29 Best Historical Movies on Netflix (June 2024)

Image Credit: Reiner Bajo/Netflix

History might not have been your favorite subject in school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t like historical movies. These films serve many purposes while being massively entertaining. For history nerds, they become a topic of profound discussions- pulling all the threads, pointing out mistakes, and debating the impact of the events. For others, these are the fascinating tales of another time, of a society they don’t live in and a world they’ll never get to see.

No matter which category you fall in, you can’t deny the importance of historical movies. They are informative, they are entertaining, and most importantly, they are warning signs, alerting us of what the world could be like if we, humans, make the same mistakes again. There’s a reason they say “history repeats itself”. With every passing year, Netflix has been broadening its horizon regarding the genre of stories it tells. Historical movies, fact or fiction, aren’t untouched by it. If you want a history lesson without the boredom of the classroom, the following is the list of really good historical movies on Netflix.

29. Narvik: Hitler’s First Defeat (2022)

Image Credits: Eirik Linder Aspelund / Nordisk Film

‘Narvik’ is a Norwegian war film directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg. Set in April 1940 (World War II), the film showcases Adolf Hitler’s first defeat following the Battle of Narvik (Norway) (9 April-8 June 1940). The biggest battle since the invasion of Poland, and fought both on land and water, the Battle of Narvik was fought to claim the iron ore, Hitler’s main component for his Nazi war machines. His forces were defeated, albeit temporarily. While this is the macro perspective, we also get a micro perspective wherein we see the battle through the eyes of couple Gunnar and Ingrid Tofte as they try to survive the battle. Starring Kristine Hartgen, Carl Martin Eggesbø, Kari Bremnes, Henrik Mestad, and Mathilde Holtedahl Cuhra. You can watch the film here.

28. 1917 (2019)

Sam Mendes’ ‘1917’ is shot entirely in a single take. Correction, it’s made to look like a single take by using invisible cuts, i.e., transitioning from one shot to another in a way the audience cannot identify. That said, the story is set during World War I and follows two British soldiers, Lance Corporal Will Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), who have to cross no man’s land and deliver a message to the Devonshire regiment to call off an attack that can compromise the lives of more than 1500 British soldiers, thanks to a strategic German trap. Co-starring Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, ‘1917’ received ten nominations at the 2020 Oscars, winning three. You can watch the film here.

27. Munich: Edge of War (2021)

Directed by Christian Schwochow, ‘Munich: Edge of War’ is based on the 2017 internationally bestselling novel “Munich” by Robert Harris. It is set in the years leading to World War II and showcases the 1938 Munich Agreement, a desperate step to prevent the war as Hitler prepares to invade Czechoslovakia, through the eyes of old friends from Oxford, British civil servant Hugh Legat (George MacKay) and German diplomat Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner). A must-watch war film directed by Christian Schwochow, ‘Munich: Edge of War’ hits the spot as far as the tension of the period is concerned, with all actors nailing their parts in a gripping adapted screenplay by Ben Power. The rest of the cast includes Jessica Brown Findlay, Jeremy Irons, August Diehl and Ulrich Matthes. You can watch it here.

26. Farha (2021)

‘Farha’ is a historical drama film directed by Darin J. Sallam. Based on a true story, the film is set during the Nakba in 1948 and showcases the poignant coming-of-age experience of a Palestinian girl amidst the tragic displacement of Palestinians from their homeland. The protagonist, Farha, witnesses brutal violence as she’s locked in a pantry for safety when Zionist forces attack her village. With a compelling cast, including Karam Taher as Farha and Ashraf Barhom as Abu Farha, the film presents a poignant account of the cruelty of ethnic cleansing. The film deserves attention for its heart-wrenching portrayal of a historical catastrophe and is an essential watch for those seeking insight into Palestinian history and the human stories therein. You can watch the movie here.

25. Rustin (2023)

A must-watch biographical drama, ‘Rustin’ is produced by the Barack and Michelle Obama-owned company Higher Ground. It is based on the life of gay Black civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, played impeccably by Colman Domingo. He is the guy who organized the historic 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech. The film showcases Rustin’s fight for civil rights and racial equality and his efforts, including serving as King’s advisor, to bring the march to fruition. It also shows his struggles and the negativity he faced due to his homosexuality. Directed by George C. Wolfe, ‘Rustin’ co-stars Aml Ameen, Jeffrey Wright, Gus Halper, Johnny Ramey, and Chris Rock. You can watch the film here.

