Seven score and 10 years ago today, our forefathers began the Civil War when Confederate cannons fired upon the Union garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston’s harbor. Since the advent of the motion picture camera, filmmakers have made certain that the glorious and horrible memories of that tragic clash will not perish from our national consciousness. D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) demonstrated the power of the infant medium, portraying the Ku Klux Klan as the noble protectors of the South. Gone With the Wind (1939) was such a cultural event and unprecedented success that Scarlett O’ Hara’s idealized Tara became intertwined with our national mythology.
From time to time, the Civil War is re-waged in theaters, as different generations re-examine its causes, reconsider its lessons, and delve back into the romance and the cruel truth of war. North against South. Brother against brother. Shakespeare would’ve written his greatest plays about the American Civil War.
Cold Mountain is my personal favorite Civil War film, with Glory a close second. Both end tragically, which seems appropriate for any great story about that war. But which Hollywood film — no documentaries or Patrick Swayze TV miniseries — gets you whistling “Dixie” (or the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”)? Vote below.