Historical Movies For Kids (with Reviews!)

Historical movies for older children are pretty easy to find, but more often than not they contain things that are not appropriate for young children. (I was recently reading comments recommending Schindler’s List, one of the most brutal Holocaust movies ever made, to a fourth grader.)

50+ historical movies for kids, teach history and homeschool history with these fun movies for kids!

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Here is a list of historical movies for kids, ages 6-12. All films are rated G unless otherwise noted. The films are somewhat listed by age range, the first films being for younger kids and the latter films for older ones (age 10-12). Additionally, these films include positive themes such as hope, friendship, courage, faith, and doing the right thing.

Not all of these historical movies for kids are “historically accurate,” as the majority are designed for children. If these movies were to be historically accurate, most would be very violent. My family watches a lot of historical movies (both true and fiction) and then we look up what really happened; what was true and what was added.

If a fictional event in a historical movie encourages a child to look into what “really” happened and sparks an interest in a time period, then I would say it is a worthwhile movie. After all, a fictional book I read five years ago sparked a lifelong love of history in me. I hope this list encourages you to dig deeper into history!

Historical Movies for Kids


Ruby BridgesVALIANT Disney Movie Club Exclusive Blu-ray, U.S. releaseLiberty's Kids: Complete Series


Liberty’s Kids
Liberty’s Kids is an animated series designed for teaching young children early American history, mostly the American Revolutionary War. After much hype, I finally bought it and we love it! The whole series (40 episodes) is on Amazon for only $5. The series has been completely worth it!

Inspiring Animated Heroes (Nest)
Explore great historical figures with this animated Christian biographical series. Episodes profile famous people like Harriet Tubman, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and William Bradford.

Valiant is the first animated film I have seen with facts at the end. Set in 1944 before D-Day, this British Disney film is about Britain’s messenger pigeons during World War II. In the end, we learn pigeons played a bigger role in the war than horses, dogs, or cats.

Filled with adventure and some humor, it is a bit violent for a G-rated film (I think it deserved a PG rating), but it is definitely a great movie. There are a lot of WWII references that are used appropriately, but younger kids may not understand some of them. See: Valient Movie Study.

Ruby Bridges
Six year-old Ruby Bridges was the first black girl to attend a public school during the 1960s. Despite facing racism and challenges, Ruby persevered and is an excellent role model for youth today. It’s a sweet movie about a brave young girl. Grab the movie guide at my site or Teachers Pay Teachers.

Torchlighters: Heroes of the Faith
The Torchlighters is an animated series featuring missionaries such as Jim Elliot, Corrie ten Boom and Amy Carmichael. We have the Corrie ten Boom one and although I would exercise some caution for little ones, they are great lessons!

The Prince of Egypt (PG)
The Prince of Egypt is the classical biblical story of Moses in a stunning animated picture. I never fully appreciated this film until watching “The Making of the Prince of Egypt” and saw how much heart was put into it. From the beautiful artwork, incredible vocal actors, and stunning soundtrack – this film is incredible and a must-see. Although it is not entirely biblically-accurate, I cannot help but include it in this list. Grab the free The Prince of Egypt Movie Study

Age-appropriate historical movies for kids can be hard to find. Here is a list of historical movies for children, ages 6-12, reviewed!
Joseph: King of Dreams (PG)
This is The Prince of Egypt‘s sister movie, based on the biblical story of Joseph. Although not as good as The Prince of Egypt, it is a great, quality movie. It is also slightly more biblically accurate.

Adventures in Odyssey
Adventures in Odyssey is best known for its radio broadcasts for children. They also have an incredible series of historical books and movies. While their movies emphasize on doing the right thing and other virtues, many are set during historical times – a double plus! You can find a lot of these on Amazon Prime.

American Girl Movies
So far, the only American Girl historical movies are Samantha, Kit, Molly, and Felicity. All are about courageous, noble girls growing up in different time periods but appeal to both boys and girls. They are packed filled with great lessons: both life and historical.

These make great movie nights, with plots and characters both children and adults will love! Amazon currently has all 4 movies in a pack for $10.

  • Young Felicity is growing up in 1774 during the Revolutionary War and is learning the difference between the Loyalists and the Patriots.
  • Set in 1904, Samantha lives in New York during the Victorian Era, as she learns about the world around her, and what being a good friend is truly about.
  • Kit is set during the Great Depression, 1934, in Ohio, as she realizes the importance of self-sacrifice, doing the right thing, and helping a friend.
  • Molly is growing up in 1944 during WWII, as she and her family take in Emily, a young refugee from England!
  • Maryellen is growing up in 1955. It’s Christmastime and she really wants to stand out in this busy season! A family friend with polio comes to visit them, and Maryellen is determined to have a big celebration! It is only available on Amazon Prime.
  • Melody is an African American girl growing up during the Civil Rights movement in Detroit in 1963. It’s great to see the Civil Rights movement from the perspective from a child. It is only available on Amazon Prime.

