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Learning American History Through Movies & Free Timeline

Learning American History Through Movies & Free Timeline

Movie Homeschooling

I could not find a chronological list of movies of American History so I made the one below. Join our Homeschool with Movies Facebook Group for more movie suggestions.

First I created a timeline from 1630 to 2000 into 12 eras and listed the most important people and events.  (You can download a 8.5×11 printable version below. ) Then I found period movies for each time period listed below (I will continue to add to this list).

NOTE: The timeline is copyrighted. Please use for personal use only. You may share link here but do not post on your blog or Facebook except to link. Thank you. If this list or the printable timeline is helpful to you, please pass it on via Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or your blog.

Then we made a timeline on a white board  and used sticky notes  to record people and events as we watched movies (the timeline is not just for movies but to record any American events we learned about during reading or other subjects). This really helped put events in chronological order when we watch science documentaries or series like  “How the States Got Their Shapes” which bounce around in time periods.

Where or How to Get the Movies

Try searching your TV for shows to record on TV. Most the movies below are available through Amazon used. Most can be watched online  free through h Prime,  Hulu,  or rented via Netflix.
disclaimer history movies


Download this Timeline at the Bottom of this Post

USA History Timeline Free Prime Shipping

USA History Timeline Free Prime Shipping


Are Movies a Lazy Way to Teach?

Is Movie Homeschooling, homeschooling? Don’t fee guilty using movies to teach. We are hardwired for stories. Jesus used stories to teach. You don’t get brownie points for teaching with dry boring textbooks. Use a movie as a jump off place for further research. When your children start asking things like “Is that why J. P. Morgan worked with Edison?” you know they are learning, thinking and remembering.


American History Overview

ultimate-list-educational-video_sites-300x330Pre America Period

1630-1763 Colonial Period

1763-1783 Revolutionary America

1783-1815 Young Republic

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 1.00.38 AM1815-1860 Westward Expansion

1830-1876 Civil War and Reconstruction

youtube_educational-Videos1871-1914 Industrial Revolution

1880-1920 Political Reform

1914-1933 WWI / Prosperity/ Depression

homeschool-with-Movines-Facebook-Group1933-1945 New Deal / WWII

 1945-1960 Post War/ Civil Rights

 1960-1980 Vietnam Era

1980-2000 End of the Century

2000- Today

The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach

Bible-Based Homeschooling


The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach is for all homeschoolers who want to make the Bible the center of their school day. This giant 500+ page book provides you with the methods, program, and resources for a course of study where students spend half the school day studying God’s Word and the other half studying God’s world (academics). Students study history chronologically and science in the order of the days of Creation. This book will encourage, motivate you and instruct you, step by step, how to give your child a Bible-focused, comprehensive education from preschool through high school; one that will train him or her to read, to study, to understand, to love to learn and, most importantly, to desire and seek true wisdom. This approach can be used for all grade levels.

When homeschoolers are asked about this book, one word continues to come up over and over–Wow!

Read the excerpt today to see what all the wow is about.

Download Free American History Timeline

Click on the heart in the image to download (1 page PDF)












Heartofwisdom teaching approach

Subscribe for 65 pages from The Heart Wisdom Teaching Approach (pdf)

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About Robin Sampson


  1. Bobbie

    Another few movies to include in your listing would be The Simeon Weisenthal Story goes well with Ann Frank and The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler is another to add as well. Another good Hallmark movie is Miss Rose White which is Post WWII…. have fun!

  2. Thank you for such a wonderful list. I am working on a list for ancient history films as well as Early Church. I love having resources available as we approach various time periods

  3. Thanks for making and posting this list! I’m not homeschooling anymore, but i still take every opportunity to supplement my girls’ education 🙂

    I would like to suggest an addition to your list–Alex Haley’s “Roots” is a great “other-side-of-the-story” to Gone With the Wind, North and South, and The Blue and the Gray. Of course, the subject matter can be difficult for the very young, but it can be delicately explained to older ones.

  4. I could hug you right now! My 10 year old son is dyslexic, not reading yet, and has a low tolerance for read alouds. Videos are huge tools for him. This list is saves me so much time – Thank you!!

  5. WOW! Being a teaching of various American History classes this is AWESOME! Thank you so very much!

  6. Lisa C.

    All I can say is WOW!!! and THANK YOU!!! for this movie list — you have no idea what an answer to prayer this is to me right now….

