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7 Best Civil War Movies on Netflix Right Now

March 27, 2019
9 min read

Since the time humankind began to understand the concept of his own territory and his sole right over it, the concept of war has been brewing slowly within the species. And as human civilization progressed further, the tools of war began improving alongside it. However, most wars in history have been fought between two or more countries. Kings declared wars against other kingdoms to bring them under his control and create a larger empire than anyone else had managed to in their history.

However, there is another kind of war that is equally dangerous: one that happens intra-state, between people of a single country. And such wars are called civil wars. Here, the country gets divided into two groups who declare war on each other in an organized form. There have been two civil wars in history which have been the most notable – the American and the Spanish Civil Wars. The American Civil War was fought between the north of the United States and the south. It was mainly fought on grounds of the fact whether it was okay to boycott slavery. While the states of the North, called the Union, were of the opinion that slavery should be abolished, the Southerners disagreed and thus began one of the most brutal wars in all of history. The Spanish Civil War was just before the Second World War and was between a dictator and a republic government.

Civil wars have ravaged and plundered many countries over the years. Numerous African countries have fought civil wars throughout the twentieth century. Keeping all this in mind, we’ve managed to compile some of the finest civil war movies of all time. So here’s the list of really good civil war movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now.

7. Sommersby (1993)

This movie has some great performances by Richard Gere and Jodie Foster. Gere plays the role of Jack Somersby, husband of Laurel (Foster), He had gone out to fight in the civil war and did not return for six years, which made everyone in their village presume that he was dead. But the Jack who returns is quite different from the Jack who had gone away. He is kinder to his wife and son. His shoes are two inches smaller than what the cobbler had made for him before the war, and is a a lot more generous than he was. Even the villagers begin to suspect something is wrong: they think he is an imposter who has taken up Jack’s identity.

Moreover, this Jack is sympathetic towards black people and when a group of the Knights of the White Camellia kill and drop a black plantation worker on his doorstep, he is arrested and charged with murder. Laurel tells Jack the only way for him to escape will be to tell the judge the truth. The movie is a heart-wrenching tale of American villages during and after the Civil War. It was met with both box office and critical acclaim. The film is based on a French movie called ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’ (1982), which is based on a true story.

6. A Soldier’s Story (2015)

This 2015 film was made in Nigeria, and tells the story of a small African country which is embroiled in a civil war between the rebels and the national forces. The story is based on the life of two people whom the war had brought close. A soldier called Egan and a lady called Regina. Egan had quietly slipped out from his bed on the night of his marriage to complete a mission. However, he did not manage to get very far with it and was injured heavily. He is then discovered by Regina and her friend Angela. Regina decides to take him to her home so that he can have time and security to recuperate.

Another character called Bossman is the leader of the rebels and is a very violent individual. To save Egan from Bossman’s wrath, Regina advises Egan to return to Nigeria, which he does. But upon reaching there, he realizes things have vastly changed. Col. Bello, a higher ranking officer, who was interested in having Egan’s wife for himself, gives out orders to murder Egan. The storyline of this movie is really great, but the screenplay, according to many critics, did not do justice to the story. However, the acting in the movie was well-praised and even awarded.

5. First They Killed My Father (2017)

This movie was directed by Angelina Jolie and is surely her best work to date. It is a moving tale of a family caught in the crossfire during the Cambodian Civil War, the Cambodia Campaign, and the Vietnamese-Cambodian War. The movie is based on a true story written by Loung Ung, who also co-wrote the script with Jolie. Ung’s father was a soldier for the government against whom the Khmer Rouge, a communist organization of Cambodia had declared war. The family is captured by the rebels and made to work in labor camps with almost little to no food. They also banned the use of foreign products in the camps, including medicine, which led to a number of captives losing their lives in the abysmal conditions of the camp.

Inside the camps, the rebels keep up their propaganda, trying to make the captives understand why it was important to rebel against the government. Loung had escaped from the camp and recruited herself as a child soldier in another camp, helping them plant mines and getting better treatment than what she had gotten as labor. The movie follows the lives of the children of the family who survive the war. This movie was screened at the Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals and was adored by critics.

4. Beasts Of No Nation (2015)

This 2015 movie is adapted from a 2005 book of the same name. Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, it is the story of a boy soldier in the rebel army of a nation well into a civil war. Though the name of the nation is never mentioned, it is located somewhere in Africa. Abraham Attah and Idris Elba play the lead characters in the movie. This was Attah’s first film, and his impressive performance earned him a Marcelo Mastroianni Award at the Venice Film Festival.

Attah’s character is called Agu, and when his parents and siblings are killed by the government camp on accusations of being rebels, Agu escapes and joins a unit of the rebel soldiers headed by Commandant, played by Elba. Though Commandant takes Agu under his wings, he rapes him and then the soldiers give him a drug called brown-brown (a concoction of cocaine and smokeless gunpowder). Some events follow which makes Agu’s group lose contact with their parent organization and the situation keeps getting tougher for them. The movie was thoroughly praised by critics and Elba even won a Screen Actors’ Guild Award for his performance.

3. Cold Mountain (2003)

Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renee Zellweger star in this movie directed by Anthony Minghella. The screenplay has been adapted from a book of the same name written by Charles Frazier. The movie tells the story of Ada and Inman, two lovers who were separated by the war when Inman went to fight with the Confederates during the American Civil War. During the war, Inman is wounded and in the hospital, he gets a letter from Ada which moves him to abandon the army and go back to his lover. But he is again captured and wounded terribly when a hermit saves him. Inman then finally manages to return to Cold Mountain but has some soldiers following him.

The movie is a poignant tale of love and loss during the time of war and desperation. Critics have also been generous with their praises for this film which they praised because it managed to capture both war and destruction and life in the 19th-century American countryside. The film also received six Academy Award nominations.

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2. Dances With Wolves (1990)

Kevin Costner directed, produced, and acted in this Civil War classic, the story of which he adapted from Michael Blake’s similarly titled book. Costner plays the role of a Union soldier during the American Civil War who comes in contact with the Sioux tribe of native Americans while helping in the reconstruction of a fort. At first, the encounter between the Sioux and Dunbar is hostile, but Dunbar realizes this is their land and there should not be any hostility between him and the Sioux. Thus, he wants to sit down and talk to them. Slowly but steadily, he wins over the tribe’s trust who even take on soldiers who capture Dunbar. When Dunbar ultimately leaves, they give him a Sioux name. The money was a massive success, both critically and commercially. It received a total of 12 nominations at the Academy Awards and ended up bagging seven.

1. Lincoln (2012)

This movie landed Daniel Day-Lewis his third Oscar for Best Actor. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it is a portrayal of Lincoln’s life during the Civil War till his death at the Ford Theatre. We see Lincoln struggling to make the House Of Representatives pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Lincoln wanted to pass the Amendment as fast as possible and was advised by many to wait until the new government is sworn in after the 1864 elections where the Republicans won.

Meanwhile, Confederate representatives are sent to Washington to discuss terms of surrender, but Lincoln keeps them waiting till the Amendment is passed as he believed it wouldn’t have been passed if the war was declared to be over. After the north wins and Lincoln is busy making plans on how to improve the lives of black people, he is shot one night. The movie was a huge success and its acting was thoroughly praised by all critics. Besides Day-Lewis, the film also won an Academy Award for Production Design.

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