Great Movies for Teaching US History: The Cold War


The war is very significant in American history and the whole planet. The happenings that shook everything in the states have become an inspiration for great films, excellent stories, and superb memoirs. Many films about Cold War US history can educate and enlighten people about the events more than books can.

When you watch these pictures, the actions and deeds stick to your head more than reading. Have you ever wondered which Cold War movies are perfect for history teaching? Well, this article is fantastic for you.

There are many resources that college students can benefit from if they want to learn about this famous rivalry between the USA, the Soviet Union, and their allies. The Cold War essays on Papersowl dwell deeply upon the events and the reasons behind them, they are vocal about the history period that shaped the world. Historians understand the importance of passing these things along.

Below there are the top Cold War era movies:

  • The Cold War: 1947-1991

The events in the historic drama unfold around the real situations in that period. The rivalry came after World War II, allied nations defeated the Axis of Evil, and the Soviets and America found themselves as powerhouses. The Soviets wanted to spread communism, but the West was against it.

It lasted for several decades but the tension was only getting stronger, and everyone was trying to avoid WWIII or a nuclear war. The conflicts in Afghanistan were a central topic. However, both parties never had any physical battle against each other. They mostly opted for psychological warfare to demean and belittle each other.

The Second Indochina War is highly controversial. It was intended to end the spreading of communism, but lead to much more tragic events.

  • October Sky: 1957

The picture is based on the novel Rocket Boys. It tells the story of a young gentleman known as Homer. He’s obsessed with space and flying a rocket there. The Soviets were the first to launch Sputnik, the first satellite, which inspired the young man to design and test rockets. The movie follows the action and his pals as they create, try and test, and perfect rockets. It’s an incredible piece for any learner interested in rockets and space.

  • The Right Stuff: 1947-1963

The makers of this movie get inspiration from a book by the same name. It also focuses on the Space Race – where the United States and the Soviet group started competing on who will be the first to send a human being to space. The film tells the story of seven individuals who volunteered for the first space flight. The members were from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

It also touches the future astronauts’ lives, their fears and frustrations, and what their families had to deal with.

  • Thirteen Days: 1961

Thirteen Days is a narration of occurrences that resulted in the Cuban Missile Crisis after the Bay of Pigs mission failed. Although JFK was a massive factor as the acting president during the film’s production, Kenneth O’Donnell, the leader’s advisor, is the protagonist.

It shows people the stress the leader went through in this period. He tried to lead a unified American government without starting WWIII. Experts suggest that the leader delivered most American citizens’ emotions at the time.

  • Dr. Strangelove: 1964

Strangelove is one of the greatest movies of the 20th century. It depicts a head of a nation who works with his advisors to prevent the exchange of nuclear weapons with the Soviets after a mad general gave orders for an airstrike. It combines tragedy and humor and portrays the true and real events.

  • Good Morning Vietnam: 1965

The star of this film is the late Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer. It is a comedy movie about a radio disc jockey who tries to convert the Armed Forces Radio Service into a place where G.I.s in the Vietnam War can get solace. It received massive praises from critics after the premiere. Williams received the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical film for the role.

  • Born on the 4th of July: 1967-1976

You can watch this film on Netflix. It received eight Oscar nominations and won two. It gives a much darker account of what soldiers go through over the years in the East and when returning to their country. The picture is related to the autobiography of the same title. It narrates the story of Ron Kovic. He’s a committed man who wants to go on missions and fight for his nation. He doesn’t want to be drafted but willingly enlists. After getting injured, he gets to know the experience in a Veteran’s hospital and doesn’t get the excellent welcome and love he expected when he left the battlefield and returned home.

Note that the picture is meant for mature viewers, and you’ll find soldiers fighting, graphic injuries, and explicit language and scenes.

  • Cold War Documentary: 1917-1991

The doc is somewhat a recap of all the movies above. It was a CNN series with 24-parts that examined all things that led to the tension and those that followed. It starts with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and narrates major details like Stalin’s rise to power, WWII, the Berlin wall, etc. Its references include historical footage and interviews with famous figures such as Fidel Castro, who experienced these situations.


History movies are an excellent way to learn things because they capture your attention more than reading materials. They are highly suitable, especially for those who can’t concentrate for long. It’s easier for people to remember something they watched than a storybook they read because a film is more entertaining. They leave a long-lasting impression in the viewer’s brain.

Because the past is not very interesting, it’s easy for learners to drift away or get bored while reading an article or written piece. However, the movies discussed here will hold your attention long enough to learn the basic things they need.

Other honorable mentions that never made it to the list include The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and Red Dawn.