Films about the Cold War and Wars of Decolonization

This collection provides information on selected movies, TV productions and documentaries on the themes of gender, military and war in the period covered by the Oxford Handbook.

The most important wars for this period include:

  • Cold War (1946–91)
  • Arab-Israeli Conflicts (1947ff)
  • War of Indonesian Independence (1945–49)
  • Korean War (1950–53)
  • African Wars for Independence (1952ff)
  • Algerian War (1954–62)
  • Indochina Wars (1946–79)

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Director(s): Bukai, Rafi
Year of Publication: 1986
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Atvanti Popolo follows two Egyptian soldiers behind enemy lines in the Six Day War. The film won praise for its use of Arab actors, which further humanized the soldiers lost in the Sinai...

Director(s): Vautier, René
Year of Publication: 1972
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Based on interviews with veterans of the Algerian War of Independence, this film explores how war reshapes identity. At a deserter camp, Lt. Perrin transforms a unit of Breton pacifists into killers. Only one man resists. 

Director(s): Pas, Klaus
Year of Publication: 2008
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Director Klaus Pas draws connections between the social problems of immigrants in Parisian suburbs and former child soldiers in the Second Liberian Civil War. These youths struggle to find their place in their world after the war. They experience...

Director(s): Markle, Peter
Year of Publication: 1988
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Based on a true story, this film recounts the events of a rescue operation of Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton during the Vietnam War. Hambleton, an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, evacuates from a gunned-down plane over the jungles of North...

Director(s): Cedar, Joseph
Year of Publication: 2008
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Oscar-nominated for Best Foriegn Language Film, Beaufort recounts the final months of Israeli occupation of Lebanon during 2000. Israeli soldiers guard the mountain fortress, which symbolized their 18-year presence in South Lebanon....

Director(s): Ndahayo, Gilbert
Year of Publication: 2008
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This documentary presents the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide from Tutsis who survived. On April 10, 1994, Hutus invaded the small village of Astrida and excuted 200 Tutsis behind a convent. Director Gilbert Ndahayo, who was 13 at the time and...

Director(s): Alaouié, Borhane
Year of Publication: 1981
Abstract:

Just after telephone communication is restored between the warring East and West sides of Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, two old college lovers, one Christian, the other Shiite, whose efforts to meet have dismally failed, finally make...

Director(s): Scott, Ridley
Year of Publication: 2001
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Based on real events in the Somali Civil War, a thwarted mission by the U.S. Joint Special Operations leads to deadly battle in the city of Mogadishu. Tasked with capturing warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in October 1993, Army Rangers and Delta...

Director(s): Wilson, Hugh
Year of Publication: 1999
Abstract:

Produced after the demise of the Cold War, this light-hearted American comedy spoofs its culture. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, an eccentric scientist moves his family to a well-stocked bomb shelter. Thirty-five years later, his son Adam...

Director(s): Bauer, Tristán
Year of Publication: 2005
Abstract:

This anti-war film tells the story of two young Argentinian men sent to fight against Britain in the Falkland Islands in 1982, who return home bearing traumas. The script is based on a book written by a veteran of this war. 

Director(s): Douglas, Gordon
Year of Publication: 1957
Abstract:

A soured relationship between a commanding officer and a master sergeant during the Korean War threatens the successful introduction of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress for the U.S. Strategic Air Command. When technical problems arise and force the...

Director(s): Stone, Oliver
Year of Publication: 1989
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This second Vietnam War film by director Oliver Stone, which is based on the biography of Vietnam war veteran an antiwar activist Ron Kovic, explores how an all-American boy becomes disillusioned with his nation and how a war-hungry nation...

Director(s): Sholder, Jack
Year of Publication: 1990
Abstract:

Late in the Cold War, rogue Soviet agents lead the two superpowers to engage in a nuclear holocaust. Soviets who are hostile to an ongoing thaw between the Soviet Union and the United States launch a nuclear strike on their own country and China...

Director(s): Haneke, Michael
Year of Publication: 2005
Major Wars:
Abstract:

In Caché, an internationally acclaimed psychological thriller and widely hailed as a masterpiece, director Michael Haneke explores postcolonial tensions and memory in modern day France. Georges Laurent, a celebrity journalist, receives...

Director(s): Charef, Mehdi
Year of Publication: 2007
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A young Algerian boy comes of age in the spring of 1962 during the last days of the Algerian War of Independence. Ali plays with his French friends and delivers papers. On his journeys across the city, he witnesses violent conflicts including the...

Director(s): De Palma, Brian
Year of Publication: 1989
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Based on a true story, Casualties of War reveals the immorality and trauma of the Vietnam War. A platoon sergeant orders his men to kidnap a young girl and force her into sex slavery. Eriksson objects and helps the girl escape. The...

Director(s): Alexandre Arcady
Year of Publication: 2012
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Algeria under French colonization, in the 1930s. Younes is 9 years old when he is put in the care of his uncle, a pharmacist in the city of Oran. Rebaptized Jonas, he grows up among the kids of Rio Salado and becomes their friend. In the gang,...

Director(s): Claude Bernard-Aubert
Year of Publication: 1980
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Story of the final days of the first Indochina War based on the director's experience as a photojournalist covering the French Army in Vietnam. A 13-man commando unit parachutes into North Vietnam to rescue a Red Cross nurse being held by the...

Director(s): Nichols, Mike
Year of Publication: 2007
Abstract:

Director Mike Nichols' last film explores the Cold War origins of the U.S. War in Afghanistan. In the early 1980s Congressman Charlie Wilson of Texas pushes funding for a covert CIA operation to support the Afghan mujahideen. His passion for...

Director(s): Fuller, Samuel
Year of Publication: 1957
Major Wars:
Abstract:

The film China Gate, directed by Samuel Fuller, came out in 1954, during the French Indochina War. A Eurasian female smuggler and a group of French Foreign Legion mercenaries infiltrate enemy territory in order to destroy an arms depot....

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