24 PG Movies to Guide Your Kids Through 7 Historical Time Periods

I love reading. And I love reading ANYTHING about ANY kind of history. Yes, I am a fanatic. History teaches us who we are as a people, what/who has failed or succeeded in the past, and hopefully guides us to a better future. But I know that not all my kids are as fanatical about history as I am. So, years ago we supplemented our kids' education in this very important subject by using good classical movies.

Of course a movie cannot teach as much as a book (the book is always better, right?). And I know that Hollywood quite often takes MANY liberties when dealing with an historical subject. However, a movie can grab attention, stir imagination, and "distill" a vital point to warn, inspire, or instruct in a way that lectures, reading primary sources, or even field trips cannot (and my wife and I believed in using all those techniques in teaching our kids American and world history).

The following is a list of movies we have watched. Many are historical fiction; others are based on true events. The list is not exhaustive. You will probably add many I leave out. For this article I have included only "G" rated films that the whole family can sit down and watch.

Here are movies to teach seven different historical epochs.

1. Ancient and Medieval/Renaissance history.

I recommend The Nativity Story (2006) as an excellent adaptation of the birth of Jesus from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Here's a brief scene:

Ben Hur (1954) (the old one with Charleton Heston of course), and Spartacus (1960) (the original with Kirk Douglas) can't be beat. For a study of Renaissance/Reformation history our family's favorite is Luther (2003) (starring Joseph Fiennes). These films have a lot of color, action, pretty good acting, and tell the story well while keeping your attention. Spartacus and Ben Hur may drag in a few places for the kids, so I would recommend just fast forwarding to the action scenes. Wait till the kids see Charleton Heston in that chariot scene!! WOW!!! (My jaw still drops whenever I watch that.) Here's the chariot race:

And my boys always loved watching the battle formation of the Roman army in "Spartacus"!

And here's Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms: