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movies about the American Revolution

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Are there any decent ones? The only one I've seen is The Patriot, which I personally think is a downright awful movie. First of all, it isn't really about the American Revolution. It's about Mel Gibson's quest for revenge, which just so happens to be set against the backdrop of the Revolution. There are absolutely none of the major historical characters involved with the Revolution, with the exception of Cornwallis. Then there's the fact that it's just a pitifully made movie. It's like Mel Gibson took Braveheart, set it 500 years later, and gave it a script that sounds like it came from a Monty Python movie.

Why has no one made a sweeping, 3-hour epic about the war? I want one complete with debates in the Continental Congress, the signing of the Declaration, climactic battle scenes, Washington standing heroically on his boat as he crosses the Delaware (I don't care if he was really huddled down to protect himself from the cold), and a John Williams or James Horner soundtrack. Is this too much to ask?

Edited by Moose
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I was wondering the same thing. We have a good deal of movies on other wars, but the American Revolution seems to have been largely ignored--especially the central figures and the over-all theme of the war (fighting taxation without representation, British manipulation of the American economy, etc.).

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Ed Cline's books (the Sparrowhawk series) are set during colonial times, including the American revolution. In the foreword to Book-3, he writes:

A large body of novels exists for the Civil War, the Indian Wars, even World War II. The colonial period's list is pitifully, almost scandalously short. Representative of this specific subgenre is James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. The Sparrowhawk series of novels represents, in part, an ambitious attempt to help correct that deficiency.
I really hope this series is made into a TV series or a set of movies some day.
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Are there any decent ones? The only one I've seen is The Patriot, which I personally think is a downright awful movie. First of all, it isn't really about the American Revolution. It's about Mel Gibson's quest for revenge, which just so happens to be set against the backdrop of the Revolution. There are absolutely none of the major historical characters involved with the Revolution, with the exception of Cornwallis. Then there's the fact that it's just a pitifully made movie. It's like Mel Gibson took Braveheart, set it 500 years later, and gave it a script that sounds like it came from a Monty Python movie.

Why has no one made a sweeping, 3-hour epic about the war? I want one complete with debates in the Continental Congress, the signing of the Declaration, climactic battle scenes, Washington standing heroically on his boat as he crosses the Delaware (I don't care if he was really huddled down to protect himself from the cold), and a John Williams or James Horner soundtrack. Is this too much to ask?

There was one with Al Pacino in it that I caught part of once. I don't recall the title off hand. It did not seem particularly good, from what I remember.

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Are there any decent ones?

Apparently there was a very good one from the silent period. But it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever get to see it:

Robert Goldstein, a filmmaker whose silent 1917 epic about the American Revolution,
The Spirit of ‘76
, got him thrown in jail for undermining the war effort against Germany because it portrayed Britain, a U.S. ally in the Great War, in an unfavorable light. (Continue here:
http://www.slate.com/default.aspx?id=1005493
)

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The musical 1776, filmed in 1972, is a pretty good film, that does deal with the ideas and does a pretty good job of it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068156/

I saw it by happenstance one forth of July, when it was aired on television.

But you're right, there have been remarkably few films made on that war and that era. This is sad, when you realize it's one of the most important times in human history. Maybe some future film maker in this forum will do the honor of making such a film, along with a movie of Ayn Rand's Anthem! :thumbsup:

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The only one I've seen is The Patriot, which I personally think is a downright awful movie. First of all, it isn't really about the American Revolution. It's about Mel Gibson's quest for revenge, which just so happens to be set against the backdrop of the Revolution. There are absolutely none of the major historical characters involved with the Revolution, with the exception of Cornwallis.

When I first saw the movie, I thought that Mel Gibson's character was supposed to be a dramatization of Francis Marion (he is worth reading about!). Actually, according to Wikipedia, Mel Gibson originally was supposed to be Francis Marion, but then they recast him as a fictional character to allow more poetic freedom. In general, the movie did not seem to offer much historicity.

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In general, the movie did not seem to offer much historicity.