  7. I like the idea of posting a timeline of American History movies. You may be interested in the TV series I produced at Exploring History’s Treasures, http://www.exploringhistorystreasures.com

    We show American History in an exciting way. I travel to schools across the country speaking to high school students. They get excited about what they are watching, and learn more by asking questions.


    Frank W. Pandozzi
    Executive Producer

  8. I would add The Patriot to the list for the Revolutionary War era. If you are in SC, this movie aligns so well with the 8th grade standards. I have often shown this movie (after sending home permission slips) in my On my way! Classroom.

  9. I LOVE this idea, however, I cannot get the printable download to work. Any suggestions?

  10. Leigh Ann Steeber

    I love, love, love this!! Thank you!!

  11. Rachel

    Thank you! This is phenomenal!

  12. I use “Liberty’s Kids,” a former PBS who, with my fifth graders. It covers Pre to Post Revolution and the kids love them. They are short (20 minutes) and you can pick and choose which episodes best fit your needs. I purchased the 6 DVD set for $50.

  13. This list is awesome! Thank you for posting it!
    I am definitely bookmarking this for future reference.

  14. What a wonderful idea! Thanks for taking the time to put this list together. A couple of my kids actually learn well by watching shows/movies/documentaries (better than reading a so-called “boring” textbook) so this will be perfect. 🙂

  15. This is great! Does anyone know of a similar list for Geography? I’m having trouble finding a good high school geography curriculum.

  16. Great list – I think Last if the Mohicans would be a good addition to the pre-Revolution period. And a small note, Anne of Green Gables takes place in Canada – so not actually American, if you’re doing strictly American history. Otherwise I love the list!

  17. Melodee

    Amazing list. Thank you! I always find neat things on your blog and Facebook.

  18. Cathie Gilliland

    A few more for your list!

    The Great Raid – is a 2005 war film about the Raid at Cabanatuan. Very good!

    Also, 13 Days- about the Bay of Pigs.

    Jimmy Stewart in -The Spirit of St. Lewis, The Glenn Miller Story & Strategic Air Command

    And of course, the new Lincoln.

  19. Belynda

    Wow!!! Wow!!! Wow!!! Thanks for a great resource! You have put a lot of hard work into this, and I appreciate your work!!

  20. This is a WONDERFUL post! The chart of the movies, the sticky-note timeline, the links to every single movie????? You are rocking it out!!!! Thank you!

  21. Cheryl

    American Experience at PBS.org has lots of great documentaries that would fit very nicely in this as well.

  22. This is fabulous! Thank you so much for sharing!

  23. Siobhan

    Great list. My son has seen a number of these already, but there are a lot more yet to see.

  24. Great resource.
    Toro, Toro, Toro is another good WWII movie.
    I love learning through movies. After we watch a historical movie we jump on the web and fact check. Hollywood does like to jazz stories up.
    Thank you for sharing.

  25. Brenda

    Wow, so much work went into this. Thank you so much for being willing to share it with the rest of us. I’m grateful.

  26. I want this for Canadian and World History!! Anyone know of resources for those subjects?

  27. Liadan

    Great list. One question: What does Anne of Green Gables teach about American History? That takes place in Canada on Prince Edward Island.

  28. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is one of the greatest made for TV movies ever. It traces the Civil Rights movement though the life of a fictional 110 year old former slave as she talks to a reporter in about 1968. It should be required viewing for every US History student.

  29. Another great mini-series for WWII is Winds of War and War and Remembrance. It really gives a good overview of what was going on all around the globe in a personal way. Definitely for older children, though.

  30. Emileigh

    Another great Civil Rights movie is Mississippi Burning. It is a great list!

  31. Sharlee Rochelle

    Another good show is call the midwife on PBS (Sun) evenings. It gives childeren a glimps into that time period. I also liked the documentary about the Oklahoma dust storm.

  32. Nancy Stewart

    I would recommend the movie “Miracle” for the 1980-2000 period. I loaned my DVD to the teacher doing American history at the MK boarding school I used to work at, and he used it to explain the Cold War era to 11th grade students. There are only a couple of mild cuss words and no sexually explicit scenes. At one point you see a couple of college boys lusting after a female, but you just see their faces, not the female, and the focus is more the demands of sport causing the boys to have little time for girls. I had fun watching the movie, about the U.S. Olympic hockey team beating out the USSR team in the 1980 games, because I remembered watching the game live on TV when it happened. The students loved it because it’s a good story, and the teacher loved it because it really covers the political tensions of the era very well and gave a good overview in a very painless fashion.

