Top 7 Revolutionary War Movies of All Time

If you don’t already recognize the importance of the American Revolution, chances are you won’t be able to understand or appreciate most of what follows in American history. This is the beginning of it all, the creation of the United States of America as an unified and independent country.

The story of the Revolution lies at the heart of what makes our country unique in the history of nations. The revolutionary principles that led to the nation’s founding continue to influence American society today, as we still turn to the founding generation seeking guidance, inspiration, or even just a useful quotation to support one contemporary political claim or another.

Sometimes to spark those inspirations a film about the American Revolution can do the trick.  There are lots of good Revolutionary War Movies, but what I’d like to do today is share my Top 7 Revolutionary War Movies of All Time.

# 7 Johnny Tremain – This Disney film taken from the Esther Forbes novel of the same name.  While perhaps considered a film for young adults, it is more historically than one would expect.  The action takes place in and around Boston before the war and ends after Lexington-Concord.  Interspersed in the film are various scenes where knowledgeable characters explain what is going on politically so the viewer understands the implications he is witnessing. Johnny Tremain is drawn into the Revolutionary War, and becomes a patriot fighting to free the colonies from England. Along the way he learns about life and about himself.  Timeless classic…

# 6 The Crossing – This movie depicts one of the greatest achievements during the Revolutionary War.  In December 1776, the armies of General George Washington (Jeff Daniels) are near the point of collapse… they’re short on money and supplies, ill with disease, their numbers as Soldiers desert, and freezing in summer uniforms during a brutal winter, it seems all but impossible that the Colonial Army can hold out much longer against the British Army and their allied German Hessian forces. With defeat a clear possibility, Washington and his troops organize for a surprise attack against the British soldiers on Christmas Day, hinging on the crossing of the freezing Delaware River in the middle of a storm.

# 5 April Morning – When action takes place on April 18-19, 1775 in Lexington, Massachusetts; April Morning tells the story of the afternoon before the battle of Lexington through the evening of the day of battle.  The tension builds as the British army marches into view.  The viewer sees a boy become a man as he takes his place among the men on Lexington green and fights throughout the fateful day.  The arguments between the men as to why they should, or should not, stand up to the British army explain well the conflict of principles being discussed in 1775.  Excellent film.

# 4 John Adams – While this film is not purely about the American Revolution, it is relevant with regards to the time period and mindset of those days.  John Adams is a film which divulges into the details include some rather ugly, but accurate, views of American civil violence and dissent.  The scenes of Congress in action are memorable.  Adams, who is not remembered for his style or media appeal, comes through this excellent film as the hard working, dedicated and fearless advocate of the United States and justice.  This film is a must see.

# 3 Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor – This A&E movie is about the General blinded by desire who defected to the English army, orchestrating an attempt to assassinate his own mentor, George Washington. On the glorious battlefields of the American Revolution, two great generals distinguished themselves; George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Washington is remembered as America’s founding father, Arnold as America’s most notorious traitor… No other movie captures this dynamic better.

# 2 Revolution – The 1985 film, Revolution depicts a New York trapper, Tom Dobb, who becomes an unwilling participant in the American Revolution after his son Ned is drafted into the Army by the villainous Sergeant Major Peasy. Tom attempts to find his son, and eventually becomes convinced that he must take a stand and fight for the freedom of the Colonies, alongside the aristocratic rebel Daisy McConnahay. As Tom undergoes his change of heart, the events of the war unfold in large-scale grandeur.

# 1 The Patriot While not accurate some of the battle scenes are quite exciting to watch.  The Patriot is at the top of my list as my favorite movie about the American Revolution.   Peaceful farmer Benjamin Martin is driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolution when a sadistic British officer murders his son.  I think I just enjoy this film because it embodies the spirit that is the National Guard we know today.  Concerned citizens rally behind Benjamin Martin and prove to be a very critical element in the success of the Continental Army.

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of the Top 7 Revolutionary War Movies of all time.  I believe that all military leaders should study military history.  It’s a great way to hone your leadership and tactical skills.  One great way to study military history is to watch military movies.  Even if some of these movies aren’t 100% accurate, they still give you a good idea about the struggles, challenges, and lessons learned (from a military perspective).

What are your favorite Revolutionary War films of all time?  Please leave a comment below and let us know.

8 thoughts on “Top 7 Revolutionary War Movies of All Time”

  1. I was definitely going to mention Drums Along the Mohawk too. I love Henry Fonda. He’s always so stoic. In my opinion, there are so many movies that should be mandatory and everything on this list is included.I admit that The Patriot is definitely in my top 20 favorites. I can watch it over and over again (and I have!) – and it brings up all kinds of emotions every time.

  2. I happened to run across a few other Revolutionary War movies that you all may want to watch:

    Drums Along The Mohawk made in 1939 with Henry Fonda is a great old movie.

    All For Liberty was a great Independent movie with not so famous actors, but very well made for an Independent movie.

    Of course, a great silent film….America is a great movie, but you must watch it closely.

    Another great one is Mary Silliman’s War that I recommend everyone see.

  3. Greg Boudonck

    I had marked all these movies and just yesterday we watched the movie Johnny Tremain. I am amazed that in all my years, I had never watched this movie. It was well made and kept me interested all the way through. Even though it was made in 1957, it was well worth watching. I believe every one should watch Johnny Tremain.

  4. What an excellent list! The American Revolution is such a critical event in our history, but also deeply embedded into our folklore and national identity. Early authors like Washington Irving almost gave it a mythological reverence in their writings.
    I had no idea most of these films existed. Going to have make a few trips to my library now. Thanks for the recommendations!

  5. The only Revolutionary War movie on this list that I have seen is “The Patriot.” I will have to add the rest of these to my list so I can learn more. I really enjoyed “The Patriot” even if it wasn’t 100% realistic. Mel Gibson really played a good part!

  6. You put together quite a good list of revolutionary movies. I agree that The Patriot would be #1. It was a very well made movie and makes the watcher feel a part of that era.

    It is my opinion though that The Crossing should be #2. I just loved the movie that brought George Washington to life on the big screen.

    Great post Justin.

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