Age-appropriate historical movies for kids can be hard to find. Here is a list of historical movies for children, ages 6-12, reviewed!
Various Biographies for Kids
Look at your local library in the kids’ DVD nonfiction section and try to find historical movies for kids. Some popular figures that you may find include Harriet Tubman, George Washington, and more.


This is America Charlie Brown
One of my readers brought this up. I am sure I watched this movie when I was younger. Anyway, this is American history – from the point of view of Charlie Brown.

Miracle of the White StallionsThe Sound of Music: The Making of America's Favorite MovieThe Greatest Showman DVD

The Sound of Music
The Sound of Music is a wonderful true story, musical, and family movie that remains one of my family’s favorites. Maria is a free-spirited nun in pre-WWII Austria who becomes the governess of seven children.

If you don’t own it, you really need to. Grab The Sound of Music guide at my store or Teachers Pay Teachers.

Miracle of the White Stallions
Made in 1963, this movie can be slow at times. But, it is a true story and completely clean, best used for 8+. This Disney film is about the evacuation of Lippizaner horses from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during WWII.

The Greatest Showman (PG)
P.T. Barnum is known as one of the fathers of entertainment and for founding the Barnum and Bailey Circus. This family musical isn’t historically accurate but can lead into discussions on P.T. Barnum’s life and the history of the circus. Grab the movie guide at my store or on Teachers Pay Teachers.

The Miracle Worker
This Disney flick is about Helen Keller, who has been unable to speak, hear, and see since childhood. With the help of her teacher, Annie Sullivan, Helen begins to flourish. The Miracle Worker is a sweet story both kids and adults can enjoy.

American Legends (Disney)
This animated Disney film features 4 American legends: John Henry, Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and Casey Jones. With catchy tunes and fun animations, this is a great film for the little ones and older ones alike!

BelleIt's a Wonderful Life (60th Anniversary Edition)Walt Before Mickey


Walt Before Mickey (PG)
Walt Disney wasn’t always the big name in the entertainment industry. Walt Before Mickey is an inspiring film about Walt Disney’s life before his big hit – Mickey Mouse. It’s not 100% accurate, but it is an interesting look into the history of movies, and how old movies were made.

Belle (PG)
In 18th century England, illegitimate and mixed-race Belle overcomes racial barriers to help end slavery. It has a couple of sensual scenes and many women wear low-cut blouses, but otherwise is a great movie.

It’s a Wonderful Life
This classic Christmas movie seems slow at times, but it is 100% clean and has very great lessons about contentment, family, and selflessness. George Bailey wants to know what life would be like if he had never existed – and an angel makes it happen. This film was originally in black and white, but there is also a colorized version available. See: Free It’s a Wonderful Life Bible Study.

I Love Lucy
Although not quite “historical,” this old, clean series is fantastic entertainment for “the newer generation!” Lucy and her best friend Ethel, find themselves wrapped in mischievous adventures!

Johnny Tremain
I haven’t seen this movie yet, but many readers have mentioned it, so I thought it was worth sharing. Inspired by the Newbery award winner written by Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain covers the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride, and the battles at Lexington and Concord.

The Whipping Boy
This is an old, old Disney Channel film based on the Newbery winning children’s book. Despite the title, the film has little violence and is a fantastic historical film. If you’re lucky enough to find this film, it is about a young orphaned whipping boy’s journey’s with a spoiled prince, known as Prince Brat.

Newsies (Disney) (PG)
This Disney musical is a fictional version of the Newsie Strike in 1899. Although the actual strike happened, a lot of events and main characters are fictionalized.

Themes include friendship, teamwork, never giving up, courage, and speaking up. Featuring an amazing cast and great musical numbers, Newsies is a great movie for the whole family, and among my favorite historical movies for kids. (PS Although the film portrays the strike a success, in real life, it was only a partial success. The reasons behind this make a great history lesson.) Grab the Newsies Movie Study

Fiddler on the Roof
Traditions! Tevye is a poor Jewish milkman with five daughters (and no sons). In a time of strict tradition, Tevye’s three oldest daughters are free-spirited and break-away from “tradition” by refusing a matchmaker.

Through classic songs and Tevye’s humor, this film contains great lessons on traditions and is a great film for introductory to the Orthodox Jewish culture. Grab the Fiddler on the Roof Movie Study

Leonardo: A Dream of Flight
I haven’t seen this movie, but according to this article the age range is 8-11 and it’s rated G. The story tells of Leonardo da Vinci and his famous flight.

Night at the Museum
Despite being completely unrealistic, I recently watched this trilogy and LOVED this movie so much! It’s a fantastic introduction to historical figures such as Sacagawea and Teddy Roosevelt. The second one, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian was my favorite, which includes historical figures like the Tuskegee airmen and Amelia Earhart. Grab the Night at the Museum Movie Study

Age-appropriate historical movies for kids can be hard to find. Here is a list of historical movies for children, ages 6-12, reviewed!
Dolphin Tale (PG)
Dolphin Tale is the true story of how a dolphin gets a prosthetic tail! It’s not the most “historical” film, but it’s a true story, and have no doubt it will be seen as “historical” within the next few decades!

