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Top Ten Posts of 2015 #4: 10 movies every social studies teacher should see

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.

Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read the top ten posts of 2015. Enjoy the reruns. See you in January!


Okay, I lied.

I started off with the idea that I could create a short little list of my ten favorite social studies related movies. But I was wrong. As I started thinking about great history movies and talking with others, the list grew quickly. And I couldn’t narrow it down to just ten. Then it got worse. This month’s Social Education journal showed up in my mailbox with their movie list.


Things have changed. I created a list of my ten favorite history movies, a list of other history movies, and another list of great feel-good teacher movies. The criteria for inclusion on the list is pretty simple – if the movie appears while channel surfing, it takes control of the remote and must be watched through the credits.


My favorites in no particular order:

  • Band of Brothers
    Yes, technically a mini-series. But I love the story of Dick Winters and the others who were a part of Easy Company.
  • Glory
    Robert Gould Shaw leads the US Civil War’s first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices of both his own Union army and the Confederates.
  • Gettysburg
    Based on the book The Killer Angels, this is a long movie but it does a good job of depicting weapons, tactics, and beliefs during the Civil War.
  • Schindler’s List
    Based on the true story of Oskar Schindler who managed to save about 1100 Jews from being gassed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. A testament for the good in all of us.
  • The Help
    Unlikely friendships, empowerment, and the 1960s segregated South. What else do you need for a great story?
  • All the President’s Men
    Not as detailed as the book but easier to follow, this is basically a documentary about the Bill of Rights.
  • 1776
    Yes. It’s a musical. But a funny, fairly historically accurate musical.
  • The Mission
    Perhaps the best I’ve ever seen for depicting European colonization and expansion.
  • Hotel Rwanda
    Danger. Bravery. Evil. Courage. This story of genocide exposes both the good and bad in people.
  • Gandhi
    An awesome story depicting human courage fighting for human rights against the machine of British colonialism.

Other great history movies

  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
  • The Last of the Mohicans
  • Dances with Wolves
  • Mississippi Burning
  • The Boy in Striped Pajamas
  • Gladiator
  • Braveheart
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • To Kill A Mocking Bird
  • Memphis Belle
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Amistad

Feel-Good Teacher Movies

  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
    As social studies teachers, this is about the best non-example I can think of. Plus, well . . . it’s hilarious.
  • The Freedom Writers
    Teaching tolerance and grading tons of papers is not easy.
  • Dead Poet’s Society
    Captain, my captain. Emotional connections to content make all the difference.
  • October Sky
    Perseverance and supportive teachers can change lives.
  • Stand and Deliver
    This is a great movie about reaching students who feel like they have no hope of success in their life.
  • Teachers
    “Half of these kids aren’t coming back.” “Yeah. But the other half is.” Best line ever.
  • School of Rock
    Differentiated instruction and Jack Black. Enough said.
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer
    Pushy parents and pushy teachers are not always the best thing for bright kids.
  • The Emperor’s Club
    I like the interaction between teacher and students. And the teacher’s concern for quality.
  • Akeelah and the Bee
    There are all sorts of ways to learn and to make friends.

What would you add to the list? What you would delete?


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Virunga, and Beasts of No Nation for HS

    January 7, 2016
    • glennw #

      Thanks Paul! Powerful stories.


      January 7, 2016

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