War Films

New York Times columnist Russell Baker once sardonically stated that President Ronald Reagan “had trouble distinguishing history from old movie plots.” If so, Mr. Reagan was no different from millions of other people who have come to see films as a reflection of historical reality. Motion pictures can both shape and reflect our understanding of the past in general and of military history in particular. That influence is pervasive and complex. Indeed, the first war film—Tearing Down the Spanish Flag (1898)—appeared at the dawn of the age of moviemaking and had great public appeal. It reflected the general enthusiasm for the war and stimulated widespread interest in motion pictures as mass entertainment. War films have retained their fascination for filmmakers and audiences into the ...

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