Because of the evident work that goes into them, one is sure to have a greater respect for films set in a previous era. It takes a large team, including the production designers, art directors, and even the writers, to recreate a particular era that is now long gone, especially if it is done with sets and props rather than special effects. This is because they determine how the setting will be used to its fullest potential. Furthermore, using things like a storefront, an antique muscle car, or costumes isn’t the only way to recreate virtual history. It captures the spirit and manner of living of the era the movie chooses to depict.
The world we live in is rich with narratives to be told, ranging in size from small-scale homegrown tales to epic wars that altered the path of human history. Prime Video features a number of historical and period films that showcase exceptional craftsmanship. A cursory glance at the list would indicate that the Second World War is by far the most well-documented historical event, but there are other notable events as well, spanning from Biblical times to the recent end of the 20th century. Having said that, the following is a collection of excellent historical films that are currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Table Of Content
- 1 American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally (2021)
- 2 Badamasi (Portrait of a General) (2021)
- 3 Braveheart (1995)
- 4 Fanny’s Journey (2016)
- 5 Kesari (2019)
- 6 Padmaavat (2018)
- 7 Peterloo (2018)
- 8 Pippa (2023)
- 9 Ponniyin Selvan: Part I (2022)
- 10 Sardar Udham (2021)
- 11 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
- 12 The Captain (2017)
- 13 The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine (2018)
- 14 The Courier (2020)
- 15 The Lost City of Z (2016)
- 16 The Round Up (2010)
- 17 Valkyrie (2008)
American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally (2021)
“American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally,” a film directed by Michael Polish, recounts the tale of Mildred Gillars, an American who works as a Nazi propaganda broadcaster during World War II. After the war, she is taken prisoner in Berlin and sent back to the United States, where she faces treason charges. James Laughlin, played by Al Pacino, is Mildred’s attorney. He bases his argument on the idea that his client was likewise a victim of the Nazi government and was coerced into complying with their orders out of fear of being deported to a concentration camp. Even though the movie isn’t as good as Pacino’s previous efforts, he still has the ability to draw you into the narrative. You may watch the movie right here.
Badamasi (Portrait of a General) (2021)
“Badamasi (Portrait of a General),” a Nigerian-approved biographical film written and directed by Obi Emelonye, depicts the narrative of the real-life former military commander and head of state Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB). The movie follows Badamasi’s ascent from the Northern Nigerian town of Wushishi to the country’s political elite, portraying the general as a fallible person trying to lead his nation through a turbulent time. At fourteen, Badamasi lost both of his parents, and he finally enlisted in the military. He ascended through the ranks with remarkable charm and intelligence, eventually emerging as a significant figure in Nigerian military politics. The movie also provides a fairly accurate portrayal of Badamasi’s involvement in the Nigerian civil war. Here is where you can watch it.
This beloved classic, which was directed by Mel Gibson, is set in the thirteenth century and stars Gibson as the Scottish knight Sir William Wallace, who led the first War of Scottish Independence against Edward “Longshanks,” also known as King Edward I of England (Patrick McGoohan). Following the public execution of Wallace’s wife, Catherine McCormack, as Murron MacClannough, by English soldiers, this was an act of retaliation. Wallace’s companion combatant Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen) led the Scots to victory in the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) over the forces of King Edward II of England, despite Wallace’s subsequent capture and public beheading. Watch the movie right here.
Fanny’s Journey (2016)
“Fanny’s Journey,” a French-Belgian film directed by Lola Doillon, is based on Fanny Ben-Ami’s autobiographical memoir “Le journal de Fanny.” It centers on 12-year-old Fanny (Léonie Souchaud), one of a group of French Jewish children who were given refuge in Vichy France (occupied by Nazi Germany) by the French Jewish humanitarian organization Œuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE), and how the group left the area and traveled alone to the neutral country of Switzerland. It is a thousand times scarier than it sounds. Watch the movie right here.
The Hindi-language military film “Kesari” was directed and co-written by Anurag Singh. In the film, the vicious Battle of Saragarhi is narrated. Approximately 10,000 Afridi and Orakzai Pashtun tribesmen attacked the outpost at Saragarhi, and just 21 soldiers from the 36th Sikhs of the British Indian Army were able to defend the area. When the adversaries were directly in their line of sight, the valiant soldier Havildar Ishar Singh led his men in one of the bloodiest battles in history. The film illuminates the events leading up to the fight in addition to providing a close-up look of it. You may watch “Kesari” online here.
The film “Padmaavat” tells the tale of Queen Padmavati of Chittorgarh, who, after the invader Alauddin Khilji besieged her fort, committed “Jauhar,” the ancient patriarchal ritual of self-immolation, along with a hundred or so other women in the face of certain loss as an act to defend her honor. The movie is all you might hope for from a Bollywood director like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who has turned his signature genre specialization—exquisite production design set against historical backdrops—into a huge budget, exquisitely detailed picture. When I say this, I also mean that, similar to previous Bhansali films, the craftsmanship is so good that even if you don’t relate to the story—especially in this one when the procedures seem drawn out—the film’s quality will stick with you. Here is a link to stream “Padmaavat.”
