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): Masharawi, Rashid
Year of Publication: 1996
Major Wars:
Abstract:

In the days leading up the peace accords signed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, an extended family continue to live their lives in the Gaza Strip. A mother waits for her...

Director(s): Stone, Oliver
Year of Publication: 1994
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Director Oliver Stone considers the impact of the Vietnam War on a young woman. The war disrupts Le Ly's family and way of life, forcing them to abandon their ancestral lands and village. As a refugee, she experiences brutality and trauma at the...

Director(s): Aractingi, Philippe
Year of Publication: 2013
Major Wars:
Abstract:

When director Philippe Aractingi is forced to leave his native Lebanon for the third time, the realization dawns on him: his ancestors have been fleeing wars for five generations. Exploring his roots, Aractingi goes back to the fall of the...

Director(s): Vasilyev, Sergey
Year of Publication: 1956
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Produced during the Cold War, this film celebrates the Soviet-Bulgarian relationship through its portrayal of the Battle of Shipka during the Russo-Turkish War. In 1878, Bulgarian volunteers provide critical support to the Russians as they battle...

Director(s): Baker, Roy
Year of Publication: 1950
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A British scientist and an American journalist join efforts to expose the development of biological warfare in an Eastern European country during the Cold War. The scientist is a woman, which was unusual to see in western popular culture at the...

Director(s): Douglas, Gordon
Year of Publication: 1951
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A classic example of Cold War hysteria in early 1950s America. An FBI agent spends nine years pretending to be a member of the Communist Party. His story warned Americans about the threat of communist subversion. 

Director(s): Sturges, John
Year of Publication: 2005
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Ice Station Zebra, treacherously perched at the top of the world, silently guards a secret that will change the balance of world power forever. America's only hope rests with the speed and courage of the fighting men in the nuclear sub Tigerfish...

Director(s): Sturges, John
Year of Publication: 1968
Major Wars:
Abstract:

With rough parallels to incidents in the late 1950s, this Cold War thriller pits the United States and the Soviet Union in a hunt for sophisticated military technology in the Arctic. The U.S.S. Tigerfish races to the Arctic to retrieve a...

Director(s): Arbid, Danielle
Year of Publication: 2004
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Set in Beirut in 1983, torn by the prolonged civil war. Twelve-year-old Lina is the sad and only child of an embattled couple, Fouad and his pregnant wife, Thérèse. Lina hovers on the outskirts of domestic strife as the family tries to cope with...

Director(s): Barbeau-Lavalette, Anaïs
Year of Publication: 2012
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Chloé, a young French-Canadian doctor with the Red Crescent, constantly moves between contemporary Israel and the Occupied territories. She lives in Jerusalem and works in Ramallah, passing through checkpoints daily to monitor the pregnancies of...

Director(s): Bastos, Mario
Year of Publication: 2015
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This documentary begins with memories of the colonial situation in Portuguese-ruled Angola, reveals the first steps in the struggle, and covers the main settings where it took place. From 1961 to 1974, the war in Angola spread from the bush areas...

Director(s): Wargnier, Régis
Year of Publication: 1992
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Indochine offers an interpretation of French colonialism in Indochina through the lens of motherhood. Éliane Devries, a French plantation owner, and Camille, her adopted Vietnamese daughter,...

Director(s): Koshashvili, Dover
Year of Publication: 2010
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Based on one of the most popular Israelis novels by Yehoshua Kenaz, this film unravels the making of Israeli national identity through militarism as well as the ethnic, national, and class distinctions that still characterize Israeli socieity....

Director(s): Siri, Florent Emilio
Year of Publication: 2002
Major Wars:
Abstract:

On March 19, 1962, the accords of Évian put an end to the Algerian War. From 1954 to 1962 France waged a war in Algeria without acknowledging it as such. Since Algeria was considered French territory, France could not be at war against itself....

Director(s): Green, Alfred E.
Year of Publication: 1952
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This Hollywood exploitation film reflects the hysteria surrounding the Cold War in the early 1950s. The Soviets invade America, and an atomic bomb lands on Manhattan. A young man and woman fall in love amidst the chaos.

Director(s): Green, Alfred E
Year of Publication: 2002
Major Wars:
Abstract:

"A mysterious stranger engages a diverse group of Manhattan bar patrons in a discussion on the best way to beat communism. Suddenly, a real Red Alert is declared and enemy parachutists by the thousands begin landing on American soil! Soon atom...

Director(s): Eastwood, Clint
Year of Publication: 2009
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. [IMBd]

Director(s): Furie, Sidney J
Year of Publication: 1988
Major Wars:
Abstract:

General Charles "Chappy" Sinclair oversees a band of American and Russian fighter pilots to destroy a mutual enemy in the waning days of the Cold War. Loosely based on the 1981 Operation Opera in which the Israeli military bombed a nuclear...

Director(s): Ennadre, Dalila
Year of Publication: 2008
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This documentary uncovers the life of a Moroccan woman, Fadma, who worked as a prostitute in a French military brothel during the First Indochina War. She asserts her patriotic participation in the war, one overlooked by the French because of her...

Director(s): Chiche, Franck
Year of Publication: 2012
Major Wars:
Abstract:

During the Generals Putsch in April 1961, the lives of three young adults intertwine in Algiers. A soldier, a photographer for the OAS (Secret Armed Organization), and a member of the FLN (National Liberation Front) confront each other over their...

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