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America’s First Wars in 10 Movies

Check out these films based on conflicts from the Revolutionary War through just before the Civil War.

by
James Jay Carafano

Bio

August 15, 2014 - 7:00 am
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In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville concluded that fractious republics were little good when a “nation must defend itself against other nations.” Still, he thought America would get along fine since in the new world, man “has no enemies other than himself. To be happy and free he has only to wish it.”

Boy, did Tocqueville miss the boat on that point! Even on a continent protected by two oceans, Americans have always found it necessary to fight for our freedom.

Most Americans give scant thought to the sacrifices made by the fighters who forged our nation. Filmmakers aren’t much different. But when it saw the chance to make a buck, even Hollywood couldn’t resist cranking out a few film gems that remind us of the heroism of the early republic.

10. The Shot Heard Round the World

Few Americans can name even one serious revolutionary war movie other than The Patriot (2000) with Mel Gibson. But four decades earlier, Hollywood produced a doozy: The Devil’s Disciple (1959). During the Saratoga Campaign, “Gentleman” Johnny Burgoyne (Laurence Olivier), the British general, takes time out from battling the Continental Army to root out revolutionaries in Websterbridge, New Hampshire. A brooding, black-sheep colonial (Kirk Douglas) finds his courage, risks his life, defies the British and puts the American cause above his own.

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All Comments   (18)
All Comments   (18)
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My DVD of In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed has a copy of Santa Fe Trail as an extra disc. I'll have to watch it.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Spot on with Drums & Devil... but why the Revolution hasn't made better movies?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Also agree that Drums Along the Mohawk might better represent the Revolutionary War as seen by the settlers. For the more urban types, Johnny Tremain could also be considered (although I think the book was better than the movie).
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
which Alamo movie is the best? wayne or thorton?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I saw The Devil's Disciple at the American Embassy in Rome when we were in Italy. That was when the American Embassies were part of America.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I second Drums Along the Mohawk. I'd also like to substitute the 2004 Alamo for the Duke version. Much more historically accurate and Billybob Thornton probably gave the performance of his career as a thoroughly human Davy Crockett. And he was probably the only actor weird-looking enough to play the real Rep. Crockett (seriously, have you SEEN contemporary portraits of the man?) I love the Duke as much as the next red-blooded American but he was way too bombastic and the movie went on forever AND the ending was way too gory for 1960.

I'd also like to toss in a little-remembered, made for A&E TV movie; The Crossing, about the Battle of Trenton and the crossing of the Delaware. Jeff Daniels did a great portrayal of a George Washington, with his back to wall, about to risk everything on one throw of the dice. It's a character-driven vehicle. Daniels pointedly does not try to look like George Washington.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Gotta love Devil's Disciple. A great cast, good story and a few laughs in a whimsical historical fiction.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
I love The Buccaneer. The Fighting Kentuckian too - glad you put that in. A forgotten film.

The Alamo is great too. Must've seen it 30 times. Jeremiah Johnson is also one of my very favorites. Santa Fe Trail is almost pure fantasy but a fantastic screenplay.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Drums along the Mohawk is an awesome film, should have been on the list, point to you.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Last of Mohicans (both versions) are good films, but used them in another list and the setting is before the republic is established
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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