Special Report

The Best Civil War Movies of All Time

AdamParent / iStock via Getty Images

The Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history, has been chronicled on the big screen since the advent of motion pictures in the early 20th century. Some moviegoers at the time had vivid personal recollections of the war, which had been fought only a few generations earlier. (These are the states with the most Civil War deaths.)

The first full-length film about the Civil War – in fact the first full-length film of any kind – was “The Birth of a Nation” (originally titled “The Clansman”), which debuted in 1915. Though it is praised for its groundbreaking technical achievement under director D.W. Griffith, its horrific depiction of African-Americans (sometimes played by white actors in blackface) and heroic characterization of the Ku Klux Klan sparked riots in many cities and it remains a controversial film to this day.

Some of the nation’s best works of historical literature revolve around the Civil War, and not surprisingly, some of them have been turned into memorable motion pictures. These  include “The Killer Angels” (“Gettysburg”); “Team of Rivals” (“Lincoln”); “The Red Badge of Courage” (starring real-life war hero Audie Murphy); and of course “Gone With the Wind.”

To determine the best Civil War movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer critics’ scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of July 2022, weighting all ratings equally. Only movies that deal directly with the American Civil War were considered. Documentaries were not included. (Civil War and otherwise, these are the best military movies ever made.)

Click here to see the best Civil War movies of all time

Some of cinema’s greatest directors have weighed in on the subject. John Ford has two films on the list – he collaborated with other directors on “How the West Was Won” and helmed “The Horse Soldiers.” Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”), Raoul Walsh (“They Died with Their Boots On”), and  William Wyler (“Friendly Persuasion”) each have one.

Source: Courtesy of IPA Asia Pacific

25. Seraphim Falls (2006)
> IMDb user rating: 6.7/10 (30,849 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 53% (10,976 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 55% (85 reviews)
> Directed by: David Von Ancken

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Source: Courtesy of STX Entertainment

24. Free State of Jones (2016)
> IMDb user rating: 6.9/10 (55,633 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 64% (20,890 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 48% (191 reviews)
> Directed by: Gary Ross

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

23. Sommersby (1993)
> IMDb user rating: 6.2/10 (21,312 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 59% (13,534 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 62% (26 reviews)
> Directed by: Jon Amiel

Source: Courtesy of Drafthouse Films

22. The Keeping Room (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 6.0/10 (6,782 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 50% (1,804 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 74% (86 reviews)
> Directed by: Daniel Barber

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Source: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

21. The Conspirator (2010)
> IMDb user rating: 6.9/10 (28,347 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 61% (21,207 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 56% (171 reviews)
> Directed by: Robert Redford

Source: Courtesy of Focus Features

20. The Beguiled (2017)
> IMDb user rating: 6.3/10 (55,191 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 48% (14,017 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 79% (326 reviews)
> Directed by: Sofia Coppola

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

19. Santa Fe Trail (1940)
> IMDb user rating: 6.3/10 (3,565 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 51% (1,235 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 83% (6 reviews)
> Directed by: Michael Curtiz

Source: Courtesy of Asmik Ace Entertainment

18. Ride with the Devil (1999)
> IMDb user rating: 6.7/10 (13,493 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 66% (7,456 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 64% (66 reviews)
> Directed by: Ang Lee

Source: Courtesy of IFC Films

17. C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004)
> IMDb user rating: 6.4/10 (4,899 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 56% (6,972 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 80% (65 reviews)
> Directed by: Kevin Willmott

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Source: Courtesy of Miramax

16. Cold Mountain (2003)
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (143,699 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 77% (209,945 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 70% (232 reviews)
> Directed by: Anthony Minghella

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

15. They Died with Their Boots On (1941)
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (6,090 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 75% (3,116 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 82% (11 reviews)
> Directed by: Raoul Walsh

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Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

14. The Red Badge of Courage (1951)
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (4,289 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 71% (2,372 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (14 reviews)
> Directed by: John Huston

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

13. Major Dundee (1965)
> IMDb user rating: 6.7/10 (7,570 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 67% (3,487 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (36 reviews)
> Directed by: Sam Peckinpah

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

12. How the West Was Won (1962)
> IMDb user rating: 7.1/10 (19,799 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 74% (9,817 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (22 reviews)
> Directed by: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

11. The Horse Soldiers (1959)
> IMDb user rating: 7.1/10 (10,029 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 75% (7,616 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 85% (13 reviews)
> Directed by: John Ford

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

10. The Beguiled (1971)
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (16,786 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 71% (5,668 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (19 reviews)
> Directed by: Don Siegel

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Source: Courtesy of Republic Pictures

9. Dark Command (1940)
> IMDb user rating: 6.8/10 (2,544 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 72% (1,358 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (5 reviews)
> Directed by: Raoul Walsh

Source: Courtesy of New Line Cinema

8. Gettysburg (1993)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (28,239 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (29,388 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 77% (22 reviews)
> Directed by: Ron Maxwell

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

7. Lincoln (2012)
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (252,083 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 81% (245,942 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (285 reviews)
> Directed by: Steven Spielberg

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Source: Courtesy of Allied Artists Pictures

6. Friendly Persuasion (1956)
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (6,810 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 81% (1,256 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 88% (8 reviews)
> Directed by: William Wyler

Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures

5. Dances with Wolves (1990)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (250,448 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (213,805 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 83% (76 reviews)
> Directed by: Kevin Costner

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Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

4. Shenandoah (1965)
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (8,351 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 79% (6,128 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (6 reviews)
> Directed by: Andrew V. McLaglen

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

3. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (69,738 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (46,848 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (41 reviews)
> Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

2. Gone with the Wind (1939)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (301,469 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (293,900 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (102 reviews)
> Directed by: Victor Fleming

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

1. Glory (1989)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (129,766 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (60,300 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (44 reviews)
> Directed by: Edward Zwick

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