Great Films for Studying US History: The Cold War

The Cold War was enormously important in the history of the United States of America as well as for the collective consciousness of the entire world. Out of the bedrock of these moments of time have spring a fertile valley of inspiration for works of profoundly important literature, plays, non-fiction, and film makers alike. And it goes without saying that there is a lot to learn from the world of cinema from this time period. All that to say, maybe we can go through a few of the greatest Cold War inspired films together and see what we can learn from them. 

And maybe by sifting through some of these really great films, and encountering truly great cinema, it might assist you in composing your cold war essay and will give you a clear understanding of the war’s dynamics. All that to say, that there is a ton of learning potential that is here for the taking.

Hunt For Red October (1990)

Hunt For Red October was one of the single most realistic war novels written in its day. Tom Clancy so disturbed the politics of the day that he was interviewed by intelligence sources to learn where he got his material from. And when he told them it all came from public sources it shocked them so much was public knowledge. Especially when so little about the Soviet Union was generally understood at the time. 

Thirteen Days (1961)

Seeking to learn more about the Cold War? You can’t do any better than studyign the events leading up to and including the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cuban Missle Crisis is the underpinning events of the movie of Thirteen Days. This crisis began with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Even though JFK had a major role as acting president during filming, the film primarily focuses on Kenneth O’Donnell, JFK’s counselor. The strain of the chaos of this time is evident on these two men. They worked diligently to avoid World War III, which they only narrowly avoided. 

Good Morning Vietnam (1965)

Good Morning Vietnam is one of the most famous comedies of all time – but to remember that it is set during a historically accurate period of history is key. The movie focuses on a DJ who joined the Armed Forces Radio Service in Vietnam and attempts to provide a reprieve for the American forces in Vietnam at the time. After its debut, it was met with rapturous reviews from critics. Williams was honored with the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical picture for his performance.

The Right Stuff (1947-1963)

The film adapts a book of the same name. It also delves into the Space Race, which pitted the United States and the Soviet Union against one another to see who could be the first to put a human in space. Seven people who volunteered for the first space flight are the focus of this video. All three branches of the United States armed forces were represented. It also delves into the experiences of future astronauts and their families, including the challenges they faced and difficulties.

The Good Shepherd (2006) 

Edward Wilson finds that working in the OSS is the absolute perfect career for a man of his skills. His methods actually became standard operating procedures for the CIA which were established as he fought his counterparts from the KGB. But as America slides further and further into the Cold War, Edward had to work hard to realize that the impacts to his family were a deeper cut than he had originally intended. 

That these amazing movies sprung from actual historical occurrences is really mind blowing when you start to think about it. After the Allies defeated the Axis powers in World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States found themselves as global superpowers, sparking competition between them. The Soviet Union’s goal was to advance communism, but the West was strongly opposed to this goal.

There was a lot of discussion over the war in Afghanistan. Tensions remained high for decades, with everyone hoping against hope that they wouldn’t escalate into World War III or a nuclear holocaust. Nonetheless, there was never any actual fighting between the two sides. They usually resorted to verbal attacks to undermine one other’s self-esteem.

There is a lot of disagreement over what should be done about the Second Indochina War. The goal was to stop the rise of communism, but the unintended consequences were far worse.

Films about the past are a great educational and writing resource since they hold viewers’ attention better than books or other written materials. They work wonderfully for people who have trouble focusing for long periods. Since movies are more exciting to watch than books, people tend to remember them better. Their impact on the mind of the observer is long-lasting.

The past isn’t very exciting, so it’s easy for students to zone out or become bored while reading about it. However, the movies covered here are interesting enough to keep your attention for the duration of the brief lessons presented.