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): Moati, Serge
Year of Publication: 2010
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This well-researched documentary dramatizes Charles de Gaulle's changing positions regarding the Algerian War. Recently elected as president of the new Fifth Republic of France in 1958, de Gaulle issues his support to nationals and partisans in...

Director(s): Kramer, Stanley
Year of Publication: 1961
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This widely praised courtroom drama examines justice, moral complicity, and collective guilt through the U.S.-led Nuremberg Trials. Focused specifically on the 1948 Judges Trial, an American judge debates the fate of his German counterparts....

Director(s): Butler, David
Year of Publication: 1955
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Released a year after Dien Bien Phu, this French-production pays homage to a group of soldiers who died in the climatic battle of the First Indochina War. Veterans and new enlistees encounter guerilla warfare, dwindling supplies, and torrential...

Director(s): Bigelow, Kathryn
Year of Publication: 2002
Major Wars:
Abstract:

The Soviet Union has given control of its first nuclear submarine to naval officer Captain Vostrikov in the midst of the Cold War. While it is up for debate whether the submarine is prepared to launch a warning fire in the Atlantic Ocean, the...

Director(s): Bigelow, Kathryn
Year of Publication: 2002
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Captain Vostrikov, a Russian naval officer, has been given command of the Soviet Union's first nuclear submarine, K-19, at the height of the Cold War in 1961. The vessel's executive officer Captain Polenin asserts that the flagship is not yet...

Director(s): Paris, Rogelio
Year of Publication: 2008
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Kangamba tells the story of Cuban involvement with the Angolan Civil War, highlighting the role of African nations in the global Cold War. In August 1983, Cuban volunteers fight alongside troops from the Armed Forces for the Liberation...

Director(s): Gitai, Amos
Year of Publication: 2002
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A group of Holocaust refugees arrive in war-torn Palestine, days before the declaration of the state of Israel. Some join the Palmach, the Jewish underground army, while others try to find peace amidst chaos.

Director(s): Tilman, Samuel
Year of Publication: 2010
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Informed by scholarship and archival records, this television docu-series explores the history of the Congo from the 15th century to the present. From the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to colonialism and independence, the three-part series examines...

Director(s): Luciani, François
Year of Publication: 2003
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A Pied-Noir family respond to the Algerian War for Independence in different ways. The first generation welcomes independence, the second generation is torn between their love for both Algeria and France, and the third generation becomes...

Director(s): Enrico, Robert
Year of Publication: 1963
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A young French veteran of the Algerian War of Independence returns home to live the good life. After struggling to obtain it, the army recalls him to service. 

Director(s): Courrière, Yves
Year of Publication: 1972
Major Wars:
Abstract:

From the first attacks of November 1954 to Algerian independence in 1962, this landmark documentary disrupts familiar narratives of the Algerian conflict by presenting it through eyewitness testimony previously unavailable to the public and...

Director(s): Tavernier, Betrand
Year of Publication: 1992
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This documentary focuses on the experiences of French veterans of the Algerian War of Independence. The memories of two dozen veterans provide anguished and honest accounts of a conflict that had yet to be called a war by their nation.

Director(s): Heynemann, Laurent
Year of Publication: 1977
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Based on the controversial memoir by Henri Alleg, La Question highlights the role of torture in the Algerian War for Independence. The film recounts Alleg's detention and torture by French officials.

Director(s): Faucon, Philippe
Year of Publication: 2006
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Lieutenant Roque attempts to bridge suspicions and tensions among a diverse group of soldiers under his command, including French nationals, French born in North Africa, and native Algerians, during the Algerian War of Independence. The film...

Director(s): Cassan, Charly
Year of Publication: 2013
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A documentary detailing the consequences of the Algerian War for two groups: the harkis, native Algerians who served on the side of France for diverse reasons, and the pieds noirs, colonists of European descent. Neither were welcome in...

Director(s): Masharawi, Rashid
Year of Publication: 2008
Major Wars:
Abstract:

An ordinary errand reveals the surreal everyday life of Palestinians in the West Bank. Abu, a former judge turned cab driver, deals with heavy traffic, unruly passengers, and surprise attacks to bring his 7 year-old daughter her birthday cake and...

Director(s): Cần, Hà Thúc
Year of Publication: 1973
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Fleeing a North Vietnamese attack, two men return to their hometown of Hue to warn their family and loved ones shortly before the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War. The film's message of loss, despair, and grief reveals the larger impact of how...

Director(s): Cavalier, Alain
Year of Publication: 1962
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This French New Wave drama reveals the political instability that engulfed France during the Algerian War of Independence. A son of an industrialist joins a right-wing, nationalist terrorist organization (loosely resembling the OAS) but is soon...

Director(s): Schoendoerffer, Pierre
Year of Publication: 1977
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This film memorializes the French wars of de-colonization in Vietnam and Algeria by offering a romantic view of a disgraced French military officer. Known as the "crabe tambour" (crab drummer), Lt. Willsdorff inspires his men with his tenacity...

Director(s): Claude Berri
Year of Publication: 1970
Major Wars:
Abstract:

One of the earliest mainstream French films that addressed the Algerian War. A private has no desire to serve in Algeria, and tries to call in a favor to avoid being drafted.

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