Atascocita High School - World History Advanced Placement

Second Semester Book, Documentary, and Movie Review List

For more information, see this link for Extra Credit Details

Please do suggest a Book, Documentary, or Movie to your teacher.

Do not choose an extra credit review that is not on this list, without first talking to your teacher about it.

Part I: Suggest Book List:

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventures on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlanksy Mark Kurlansky, the bestselling author of Cod and The Basque History of the World, here turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions. Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Kurlansky's kaleidoscopic history is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.

A History Of The World In Six Glasses by Tom Standage From beer to Coca-Cola, the six drinks that have helped shape human history. Throughout human history. certain drinks have done much more than just quench thirst. As Tom Standage relates with authority and charm, six of them have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of history, becoming the defining drink during a pivotal historical period. For Tom Standage, each drink is a kind of technology, a catalyst for advancing culture by which he demonstrates the intricate interplay of different civilizations. You may never look at your favorite drink the same way again.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond From groundbreaking writer and thinker, Jared Diamond comes an epic, visionary new book on the mysterious collapse of past civilizations - and what this means for our future. Why do some societies flourish, while others founder? What happened to the people who made the forlorn long-abandoned statues of Easter Island or to the architects of the crumbling Maya pyramids? Will we go the same way, our skyscrapers one day standing derelict and overgrown like the temples at Angkor Wat? Bringing together new evidence from a startling range of sources and piecing together the myriad influences, from climate to culture, that make societies self-destruct, "Collapse" also shows how unlike our ancestors we can benefit from our knowledge of the past and learn to be survivors.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn The narrator of this extraordinary tale is a man  in search for truth. He answers an ad in a local  newspaper from a teacher looking for serious  pupils, only to find himself alone in an abandoned  office with a full-grown gorilla who is nibbling  delicately on a slender branch. "You are the  teacher?" he asks incredulously. "I am  the teacher," the gorilla replies. Ishmael is  a creature of immense wisdom and he has a story  to tell, one that no other human being has ever  heard. It is a story that extends backward and  forward over the lifespan of the earth from the birth  of time to a future there is still time save.  Like all great teachers, Ishmael refuses to make the  lesson easy; he demands the final illumination to  come from within ourselves. Is it man's destiny  to rule the world?

The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture, And the World Economy, 1400 to the Present by Kenneth Pomeranz The World That Trade Created brings to life the history of trade and its actors. In a series of brief, highly readable vignettes, filled with insights and amazing facts about things we tend to take for granted, the authors uncover the deep historical roots of economic globalization.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford The Mongol army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in twenty-five years than the Romans did in four hundred. In nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization. Vastly more progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom, and smashed feudal systems of aristocratic privilege. From the story of his rise through the tribal culture to the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed, this brilliant work of revisionist history is nothing less than the epic story of how the modern world was made.

Conquest in Paradise by Kirkpatrick Sale What distinguishes this book from numerous others (some 150) published on Columbus in this century is Sale's attempt to separate the man from the legend. He returns to the original sources to take stock of the "historical Columbus" and then traces the growth of the "heroic Columbus." Overall, his portrait of Columbus is not flattering. A rootless man who never fully understood the enormity of his discovery, Columbus spent his declining years making unreasonable demands of his sovereigns for his heirs. Sale reminds us that part of the Columbian legacy was environmental despoliation and destruction of native cultures. Most fascinating is his tracing of the Columbus legend from its origins in the 16th century to the present. The story of his transformation from a simple sea captain to a tragic hero is an engaging one, well told and copiously documented here.

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond Research biologist (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands) Diamond argues that the human being is just a third species of chimpanzee but nevertheless a unique animal essentially due to its capacity for innovation, which caused a great leap forward in hominoid evolution. After stressing the significance of spoken language, along with art and technology, Diamond focuses on the self-destructive propensities of our species to kill each other (genocide and drug abuse) and to destroy the environment (mass extinctions). He also discusses human sexuality, geographic variability, and ramifications of agriculture (metallurgy, cultivated plants, and domesticated animals). Absent from Diamond's work is the role religion plays in causing both war and the population explosion as well as long-range speculations on the future of our species. This informative, most fascinating, and very readable book is highly recommended for all libraries.

Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of Modern Civilization by David Keys It was a catastrophe without precedent in recorded history: for months on end, starting in A.D. 535, a strange, dusky haze robbed much of the earth of normal sunlight. Crops failed in Asia and the Middle East as global weather patterns radically altered. Bubonic plague, exploding out of Africa, wiped out entire populations in Europe. Flood and drought brought ancient cultures to the brink of collapse. In a matter of decades, the old order died and a new world—essentially the modern world as we know it today—began to emerge. In this fascinating, groundbreaking, totally accessible book, archaeological journalist David Keys dramatically reconstructs the global chain of revolutions that began in the catastrophe of A.D. 535, then offers a definitive explanation of how and why this cataclysm occurred on that momentous day centuries ago.

Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeil Upon its original publication, Plagues and Peoples was an immediate critical and popular success, offering a radically new interpretation of world history as seen through the extraordinary impact--political, demographic, ecological, and psychological--of disease on cultures. From the conquest of Mexico by smallpox as much as by the Spanish, to the bubonic plague in China, to the typhoid epidemic in Europe, the history of disease is the history of humankind. With the identification of AIDS in the early 1980s, another chapter has been added to this chronicle of events, which William McNeill explores in his new introduction to this updated editon. Thought-provoking, well-researched, and compulsively readable, Plagues and Peoples is that rare book that is as fascinating as it is scholarly, as intriguing as it is enlightening. "A brilliantly conceptualized and challenging achievement" (Kirkus Reviews), it is essential reading, offering a new perspective on human history.

Pitty of the War: Explaining World War I by Niall Ferguson In The Pity of War, Niall Ferguson makes a simple and provocative argument: that the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England’s fault. Britain, according to Ferguson, entered into war based on naïve assumptions of German aims—and England’s entry into the war transformed a Continental conflict into a world war, which they then badly mishandled, necessitating American involvement. The war was not inevitable, Ferguson argues, but rather the result of the mistaken decisions of individuals who would later claim to have been in the grip of huge impersonal forces.

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson Niall Ferguson makes a strong, compelling case for the development of money and banking as a catalyst for the advancement of civilization. Yet while some critics praised his clear, comprehensible writing, punctuated with anecdotes and historical details, others were nonplussed by his explanations and narrative detours. Though perhaps best suited to readers with a fundamental understanding of financial terms and theories, Ferguson's latest work provides valuable insight into the inner workings of the global economy, past and present. For interested readers, it demonstrates how our current fiscal meltdown fits into the bigger historical picture and laments humanity's perennial inability to learn from this history.

Movies:

The Patriot (2000) About The American Revolution Peaceful farmer Benjamin Martin is driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolution when a sadistic British officer murders his son. It is 1776 in colonial South Carolina. Benjamin Martin, a French-Indian war hero who is haunted by his past, now wants nothing more then to live peacefully on his small plantation, and wants no part of a war with the most powerful nation in the world, Great Britain.

The Last Samurai (2003) Tom Cruise stars. An American military advisor embraces the Samurai culture he was hired to destroy after he is captured in battle. In the 1870s, Captain Nathan Algren, a cynical veteran of the American Civil war who will work for anyone, is hired by Americans who want lucrative contracts with the Emperor of Japan to train the peasant conscripts for the first standing imperial army in modern warfare using firearms. The imperial Omura cabinet's first priority is to repress a rebellion of traditionalist Samurai -hereditary warriors- who remain devoted to the sacred dynasty but reject the Westernizing policy and even refuse firearms. Yet when his ill-prepared superior force sets out too soon, their panic allows the sword-wielding samurai to crush them.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992) A remake of the 1936 version and "adapted for the modern view" the film is set in the 1750's in the midst of the struggle between the British and French Empires to gain control of the thirteen American colonies. The Last of the Mohicans describes one man's point of view of such struggle. British and French troops do battle in colonial America, with aid from various native American war parties.

Marie Antoinette (2006) - The retelling of France's iconic but ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. From her betrothal and marriage to Louis XVI at 15 to her reign as queen at 19 and to the end of her reign as queen and ultimately the fall of Versailles. Kirsten Dunst plays Marie. "All eyes will be on you," says the Austrian duchess, Maria Theresa to her youngest daughter Marie Antoinette. The film, marketed for a teen audience, is an impressionistic retelling of Marie Antoinette's life as a young queen in the opulent and eccentric court at Versailles. The film focuses on Marie Antoinette, as she matures from a teenage bride to a young woman and eventual queen of France.