Madison (PG)
In this American underdog story, Madison follows the small town of Madison, Indiana and their journey to the hydroplane 1971 Gold Cup, against all odds. With a string of luck, the town is chosen to host the Gold Cup, much to the dismay of the “big shots.” To host the race, the town must raise $50,000, plus get the Miss Madison, the town’s boat, in shape. It’s also based on a true story and is packed with great lessons on determination, perseverance, and teamwork.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (PG)
Mr. Peabody is a dog who has invented a time machine. When his adopted human son Sherman accidentally uses it, they race through a variety of time periods to get back to the current day. This is a great intro to historical characters for younger kids. It prompts discussions on Marie Antoinette, the Trojan War, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Remember the Titans (PG)
This classic, starring Denzel Washington, is the true story of how a black football coach broke racial barriers. You may want to preview this movie first due to some profanity, but it is an incredible movie with great themes! Grab the movie guide here.

One Night With The King (PG)
This movie is best for ages 9+. The story of Esther, told in this wonderful movie. Esther, a young Jewish orphan, was chosen to become the king’s bride. Haman, the king’s right-hand man and the second in command, wants to kill the Jewish race. Esther bravely stands up to the king, and saves her people. The first few minutes of the movie are somewhat violent, but violence is mostly off-screen. This biblical tale isn’t entirely accurate either, but overall a good movie.

Secretariat and Dreamer (PG)
Secretariat and Dreamer are both true stories of notable racehorses. Both films are rated PG for minimal language.


The Color of Friendship
In this sweet Disney Channel original movie, two girls, a black African-American and white South African become friends in the midst of the heated 1970s. I would highly recommend this one.

I Am David (PG)
This movie is best for ages 9+. David is a 12-year-old boy growing up in a concentration camp. He knows nothing of the outside world. When he gets the chance to escape with nothing but some bread, a letter, and mysterious directions to get to Denmark, he seizes his chance.

The story could get brutal, but it doesn’t. Instead, it makes a great family movie. The ending is a bit odd compared to the incredible book (my favorite novel of all-time!) but the film feels like a Hallmark film and includes great messages about self-sacrifice, faith and courage. See: I Am David Book Study

Another one of my favorite resources for educational TV shows is Curiosity Stream, which is only $2.99/month or $20 for a whole year. They have such a wide variety of shows for kids! It’s like an educational Netflix. 🙂

Historical Movies for Older Kids

Below are some of my favorite historical movies that have great values and lessons and minimal violence, making them more appropriate for more mature children. I would recommend the below films for ages 12+.


Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most famous Underground Railroad conductor. This amazing story has some profanity and violence, but nothing felt graphic or over the top. It is recommended for ages 10+. Grab the Harriet Movie Guide

42: The Jackie Robinson Story

Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to break down racial barriers in Major League Baseball. Jackie was a man of great character and this is a great tribute to his courage and legacy. There’s some minor sexual content and profanity (including several racial slurs) but it’s an important, noteworthy film. Grab the 42: The Jackie Robinson Movie Guide

Miracle at Midnight
This is a made for TV Disney movie, and it is rumored to have been loosely based on the excellent children’s Holocaust novel Number the Stars. It is a simple but good film showing the heart of Denmark during WWII, and how the nation pulled together to save 99% of their 7,000+ Jews. There’s an off-screen mention of suicide (by hanging), but other than that it’s pretty good for ages 9+.

Sergeant York  (NR)
Set during WWI, Sergeant York is a classic black and white biopic made during WWII. Alvin York struggled with alcoholism for quite some time, before accepting Christ into his heart. Despite becoming a pacifist, he became a famous WWI hero, known for capturing a German position single-handedly. It can seem slow at time for younger children, but overall is a pretty clean movie.

Island on Bird Street (PG-13)
Inspired by Uri Orlev’s semi-autobiographical novel, Island on Bird Street follows an 11-year-old Jewish boy and his survival in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust as he awaits the return of his father. It’s a great film for tweens and teens, and it is Dove-family approved for ages 12+.

Run, Boy, Run (PG-13)
Run, Boy, Run is the incredible true story of a 9-year-old Jewish boy, forced to survive the Holocaust for two years on his own, by living both in the woods and with Polish families. During this time, he also loses his arm. This is definitely one of the most incredible survival stories I have ever heard. It has low content problems but was definitely hard to watch at times, especially for parents. It was also recently added to Netflix.


Return to the Hiding Place (PG-13)
Most Christians are familiar with the classic story of Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.” Few know of her secret group of teen resistance fighters. This is their story, and contains strong messages of sticking up for righteousness. Also, being a Christian film, the violence is toned down but not downplayed. Here’s my full review of the film.

Diary of Anne Frank (NR)
The Diary of Anne Frank is based on Anne Frank’s diary she wrote while in hiding from the Nazis. Historical movies for kids relating to the Holocaust can be tough to find, but Anne Frank’s story can be a gentle introduction to the subject.

The Drop Box
Pastor Lee Jong-Rak and his wife have taken in and care for hundreds of orphaned and/or special needs children throughout South Korea. Here is their insightful story of life, faith, and God’s love. It’s also on Netflix!

