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Summer Homework


A.P. U.S. History Summer Homework

Critical Film Review Assignment

The APUSH film review assignment is designed to supplement student knowledge of a particular historical period, person(s), event, or institution through the analysis of a related film.  This is an opportunity to experience a richer encounter with history, as well as connect the rise of cinema as a prominent facet of American cultural history. Although no movie can be entirely accurate, when done well, filmmakers can immerse audiences into a world lost in time, captivating our attention and connecting our understanding to history beyond the classroom.

For the film reviews, students are responsible to: 1. critically view the movie, 2. research the actual historical event or time, and 3. evaluate the historical accuracy of the movie.  Students will be expected to complete FOUR total film reviews.  Students may choose only ONE film per section (era).

Please note some of the films are rated “R.”  You must have parental consent prior to viewing.  “R” ratings are primarily for language and/or violence.

Eras of U.S. History.  Choose four total films to review (no more than one per era)

Quarter 1: Colonial Era-Foundation of America (1492-1820’s)

  • Amistad (1997) Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (rated R: includes nudity & racial violence)
  • The Crucible (1996) Salem Witch Trials; Puritans (PG13)
  • Last of the Mohicans (1992) French & Indian War (rated R)
  • Roots (1997) Path of Diversity in America
  • John Adams (2008) HBO series of John Adams
  • The Patriot (2000) Revolutionary War (rated R)
  • Other-If a movies is not listed, feel free to call one of the teacher and ask.


Quarter 2: Jacksonian Democracy-Reconstruction (1824-1877)

  • Gettysburg (1993) decisive battle of the Civil War (PG)
  • Glory (1989) Civil War; African American regiment 54th Massachusetts (rated R)
  • Lincoln (2012) President Lincoln and the Civil War (rated R)
  • Gone with the Wind (1939) Antebellum and Civil War South (PG)
  • Other-If a movies is not listed, feel free to call one of the teacher and ask.


Quarter 2: Immigration and American Frontier (1800’s)

  • Gangs of New York (2002) Civil War era cities and Immigrants (rated R)
  • Far & Away (1992) Immigration and Western Frontier Land Grab (PG13)
  • Tombstone (1993) Law and Order on the Western Frontier (rated R)
  • True Grit (2010) Law and Order on the Western Frontier (PG13)
  • Wyatt Earp (1994) Law and Order on the Western Frontier (PG13)
  • Little Big Man (1970) Sand Creek Massacre (PG)
  • How the West was Won (1962) Westward expansion in the 19th Century (NR)
  • Other-If a movies is not listed, feel free to call one of the teacher and ask.



Quarter 3: Early 20th Century (1900-1950)

  • Newsies (1992) Life in New York City and the 1899 newsboy strike (PG)
  • Cinderella Man (2005) 1930’s working class (PG13)
  • Citizen Kane (1941) Turn of the century newspaper tycoon (PG)
  • Raging Bull (1980) Italian-American subculture (rated R)
  • Seabiscuit (2003) Horse Racing and the Great Depression (PG13)
  • The Untouchables (1987) Al Capone and the 1920’s)
  • Iron Jawed Angels (2004) Women’s Suffrage Movement (PG13)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1940) The Depression and Dust Bowl (PG13)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Civil Rights and the Great Depression
  • Other-If a movies is not listed, feel free to call one of the teacher and ask.


Quarter 3: World War II

  • Band of Brothers (2001) HBO series WWII, 101st Airborne
  • Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) WWII Pacific (rated R)
  • Patton (1970) WWII General (PG)
  • Pearl Harbor (2001) WWII (rated R)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) WWII (rated R)
  • Tora, Tora, Tora (1970) Pear Harbor (PG)
  • Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) The Manhattan Project and the Atomic Bomb (PG13)
  • The Tuskegee Airmen (1995) The African American 332nd Fighter Group of the Army Air Corps (PG13)
  • Other-If a movies is not listed, feel free to call one of the teacher and ask.


