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50 best movies set during the Civil War

  • #20. Lincoln (2012)

    - Director: Steven Spielberg
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Votes: 243,266
    - Runtime: 150 minutes

    Daniel Day-Lewis delivers an Oscar-winning performance as President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s biopic. Facing obstacles on all sides, the president must decide between ending the war and freeing the slaves. Day-Lewis performed diligent research for the role, conjuring an accent that took viewers by surprise.

  • #19. Friendly Persuasion (1956)

    - Director: William Wyler
    - IMDb user rating: 7.4
    - Votes: 6,311
    - Runtime: 137 minutes

    From the director of “The Best Years of Our Lives” and other classics comes this wartime drama with a moral dilemma at its heart. The pacifist values of a group of Indiana Quakers are put to the test when Confederate troops roll into town. Then-blacklisted screenwriter Michael Wilson went uncredited until 1996.

  • #18. True Grit (1969)

    - Director: Henry Hathaway
    - IMDb user rating: 7.4
    - Votes: 42,078
    - Runtime: 128 minutes

    Long before the Coen brothers' smash remake came this acclaimed Western, likewise adapted from the Charles Portis novel. John Wayne plays U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in his one and only Oscar-winning performance. Set in 1880, the story follows Cogburn and two unlikely cohorts as they chase down a ruthless killer.

  • #17. Fort Apache (1948)

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.5
    - Votes: 16,324
    - Runtime: 128 minutes

    John Ford and John Wayne kicked off the “cavalry trilogy” with this post-Civil War drama. At a remote outpost deep in Apache territory, two combat veterans (Wayne and Henry Fonda) clash over strategy. Shirley Temple stars as a general’s daughter and lends the film its romantic element.

  • #16. Gangs of New York (2002)

    - Director: Martin Scorsese
    - IMDb user rating: 7.5
    - Votes: 402,664
    - Runtime: 167 minutes

    Martin Scorsese’s epic takes place in New York’s Five Points area, home to vicious 19th-century gangs. Upon his return, young Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks revenge against Bill “The Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). The action climaxes against a backdrop of the infamous 1863 New York Draft Riots.

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  • #15. The Old Maid (1939)

    - Director: Edmund Goulding
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 3,212
    - Runtime: 95 minutes

    A novella by Edith Wharton inspired an award-winning play and then this big-screen adaptation starring Bette Davis. On the day of her wedding, a woman’s former fiancé appears after two years of absence. The subsequent chain of events plays out both during and after the Civil War.

  • #14. Gettysburg (1993)

    - Director: Ron Maxwell
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 25,936
    - Runtime: 271 minutes

    Clocking in at over four hours, this historical drama brings the Civil War’s most important battle to life in sweeping detail. Robert E. Lee (portrayed by Martin Sheen) leads Confederate soldiers against their Union adversaries in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Some scenes were filmed on the real-life battlefield.

  • #13. Shane (1953)

    - Director: George Stevens
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 36,818
    - Runtime: 118 minutes

    A quiet drifter (Alan Ladd) rolls into the Wyoming valley and finds nothing but trouble in this Oscar-winning Western. The story takes place soon after the Civil War and centers on a land dispute between a local settler and malicious cattle baron. It ends with one of the most heart-wrenching (and ambiguous) scenes in movie history.

  • #12. The Last Samurai (2003)

    - Director: Edward Zwick
    - IMDb user rating: 7.7
    - Votes: 397,576
    - Runtime: 154 minutes

    Already scarred from battle, veteran Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) gets swept up in a new war between Japan’s emperor and the country’s warrior class. Upon learning the ways of the samurai, Algren gains a newfound respect for his supposed adversary. While big on spectacle, the movie also examines the cultural gap between two unique worlds.

  • #11. Stagecoach (1939)

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Votes: 43,195
    - Runtime: 96 minutes

    The first major collaboration between John Wayne and director John Ford follows a stagecoach through deadly terrain. What was supposed to be a simple trip is threatened by the fearless Geronimo and his vengeful Apaches. In addition to being a classic in its own right, it is also famous as the movie that made Wayne a star.

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