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50 best movies set during the Civil War

  • #30. Broken Arrow (1950)

    - Director: Delmer Daves
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Votes: 7,553
    - Runtime: 93 minutes

    James Stewart tries to keep the peace between Arizona settlers and native Apaches in this Western drama. Unlike a number of its genre peers, the film explores underlying motives and racial themes without over-glamorizing the American perspective. The story is loosely based on actual events.

  • #29. The Horse Soldiers (1959)

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Votes: 9,425
    - Runtime: 120 minutes

    Another collaboration between John Wayne and John Ford, this one takes place at the height of the Civil War. Colonel John Marlowe (Wayne) leads Union cavalrymen behind enemy lines with plans to sabotage a railroad and supply center. Both the film and the source novel were inspired by a real-life raid.

  • #28. The Beguiled (1971)

    - Director: Don Siegel
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Votes: 15,746
    - Runtime: 105 minutes

    Before teaming up for 1971’s “Dirty Harry,” Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel churned out this gothic thriller. Confined to an all-female boarding school in the Deep South, an injured Union soldier (Eastwood) plays erotic games with dangerous consequences. It was remade in 2017 by Sofia Coppola.

  • #27. Hostiles (2017)

    - Director: Scott Cooper
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Votes: 69,957
    - Runtime: 134 minutes

    Director Scott Cooper puts a revisionist twist on the classic Western format in this violent outing. A rugged war hero (Christian Bale) is forced to escort a dying Cheyenne chief (Wes Studi) and his family through perilous terrain. In his three-star review for The Guardian, critic Peter Bradshaw called it “a striking, if somewhat glib, take on the genre.”

  • #26. Cold Mountain (2003)

    - Director: Anthony Minghella
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Votes: 139,268
    - Runtime: 154 minutes

    Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, Anthony Minghella’s historical epic follows a wounded Confederate soldier (Jude Law) on his journey home. Vivid in detail, it blends horrific violence with sweeping melodrama. Renée Zellweger’s performance as the stubbornly independent Ruby Thewes earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

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  • #25. The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Votes: 1,969
    - Runtime: 96 minutes

    Director John Ford dramatizes the true story of Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd, played here by Warner Baxter. Unaware that President Lincoln has been assassinated, Mudd provides medical treatment to an injured John Wilkes Booth. He’s then charged with conspiracy and sent to a ghastly prison, where he becomes a hero.

  • #24. Little Women (1949)

    - Director: Mervyn LeRoy
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Votes: 6,598
    - Runtime: 122 minutes

    The 1949 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s iconic novel relied on the same script and even the same music as its 1933 predecessor. Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor plays Amy, the youngest March sister. Janet Leigh, Margaret O'Brien, June Allyson, and Peter Lawford also star.

  • #23. Shenandoah (1965)

    - Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Votes: 7,865
    - Runtime: 105 minutes

    Actor James Stewart might be best known for movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Vertigo,” but he was also a star of the Western genre. Playing a Virginia farmer with a neutral stance on the war, he springs into action after his son is arrested by Union soldiers. The film was later turned into a Broadway musical of the same name.

  • #22. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Votes: 15,794
    - Runtime: 104 minutes

    The second installment of John Ford’s “cavalry trilogy” takes place soon after Gen. Custer’s famous last stand. Tasked with quelling a Native American attack, Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) must also ensure the safe passage of two important women. It was shot on location in Monument Valley and presented in vivid Technicolor.

  • #21. Little Women (1994)

    - Director: Gillian Armstrong
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Votes: 51,626
    - Runtime: 115 minutes

    The stars come out yet again to celebrate Alcott’s timeless novel in quintessential fashion. Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Samantha Mathis, and Kirsten Dunst play the lovable March sisters, who grow up during and after the Civil War. They’re joined on screen by other big names such as Christian Bale, Susan Sarandon, and Gabriel Byrne.

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