Movies, History, and Guy Fawkes

Remember, Remember!

The fifth of November,

The gunpowder treason and plot;

I know of no reason,

Why the gunpowder treason,

Should ever be forgot…


Does anybody know what this poem is about?


That’s right! It’s Guy Fawkes Day!

Did you just ask who Guy Fawkes is? Well, Perhaps this will refresh your memory.

Well, technically, that’s Hugo Weaving. But he’s wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and talks a lot about the 17th century Catholic Englishman who attempted to blow up Parliament. You can learn more about him here.

The purpose of this post is not to talk about Guy Fawkes or Hugo Weaving, unfortunately. But this example brings up a good point. Before I saw the movie “V for Vendetta” in high school, I had no idea who Guy Fawkes was. I’m pretty sure most Americans didn’t. But now, on every November 5, Facebook is full of people quoting the movie or putting the lines of the above poem in their status box. This made me wonder what other movies have made an impact like this on Americans and their knowledge of history and whether there are any movies about the Gilded Age that could shed light on the era of the Whaleys.

Now, I am a BIG movie fan. I’m also a big fan of using movies in teaching history. Sometimes it’s just hard for people to imagine a world they haven’t experienced. So, here are a few of my favorite historical movies! “Gangs of New York” does a great job at illuminating gang violence and prejudices around the time of the Civil War. And…Daniel Day Lewis! “There Will Be Blood” is based on a piece by Upton Sinclair about the oil industry. The movie chronicles the rise of a business man and the decline of his humanity. And again…Daniel Day Lewis! I can’t help that the man is a GENIUS!

“Saving Private Ryan” was an epic and revolutionary depiction of World War II. I could keep going, if you’d like.

There are also a few movies that aren’t so great on the historical truth scale, but totally inspired me in my studies. “The Patriot,” starring Mel Gibson has MANY faults, but when I watched that in middle school, it set me on my path to studying early American history.

So, how about you?  Are there any movies that have truly brought history alive for you? Or have they inspired you to learn something knew? Or has a movie taught you a simple historical fact?


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