Historical Films


The historical film emerged as a strong genre form very early in cinema history and has renewed itself many times over the course of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Although the world of the past is its subject, the genre is often in the vanguard in terms of visual style and cinematic technique. The dramatic, compelling portraits of the past that are brought to life in the historical film have made it one of the most prestigious as well as one of the most controversial genres in film. It provides both a lens onto the past, which it frequently recreates with exquisite attention to detail and period style, while also reflecting the cultural sensibility of the period in which it was made. Above all, the historical film provides an emotional connection to history in a way that foregrounds the power and importance of the past in shaping the cultural imaginary in the present.

SEE ALSO Biography ; Epic Films ; Genre ; Melodrama ; Vietnam War ; War Films ; World War I ; World War II

Burgoyne, Robert. Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History . Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Carnes, Mark C., ed. Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies . New York: Henry Holt, 1995.

Custen, George. Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History . New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992.

Davis, Natalie Zemon. Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Elley, Derek. The Epic Film . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984.

Harper, Sue. Picturing the Past: The Rise and Fall of the British Costume Film . London: British Film Institute, 1994.

Kaes, Anton. From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Rosenstone, Robert A. Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to Our Idea of History . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

Sobchack, Vivian, ed. The Persistence of History: Cinema, Television, and the Modern Event . New York: Routledge, 1996.

Sorlin, Pierre. The Film in History: Restaging the Past . Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1980.

Suid, Lawrence H. Guts & Glory: The Making of the American Military Image in Film . Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002.

Wyke, Maria. Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema, and History . New York: Routledge, 1997.

Robert Burgoyne

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