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Accelerating Student Learning and Motivation in Your U.S. History Classroom

Film Video Resources

Why Study U.S. History?
Using the Standards
Standardized Exams
Developing Themes in U.S. History
Historical Stories and Unit Hooks
Using Primary Sources in the Classroom
General Strategies
Alternative Assessments
Rubrics and Scaffolds
Long Term Projects
Additional Resources
Kevin Williams: Contact and Information


1.  Glory – excellent film detailing the African-American role in the Civil War.  I like using the title of the film as a theme.  Who achieves glory in the film?  In which ways do they do this?


Starring:  Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Broderick (1989)

Online Lesson:  NARA:  Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War”


The Origins of the 54th Massachusetts and Glory Video Questions:  I use these questions as a method of assessment when using the film in my classroom.


2.  Tucker:  The Man and His Dream – details the building of the Tucker automobile in the late 1940s and the roadblocks faced by Preston Tucker in realizing his dream.  I use this film to show how Social Darwinism was used by the great industrialists in a negative way.


Starring:  Jeff Bridges, Martin Landau (1988)


Online Site:  “Tucker Automobile Pages:  Keeping the Legend Online”.  Contains history, images, and other information that is helpful when students ask for more information after watching the film.



3.  Fat Man and Little Boy – Details the process the government, military and scientists went through to develop the atomic bomb in the early 1940s.  I use the 2nd half of this film (once the scientists get to Los Alamos).  This film deals with the scientific background of the a-bomb, as well as the moral dilemmas felt by the scientists once its use became a reality.


Starring:  Paul Newman, John Cusack, Laura Dern (1989)


Online Lesson Plan: University of Richmond.

“The Decision to Drop the Bomb” (Webquest)



3.  Guilty By Suspicion – Details how post-WWII America quickly turned into a witch hunt for communists.  While this is a fictitious account of the Hollywood communist witch hunts, it is based on history.  I do not use the whole film – rather I use a scene near the start which shows the pressure put on individuals to “name names”.  I show the final court scene which shows the main character standing up to the inquiry and refusing to name any names.


Starring:  Robert DeNiro, George Wendt, Chris Cooper


4.  Platoon – Since this film is rated R, I send home permission slips.  I feel strongly that students see this film which shows the difficulties faced by soldiers in Vietnam.  Everything from booby-traps to fragging (to deliberately injure or kill one's military leader), to the justifications for the war are covered.  I show the 2nd half of the film (I start where the platoon finds their first tunnel complex).


Starring:  Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Forrest Whittaker, Johnny Depp


Online Lesson:  Go to the webpage listed below, have students read 1 of the 4 personal accounts of the war, and using the jigsaw method, have them share their reading with the rest of the class.

PBS, Battlefield Vietnam.


Platoon Video Questions:  I use these questions as a method of assessment when I show the film in class.



5.  Matewan
This film highlights the coal mine strike in Matewan, West Virginia in 1920.  This is an excellent film to highlight the difficulties workers faced in unionizing - the government, the company, and themselves.  YouTube has an excellent clip from the film that highlights how infighting hurt unionizing efforts.