A saga depicting the impact on families divided by the nation's split. Touching and propelled by Jimmie Stewart's great performance as a Virginia farmer during the war. He doesn't believe in the fight or care to have anything to do with it. Problem is, the Shenandoah Valley, where his farm lies, is in the dead center of the war. His sons go to fight on opposite sides as tragedy and sadness ensue. Sentimental to a fault, I saw this when I was a kid and cried—there, I said it.
The Horse Soldiers (1959)
Directed by John Ford, this film is based on the true story of the Battle of Newton Station. A Union cavalry outfit is sent behind Confederate lines to destroy a railroad supply depot. Sent along is a doctor (William Holden) who causes instant antagonism between himself and the Colonel (John Wayne). Cantankerous as they come, Wayne and Holden crackle with grizzled bickering dialogue while the flick has Ford's signature flair for Westerns, great camera work and nice action.
Gods and Generals (2003)
Check two for Jeff Daniels in this prequel to Gettysburg, one of the greatest Civil War films. Daniels plays the same role in both flicks as Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. This Civil War epic showcases the rise and fall of legendary war hero Stonewall Jackson (Robert Duvall) as he leads the Confederacy against the Union from 1861 to 1863. Beware: it clocks in at 219 minutes.
First thing to note—this movie is four and a half hours long! A reenactment of the bloodiest and most famous battle of the Civil War, starring Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels, who all look like they wish they knew what they were doing.
A simultaneously uplifting and depressing story about African American troops fighting for the North during the Civil War, this film gives a heartfelt look into tragedy and honor. Starring Matthew Broderick before he turned into Mr. Broadway, Morgan Freeman before he becomes God, and Denzel Washington, who won an Academy Award for his profound performance and ability to cry out of one eye.