I’m a sucker for a good film about people who really lived. Fictional films can’t always generate the emotion or the raw humanity of a movie which presents a historical figure; be they a despot, a genius, or an ordinary person caught up in extraordinary situations, the words “a true story” can be both misleading and truthful. A brave filmmaker, tackling even the most awful of historical figures, can entertain, enlighten, or move you; the fact that these people existed allows a certain expectation of reality from the audience. We’ve attempted to cull the best-of-the-best of historical films, from all periods of time, from all genres, and from all of cinema history. We’ve tried to keep it to films focusing on a single person (although, as if often the case, these films do have fairly large ensemble casts to work with) and although there’s one exception to this rule, we think we’ve got things pretty spot on.
Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Holocaust film is essential viewing for… well, everyone. This is the reason films were invented – to move, to entertain, to horrify, and to educate. Liam Neeson, a far cry from his Taken action chops, plays the Nazi war profiteer who saved the lives of some 1000+ Jews from the gas chambers of Hitler’s Third Reich. Ben Kingsley aides Neeson as his “voice of reason” in Stern, in an equally memorable role. Shot in black and white, Schindler’s List is the very definition of “this should be shown in every classroom” film-making.
If not the greatest film ever made, then certainly in the top 3. Peter O’Toole is terrific in his debut film role as TE Lawrence, a British soldier who united the disparate Arab nations against the Turkish forces during World War I. David Lean’s direction, Maurice Jarre’s evocative score, Freddie Young’s dazzling and Oscar winning cinematography, to the fantastic casting and you-can’t-buy-this-stuff location filming, there’s not a single element to Lawrence Of Arabia that falls over with the passing of time. Steven Spielberg once described this film as “a miracle”, and it’s hard to see how this statement isn’t one of the best single line reviews of a film ever. If you have never seen it, you owe yourself a few hours of glorious, 70mm brilliance.
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