. However, as shown by great masterpieces such as Ben Hur or The Gladiator , it is possible to recreate some level of authenticity (although both stories are only very loosely based in reality). It allows to recreate the costumes, sets, and traditions/behaviors that are known about those times. Most viewers of films realize that they are works of entertainment and fiction, the benefits of these movies are greater than potential harms of misrepresenting reality.
Film is often far from perfect in its portrayal of history, and those who are responsible in creating it, rarely claim that they stay completely true to the actual events. Outside the argument that it is hard for any medium, even historians studying the subject, to tell what happened with such ancient history as the Antiquity period, film has a different purpose. Movies are entertainment, so there will be variations and artistic liberties in each film, as it is impossible to make a true to life motion picture. Instead, moviemakers attempt to recreate an iconic event or an important period of life of a key person, attempting to stay true to detail while capturing the imagination and interest of the audience. In turn, for the modern generation that is more invested in visual media and less about learning history, historical films at least bring some awareness of the events, and for others, interest to learn more on the subject.
Day, Kirsten. “Introduction to Celluloid Classics: New Perspectives on Classical Antiquity in Modern Cinema.” Classics: Faculty Scholarship & Creative Works , 2008, Web.
Snider, Eric. “What’s The Big Deal? Ben-Hur (1959).” MTV News , 2012, Web.
Stafford, Emma. “The Curse of 300? Popular Culture and Teaching the Spartans.” Journal of Classics Teaching , vol. 17, no. 33, 2016, pp. 8–13.
Viadero, Debra. “The Pros and Cons of Teaching History Through Hollywood.” EducationWeek , 2009, Web.
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History Sample Essay
In current age of ubiquitous spread of mass culture, cinema as its most popular and widespread carrier is a rich source of information; moreover, it can be even said that the movie is the mirror of the history because every time period has it’s the most prominent movies which depict reality in rather interesting and realistic way. It is a well-known fact that in a world of rapidly evolving technology and the rapid pace of life, when the printed word, unfortunately, is relegated to the background, the movie takes on a special role in shaping the world outlook of whole generations. Reality in art culture is the most important aesthetic and philosophical problem. Version of reality in a “big staged life” – in particular, on the screen – defines our relationship to reality and this reality by itself. All of us know that our whole life is stereotyped, and whatever is our attitude to stereotypes, they became an evaluative criterion of reality, while many judgments about historical facts, events, personalities, the own and other peoples are made on their base. So, cinema, being mouthpiece of the most common and widespread stereotypes, is a very bright example of the practical application of stereotypical thinking. But even in such a context, many movies can give their viewers rather realistic picture of past life, motivating people to explore the most interesting moments using historical evidences and documents. Thus, the thesis of the essay is the following: cinema, being a carrier of new information, can not only realistically depict historical events of the past, but it also motivates people to plunge into historical events with more attention and interest, helping people to make a first step in exploring life through the prism different from their ordinary view on events.
Besides the fact that cinema has always been and remains one of the most popular media aimed at a broad audience, from the first minute of its existence, it is ranked among the arts, which it remains still, despite all the controversy that is conducted in this regard. Do not going into details in reflections on the right to existence of a so-called “mass culture,” it should be admitted that the products of Hollywood long won viewers around the world and successfully retain their primacy on the silver screens, despite attempts to resist the spread of American culture, which outpost, in fact, is the “Dream Factory”.
Of course, there exist many American films which greatly depict the history of time period from 1863-2013, but we can not analyze all of them by the reason that it will take thousands of pages; so, we are going to dwell on a film that not only demonstrated historical events from interesting and extraordinary point, but also forced publicity to discuss it in hot debates. The film of our discussion is “Forrest Gump” directed by Robert Zemeckis in 1994. The film is made in several genres because it combined in itself epic and romantic elements, while attentive viewer can also see in it elements of both comedy and drama. The film “Forrest Gump” was created on the base of the Winston Groom’s novel of the same title, but the novel was written in 1986  . Being short, we can note that the story presented in the film depicts several not easy decades from the life of Forrest Gump, who is rather naïve and slow-witted man, and who receives an opportunity to witness the changes of the world in the period of the latter half of the XX th century in the United States.