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (PG)
This Hallmark Hall of Fame film is one of my favorite films ever. Irena Sendler was a Polish Catholic social worker who rescued 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. Incredibly, she and all of the children she saved survived the war. I would preview this before giving it to kids. (Near the end, there is a very heartbreaking (but not overly violent scene) where guards torture Irena, however, she refuses to talk.) See: The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler Movie Study

Hidden in Silence (PG/PG-13)
Hidden in Silence is the true story of a courageous Polish teenager and her 8-year-old sister who hid 13 Jews in their attic for 2.5 years. Same warning as above.

A few more of my favorite true story biopics worth mentioning: (G/PG)

Make a movie night educational

Make a movie night educational with my growing collection of movie guides! From The Sound of Music to Night at the Museum, get kids excited about history through movies. You can also find me on Teachers Pay Teachers.

For all of my historical book and movie lists, visit learnincolor.com/history.

What are your favorite historical movies for kids?


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  • You have some of our favorites listed here!
    We haven’t seen Valient, yet. Or I Am David. Thanks for the recommendations!
    (stopping by via the Ultimate Homeschool Blog Hop)

    • Yeah, I am David is my all-time favorite book. watched the movie, and loved it also! Jim Caviezel especially did such a great job. If you haven’t yet, you and your family should read the book. I bet you’ll love it!
      Thanks for commenting!

  • Greatest Game ever played. It is about an amateur golfer from poor background overcoming adversity and opposition. It has one scene that includes drunkedness so you will want to pre-watched so you know when to fast forward if you want.

  • We ADORE Liberty’s Kids! (Actually watching it now as I’m reading your list.) My guy is in Kindergarten and we have seen 5 of your recommended films. Will have to definitely check out the others! Thanks for the list! 🙂

  • We love, love, love Liberty Kids & Legends. Thanks for the other suggestions. Other favorites of ours is Princess Bride (my boys love that show!) & Anne of Green Gables.

  • Liberty’s Kids is AWESOME! But I have to object at your listing Disney’s Pocohontas as being in any way “historic”. We happened to find it on TV soon after studying Jamestown, and my children and I were appalled at how inaccurate it was! The thing that I just could NOT get past was them implying a love interest between her and John Smith, in reality he was MUCH older than her, and their relationship was much more of a brother/sister relationship.

    • Yeah, I was a bit shocked when I found out how young Pocahontas was! And, I think their movie “love” relationship was a better idea for a kids movie…make sense?
      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Yes, I have made it a point that when the children watch Pocahontas that they know that the story was changed. I am sure several people have taken for granted that Disney told the real story and took it as historical fact, when it is not. I wasn’t real happy they did that.

    • Maybe that’s how it CAN be educational. Watch, enjoy & note the liberties taken to embellish the story. Compare & contrast the facts. Much like you would a book with its movie. Your kids clearly got it.

  • Looking forward to adding some of these to our collection. Another couple that are historically set, but appropriate for children (preview, of course, to make sure) are Oklahoma! and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and My Fair Lady. All musicals.

  • So glad I found this list. I’ve never heard of One Night with the King so I immediately put it on hold at the library. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Sheffey is a really good one about an itinerant preacher from the 1800’s. Also the Torchlighter series has great animated movies about Corrie ten Boom, Eric Lidell, Perpetua, John Bunyan, etc. All can be found at Christianbook.com.

  • Sheffey is a really good one about an itinerant preacher from the 1800’s. Also the Torchlighter series has great animated movies about Corrie ten Boom, Eric Lidell, Perpetua, John Bunyan, etc. All can be found at Christianbook.com.

  • Don’t know if you are still adding to this list or not, but I think either The King and I, or Anna and the King would be good to add. The first one is the older one, a musical, with Yule Brenner as the king, but the second one is, I think, more historically accurate (though is PG-13, so may not work on your list) staring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat. Even with the first one, there are some interesting things to discuss about colonialism that are introduced in the movie.

    • I own Anna and the King, but have not yet watched it. I would recommend watching BOTH movies, if for no other reason than the outstanding performances in the musical. But they also took Chulalongkorn’s speech at the end pretty much word for word from the book. I have seen the musical many times, and I always love the final scene of the new boy King, sad at his father’s passing, yet bringing his country into a new age of freedom

  • Our family {big pink puffy hearts} Newsies. Great movie! You have some fun thoughts on movies for the younger set. Of course there’s the Disney movie Johnny Tremain that is a must watch as are some of the other older Disney movies like Davy Crockett and even the fictional Treasure Island. Masterpiece Theater did some great ones like Kidnapped that are fantastic.

  • […] List of Historical Movies for Kids (Ages 6-12) by Le Chaim (on the right) […]

  • I suggest looking at This is America, Charlie Brown. We found them on Amazon and they were really thought provoking for my elementary & middle school monkeys. They inspired lots of questions and much looking up of facts.

  • What are your thoughts on ‘ANight at the Museum’? I like that there are so many people/things in it that would spark questions and curiosity in kids.

