Well first, you should realize that there are two types of history movies:
The type of film that tries to portray actual historical events and actual people who were involved. Lawrence of Arabia would be a good example of this type of film.
The type of film that tries to accurately portray an historical time or event to give a good idea of what the period or event was like, but does it through the eyes of fictional characters. This is known as historical fiction. Dances with Wolves is an excellent example of this type of film. The main character, John Dunbar, is fictional, but the events of the time, the life of the Native Americans, and their persecution by the American army gives a really good idea of what it would have been like to live then. Sometimes, these movies can actually have more historical value than films that actually deal with real historical figures. Another example would be Titanic. Although ALL of the events going on around Jack Dawson are completely accurate, we are witnessing the disaster through the eyes of a fictional character. This movie portrays the historical events really, really well, while weaving in an entertaining fictional story.
So, with that in mind, here’s a long list of historical films. I’ll also specify if they portray actual events, or are historical fiction.
A true history movie. Portrays the story of William Wallace, the great Scottish hero who fought for independence in the late 1200s. An excellent film directed by and starring Mel Gibson that won several Academy Awards. There are a couple of historical inaccuracies in the film. The queen with which he has a love affair was actually only about 7 years old at the time, so this was invented for the film. Also, the key battle in the film, the Battle of Stirling Bridge, is portrayed as a battle on an open field, rather than as actually at a strategically important bridge. The reason this change occurred was that the film was grossly over budget, and they didn’t have enough money to build a replica, so Mel Gibson did the best that he could to try and portray the repercussions of what happened as a result of the battle, and the rout that it was.
Historical fiction, but GOOD historical fiction. Follows the adventures of an young aristocratic woman who is sailing to America on the Titanic to marry a woman she doesn’t really love. She feels constricted by the cultural restrictions of the time. She meets Jack Dawson, an American artist who lives a carefree life and is returning from Europe. They meet as he tries to save her from jumping off the boat and killing herself. Adventure ensues… The events surrounding the Titanic disaster are masterfully portrayed with excellent historical accuracy. It definitely reflects the horror that must have been felt by everyone involved. May be objectionable to some due to a brief nude scene by Kate Winslet. Tied for the most Academy Awards ever for a single film.
Historical fiction, but GOOD historical fiction. Follows the adventures of Maximus, a Roman general who is fictional, but based on a compilation of real people. He serves Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the last really decent Roman emperor before the decline of Rome sets in. After Marcus Aurelius dies, his crazed son Commodus comes to power. Maximus is seen as a threat, and so he is left for dead and sold into slavery. He becomes a gladiator, and is determined to bring down Commodus. In reality, Commodus WAS a bad emperor, but did not meet his end the way it is portrayed in the movie. This movie is good at showing reasons why Rome began a slow decline, and what it was truly like to be a gladiator. Won five Academy Awards including Best Picture for 2001 and Best Actor for Russell Crowe.
Let me add that all three of these movies has superb soundtracks…
Hard to classify this film, and here’s why. This film is based on the ancient book The Iliad by Homer. However… we now know that the Iliad is based on ACTUAL historical events (although some parts were mythologized by Homer). This is an attempt to portray the “historical” Trojan War. It portrays the events as accurately as possible, given what limited knowledge we have about the true history. That said, the locations, scenery, battle techniques, customs, historical figures, clothing, and culture portrayed in the film are about as spot on as we’ll ever be able to reconstruct. A really entertaining movie with many complex characters.