  33. Rhonda

    I wish you had a Pinterest link so that I could share your awesome idea with others.

  34. Becky C.

    I may have missed it in the comments section, but are there any movies that include the Native American removal via the Trail of Tears? It is an important event in our history.

  35. Thank you a million times over for this! I started home-schooling last year, and am still learning as I go. These are such great resources. Thank you for taking the time to put these together!!

  36. Guilherme Tell


    It’s a good ideia!

    Thanks for your help!

  37. Larry B

    Excellent list. On the Civil War end, I would add the movie “Gods and Generals. Also, if shown with care (it is R-rated), the movie “Ride with the Devil” portrays parts of the Missouri/Kansas side of the war.

  38. coolschoolmom

    AWESOME! Thanks so much for this, wish the compliments can be turned into pay for your work! 🙂

  39. I recommend ‘Something The Lord Made’ starring Alan Rickman, for the 1950s-1960s/Civil Rights era.

  40. Bonjour, je trouve votre article très intéressant et très instructif ! merci

  41. The Awakening Land – TV miniseries, circa. 1978, building the midwest in late 1800’s.
    Highly recommended.

  42. Setting the record straight

    I suggest you move ‘Reagan and Conservatism’ to the 1980-2000 column on your American History Timeline .

  43. It’s remarkable in favor of me to have a web site, which
    is helpful for my experience. thanks admin

  44. Friend

    I hardly leave a response, however i did some searching and wound up here Learning American History Through Movies &
    Free Timeline : Homeschool Blog. Thanks

  45. You are right having good and much more information about Stats and other countries throw movies, as they show some history some places which need to be visited and many things about people, laws many more I love the perspective you have shown here of movies.

  46. This is an amazing list and will help me supplement with my girls. Thank you so much!

  47. Colleen

    “Not all of the movies are accurate”? Try most of the movies are grossly inaccurate!

    Watch Sweet Liberty, with Alan Alda. It is actually about the making of a movie of Cowpens (same battle as in The Patriot). **That** shows how accurate movies are. (From the view of someone who cares about history). The Patriot is horribly inaccurate (I have friends who are in it!! They, at least, are wearing accurate clothing, unlike many of the main characters).

    If you want accurate clothing, one of the few choices is Dangerous Liasions, which really deserves its R rating.

    My reenacting family has been filmed many times by movie crews for the history channel at reenactments. They short the good and the terrible, and use both. They rarely get the story right, and aren’t very good at getting the right soldiers with the right battles. They used autum shots for Battle Road (c’mon…April 19!!!). They mislabel British musicians as American (are reversed colors that hard to get right!?)….

    Most movies have more wrong than right.

    In 1776 much of the John and Abigail duets are taken from their extant letters, but a lot of the rest of the movie is less good. But, why didn’t they use fifes instead of piccolos in the theme????

  48. Jenn M

    This is an amazing resource you’ve created, but I want to caution the use of Hollywood movies to teach history. We just encountered the fallicies outlined again this year on a trip to the Old West. Taking a movie like Tombstone, we thought we’d watch it while we visited the town and compare histories. First, the movie wasn’t filmed anywhere near Tombstone (neither was Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp-the city’s mayor and business association wouldn’t allow it), and second, there is a popular theory (from most people in the town of Tombstone) that the Earps were actually bullies and harrassed and murdered the Clanton’s and their friends. If we are going to teach our children by Hollywood movies, backed by investors with agendas, they miss the process of discovering many different stories of the way history unfolded. And unfortunately, in the case of Tombstone, there is a lot of ambiguity, because during the late 1800’s boom, when they were moving city offices to a swanky new courthouse, some file shleppers though enough of enough and started dumping county records into the silver mine shafts. These are the histories our children should be learning from. And they can be accomplished either through travel or contacting museum employees through email.

  49. I would add all of the Ken Burns documentaries: The War (WWII), Prohibition, The Dust Bowl, and his others.

    Great post, thanks so much.

  50. Melissa

    WOW! Thank you so very much!
    (do you have a science list? lol)

  51. Suzanne

    If you want some other good movies to add to your list. We use these at my school.

