Film and warfare have been linked ever since celluloid images were first projected onto a screen.
Film and warfare have been linked ever since celluloid images were first projected onto a screen. The practice of using cinema as a nationalistic propaganda tool is as old as the medium itself. Beginning in 1896, one-reelers consisting of “actuality” footage were part of traveling exhibits. In 1898, films of fabricated “events” of the Spanish-American War (using toy boats floated in a bathtub) were used to sway public opinion in the United States. In Great Britain, the drama
During World War I, Western society experienced one of the first mass propaganda campaigns of the twentieth century. Leaders in Europe and the United States used the burgeoning mass media to rally support for the Allied war effort. The motion-picture industry, just beginning to develop the feature film and its simplistic conventions, became the ideal medium for this campaign. American film producers, who originally depicted warfare to increase ticket sales, were influenced by those presenting positive views of national preparedness.
Filmmakers have repeatedly been attracted to “historical” subjects. Audiences have been captivated by images of warfare, and films set in the ancient world have appealed to their spirit of adventure. While some war films set in ancient times are based on “historical fact,” motivating their makers to claims of “realism,” these productions frequently offer more information about their parent societies than about the civilizations depicted on the screen.
Roman and Egyptian warfare during the reign of
Actor Kirk Douglas as Spartacus in the 1960 film of the same name, depicting the gladiator who rebelled against Rome.
Films depicting medieval warfare have frequently been popular with audiences, whose knowledge of “history” often is gained from what they see on the screen. Since the silent era, the legendary King Arthur has been featured in many war-oriented Anglo-American films. Bronston and Mann also made the romanticized
The story of
Prior to the U.S. government’s establishment of propaganda policy during
Perhaps the most memorable World War I film,
Realizing that Depression filmgoers might be ill served by realistic images of the war’s western front, Hollywood filmmakers produced paeans to the heroes of World War I who “made the world safe for democracy,” including Warner Bros.’
Though films set during World War I were prevalent in the years before U.S. entry into
During U.S. involvement in World War II, the conventions of the war-film genre were further established, and the influence of these wartime productions can still be seen in films made in the early twenty-first century. The idea for the preparedness comedy
Roosevelt’s establishment of the
A scene from the 1918 film The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin, which promulgated anti-German sentiment and American support for post-World War I antisedition laws.
World War II continued to dominate postwar cinema.
Both theaters of war are represented in the 1970 epics
The first twenty-four minutes of
Hollywood continues to “chronicle” U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts, increasingly focusing on how warfare psychologically affects soldiers. The Persian
Basinger, Jeanine. The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre. 1986. Reprint. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 2003. Addresses motion pictures depicting the fighting of World War II as a separate genre of war films. Discusses the evolution of war films in general and provides in-depth discussion of several individual films. Carnes, Mark C., ed. Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. New York: Henry Holt, 1995. Collection of essays focuses on the historical inaccuracies depicted in motion pictures. Includes several examinations of films in which the action takes place during World War II. Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001. Examines how the revisionist version of Civil War history perpetrated in the late nineteenth century by many writers for magazines and newspapers, as well as novelists and even historians, later came to be depicted in motion pictures as well. Davenport, Robert. The Encyclopedia of War Movies: The Authoritative Guide to Movies About Wars of the Twentieth Century. New York: Facts On File, 2004. Presents brief articles on more than eight hundred films, including cast lists, synopses, and other details. Eberwein, Robert. The Hollywood War Film. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Provides an informative, readable introduction to the history of war films as made by American filmmakers. Includes an overview of the genre as well as in-depth discussion of individual films depicting wartime action from World War I through the Iraq War of the twenty-first century. _______, ed. The War Film. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2005. Collection of essays by film scholars presents discussion of aesthetic and narrative elements of specific war films. Topics addressed include the conventions of the genre as well as the films’ depictions of race and gender issues. Harty, Kevin J. The Reel Middle Ages: American, Western and Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian Films About Medieval Europe. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1999. Presents synopses and brief analyses of some six hundred films, including silent films and animated works, that depict life in the Middle Ages, including medieval warfare. Supplemented with photographs and bibliographies. Nollen, Scott Allen. Abbott and Costello on the Home Front: A Critical Study of the Wartime Films. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2009. Focuses on the popular American World War II-era films starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello. Provides information on each film’s story line, production history, and reception.
Art and Warfare
Commemoration of War
Ideology and War
Literature and Warfare
Music and Warfare
Religion and Warfare
Television and Warfare