24. My Best Friend Anne Frank (2021)

‘My Best Friend Anne Frank’ is a Dutch drama directed by Ben Sombogaart. Drawing inspiration from ‘Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend,’ the plot unfolds from Hanneli Goslar’s perspective, showcasing the deep bond between Hanneli and Anne Frank during WWII. As a fresh perspective on Anne Frank’s life, viewers are taken on an emotional journey from Goslar’s eyes. Aiko Beemsterboer as Anne and Josephine Arendsen as Hannah provide gripping performances, and as the story converges, both end up in concentration camps, tragically separated by a wall. The story’s heart-wrenching narrative serves as a poignant reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust. Feel free to check out the movie here.

23. Kartini: Princess of Java (2017)

‘Kartini: Princess of Java’ is a biographical drama directed by Hanung Bramantyo. Set against the backdrop of early 1900s Indonesia under Dutch colonial rule, it is a moving tale of a heroine’s fight against gender and social inequalities. In an era where only the nobility received an education, Raden Adjeng Kartini challenges the age-old Javanese traditions and strives for women’s rights and educational equality. With a star-studded cast including Dian Sastrowardoyo, Christine Hakim, Reza Rahadian, and Acha Septriasa, the film provides a poignant look into the life of the iconic Indonesian heroine. Kartini’s battle against oppressive traditions and her struggle for equality make this film an inspiring watch, underlining the essence of women’s emancipation in a bygone era. You can check out the film here.

22. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

‘Dolemite Is My Name’ (2019) is a comedy film directed by Craig Brewer. This electrifying biopic chronicles the life of Rudy Ray Moore, a 1970s Blaxploitation icon known for his character – Dolemite. Eddie Murphy delivers an unforgettable portrayal of Moore traces and traces his journey from obscurity to stardom against all odds. The ensemble cast, boasting names like Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Mike Epps, Chris Rock, and Snoop Dogg, ensures laughter while also addressing significant societal issues of the time. Capturing the essence of 1970s Blaxploitation cinema and Rudy’s unparalleled determination, this comedic ride is both entertaining and an informative glance into a groundbreaking entertainment era, making it a must-see on Netflix. You can watch ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ here.

21. The Forgotten Battle (2020)

Set during World War II’s Battle of the Scheldt, ‘The Forgotten Battle’ ties together the lives of three unrelated individuals in the days leading up to the fight. The first of the three, Teuntje Visser, finds herself joining the Dutch resistance after the Nazis execute her brother in cold blood. A Nazi sympathizer, Marinus van Staveren, tries his best to save Teuntje’s brother, but after his request is turned down, Marinus gets increasingly disillusioned and begins questioning his alliances. Around this time, Glider Pilot Regiment Sergeant Will Sinclair crashes into German-occupied Zeeland and begins engaging the German troops leading up to the Battle of Walcheren Causeway. However, fate has much more in store for the three as their lives are interwoven, leaving their futures in the balance. You may watch ‘The Forgotten Battle’ here.

20. The Champion (2020)

‘The Champion,’ aka ‘The Champion of Auschwitz,’ is a biographical drama that tells the unusual story of Polish Armed Forces soldier/boxer Tadeusz Pietrzykowski. Pietrzykowski gained recognition due to his punches and wins in the boxing matches held in Nazi camps between 1940 and 1945 (World War II) when he was liberated. He was, indeed, a prisoner in the camps after being captured in 1940 but became famous for his victories, both among the prisoners and German soldiers. Piotr Głowacki plays the role of Tadeusz Pietrzykowski in this Maciej Barczewski directorial. You can watch it here.

19. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

Set against the backdrop of World War II and the German occupation of Guernsey Island, Juliet Ashton (Lily James), a London-based writer, develops a relationship over time with a book club called ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.’ As the book club members share their experience of living on the Nazi-occupied island, Juliet decides to visit the island herself. She has an idea for her next book and decides to write about the German occupation; in the bargain, she makes friends for life. The whole experience makes Juliet realize that she cannot leave behind her life in Guernsey and return to London. You can stream the movie here.