    • Hmm the movie? I haven’t seen any of them or know much about the plot, so I can’t really judge. Thanks!

    • When we watched Night at the Museum, my daughter then wanted to know more about Teddy Roosevelt and Sacajewea–so I would recommend, for 8+.

  • I have to disagree with you on the Disney movie Pocahontas. It definitely has Pocahontas the same general age as Captain John Smith and that is not true!!! She was a young girl and he was an older man. There never was a romance between them. Most people who know history did not like this movie so Disney did Pocahontas II which I have never seen, but from reviews I have seen it is more accurate.

    • Haha yeah. 🙂 My logic was since most kids will have already seen the movie, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to introduce them to the “real” one. 🙂 I haven’t seen the second one, but I will definitely have to look for it and possibly change it. Thank you!

  • This is America, Charlie Brown
    Heres one of mine that wasnt on the list but i thought should be added. Its a journey thru american history and includes:
    The mayflower voyagers, the birth of the constitution, the wright bros at kitty hawk, NASA space station, building of transcontinental railroad, the great inventors, the Smithsonian and the presidency, and the music and heros of America.

  • Even as an adult I very much enjoy the Dear America series. It’s similar to The American Girl series and available on Netflix. I think it’s probably best for older children-tweens.

    • Whoa, the Dear America series has movies? I was pretty upset I first found the series when I hit my WWII-streak, because I would have only read one of them and I know I would have loved them I will definitely have to check it out. Thank you!!

  • Thank you for this fabulous list of historically referencing productions for children. Liberty Kids is very accurate, & our entire family enjoys watching their series. Torch Lighters is 1 of our all time favorites. How wonderful for children to look to these heroes of the faith as their role models!
    As for Disney, we tend to steer clear of them most of the time, due to the witchcraft, new age religion references, & rebellion promotions. For example, in Mulan “Dragon” was an ancestral god who performed magical feats. In Mulan, they also used divination to summon their dead ancestor’s spirits- a big no-no in Christianity . The movie promoted gender confusion by portraying a woman as the heroine by rebelling against her parental authority & pretending to be a man. In addition, in the Disney movie Pocahontas, new age religions & paganism are shown by the character “Grandmother” who was a magical tree who gave Pocahontas “wisdom”. Also, by the wind, leaves, animals, etc. all having spirits. Furthermore, again we see Disney pushing rebellion against parental authority, and portraying the parents as incompetent to help solve the problem. Disney likes to make the rebellion of the child/hero the reason the child eventually “saves the day”. I encourage you pray about it for yourself. With your film expertise, I bet you could help create films that would promote good morals, including having parents being an asset instead of a stumbling block. Just a little food for thought, take it or leave it. I think there is an open market for those types of movies, and I for 1 would be very interested in supporting such a venture. 🙂 Thank you again for the wonderful list- great job!

    • Hi! For me, with Mulan and Pocahontas, those things don’t really bother me because they’re truth; they really happened. (or are realistic). That doesn’t mean I agree with them or support them, but I feel as Christians it is important not to shelter our kids, but in fact teach them why things such as witchcraft are wrong. In China, things like Buddhism exist and I want my children to know about it and know why it is wrong. And, I am NO way standing up for cross dressing or homosexuality or anything, but, it really did happen. (And there are tons of other examples of women dressing as men not to be sexual or gender-confused, but to save their life.) And, she rebelled against her parents because she felt like it was the right thing to do to save her father’s life. True story, and a cool one. More than listening to authority, I want my kids to do the right thing – whether or not it’s illegal.
      As for Disney and parents, I do agree the newer Disney (ie Disney channel) teaches little other than bad examples. With the older Disney, most Disney movies are coming-of-age. Combine this with Walt Disney’s tragic life story with his parents, and creating out-of-the-picture/dead parents is easier for plot. I know this is kind of a sloppy argument, but from a writing perspective, in a coming of age story with the child protagonist, it makes sense. And also, no ordinary person who does everything everyone else does would make a good story.
      More than anything else in the world, I want my kids to be courageous and to do the right thing. For one example, I’ll give you Helmuth Hubener. He grew up in 1940s Germany during Hitler’s reign, his mom was quiet and not really involved, and she married a Nazi. In short, defying his parents, Helmuth published an illegal anti-Nazi pamphlet stating the truth (that Hitler was lying to the people) and was beheaded, at 17, for this. At the time, people knew little to nothing about the Holocaust, Helmuth just recognized Hitler was lying to them about the war. Would you call this a good lesson or a bad one? Why?
      And also, Disney movies are just that – movies. I don’t think kids should necessarily be getting their main morals from a movie LOL 🙂 Anyways, thanks for your comment!

      • I have been looking for a similar list to this one! Thank you so much for sharing! Also, I agree with your viewpoints on talking and sharing with children!

