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): Chetwynd, Lionel
Year of Publication: 1981
Major Wars:
Abstract:

The Olympics often became a site of Cold War cultural tensions, pitting the United States against the Soviet Union. In 1980, the U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the heavily-favored Soviets in Lake Placid, NY.

Director(s): Minh, Dang Nhat
Year of Publication: 1970
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A child becomes entangled in the messy politics of the Vietnam War. Orphaned by war, little Nhung works as a maid for a rich family when Americans attack Saigon in early 1968. She communicates with Vietnamese soldiers to identify and defeat their...

Director(s): Herbiet, Laurent
Year of Publication: 2006
Major Wars:
Abstract:

The murder of a high-profile French colonel opens up old wounds from the Algerian War for Independence. An investigator tracks down old connections and materials from the war to solve the case.

Director(s): Mazursky, Paul
Year of Publication: 1984
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A Russian circus musician defects to the United States in this Cold War comedy. While in a New York Bloomingdale's, Vladimir Ivanoff flees from his handlers. A black security guard protects him and brings Ivanoff to his Harlem home. Despite...

Director(s): Spielberg, Steven
Year of Publication: 2006
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Director Steven Spielberg explores vengeance and morality in an international episode of the Arab-Israeli conflict. After members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization murder Olympic athletes in the 1972 Munich games, the Israeli government...

Director(s): Resnais, Alain
Year of Publication: 1963
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Family, friends, and strangers obsessively hold onto memories of the past within the changing French nation in the aftermath of the Algerian War for Independence. Hélène welcomes home her step-son Bernard and an old lover Alphonse, both who have ...

Director(s): Macdonald, Kevin
Year of Publication: 2007
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This documentary reveals the conflicting aims of U.S. foreign policy in the Cold War era by exploring the life of German SS Officer Klaus Barbie. Barbie's war crimes in World War II earned him the name "the Butcher of Lyon," yet he was one of...

Director(s): Mozer, Yariv
Year of Publication: 2008
Major Wars:
Abstract:

In this first-person documentary, a reservist in the Israeli army offers a stinging critique of his nation's role in the Second Lebanon War. The camera allowed filmmaker Yariv Mozer to keep his distance yet equate what he saw with popular war...

Director(s): Nordlund, Solveig
Year of Publication: 1998
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A young boy recounts a story of horror and survival during the Mozambican Civil War. Nelio flees his village after the war destroys it and his family. He arrives in the capital Maputo and joins other orphaned children. Danger greets him there,...

Director(s): Daves, Delmer
Year of Publication: 1953
Major Wars:
Abstract:

The Cold War disrupts a love story between an American journalist and a Russian ballerina. Separated by the KGB on their attempt to leave the Soviet Union for the United States, the husband takes desperate measures to reunite with his wife. 

Director(s): Mann, Delbert
Year of Publication: 1982
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Based on a true story, Night Crossing chronicles the perils of two East German families as they attempt to cross over the Berlin Wall in a hot-air balloon toward freedom in the late 1970s.

Director(s): Hitchcock, Alfred
Year of Publication: 1959
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Director Alfred Hitchcock tackles a case of mistaken identity and a murder mystery in this masterful exploration of Cold War America. Ad man Cary Grant inadvertently finds himself on the run after government agents mistake him for a spy. From New...

Director(s): Tasma, Alain
Year of Publication: 2005
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This television film traces multiple perspectives of the October Massacre during the Algerian War of Independence. It follows members of the National Liberation Front (FLN), French military officers, Parisian police, journalists, and school...

Director(s): Chouraqui, Élie
Year of Publication: 2006
Major Wars:
Abstract:

A friendship between two Americans is tested during the conflicts surrounding the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Said, a Palestinian immigrant, and Bobby, a Jew, leave New York to support their respective sides. 

Director(s): Panijel, Jacques
Year of Publication: 1962
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This documentary, censored for over ten years, explores the Paris Massacre of 1961 during the Algerian War for Independence through interviews, newsreel, and re-enactments.. After implementing a curfew for all Algerians in the city, the Naltional...

Director(s): Abu-Assad, Hany
Year of Publication: 2013
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Omar is accustomed to dodging surveillance bullets to cross the separation wall to visit his secret love Nadia. But occupied Palestine knows neither simple love nor clear-cut war. When Omar is captured after a deadly act of resistance, he falls...

Director(s): Kramer, Stanley
Year of Publication: 1959
Major Wars:
Abstract:

On the Beach tapped into Cold War fears of nuclear annihilation and World War III. After the northern hemisphere is left uninhabitable from radiation, Americans find refuge in Australia. Survivors soon hear Morse code coming from the...

Director(s): Macdonald, Kevin
Year of Publication: 1999
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This documentary presents the massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Existing footage and interviews emphasize the lack of security, the botched rescue mission, and the preparation of the...

Director(s): Wilder, Billy
Year of Publication: 1961
Major Wars:
Abstract:

In this Cold War screwball comedy, an American Coca-Cola executive in West Berlin exhibits a can-do attitude to best communism. C.R. "Mac" MacNamara dreams of expanding into the Russian market, but his boss tasks him with hosting his young...

Director(s): Solum, Ola
Year of Publication: 1985
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Produced for Norwegian and English language audiences, Orion's Belt offers a biting critique of Cold War politics and continued Soviet influence in Norway. After a storm, three seamen from Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, stumble upon...

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