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American history on film

For its 50th anniversary, the history magazine American Heritage has published lists from 21 historians of recommended books and films on aspects of US history.

I’m ashamed to admit how few of the books I’ve read (though I can recommend James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, David Donald’s Lincoln biography and especially Theodore Dreiser’s novel Sister Carrie), but it turns out I’ve seen eight of the ten recommended movies: The Right Stuff (1983), All the President’s Men (1976), Patton (1970), Glory (1989), Matewan (1987), Quiz Show (1994), The Insider (1999), and Thirteen Days (2000).

They’re all worth seeing, but I consider Quiz Show a neglected near-masterpiece (slightly marred by Rob Morrow’s phony Boston accent). The performances of John Turturro and Ralph Fiennes are masterful and the story– based on the TV quiz-program scandals of the late 1950s– is riveting (sorry for the hackneyed movie-review jargon). Along the way the film manages to say a lot about the nature of class, celebrity and capitalism in America.

Assuming that all the listed films have made it across the pond, does anyone have any thoughts on them? Anyone want to make a list of the greatest [insert country here] historical films?

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