      • Amy, I have some of the same concerns about Disney and many other films. While I agree with you on some points also, Samantha, I think one of the problems (maybe life experience may teach you in future) you are missing is , the age range these films are marketed to- which , it is astounding that nuance seemed to escape you and others in this little comments part, as it was the main reason for you ranking films by appropriately assigning ages. Sure, maybe my 10-13 year old can look beyond certain things knowing they are realistic, though wrong, and my middle to late teen can synthesize the information and come to their own conclusions (& accept consequences)even if their parents may have guided them differently. These movies are not that. They are marketed to young girls, five and up, sometimes even younger. They are shown an adult or near adult as the hero/ heroine and encouraged to think, for instance, that their mother is just a jealous, self centered beast who is trying to destroy her ( the wonderful, always sweet & pure one) and the father is either a bumbling idiot, uninvolved, or dead. Think about almost every Disney princess movie before you write this off. Who’s the villain? The foremost one is a parent at the beginning at least. Sure, coming of age, writing easier, etc. but badly done when the vast majority of your audience will be children who are NOT ‘coming of age’ but are needing their parents, needing examples to lay a foundation of right, wrong, trust, obedience, asking questions to people who love them more than anyone else , rather than ‘following their own heart’ , finding their independence, etc. Young children cannot put these things through the sieve of truth / good character/ wise choices/cause & effect because they have no basis for doing so, except their own self serving nature, which will usually lead them wrong. While the next argument may be ‘ well, the parent is watching it with them & should use it for a teaching moment ‘ we all know life gets busy and many use the movie as a flashy babysitting device or are thinking about other things (amusement = absence of musing) so much is left to the child to absorb without moral bearings. Like it or not, kids DO get a lot of their morals from movies, music, books, etc. Parents who take their job seriously recognize that. This is precisely why lists like yours are helpful. Also the reason why your response to Amy’s concerns was a major fail in context.

        • Yes, Joan of Arc did disobey her parents – on multiple occasions. For example, she left home in 1429 to support the Dauphin without telling her parents, and she refused to marry the man her father arranged for her to marry.
          By the way, parents aren’t God – let’s not confuse that. Our children need to learn to *figure out* what the right thing is – and then do it. That doesn’t come from adherence to rules – it comes from inside, from inspiration from God, from spirit.

  • Thanks for the list! I teach 8th grade history and started showing Belle to address slavery and the class system. There are several articles about the real portrait and the court cases. Wonderful!
    I also show the miniseries “Into the West.” It follows a family of settlers and a Lakota Sioux family through westward expansion, from the fur trade through the reservation system. It is definitely for older children 12+ as it covers the Indian wars and addresses many moral issues of that time. However, the moral message is a good one. My students LOVE it. I believe you would enjoy it. The shorter, edited version I show at school is for sale at Amazon, although I loved the longer original version.

  • My children loved the three “historically” based movies featuring Fievel Mousecowitz, An American Tale is the first one (this one I liked most). It is about the pograms in Russia and emigration to America (my favorite). Certainly it takes a lot of liberties with historical facts but it plants seeds of curiosity. A jumping off point for learning about events. After some research, there were far more movies in the series than I ever saw. Appropriate for young children (the third one, about the west was pretty awful).
    October Sky. True story of high school boys whose interest in rocketry was sparked by Sputnik. Also depicts what it was like to live in a coal mining town in the 1950’s.
    My Dog Skip, a recounting of what it was like to be 12 in the 1950’s. The book is even better than the movie.

    • Thank you! I haven’t heard of the last two, but I’ve seen 2-3 American Tail Movies, EXCEPT the first one! I’ll have to add that one to the list and look into the other two. Thanks!

  • Great post. others i suggest: The Hiding Place about Corrie Ten Boom. Seargent York. (my 5th grade students loved it even though it is black and white.) Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks, Johnny Tremain by Disney, Squanto by Disney, i will fight no more forever with Sam Elliot about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe. Broken Arrow and Shenandoah both with Jimmy Stewart. Santa Fe Trail with Ronald Reagan.

  • Wow, I am so impressed. Never in a million years did I think my next year of home schooling would be so inspired by such a young person! Thank you for all your well researched information. I love that you are sensitive to things being age appropriate as well. Thank you for sharing all you have learned. It has really helped me tremendously!

  • Thank you so much for this wonderful information. I love math, and science, but history always seemed so abstract to me (ironic). Therefore, I struggle to teach my son this subject. I cannot express how grateful I am for this information! Thank you again!

    • I am the opposite. Math is abstract. History is stories! Sure, kids need to know dates and facts to some extent, but there is tons of good historical fiction, some written in each era, some more modern, to make life in other times come alive. From the Little House on the Prairie series, to The Witch of Blackbird Pond, to The Courage of Sarah Noble, to dozens of others.
      I would add the Sarah, Plain and Tall movies to this list, all 3 of them. Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are always excellently done. Also add the musical The King and I, which, like The Sound of Music, is based on a true story.

  • For older children (parents, watch this one first; it will depend on your child’s maturity. My brother was all about it when he was 8 years old or so, having read all the non-fiction he could get his hands on. My dad is big into Civil War history and was able to watch with and explain it to him… The first time.) I can’t recommend “Gettysburg” with Jeff Daniels and Martin Sheen enough. Historically accurate and yet not gory, it paints a human picture of what was at stake and what went on those three days in 1863 from Seminary Ridge up Little Round Top and across the field during Pickett’s Charge. A superb film.