Quarter 4: Cold War and Vietnam (1945-1991)

  • The Majestic (2001) McCarthyism; Hollywood Blacklisting (PG)
  • 42 (2013)Jackie Robinson & Civil Rights (PG13)
  • The Help (2012) Civil Rights Movement (PG13)
  • Malcolm X (1992) life of Malcolm X, an important figure in Civil Rights Movement (PG13)
  • Dr. Strangelove (1964) Cold War arms race (PG)
  • J. Edgar Hoover (2010) FBI Director & the Cold War (rated R)
  • Good Night and Good Luck (2005) McCarthyism and the Red Scare (PG)
  • October Sky (1999) Post Sputnik; boy meets rocketry (PG)
  • Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) Vietnam War (rated R)
  • Apollo 13 (1995) 1970’s Space Race (PG)
  • All the President’s Men (1976) Watergate (rated R)
  • Thirteen Days (2000) Cuban Missile Crisis (PG13)
  • Milk (2008) story of an important gay activist and the first openly gay elected official (rated R)
  • Argo (2012) Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1980 (rated R)
  • Miracle (2004) 1980 Olympic Hockey Games (PG)
  • Other-If a movies is not listed, feel free to call one of the teacher and ask.




APUSH Film Review Format


Student Name

Date Submitted

Class Period


Title of the Film (Year Produced)



Main Actors

Awards (nominations or wins)



The Film:

Plot: Write a synopsis, or summary (2-3 paragraphs, of the film. Make sure that your summary makes sense to the reader who does not know the movie.  Do not refer to specific scenes and do not try to explain everything. 

You must also include the next items, but not as difference parts (they may be included in your description of the story).

*Place and Time: Where does the action take place? When does the action take place? (Present time, 19th century). Is the story chronological (according to the order of time) or flashback?

*Background: Society, country kind of people (ages, culture, social class) historical time.

The Truth-Actual Historical Event or Time Period:

Research the true history of the historical event, person(s), time period or institution portrayed in the film.  You may want to begin with a film review site for an overview of the film, but this site will NOT provide students with the historical background, or content needed, to complete the review assignment.  For research, students should use print or online resources such as Hippocampus-excellent short videos!—at

Comparison and Evaluation:

To what extent is the film historically accurate?  Identify specific accuracies and director’s liberties with the film.  How has the film furthered student knowledge of the history portrayed?

Provide an evaluation of the film.  Give your opinion, but it must be more than, “I liked it.”  This is important as the reviewer can express the elements of the movie they enjoyed or disliked.  However, as in all good journalism, the reviewer should also give impartial details, and allow the reader to make their own mind over an issue the reader liked or disliked.  Opinions should be explained to allow the reader to determine whether they would agree with your opinion.

Other Reminders:

Important of note writing: The reader understands you are writing this review, therefore do NOT use 1st or 2nd person personal pronouns (I, me, us, we, and you).  This is a formal writing assignment—be sure to check your work for GUMS (grammar, usage, mechanics and spelling) errors.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is NEVER acceptable.  Do NOT copy another writer’s work.  All reviews are to be typed, single spaced, and are subject to submission too online plagiarism checkers.  Students will receive a grade of 0% on work that is plagiarized, parent phone call, referral to administration.

You MUST use additional resources and not just your own memory!!!



Suggested Outline for Papers


II-Film Synopsis

               A-Paragraph #1

               B-Paragraph #2

               C-Paragraph #3

III- The Truth-Actual Historical Event or Time Period

               A-Paragraph #1

               B-Paragraph #2

               C-Paragraph #3 

IV- Comparison and Evaluation

               A-How historically accurate is the film?

                              1-What made the film accurate or inaccurate?

                              2-How did the inaccuracies impact what really happened?

               B-You opinion

                              1-Was the movie good or bad?  Why

                              2-Is this a movie that should be used in a U.S. History class?  Why?