18. The Highwaymen (2019)

Revolving around the infamous criminal duo Bonnie and Clyde, ‘The Highwaymen’ follows former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and Benjamin Maney Gault in their efforts to bring the duo to justice. When authorities get specific information about the pair’s whereabouts, Frank and Benjamin are forced to come out of retirement and go on the hunt once again. Although their age initially slows them down, the thrill of being on the road and reminiscing old memories soon gets them on track as the movie takes the audience on a thrilling ride through an incredibly detailed and designed 1930s America. You can watch the film here.

17. A Twelve-Year Night (2018)

Originally titled ‘La noche de 12 anos,’ ‘A Twelve-Year Night’ is a drama from Uruguay. Based on historical events, the film follows the 12-year- solitary confinement that members of the left-wing urban guerrilla group (Tupamaros) were put through. The order by the military dictatorship was to “drive them mad” if they can’t be killed. One of the nine hostages that are taken includes Pepe Mujica, who will go on to become the 40th President of Uruguay from 2010-2015. The crucially acclaimed film was selected as an entry for the 91st Academy Awards under the category of Best Foreign Language Film. You may watch it here.

16. The Resistance Banker (2018)

Set during the occupation of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany, ‘The Resistance Banker’ tells the story of Walraven “Wally” van Hall, an Amsterdam financier, who is recruited by the underground Dutch resistance to help them with funding. With the help of his brother Gijsbrecht “Gijs,” Wally develops an efficient network to transfer money to the resistance quickly. Their methods prove to be incredibly successful, and Wally becomes known as “van Tuyl” among his fellow resistance members. With Wally serving as their banker, the resistance leaders bring order to their finances. Meanwhile, realizing that someone is funneling money to the resistance, Nazi collaborator Rost von Tonningen, the head of the Dutch State Bank, asks SS intelligence for help. Feel free to check out the movie here.

15. Elisa & Marcela (2019)

Based on the first same-sex marriage in Spain, the movie revolves around  Elisa Sánchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas, who meet and start a wonderful friendship. Nevertheless, things turn dark once their friendship blossoms into romance, as same-sex relationships were banned entirely at that time. However, Elisa and Marcela refuse to give up and, even while carrying on with their death-defying romance, decide to break out of the box and tie the knot. The narrative then takes a thrilling yet suspenseful turn, as in 1901. Elisa decides to adopt the identity of a boy to be one with her soulmate. You can check out the film here.

14. The Angel (2018)

Speaking of historical films always conjures up the image of the times that lie at least a hundred years prior to one’s own era. To be honest, what happened a decade ago is history too, though the most recent one. But let’s not get into that debate. My point is that if I tell you to watch a film that is set in the early 70s, it is historical, too, no matter how different it is from the rest of the movie on this list. You must watch this one because it is more of a spy thriller. Based on the book of the same name by Uri Bar-Joseph, the film focuses on the story of an Egyptian man who served as a spy for Israeli intelligence. Set in the aftermath of the Six Days War, it shows the Egyptian Prime Minister and his cabinet talking about how they can get back at Israel after their recent loss. Ashraf Marwan, the son-in-law of the Prime Minister, is let in on the discussion. However, he is harshly rebuked when he makes a substantial suggestion. This throws him towards the Israeli intelligence, and the rest that happened was history! You can watch ‘The Angel’ here.

13. Outlaw King (2018)

The name of Robert Bruce is held in high regard in Scottish history. He is known as one of the fiercest warriors and led the First War of Scottish Independence. ‘Outlaw King’ focuses on the events after the besieging of Stirling Castle, where the Scottish nobles surrendered to the King of England. Acting in subordination to the King continued for some time, but not long after, Robert Bruce led a rebellion against the British, motivated by sensing the unrest among the masses for the regime and the public display of William Wallace’s mutilated body. Chris Pine played the role of the titular king, while Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh, Billy Howle, and Tony Curran appeared in other vital roles. Like any other Hollywood film, you can expect some historical inaccuracies. But you will get the overall gist of all the events that led him to become a leader and, eventually, the King of Scots. You may watch the film here.

