I thought it would be cool as an aside to post my take on the Civil War movies I've seen; both the ones I liked and the ones I thought, if not always bad films, were questionable as Civil War movies. Please by all means share your thoughts, especially on Civil War films I may not have seen. Also, it seemed appropriate to post this in the AGEOD Civil War forum, though I would understand if the admin decided to put it in the General Discussion Forum since it is only indirectly related to AEGOD's great Civil War game.
Ted Turner's 'Gettysburg' - This was an amazing movie; probably the best film ever done on the American Civil War. The battle scenes were riveting and the cast was amazing; especially Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee, Tom Berenger as Longstreet, and Sam Elliot as Buford. I found myself not liking Jeff Daniels (Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain) as much, as he seemed a bit too much of a politically correct goody two-shoes for my liking. This is a very minor complaint though. A solid A+ movie not to be missed.
'Glory' – There were so many great things about this film that it would be too much to list them all here. As with the 'Gettysburg' film, the battle scenes were great and the cast was amazing. I was totally stunned by the incredible Antietam sequence at the beginning. Tremendous performances by Morgan Freeman, Mathew Broderick, Carey Elwes, and a well-deserved Oscar for Denzel Washington. I loved how Denzel, like Sydney Carton in Dicken's 'Tale of Two Cities', started as a malcontent but through the course of the film rises to social responsibility.
'North and South' miniseries – Don't let the occasional soap opera lapses (can you say Miss Ashton??? lol) fool you, this was a great miniseries. Its breadth and scope were amazing, covering as it did everything from the Antebellum period through Reconstruction. Further, it does so in a surprisingly unbiased manor, showing that there were good and bad people on both sides. Also, the battle scenes were excellent, especially the Union assault at Petersburg. This was probably my favorite miniseries next to Herman Wouk's 'War and Remembrance'.
'The Beguiled' – This cult film was not only a most unusual Clint Eastwood movie, but also the most unusual Civil War film ever. Eastwood plays a soldier in Grant's army during the drive on Vicksburg, and after being wounded and separated from his regiment finds his way to a nearby Southern girls boarding school. The film is very Gothic; sort of Ambrose Bierce meets Edgar Alan Poe, and the webs of deceit and sexual tension woven by Eastwood and the women of the school were intriguing and cerebral. Also, as opposed to many other films that pay lip service to the Civil War, in this film the viewer is given constant reminders of the war. I especially liked how the film was overflowing with early 70's cynicism, much like Dustin Hoffman's 'Little Big Man' released about the same time.
'The Red Badge of Courage' (Audie Murphy) – This film is very short (a little over one hour), but still a great classic. Murphy was excellent in the lead, and you felt when watching him that he was acting from experience, which he was. Also cool was the participation of another American WW2 icon, cartoonist Bill Mauldin, in a supporting roll. And of course the battle scenes were tremendous. I especially liked the part where, just as the Union soldiers were breathing a sigh of relief that they had beaten off the Rebels, much to their chagrin the Rebs came back for more.
'The Red Badge of Courage' (Richard Thomas) – Not quite as good as the Audie Murphy film, but it was close. It's also interesting to note that Thomas did 'All Quiet on the Western Front' at about the same time.
Ted Turner's 'Gods and Generals' – I recall when this film was first released how a film critic stated that it was awful, and probably the most politically incorrect film this side of 'Birth of a Nation'. lol When I finally saw it from Netflix though, I was pleasantly surprised. Not as good as 'Gettysburg', but still a generally good, if not great film, centering as it does on Stonewall Jackson in 1861-63. The Battle of Fredricksburg, especially, was excellent. My only complaints were that they omitted Stonewall in the Valley where Jackson made his reputation, and actor Jeff Daniels as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain looked much older and fatter than he did in the Gettysburg film, even though the events of 'Gods and Generals' took place before Gettysburg. I also thought the Mary Fahl song at the end was a nice touch.
Gore Vidal's 'Lincoln' – As far as I know this film is maybe the only time we get to see an up close and personal view of Abe, as opposed to the usual iconic performances by actors like Hal Holbrook and Gregory Peck. Sam Waterston was great as Abe, and Mary Tyler Moore was surprisingly good as Mary Todd Lincoln. Many, many, memorable scenes in this film, like McClellan's snubbing of the President when Abe had come to visit him, the political machinations of Salmon Chase, Lincoln's irritation over Meade not pursuing and destroying Lee's defeated army after Gettysburg, and his observation of Jubal Early's probe of the Washington defenses.
'Gone with the Wind' – To be honest I've only seen this film once and might need to see it again, but IMHO when I finally saw it about 15 years ago felt it was a tad overrated considering all the hype and adulation the film has received over the years. As Civil War period pieces go, I think it suffered from not having a battle scene, and the famous scenes of the CSA troop staging area and the burning of Atlanta, although good for the day, were poor substitutes.
'Ride With the Devil' – To be fair it was an entertaining movie, directed interesting enough by Ang Lee of 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' fame, and it was cool seeing Quantrill and the raid on Lawrence, Kansas. The film suffers though from having modern attitudes, a few too many Hollywood pretty boys in the cast, and everyone wore clean clothes and had all their teeth.
I would say though that singer Jewel was nice eye candy. lol
'The Blue and the Gray' - This miseries should have been great, based as it was on a Bruce Catton book, but it was far from it and no where near as good as the aforementioned 'North and South' miniseries. The battle reenactments were laughable, and the lead roles were wooden and cardboard. Stacy Keach, especially, was weak as the suave and self-important Union officer who seemed always to be anywhere where anything important was happening. Some nice scenes of the Vicksburg siege and memorable cameos by Sterling Hayden as John Brown and Gregory Peck as Abe Lincoln weren't enough to save this overall weak production.
'The Outlaw Josie Wales' – I've seen one or two people put this Eastwood movie on their favorite Civil War films lists, and I can't understand why? It does no more than pay occasional lip service to the Civil War. Also, as Eastwood movies go, I thought it highly overrated and not nearly as good as 'High Plains Drifter'.
'The Good, Bad, and the Ugly' – Some people are going to disagree with me on this one, but I felt that although it tries hard to tie in to the Civil War, it doesn't quite satisfy in this respect. Although a great film in its own right, the war remained no more than a plot device within which the main characters operated. For one thing although the historically accurate CSA General Sibley made a brief appearance, his exploits were early in the war, not latter as we're made to believe here. Also, although the battle scene had a gritty realism (like everything director Sergio Leone did), the drunken Union commander and the fight over the bridge seemed contrived. Again though, it was a great film, I just don't think it was as effective as a Civil War movie.
"I know two songs. One's 'Yankee Doodle', and the other isn't." - US Grant