    Into the West-Especially part about Indian Schools
    Lost Battalion-World War I (from U.S. side)
    Cinderella Man-Great Depression

  52. I would love to purchase this as a pdf with all the movie review and those details. Do you have such a thing? You have been such a great help for homeschooling, Robin. I love all your pdfs (bought almost all but two). You are so creative! Thank you for this new bit of info.

  53. Wow! I know what I’m doing this summer! (American history nerd). Some of the best teachers I ever had used movies as teaching tools, and even though historical events were not always accurately portrayed, they were able to use that as a teaching tool as well, to get us to critically analyze the differences between the movie and the reality. I think it’s an excellent way to teach as it really gives kids an idea of what history *felt* like, *looked* like, *sounded* like. Not just names and dates. BTW – you might add, for the WWII era (Holocaust subtopic), Schindler’s List and The Pianist. Those are just the two on the top of my head, there are some very good films made about the Holocaust. I believe there’s one about a sort of ‘resistance’ that occurred ‘underground’ at Theresienstadt, but I can’t remember a name.

  54. I noticed a few people cautioning the use of film in teaching history because of inaccuracies… I would challenge you all to use this to your advantage! Think outside the box! A film should be only one piece of a curriculum, so as you learn about a subject, you can show a related film but also cover the events in other ways, via reading, independent research, etc. This way when students watch the movie you can better use it as a teaching tool, challenging them to find similarities and differences to factual historical information they learned elsewhere and critically analyze why the film portrayal may have differed from the reality. When my 8th grader came home after watching “The Patriot” in school, I initially was dismayed that this was how she was being taught, but as we got into her project a little more, I saw that she was being challenged to think about what parts of the movie were accurate or represented the way things really were and which parts were theatrical embellishment. It was also a great way to get us talking as a family about historical events. Films pique interest and curiosity and give us a real sense that history isn’t just names and dates, that it really happened, and when used correctly I think they can be great educational tools.

  55. There is a Pinterest link at top and bottom of post. Thank you.

  56. Jennifer

    Great list! I also recommend Drive thru History American History http://www.drivethruhistory.com/series/american-history
    Also, Little Women (civil war era) and Winds Of War (pre-world war 2, prequel to War and Rememberance)


    Where is Platoon? Granted, it is VERY graphic and violent, but does a good job showing the horror of Vietnam, especially for older students. I shall be using it in a Senior level English class this Spring.

  58. Hello, could anyone please have a similar list but with the British history? (England) that would be freaking amazing! Thanks!!

    Looked it up with HoW but didn’t find any!

  59. I’ve been searching for a comprehensive list like this! Thank you for your hard work!

  60. Christine

    This is truly amazing! We are fairly new to homewchooling and I greatly appreciate you sharing such a fantastic resource.

  61. Leigh Anna

    You are awesome! Thank you. This is my first year of homeschooling and resources like this help so much!

  62. Also for civil war Free state of Jones. For older kids (violence). Told of how poor white southerners were not for the war.

  63. Courtney

    Hacksaw Ridge that came out in 2016 was a great WWII story. Based on a true man who refused to carry a weapon during the war, rather choosing to be a medic. Highly recommended. It did have graphic war scenes, but little to none in language. One nude man (not a sex scene), although you could not see his privates, just the allusion that everyone else could.

  64. Carolyn

    This is amazing, Robin! I found you through a Google search for “US History timelines”. Your timeline and movie list are going to help so much!! My 8th grader is not a reader, but is very visual. These links will be great jumping off points to learning history. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  65. Lydia Kirk

    You should add ‘Life Is Beautiful’ it has a teacher resource with the DVD and ‘Sarahs Key’. Life is Beautiful is an Italian Jewish story and Sarahs Key is a French Jewish story. Also ‘Defiant’ is a Polish Jewish story. I like my students to see the Holocaust from a non-German perspective so it gives them scope. Also, Wold Of Wall Street should be deleted. I never saw it after my 30 year old sister walked out because of the aggressive sex scenes. And she is not the type to leave a movie for that. ‘Trading Places’ with Eddie Murphy may be something to talk about trading corruption and racial prejudice? Good list nonetheless!

  66. MamaJoy

    Thank you for this list! I feel like I have found a treasure! I have been planning our US History curriculum for this fall. I want my kids to have a general overview of the US—enough that they can speak intelligently about their country. I’ve been looking through book lists and activities. These movies will be a nice change-of-pace! Bless you!!

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