America's bloodiest war was one that it fought against itself between 1861 and 1865 over the question as to whether it would be one single free nation or two countries, one free and one that still permitted the ancient evil of slavery. The American Civil War did not create as many films like did World War II, the conflict that drenched the planet in blood and saved the world from fascism. But the Civil War did create some cinematic gems that attempted to create some understanding about why Americans decided, over 150 years ago, to march off to war to try to kill one another. Some. like Gettysburg, are sweeping epics.

Some, like The Red Badge of Courage, are character studies. And some films, like Glory and The Free State of Jones, educate about formerly unknown aspects of the American Civil War.

The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

A classic film version of the story by Stephen Crane about a young Union soldier who struggles to find his courage in the midst of a Civil War battle. A real-life war hero, Audie Murphy, stars as Henry Fleming, the young man, and Bill Mauldin, a World War II-era cartoonist, appears as one of his comrades. The movie shows how a boy becomes a man under the fire of battle.

The Horse Soldiers (1959)

A film by the incomparable John Ford stars John Wayne as a hard-charging Union cavalry colonel who clashes with a regimental surgeon played by William Holden during a raid behind Confederate lines during a crucial campaign during the Civil War.

Constance Towers plays a fiery southern belle who is forced to accompany the Union brigade as it rides through southern territory.

Glory (1989)

This film depicts the exploits of one of the first entirely African-American regiments during the Civil War. Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington play two of the black soldiers.

Matthew Broderick plays their white colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, who grows to understand the courage and dedication of his black troops and leads them heroically into battle.

Gettysburg (1993)

An all-star cast including Martin Sheen, Stephen Lang, Jeff Daniels, and Sam Elliot, fights the epic battle of the Civil War that proved to be the turning point of the conflict.

The movie was filmed with thousands of reenactors on the same ground where the original battle took place. One of the most sweeping, cinematic war films of modern times.

The Free State of Jones (2016)

The film stars Matthew McConaughey as a Confederate soldier, opposed to slavery, who leads a revolt against the Confederacy with an army of deserters and escaped slaved and winds up holding territory until the arrival of Union troops. The movie is based on a little-known true story from the American Civil War.

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