World history II: film analysis assignment

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We all watch movies for fun, at least occasionally. This assignment asks you to do something a little different: Watch a movie critically, take notes on it, and then write an essay about it.

You’ll do this assignment twice, in lieu of two regularly scheduled classes. Whether you watch your chosen movies during the times when you would have had class is up to you. Each film analysis assignment is worth 25 points – together, they count the same as an exam.

Due Dates

#1: In Lieu of Class on 10/21

Film must be set 1500-1900

Notes Due: Thursday, Oct. 21 by 11:59 PM

Essay Due: Tuesday, Oct. 26 in class

#2: In Lieu of Class on 11/11

Film must be set in 1900 or later

Notes Due: Thursday, Nov. 11 by 11:59 PM

Essay Due: Tuesday, Nov. 16 in class


Notes (5 points)

Taking notes on the film is a requirement of the assignment; the notes themselves are worth up to 5 points, and failure to turn them in will lead to a penalty in addition to a 0/5 score. Please send me your notes exactly as you took them. If they’re in longhand, type them up exactly as you wrote them down. Spelling doesn’t count. Complete sentences aren’t necessary. There is no “correct format.” I want to see your raw thoughts.

Essay (20 points)

Your film analysis essays should be 500-1000 words (2-3 standard pages) long. Each should include the following elements:

1. What’s going on? (5 points). What historical figure(s), event(s), and/or process(es) is the movie depicting? How is it using them – as a backdrop to a fictional story, a commentary on current events, a dramatic story in their own right, or something else? Required: List, at the end of your paper, the sources you used in preparing this section. No encyclopedias, please!

2. What’s the point? (10 points). What point is the movie trying to make? How do the people who made the movie try to make that point? Back up your arguments here with specific evidence from the film itself – plot elements, characters, dialogue, visual images, sounds, editing choices, and so forth.

3. Your analysis (5 points). Use this section to make any analytical point you wish about the movie that you haven’t already made. It could be about “look and feel,” about suitability for classroom use, about how the movie reflects the time it was made, or anything else. Back up your point with specific evidence from the film itself.

Suggested Films

The following fifty films (listed in alphabetical order) are suggestions. You are welcome to choose films not on this list, but please clear them with me before committing to them.

Basic requirements:

  • Your film should deal with actual historical figures or events

  • Your film should involve characters from two or more nations/cultures/peoples

  • Your film should have a point . . . be more than just entertainment

  1. 1492: Conquest of Paradise

  2. 55 Days At Peking

  3. Aguirre, The Wrath of God

  4. All Quiet on the Western Front

  5. Black Robe, The

  6. Blackhawk Down

  7. Battle of Algiers, The

  8. Breaker Morant

  9. Bounty, The

  10. Che (2008)

  11. Cheyenne Autumn

  12. Cross of Iron

  13. Dances with Wolves

  14. Danton

  15. Das Boot

  16. Defiance

  17. Downfall

  18. Endgame

  19. Exodus

  20. Gallipoli

  21. Gandhi

  22. Hotel Rwanda

  23. Invictus

  24. Khartoum

  25. Last Emperor, The

  26. Last King of Scotland, The

  27. Last of the Mohicans, The

  28. Last Samurai, The

  29. Lawrence of Arabia

  30. Letters from Iwo Jima

  31. Little Big Man

  32. Mission, The

  33. Munich

  34. Mutiny on the Bounty (’62)

  35. New World, The

  36. Pocahontas [yes, Disney]

  37. Rabbit-Proof Fence

  38. Reds

  39. Sand Pebbles, The

  40. Saving Private Ryan

  41. Schindler’s List

  42. Seven Years in Tibet

  43. Shanghai Express

  44. Thirteen Days

  45. Tora! Tora! Tora!

  46. Valkyrie

  47. Walker

  48. Wind and the Lion, The

  49. Year of Living Dangerously, The

  50. Zulu

Some Options for Obtaining Films

  • Buy from EBay, Amazon, Movies Unlimited, Wal-Mart, etc. [coordinate with friends!]

  • Borrow from a friend, family member, classmate, or public library

  • Rent from Blockbuster or (if you have a subscription) Netflix

  • Check the web for public domain movies you can watch for free online

  • Check your DVD shelf [hey, it could happen]

  • Check the TV listings (especially AMC & Turner Classic Movies)

If you absolutely, positively cannot get your hands on a film that will work for this assignment . . . talk to me.

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