Some of the history is downright wrong.

The musical 1776, filmed in 1972, is a pretty good film, that does deal with the ideas and does a pretty good job of it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068156/

Haven't seen it but, as a musical, I'm guessing it's rather light-hearted. I'd rather see a historical epic.

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  • 9 months later...

So I don't know how much of this mini-series is going to even touch on the American Revolution, but I think it's pretty awesome that one of my favorite actors, Paul Giamatti, is going to be playing the eponymous role in a new HBO production John Adams. I'm super stoked.

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I'm looking forward to this, as well. Too bad I don't have HBO...I can only hope Netflix will eventually have it. Although, I'm a little confounded by the choice of Giamatti to play John Adams. He's a very good actor, but I don't think he really looks the part.

Edited by Moose
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A large body of novels exists for the Civil War, the Indian Wars, even World War II. The colonial period's list is pitifully, almost scandalously short. Representative of this specific subgenre is James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. The Sparrowhawk series of novels represents, in part, an ambitious attempt to help correct that deficiency.

There were several historical novels set during the Revolution written by Kenneth Roberts, including Arundel and Rabble in Arms. He also wrote Northwest Passage,which was made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy. I haven't read any of them yet. But he evidently had an ax to grind, in that he was a great admirer of Benedict Arnold.

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A search on Amazon turned up several other movies set in or around the American Revolution.

The Howards of Virginia, starring Cary Grant as an American who joins the colonial army. His wife has Tory sympathies. The movie includes Jefferson and Patrick Henry, evidently some recreation of Henry's speeches, also.

Johnny Tremain, a Disney movie from 1957, about a boy who becomes freinds with Samuel Adams.

John Paul Jones, starring Robert Stack, an actor admired by Ayn Rand. Only available on VHS, unfortunately.

George Washington and The Forging of a Nation starring Barry Bostwick, also available only on VHS, used. A CBS miniseries extending to 5 VHS tapes.

The Crossing, starring Jeff Daniels, and Benedict Arnold, starring Aidan Quinn, both A&E made for tv movies. I didn't like The Crossing and haven't seen Benedict Arnold.

Still pretty slim pickings.

Edited by Topliner
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Oh I can think of no actor better than Paul Giamatti for John Adams. Naturally, you're not going to have a very picture-perfect facial resemblance; but John Adams was a pudgy, short, unattractive, "obnoxious and disliked", emotionally unstable, tactless, hyper-sensitive, frenzied man with a shrill, nasal voice, who had a general suspicion that all men were fundamentally inclined to do bad things. But he was also a devout patriot, ideologue of the Enlightenment, leader in the Revolution, tireless worker, and a man with steel integrity. Danny DeVito is the only other actor who comes to my mind, and he's not a good actor. Paul Giamatti is just spot-on.

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My favorite president, Washington, is played by David Morse, which is an okay pick. He's tall, sharp blue eyes, and charismatic. But he doesn't seem big enough. George Washington was a hulking man, and by all accounts gorgeous in his youth. And Washington wasn't just charismatic--he was charming to the point of compelling. David Morse has always done the father/firefighter, protective leading male figure very well, but I don't know about the self-made general of the American rebel army. We'll see.

Anyway, Jefferson is played by Stephen Dillane, whom I've never heard of. Madison doesn't seem like he's going to make an appearance in the first season, which seems pretty natural.

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  • 4 weeks later...
There was one with Al Pacino in it that I caught part of once. I don't recall the title off hand. It did not seem particularly good, from what I remember.

Called "Revolution" it is a fantastic movie. Donnald Sutherland once again proves he is the master of Bit-Part character actors.

"You can't have a War without Drummer Boys"

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  • 4 months later...

There are two good, long documentaries on the American Revolution that I know of, and they are both at Netflix. Liberty The American Revolution, which is about 6 hours and it documents the causes, battles, and short period after the US wins the war. Very informative. The other is called The American Revolution, which runs about 8 hours. I haven't seen it yet, but the description says it's similar to the movie above but with a little more detail.

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