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50 best movies set during the Civil War

  • #10. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

    - Director: Clint Eastwood
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Votes: 65,181
    - Runtime: 135 minutes

    A Missouri-farmer-turned-pro-Confederate outlaw (Clint Eastwood) embarks on a path of revenge in this revisionist Western. Eastwood fired director Philip Kaufman about a week into the shoot and then helmed the movie himself. For critics and fans alike, it makes for a fitting companion to Eastwood’s famous “Dollars Trilogy” with director Sergio Leone.

  • #9. Glory (1989)

    - Director: Edward Zwick
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Votes: 121,686
    - Runtime: 122 minutes

    Director Edward Zwick chronicles the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, better known as the Union’s first African American volunteer army. Led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw (played by Matthew Broderick), the regiment defied prejudice both on and off the battlefield. The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Denzel Washington.

  • #8. Little Women (2019)

    - Director: Greta Gerwig
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Votes: 135, 768
    - Runtime: 135 minutes

    The latest “Little Women” adaptation might very well be the greatest, according to critics and audiences. Director Greta Gerwig offers a refreshing take on the timeless tale, updating the characters and tinkering with the narrative. Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen play the March sisters, with Laura Dern as their mother.

  • #7. The Hateful Eight (2015)

    - Director: Quentin Tarantino
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Votes: 510,409
    - Runtime: 168 minutes

    On the heels of “Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino offered yet another pulpy revisionist Western. Set in 1870s Wyoming, it pits a group of duplicitous characters against one another inside a remote outpost in the middle of a snowstorm. Multiple cuts exist, including an extended miniseries version that runs for 213 minutes.

  • #6. The Searchers (1956)

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Votes: 79,698
    - Runtime: 119 minutes

    John Wayne and John Ford’s most enduring collaboration is both a critical darling and fan favorite. It tells the story of Civil War veteran Ethan Edwards (Wayne), who tries to rescue his niece from her Comanche abductors. On AFI’s “10 Top 10” list of Best Westerns, it holds the #1 spot.

    You may also like: 100 best John Wayne movies

  • #5. The Ox-Bow Incident (1942)

    - Director: William A. Wellman
    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Votes: 20,726
    - Runtime: 75 minutes

    Based on a novel of the same name, this Oscar-nominated drama explores mob justice in small-town Nevada. The year is 1885, and three men stand falsely accused of cattle rustling, their lives hanging in the balance. A box-office disappointment upon its initial release, the film has gained significant stature over time.

  • #4. Dances with Wolves (1990)

    - Director: Kevin Costner
    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Votes: 238,382
    - Runtime: 181 minutes

    Kevin Costner’s historical blockbuster opens in the midst of battle as Union officer John J. Dunbar (Costner) commits an act of insanity. Transferred to a remote outpost on the Western frontier, he befriends the local Native American tribe. The film won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

  • #3. The General (1926)

    - Directors: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Votes: 80,384
    - Runtime: 67 minutes

    Buster Keaton offers his own version of the Great Locomotive Chase in this action-comedy classic. Filmed on a then-astronomical budget, it features some of the most epic scenes of the silent era. Initially a commercial failure, it’s now considered an important milestone and a cinematic masterpiece.

  • #2. Gone with the Wind (1939)

    - Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Votes: 287,945
    - Runtime: 238 minutes

    This sweeping historical drama follows Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) through multiple eras, including the Civil War and Reconstruction. Winner of eight Academy Awards, it’s also the highest-grossing film of all time (when adjusted for inflation). While a dedicated fanbase persists, the movie has experienced recent blowback due to its stereotypical depictions of African Americans and general views on race.

  • #1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

    - Director: Sergio Leone
    - IMDb user rating: 8.8
    - Votes: 683,131
    - Runtime: 178 minutes

    Sergio Leone’s famous “Dollars Trilogy” culminated with this gritty Western in which three rugged outlaws hunt for buried Confederate gold. The story plays out against a backdrop of ongoing Civil War violence and specifically draws upon the New Mexico Campaign of 1862. Ennio Morricone’s iconic score brings everything to life and retains its own cultural significance, even decades later.

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