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): 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
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
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
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...

Director(s): Reed, Carol
Year of Publication: 1959
Abstract:

An adaptation of Graham Greene's novel, Our Man in Havana brings a deft touch to the Cold War spy game. MI6 recruits vacuum salesman Jim Wormold as a spy. He gives fakes contacts in exchange for cash to support his struggling family. His...

Director(s): Gazut, André
Year of Publication: 2002
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Veteran and journalist André Gazut, living in exile, documents the mentalities behind the Algerian War. Personal stories, television news, and archival footage show the major players, soldiers, and citizens on both sides of the conflict. 

Director(s): Abu-Assad, Hany
Year of Publication: 2005
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This 2005 film tells the story of what may be the last 48 hours in the lives of two Palestinian men who have been recruited as suicide bombers in Tel Aviv during the Second Intifada (2000-2005). When they are intercepted at the Israeli border, a...

Director(s): Tahimik, Kidlat
Year of Publication: 1977
Abstract:

Winner of the International Film Critic's Prize at the 1977 Berlin Film Festival, this semi-autobiographical, semi-documentary film tackles colonialism, capitalism, and globalism in American-occupied Philippines and the post-World War II world. A...

Director(s): René Vautier
Year of Publication: 1963
Major Wars:
Abstract:

In 1962, the French film director René Vautier, together with some Algerian friends, organized an audiovisual formation center to encourage a “dialogue in images” between the two factions involved in the Algerian War (1954–62). A film was edited...

Director(s): Robinson, Todd
Year of Publication: 2013
Abstract:

Phantom offers a fictionalized account of the sinking of the Soviet submarine K-129 in 1968. A retiring captain and his new executive officer embark on a new mission, but a group of rogue KGB officers take control of the sub. They plan...

Director(s): Stone, Oliver
Year of Publication: 1986
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This Oscar-winning war drama based on director Oliver Stone's memories of the Vietnam War portrays the conflict as chaotic, disorienting, and disillusioning. Chris Taylor drops out of college to enlist and quickly finds himself out of place in...

Director(s): Costanzo, Saverio
Year of Publication: 2005
Major Wars:
Abstract:

This Italian-made film reveals the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on one family. The Israeli army takes over a Palestinian house because of its strategic location. The father, proudly middle class and a pacifist, refuses to vacate and...

Director(s): Rosenberg, Stuart
Year of Publication: 1961
Abstract:

A son must decide to honor his father and faith or pursue his ambitions in communist East Germany. Friedrich wants to go to a prestigious music conservatory in East Berlin, but he must renounce his Christian faith (and his father's ministry) to...

Director(s): Boisset, Yves
Year of Publication: 1973
Major Wars:
Abstract:

Controversial during its production and release, R.A.S. pulls from first-hand accounts to document the horrors of the Algerian War through the perspective of three reluctant French reservists. After experiencing a psychologically and...

Director(s): Konopka, Bartek
Year of Publication: 2009
Abstract:

This Oscar-nominated documentary explores the lives of the wild rabbits who lived in the No Man's Land between the Berlin Wall. When the Wall came down in 1989, the rabbits scattered, became fearful, and ultimately migrated westward. The film is...

Director(s): Stone, Robert
Year of Publication: 1988
Abstract:

This internationally acclaimed, Oscar-nominated documentary explores the immediate and long-term effects of nuclear warfare by looking at the U.S. military test at Bikini Atoll. In the summer of 1946, the U.S. military tested the nuclear bomb to...

Director(s): Cosmatos, George P.
Year of Publication: 1985
Abstract:

A disgraced veteran returns to Vietnam to uncover missing prisoners of war. John Rambo finds them while fighting off Vietnamese and Russian attacks. The Rambo film series is noted for its pushback against anti-Vietnam sentiment in the...

Director(s): Milius, John
Year of Publication: 1984
Abstract:

Emblematic of heightened Cold War tensions in America during Ronald Reagan's first presidency, Red Dawn imagines World War III from the perspective of high school students in a small Colorado town. Soviets and their Cuban and Nicaraguan ...

Director(s): Hill, Walter
Year of Publication: 1988
Abstract:

A Soviet officer and a Chicago cop team up to catch a drug king pin in this late Cold War film. Red Heat helped to establish Arnold Schwarzenegger as a comedic talent after a string of tough guy films. The drug plot connects the crack...

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