As we know from the history course, the time period of the latter half of the XX th century was full of different events, and the film “Forrest Gump” has a complex plot, while it includes multilevel depiction of events, and is considered to be the film with elements of parable. For instance, focusing on the film’s details, we can say that the movie allows its viewers to learn the history of the United States through its scenes. Many events are mentioned in the film such as segregation, the Vietnam War, flower child movement, the Black Panthers, the Watergate scandal, etc. Even favorite American entertainments such as American football or idols of those times period are not forgotten to be depicted in the plot. Moreover, the film also includes mentioning of the best American movies, quotes of which are widely used in the film (for example, the scene in the camp, where pictures from “Apocalypse Now” to the music of Wagner are used as the background. The film is full of humor, both lying on the surface and veiled, while humor is frankly black and satirical. A huge number of minor characters appear in the frame once, giving people a chance to recognize them.
To continue, the filmmakers used a specific technique of insert of documentary shots for the purpose to create an illusion of reality. For instance, scenes seem to be rather real when Forrest gives an interview to John Lennon, or when he is rewarded to the audiences with four (!) Presidents of the USA. And of course, one of the best scenes is a demonstration of his combat wounds (in the buttocks) to the President Jackson. All scenes are imbued with nostalgia – clothes, cars, houses, and all situations are very carefully recreated. Moreover, the film has also a lot of hints and allusions that can be hardly seen for the first glance. For instance, the wife of the lieutenant looks like Yoko Ono, while “fruit” company whose shareholder is Forrest, has an apple logo (Apple).
In addition, the longer a person watches “Forrest Gump”, the more doubts appear in mental retardation of the main hero. He, who recognizes every person to be a good man and ready to believe to everything said to him, becomes inflexible when his moral principles are threaten by different circumstances and situations.  Forrest Gump is able to distinguish good from evil in a very good way, and whenever he opts for good. Of course, it can be said that such a choice seems to be idiotic, unprofitable, absurd, and it is also possible to realize that the main hero’s choice is the only true (if we remember about the conscience, of course). We may decide that the hero has low self-esteem, but it is possible to say that he is a modest man. We may think that he is hayseed, and we can also note that he is responsible and honest. We can conclude that he is a moron, but at the same time we see that he is a sage.
Everything depends on the ability of the person to interpret actions of people around him because every person finds in others those features that disturb him or hurt him, the same situation with the depiction of historical events. If a person knows something about historical period depicted in the movie, he will find many evidences to own thoughts, but if the person knows nothing than he will considers everything to be a truth and will compose the own picture of the described events in a very limited format. So, some people, characterizing the image of Forrest Gump could say that fools are always lucky, but having other attitude to people and surrounding reality, we may say that he deserved it.
The movie is significant in the context of the historical period we are studying because it not only attracts many viewers, but it also opens other side of well-known events. Very often historical documents demonstrate us only facts, dates and dry facts, while we can better understand something and form the own opinion on the base of emotions. Of course, the film can not be considered to be the ultimate truth because filmmakers showed their own subjective position regarding historical events and the place of every hero in them, but such films widen the world outlook of ordinary person, forcing him or her to remember the past events, and maybe even to look for additional details to understand sense of some scenes, words, and components better.
And finally, if we consider the movie “Forrest Gump” carefully, we will enjoy the deepest, fascinating stories about the amazing and beautiful country with a rich history, the country populated by normal people with the same troubles and joys. So, even a foreign viewer, who has never been in the United States, may “touch” the country’s history through watching this film. To add, the film allows people to ponder the eternal truths, to cry and laugh during its watching, and to understand that this film-parable was filmed by a person who sincerely respects, loves and understands his country. Moreover, the filmmakers’ love for the country is not melodramatic scenes, not jingoism, and not politically correct talk shop, but it is sober, ironic, sometimes cynical view of the country’s problems and their causes. And a great desire to understand these problems made the film a subject of many debates from the day of its production till our times.
In conclusion, we have demonstrated that cinema plays a significant role in considering and understanding many historical events. Moreover, we have also proved the thesis that cinema, depicting dry facts and dates in emotional and its specific way made really interested people to begin their own searches of the truth, while it can be also added that cinema even makes much more people researchers and historians in their hearts and minds. We illustrated our discussions by the use of the movie “Forrest Gump”, and demonstrated with its help that it is not always necessary to be a hero, but it always necessary to stay a real man in spite of all hardships and problems on the way to success and survival.
 Vicki K. Janik and Emmanuel S. Nelson, Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art, and History: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998).
 Owen W. Gilman, Vietnam and the Southern Imagination. (Manchester, England: University Press of Mississippi, 1992).
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