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): Lakhdar-Hamina, Mohammed
Year of Publication: 1975
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, this Algerian film, directed by Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina, shows how fighting against authoritarianism and fascism during World War II influenced the Algerian War of Independence (1954–62). A...

Director(s): Ashby, Hal
Year of Publication: 1978
Major Wars:
Abstract:

The winner of three Oscars, two Golden Globes, and prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, Coming Home is the story of a woman named Sally Hyde (played by Jane Fonda) whose husband (Bruce Dern) is fighting in Vietnam. Alone at home, Sally...

Director(s): Scott, Tony
Year of Publication: 1995
Abstract:

After the Cold War, a breakaway Russian republic with nuclear warheads becomes a possible worldwide threat. U.S. submarine Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) signs on a relatively green but highly recommended Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter (Denzel...

Director(s): Attenborough, Richard
Year of Publication: 1987
Abstract:

An epic drama set in late 1970s apartheid South Africa, this film based on real events follows journalist Donald Woods as he is forced to flee the country after attempting to investigate the suspicious death in police custody of his friend, the...

Director(s): Riklis, Eran
Year of Publication: 1992
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Set during the First Lebanon War in 1982, dubbed Operation Peace for Galilee by Israel, Palestinian fighters take a young Israeli soldier hostage.  The 1982 FIFA World Cup happens to be on during the invasion, and their mutual love of association...

Director(s): Kawasaki, Kikuo
Year of Publication: 2011
Major Wars:
Abstract:

In Jerusalem, friendship develops between a Jewish 9-year-old American coin collector and the abused 9-year-old Arab street urchin trying to extort money from him. [IMBd]

Director(s): Gomes, Flora
Year of Publication: 1988
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This film explores the struggles of one woman during and after the Guinea Bissau War of Independence, a small nation under Portuguese colonial rule for 500 years. Diminga travels to the front lines with food and supplies for her husband. The...

Director(s): Robin, Marie-Monique
Year of Publication: 2003
Abstract:

Through interviews with military and intelligence officials, extant footage, and film clips, this documentary uncovers the French military's decisive role in the development of counter-insurgency techniques during the Cold War. After fighting...

Director(s): Huberty, Martin
Year of Publication: 2002
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A young idealistic British man joins the French Foreign Legion to fight in the Algerian War. Their bonds, forged in brutal training, are tested when France declares Algeria independent. Different loyalties tear the group apart.

Director(s): Suleiman, Elia
Year of Publication: 2002
Major Wars:
Abstract:

In this nearly silent black comedy, director Elia Suleiman imagines the fantastical and absurd as a response to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Two lovers who live in different sectors of Israeli-occupied Palestine meet at a checkpoint,...

Director(s): Martin, Hugues
Year of Publication: 2010
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A group of French soldiers encounter djinns (supernatural spirits) during the Algerian War. While on a rescue mission, they must fight off Algerian National Liberation Army forces as well as evil spirits of the desert. 

Director(s): Kubrick, Stanley
Year of Publication: 1964
Abstract:

Rather than amplifying Cold War fears and hysteria in the early 1960s, director Stanley Kubrick's black comedy masterpiece satirizes them. A rogue American general orders B-52s to drop an atomic bomb on the Soviet Union. Back in the Pentagon's ...

Director(s): Kubrick, Stanley
Year of Publication: 1964
Abstract:

This satirical film illustrates the president of the United States and his military personnel struggle to maintain national security on the home front after a mentally unable Air Force general launches a nuclear attack against the Soviet Union...

Director(s): Haroun, Mahamat-Saleh
Year of Publication: 2006
Major Wars:
Abstract:

After Chad's government announces amnesty for war criminals at the conclusion of a civil war, an orphaned son orchestrates an elaborate revenge plot. Young Atim's relationships with his grandfather and the accused murderer of his father create...

Director(s): Chahine, Youssef
Year of Publication: 1963
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Director Youssef Chahine uses the history of the Third Crusade to promote pan-Arab unity in the wake of de-colonization and wars with Israel in the early 1960s. Upon hearing of the slaughter of Muslims in in the Holy Lands, Saladin, sultan of...

Director(s): Siodmak, Robert
Year of Publication: 1962
Abstract:

One of the first films produced after the Berlin Wall divided the city, Escape from East Berlin mirrored real life stories of East Germans seeking freedom behind the Wall. Kurt Schroder, a chauffeur to East German Major, agrees to help...

Director(s): Lumet, Sidney
Year of Publication: 1964
Abstract:

This chilling Cold War film reveals the dangers of nuclear warfare, militarism, and technology. After Strategic Command detects an unidentified intrusion into U.S. airspace, bombers armed with nuclear weapons are ordered to their fail-safe points...

Director(s): Hondo, Med
Year of Publication: 2004
Major Wars:
Abstract:

An interesting film that considers race, sexuality, and religion within the Algerian War for Independence. A French Senegalese rapes an Algerian woman. Years later he offers to marry her. Fatima accepts, in part to have a black father for her...

Director(s): Mohamed El Hadi Benadouda
Year of Publication: 2014
Major Wars:
Abstract:

During the Algerian revolution, El Hadi joined his sister in France and became an active member of a secret FLN armed group. Encompassing settling of scores, attempted murder, hiding, imprisonment and finally deportation back to Algeria in 1962,...

Director(s): Almond, Paul
Year of Publication: 1980
Abstract:

In this Canadian Cold War thriller, a journalist working in the Soviet Union uncovers corruption and human rights abuses. She must work avoid the KGB and other spies to get the story out. 

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