12. Mudbound (2017)

One of the year’s best films, ‘Mudbound,’ is set in the post-Second World War era. Two soldiers return home from the War, but all they were before is washed away by what they experienced. Jamie McAllan served as an army pilot, while Ronsel Jackson was in the infantry. Back home, Jamie’s elder brother, Henry, shares a loving marriage with Laura. Ronsel’s family, on the other hand, works in the McAllans’ fields. On returning home, Jamie and Ronsel strike a friendship, sharing their experiences of the War. However, the assimilation of blacks and whites wasn’t a common thing yet, not where they lived, and both of them faced trouble because of that. The film focuses on PTSD, which mainly haunts Jamie, and the racism that Ronsel has to bear witness to, something that he isn’t used to after becoming a part of the army. You may watch ‘Mudbound’ here.

11. The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)

A Netflix original film, ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort,’ is based on how Mossad (Israeli intelligence department) managed to smuggle Ethiopian Jews living in the country to Israel. Mossad agent Ari Levinson suggests to his seniors that they buy a beach resort and use it as a cover to carry out their covert mission. They carry out their mission in Sudan, but it is not long before some secrets are spilled, and the lives of the agents and the people they are protecting get shrouded in danger. The film had enough elements to make a compelling thriller, but writer-director Gideon Raff completely squanders away the opportunity by coming up with poorly written characters and not giving the actors enough material to work with. The film’s “white savior complex” has also been widely criticized. You can stream it here.

10. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016)

While ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’ might not be a historical film in the truest sense of the term, it is a brilliant historical fiction that deserves our attention. The film is a sequel to the 2000 film ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,’ directed by Ang Lee. Michelle Yeoh reprises her role as warrior-maiden Shu Lien in this film. After being away for around eighteen years, she is eager to find the magical sword Green Destiny, which once belonged to her lover, Li Mu Bai. As a dangerous criminal called Hades Dai gets eager to claim the sword, Shu Lien is hell-bent on saving it. In her quest, she is joined by a young woman and a mysterious warrior called Silent Wolf. ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’ is a wuxia film that tells us a lot about the medieval Chinese culture of martial arts. While we get to see some brilliantly choreographed action sequences, we are also made privy to the philosophy of the era. You can stream ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’ here.

9. The King (2019)

This Netflix original film is based on several plays by Shakespeare and mainly chronicles the early life of English ruler King Henry “Hal” V. The film begins with Hal being utterly disinterested in the affairs of the state, and later, when his brother Thomas passes away in a battle, he is suddenly made the King of England. Many people around him presumed that he was weak, and his coronation was openly mocked by King Charles VI of France. When Hal comes to know that Charles VI has sent an assassin to kill him, he declares war and marches on toward France to show his enemies his true powers. The boy who was always against politics and violence now gets molded into the image he always despised. Timothée Chalamet has established himself as a significant talent, and this film again reminds us of his ability to do justice to any role he has been given. This film’s production design, costumes, and cinematography also deserve our admiration. You can watch it here.

8. First They Killed My Father (2017)

Directed by Angelina Jolie and based on the 2000 memoir written by Loung Ung, ‘First They Killed My Father’ is a Cambodian–American Khmer-language film. The narrative is set in 1975 and follows a 7-year-old Loung as she is forced to become a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime. Loung is one of the seven children of her father, a Khmer National Armed Forces officer who is referred to in the film as “Pa.” After the Khmer Rouge emerges victorious in the Cambodian Civil War, Loung’s family leaves Phnom Pen as refugees and eventually ends up in a labor camp. Following her father’s death, Loung is recruited as a child soldier in a different camp just as the Vietnamese forces launch an operation to liberate Cambodia. You may watch the film here.

7. Kardec (2019)

Based on the true story of Allan Kardec, ‘Kardec’ portrays Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail’s humble beginnings as an educator in France. While studying Spinning tables, Rivail suddenly realizes that there can be a way to communicate with spirits. Although society doesn’t seem ready for such a revelation, the educator takes on the pseudonym of Allan Kardec and begins working on his books that now form the backbone of Spiritist studies. Delving especially into Rivail’s discoveries and his struggles to get them across to the general public, the movie does make for an interesting watch. Feel free to check out the movie here.

6. Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ is a Bollywood historical epic set in the 16th century and explores the romance between Mughal Emperor Akbar (Muslim ruler who ruled the Indian subcontinent from 1556 to 1605) and Hindu Princess Jodhaa Bai of Amber, Rajasthan. Played by Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai, both of whom have done full justice to their parts, the film showcases how their relationship develops while depicting Akbar’s reign underscored by politics, prejudice, and religious conflicts, all of which the king handled with care, keeping in mind what is right. On the other hand, we also see Princess Jodhaa Bai’s brave and adamant nature in standing up to the Indian Emperor and making her demands. When two strong forces collide, sparks are bound to fly. To see how this happens, you can watch ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ here.

5. Society of the Snow (2024)

This Spanish film showcases the tragedy that is the Uruguayan 1972 Andes flight disaster. The flight crashed in the middle of the Andes Mountains on October 13, 1972, and only 14 out of the total 45 made it out alive after spending 72 days in a freezing, inaccessible, and hostile terrain made worse by cold, starvation, and avalanches. For days without any sign of rescue or help, the survivors resorted to cannibalism to keep themselves alive while using the front part of the plane, which had survived the crash, as their shelter. One of the worst disasters in human history and a miracle of the highest order, the Andes flight disaster/the Miracle of the Andes is a reminder of two things: the unforgiving nature of Nature and the strength of the human spirit. Directed by J. A. Bayona, ‘Society of the Snow’ can be streamed here.

4. The Best of Enemies (2019)

Based on Osha Gray Davidson’s non-fiction book ‘The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South,’ this historical drama is directed by Robin Bissell. The film explores the strained acquaintanceship between civil rights activist Ann Atwater and Ku Klux Klan leader Claiborne Paul Ellis, aka C. P. Ellis. Set in 1971, we see how the two eventually come together to vote against desegregation in schools in Durham, North Carolina, which Ellis was a staunch supporter of initially. This happens after a fire burns down the school where Ann’s daughter used to go. Ann Atwater and C. P. Ellis’s friendship is a testimony of hope, change, and a unified society. ‘The Best of Enemies’ stars Taraji P. Henson as Ann Atwater and Sam Rockwell as C.P. Ellis. You can watch the film here.

3. All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Based on the 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ is a German film that tells the story of a German soldier named Paul Bäumer. Young and idealistic, Paul enlists in the Imperial German Army three years after the start of World War I, along with his friends, hoping for glory and fame. However, as the film progresses and Paul becomes closely acquainted with the horrors of war, he realizes that glory is rarely found on the battlefield. The best he can hope for is to survive until the carnage around him stops. Remarque’s book also inspired the classic 1930 namesake film directed by Lewis Milestone. Widely regarded as one of the greatest war films of all time, the American movie depicts the realities of war in harrowing detail and was the first film to win the Academy Awards for both Outstanding Production and Best Director. You can check out the film here.

2. The Irishman (2019)

Directed by the great Martin Scorsese, ‘The Irishman’ has some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, all of whom are among Scorsese’s go-to actors for his films. These include Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Joining this stellar cast is Al Pacino. The film is based on the 2004 non-fiction book ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ by Charles Brandt. It is set in Philadelphia during the 1950s and onwards and centers on war-veteran-turned-hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who worked under mobster Russell Bufalino of the Bufalino crime family and then for Jimmy Hoffa, the then-president of the labor union Teamsters (International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)). A true-to-form portrayal of the politics and organized crime of the time in a way that is both open-world and intimate at the same time in signature Scorsese style, ‘The Irishman’ is, as they say, cinema. You can stream it here.

1. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Directed by Aaron Sorkin, ‘The Trail of the Chicago 7’ follows the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters who are held responsible for the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. This historical legal drama follows the unfair trials of seven ringleaders who are associated with the incident and their fight against all odds to stand for what they believe in. Although they do not see eye to eye on their political philosophies, the Chicago 7 realize the significance they have in each other’s lives, especially if they want to win the fight. The ensemble cast features notable names like Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella, Alex Sharp, Michael Keaton, Daniel Flaherty, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. You may watch the film here.

Read More: Best Heist Movies on Netflix

SPONSORED LINKS