      • Also, for 12+, I would recommend Glory-a story of an all African-American regiment-starring Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and Matthew Broderick-def. some intense violence, but great for older kids.

        • I agree, Glory is a great movie to add. I just want to thank you for all your hard work making this collection. I am definitely going to check out sll these mobies for my middle school Reading class.

  • The Journey of Natty Gann was one of my favorites growing up, and I just recently watched it with my 12 year old. Some mild profanity, but not enough to detract from a great story of the difficulties people faced to survive during the Depression. Lots of great conversation starters. Thanks!

  • I was in a PBS miniseries called The War That Made America. It’s the only made for TV movie about the French and Indian War. You can order it along with a curriculum for high school students.

  • My 7 year old and I just watched two cartoons on YouTube about Christopher Columbus and Pocahontas.
    Christopher Columbus
    They are about an hour and a half each and pretty historically accurate. Although the Pocahontas one shows her dying and her son talking to her after? Dreaming of her I guess?

  • No, Pocahontas is not a historically accurate representation. I agree. It is a poor example of a historical movie representing American Indians. This movie should be used with caution for many reasons. http://www.hanksville.org/storytellers/pewe/writing/Pocahontas.html
    There are so many historical movies that present the different cultures respectfully and honorably. Check out Debby Reese. http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/
    when teaching, learning about American Indians.

  • I like reading your posts. I do not agree that Prince of Egypt is good because it has a few blatant errors which I can’t cite because it’s been too many years since I saw it. I remember being irritated because it would not have been difficult to present the story accurately instead of making cuts that created errors.
    I also want to point out to you because you’re an intelligent person, that the use of the phrase “based off” which has become popular in recent years, doesn’t make sense. If you are constructing a building and first build the foundation or “base” do you then build ON it or Off?

    • Hi! Thank you! Yes, the main error in the Prince of Egypt was Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter (it’s his wife in the movie), and the movie focuses on this quite a bit. Off the top of my head, other changes were Aaron’s attitude towards Moses and Moses and Ramases’ pre-Exodus relationship. However, the Prince of Egypt is a huge favorite of mine. I am in love with the animation and the soundtrack, and it has inspired a love of Hebrew in me. 🙂
      Also, I changed the “based off” to “based on” – I guess I’ve never thought of it before. Thank you for pointing that out!

  • Great list! There are several that I haven’t seen and want to check out. Another one that should be at the top of the list in my opinion (haha) is Life is Beautiful. Personally I prefer the Italian version with English subtitles, but they do have an English voice over version as well. We have been waiting for years to watch it with our kids because of the reading factor. We have a 10, 11, 13 and 15 year old and they all enjoyed it. We watched it on Vidangel. Such a great film for depicting the holocaust era but with a beautiful touch to it all.

      • Life is Beautiful is a sweet movie but it inaccurately depicts the Holocaust and what could have possibly happened there….almost makes a mockery of it. It is misleading (especially for young people who may think this was the reality) and, in my opinion, it is very problematic.

        • I wouldn’t completely say it “inaccurately depicts the Holocaust.” If anything, the Boy in the Striped Pajamas is very unrealistic and is hailed as realstici. There was a 5 year old boy who survived Buchenwald in hiding, similar to the Life is Beautiful story. He was kept sheltered and safe. Life is Beautiful is about a father’s love and hope, without disrespecting the Holocaust.

  • Thanks for the time and effort you put into making and sharing this list. I’d love to add “Fly Away Home” to your list. A great kid’s movie based on a true story.

  • What a great list of movies. I appreciate the time you took to put this together.
    I have 2 boys and I am constantly looking for ones to build intrest in “real” heroes. I came across a tv series called Daniel Boone. (I think it aired in the 60’s)
    I know it is not a movie soniy doesn’t fit into your topic per se. It is such an excellent TV series i just wanted to throw it out there. My boys love to “dress up” like Daniel Boone and his friend Mingo all the time – it has a lot of great values and has created a desire in them to learn more about Daniel, and Boonsburo, ect.

  • I also recommend the Drive Thru History series. The host is silly, but that’s part of what makes is so great. They have a series on America and The Holy Lands.

  • Is there anyway to make this a printable list similar to your historical book lists? I want to stick the list in my planner for the year and 12 pages is just a bit much to justify. 🙂 Please let me know or send an email if you get a chance. Thank you for all you do.

  • The Liberty Kids series, about early American Revulsion, awesome! Thank you for all this work! I too would love a printable version 🙂

  • You could add the movie Night Crossing. From 1982 starting Jeff Bridges. It also depicts a true story of 2 families that built a hot air balloon to escape east Germany. They have family on the other side of the Berlin Wall & they are trying to get out . It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it but don’t remember anything violent.