This Mike Leigh-directed movie depicts the events of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819. A massive crowd (60,000 or more) assembled in St. Peter’s Field in Manchester, Lancashire, England, on August 16, 1819, to demand parliamentary reform and the right to vote. The government militia attacked them in an attempt to seize the leader, leaving more than 700 people injured and 18 dead. Despite how horrible the incident was, it was a catalyst for the founding of the Manchester Guardian and ultimately helped pass the Great Reform Act, which significantly altered England’s democratic system. Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Roger Sloman, David Moorst, and Karl Johnson are among the cast members. Watch the movie right here.
This military drama in Hindi, directed by Raja Krishna Menon, is based on the life of Indian 45 Cavalry regiment member Balram Singh Mehta (Ishaan Khatter). Singh participated in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, which was a front in the Bangladesh Liberation War. The film’s title alludes to the PT-76 tank, also known as “Pippa,” which belonged to his regiment and was a project he worked on. The combat memoir “The Burning Chaffees” by Brigadier Balram Singh Mehta is adapted into the film “Pippa.” Watch the movie right here.
Ponniyin Selvan: Part I (2022)
The first of a two-part film series, “Ponniyin Selvan: Part I,” is based on Kalki Krishnamurthy’s 1955 novel “Ponniyin Selvan.” The movie presents a fictionalized account of the early years of Arunmozhi Varman, a Chola prince who would grow up to become Rajaraja the Great, restoring Chola rule over South India and extending his dominion to several Indian Ocean islands. At the start of the movie, Emperor Sundara Chozhar sends Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan to investigate after sensing a dark force stirring among his courtiers. With his trademark candour, veteran director Mani Ratnam steers this sumptuous love letter to India’s history while narrating a magnificent story that is ultimately based on outstanding characterization. Watch the movie right here.
Sardar Udham (2021)
Sardar Udham, directed by Shoojit Sircar, is a dark, realistic story of one of the most well-known revolutionaries in colonial India. The storyline of the non-linear film alternates between the past and present of Indian Civil Service officer Michael O’Dwyer’s (Vicky Kaushal) membership in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) and Sardar Udham Singh’s (Kumar Saini) time spent in London. Udham, who is wanted by the British government, travels via Russia to England where he kills O’Dwyer. After being taken into custody, he tells his story to the investigating inspector and his assigned attorney. He describes how the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre affected him and how that ultimately affected his choice to assassinate O’Dwyer. Watch the movie right here.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
In this heartbreaking movie, eight-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield), a German child, and eight-year-old Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jewish prisoner, become friends after the former’s family relocates close to a concentration camp and his father, an SS member, assumes leadership. Unaware of the circumstances facing each of them, the two children develop a bond that goes beyond the conflict that separates them. Can it, however, keep them safe? Watch this Mark Herman-directed film here to learn more.
The Captain (2017)
Robert Schwentke is the director of “The Captain,” which is about German war criminal Willi Herold (Max Hubacher), who left his army as World War II was coming to an end and Nazi Germany was about to surrender. Finding the uniform of a Luftwaffe (the German military’s aerial warfare department) captain, he gathers support and, enamored with his newfound abilities, even executes a large number of detainees. Eventually, Allied soldiers catch and kill him. Watch the movie right here.
The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine (2018)
“The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine,” directed by Japanese auteur Takahisa Zeze, is set during one of the most turbulent periods in Japanese history. The film portrays the profound transformations that Japan experiences following the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The story revolves around two ladies, Kiku and Tamae, who are members of an all-female Sumo wrestling group, while nationalism is quietly growing in the background. In other places, Tetsu and Daijiro join the Guillotine Society, an anarchist organization that aims to use violent insurrection to alter their country. When the anarchists start going to the female Sumo matches, these two storylines come together. You can watch “The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine” online at this link.
The Courier (2020)
The Courier, a historical spy movie penned by Tom O’Connor, stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, and Jessie Buckley. In one of the most dangerous periods of the Cold War, a British businessman collaborates with a Soviet officer in the Dominic Cooke-directed film. These two men lay the foundation for defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis and averting the terrible situation as fears of nuclear war and widespread death and destruction reach dangerous heights. Watch “The Courier” online at this link.
The Lost City of Z (2016)
I was drawn to the movie by the myth of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who vanished in the Amazonian forests while pursuing the fabled El Dorado, also known as the Lost City of Z. Though the picture is technically flawless and visually stunning in several scenes, its plot falls short significantly. Try it for Charlie Hunnam, or if you enjoy historical escapades. Here is a link to stream the movie.
The Round Up (2010)
This film, directed by Roselyne Bosch, depicts the horrifying events that took place on July 16 and 17, 1942, during the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup (Rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv), when the French police arrested a large number of Jews in Paris at the request of Nazi Germany. During the roundup, around 13,000 Jews were taken into custody. Hugo Leverdez, Mélanie Laurent, Gad Elmaleh, Jean Reno, and Raphaëlle Agogué are among the cast members. Watch the movie right here.
This movie, which was directed by Bryan Singer, depicts the failed effort by a group of German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944 (during World War II), as well as Operation Valkyrie, which was meant to seize power. The Nazi regime would collapse if the attempt was successful. Starring with Tom Cruise is Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a man who joins the German Resistance in an effort to help save his country because he fears what Hitler would do to Germany in the future. Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Carice van Houten, Kenneth Branagh, and Tom Wilkinson are in the cast with Cruise. Watch the movie right here.
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