      • I’ll leave this for anyone who comes across this page like I did just now 🙂 It can be slow by today’s standards but is well done and will still have you on the edge of your seat. It gives a great view of life in East Germany. It’s *very timely* as it shows that life wasn’t a gulag for these families, but they were by no means free. You never knew who was watching and ready to report you. As our country deals with increasing governmental overreach—whether attempted or successful—we are asked to consider what is worth fighting for? What is worth dying for? Sadly, too many in our own country seem satisfied to sacrifice liberty for the similar dulling, mediocre comfort forced upon East Germans. Be advised that early in the movie a teenager tries to escape with tragic consequences—it’s heartbreaking for anyone to watch but could be particularly frightening for younger children.

  • Do you remember the WISHBONE series? It’s about a little dog who played real historical characters such as Robin hood or sherlock…etc. I totally enjoyed this.

  • Thanks so much for this list. I’ve seen some of these, and they are so good. I wanted to add a few to your list. They are not historical, but such awesome, clean movies for kids and parents. One is THE BLACK STALLION, and one is ANNE OF GREEN GABLES SERIES. Thoroughly enjoyable and visually beautiful!

  • Samantha, Please try to view Night Crossing which is a Disney movie about a family that escapes East Germany to West Germany after WWII. It is excellent. My child with autism hates history books so I will take some of your recommendations for his history next year. Thank you.

  • Thank you for this list! I also teach middle school. I show “Race to Freedom” that’s about the Underground Railroad. My 7th graders enjoy it. I’ve heard that Disney made a movie “Nightjohn” about slavery on a plantation, but I haven’t seen it yet.
    For ancient civilizations I show some of the History Channel’s “Engineering an Empire”.

  • Awesome list! I actually found your list because I’m on the hunt for movies about slavery, the Civil War, The Civil Rights movement, discrimination, bullying, etc. for my 9-year-old daughter. We’re a two-mom, mixed race, homeschooling household, so it’s suuuuuper important to us to bring as much transparency and exposure to these issues as possible. This is a FANTASTIC starter list. Thanks!

  • Two other movies your readers may enjoy are Inn of the Sixth Happiness with Ingrid Bergman, and Luther with Joseph Fiennes. Inn of the Sixth Happiness is the true story of Gladys Aylward, a working-class Englishwoman, a domestic, in the early 20th Century who wanted nothing more than to be a missionary to China. Her social class and lack of education were barriers to achieving her goal, and no missionary project would accept her. But she was persistent, and after a long struggle she was allowed to go to China and assist a missionary who ra n an inn along a trade route. She eventually took over the mission and expanded it into an orphanage. During World War I she helped save hundreds of orphans from the Japanese invasion by hiding them in the mountains.She also had a surprisingly friendly relationship with the local ruler, who adopted her reforms, which especially aimed to empower women and girls. When this screenplay was first shopped around Hollywood, it’s said many studios turned it down because they thought it was too far-
    fetched…even though it’s a true story! There’s a suggestion of a romance between Aylward and a Chinese officer that is in fact made up, but the rest of the film is accurate. The Luther film is great; a couple of contrived subplots but otherwise faithful to the story of the younger Luther. ( There is another, British Luther bio that was on public TV awhile back; more educational, with scholarly commentary, but still pretty good for older kids .) For teens who can handle realistic portrayals of the Nazi era, Bonhoeffer is an excellent film about theologian/activist/ pastor Diettrich Bonhoeffer, who was a leader in the anti-Nazi German Confessing Churc h and who saved Jews by forging passports for them. I’m not a homeschooler, just a film buff.

    • Thanks so much, fellow film buff! 🙂 I have seen Bonhoeffer and bits of Inn of the Sixth Happiness! I was adopted from China, and my parents LOVE that movie.

  • Wow! What a wonderful resource. Thank you so much Samantha for sharing. A Holocaust movie that I highly recommend for Grades 5 and above is ‘The Boy in Striped Pyjamas’. I’ve shown it many times in my classes.

  • I love this list. Thank you.

    You asked for other favorites,
    ‘Not without my Daughter’
    We watched it in school, as I’m now a mother I think about it a lot.

    • Thanks! I remember watching that movie several years ago and it stuck with me too – I’ll have to give it a rewatch.

  • My son was an avid Liberty’s Kids fan. When he took the AP U.S. History exam years later, he said he wrote one of the essays entirely from his Liberty’s Kids knowledge. (He got a 5 on the exam, so the show’s accuracy paid off!)

  • Hi Samantha! Thank you for all your recommendations. Ive looked at this list many times over the years! I do have a question for you. I’m compiling my own list of American History Cinema to go along with my 8th graders literature studies. It is huge and I’m so excited! However, I see a big gap in my timeline of cinema. It seems to go from Civil Rights to fairly modern films. (Mostly inspirational sport, classroom, and biopic films.) I haven’t come across many that deal with 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, but then, I’m not as well-rounded in historical films as I could be. Pursuit of Happyness seems to be the exception. Do you have any recommendations for these decades?

    • Hey Robin, thanks so much! I have not…outside of some select biopics, I haven’t seen many from the 70-90s, or many set before the 1700s either!

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