Napoleon (2002)  - The year is 1816, and NAPOLEON, held prisoner by the British on the island of St. Helena, is telling the young English girl BETSY his life story. His meteoric rise to military prominence begins with his victory over the Royalists in 1795, which is followed by campaigns in Italy and Egypt. He marries the young and capricious JOSEPHINE DE BEAUHARNAIS, the love of his life, who unfortunately cannot bear him any children. After a coup d'état he seizes power in France and crowns himself Emperor of the French in 1804. After his decisive victory at Austerlitz, Napoleon reorganizes Europe and makes his relatives into princes and kings.

Amistad (1997) About a 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship that is traveling towards the northeastern coast of America. Much of the story involves a court-room drama about the free man who led the revolt. Amistad is the name of a slave ship traveling from Cuba to the U.S. in 1839. It is carrying a cargo of Africans who have been sold into slavery in Cuba, taken on board, and chained in the cargo hold of the ship. As the ship is crossing from Cuba to the U.S., Cinque, who was a tribal leader in Africa, leads a mutiny and takes over the ship. They continue to sail, hoping to find help when they land. Instead, when they reach the United States, they are imprisoned as runaway slaves.

Elizabeth (1998) A film of the early years of the reign of Elizabeth I of England and her difficult task of learning what is necessary to be a monarch. This film details the ascension to the throne and the early reign of Queen Elizabeth the First, as played by Cate Blanchett. The main focus is the endless attempts by her council to marry her off, the Catholic hatred of her and her romance with Lord Robert Dudley.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) A mature Queen Elizabeth endures multiple crises late in her reign including court intrigues, an assassination plot, the Spanish Armada, and romantic disappointments. Two faiths, two empires, two rulers - colliding in 1588. Papist Spain wants to bring down the heretic Elizabeth. Philip is building an armada but needs a rationale to attack. With covert intrigue, Spain sets a trap for the Queen and her principal secretary, Walsingham, using as a pawn Elizabeth's cousin Mary Stuart, who's under house arrest in the North. The trap springs, and the armada sets sail, to rendezvous with French ground forces and to attack.

Amazing Grace (2006) The idealist William Wilberforce maneuvers his way through Parliament, endeavoring to end the British transatlantic slave trade.  In 1797, William Wilberforce, the great crusader for the British abolition of slavery, is taking a vacation for his health even while he is sicker at heart for his frustrated cause. However, meeting the charming Barbara Spooner, Wilberforce finds a soulmate to share the story of his struggle. With few allies such as his mentor, John Newton, a slave ship captain turned repentant priest who penned the great hymn, "Amazing Grace," Prime William Pitt, and Olaudah Equiano, the erudite former slave turned author, Wilberforce fruitlessly fights both public indifference and moneyed opposition determined to keep their exploitation safe. Nevertheless, Wilberforce finds the inspiration in newfound love to rejuvenate the fight with new ideas that would lead to a great victory for social justice.

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) Two sisters contend for the affection of King Henry VIII. A sumptuous and sensual tale of intrigue, romance and betrayal set against the backdrop of a defining moment in European history: two beautiful sisters, Anne and Mary Boleyn, driven by their family's blind ambition, compete for the love of the handsome and passionate King Henry VIII.

The Dutchess (2008) A chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life. Georgiana Spencer became Duchess of Devonshire on her marriage to the Duke in 1774, at the height of the Georgian period, a period of fashion, decadence, and political change. Spirited and adored by the public at large she quickly found her marriage to be a disappointment, defined by her duty to produce a male heir and the Duke's philandering and callous indifference to her.

Luther  (2003) During the early 16th Century idealistic German monk Martin Luther, disgusted by the materialism in the church, begins the dialogue that will lead to the Protestant Reformation. Biography of Martin Luther, the 16th-century priest who led the Christian Reformation and opened up new possibilities in exploration of faith. The film begins with his vow to become a monk, and continues through his struggles to reconcile his desire for sanctification with his increasing abhorrence of the corruption and hypocrisy pervading the Church's hierarchy. He is ultimately charged with heresy and must confront the ruling cardinals and princes, urging them to make the Scriptures available to the common believer and lead the Church toward faith through justice and righteousness.

Glory (1989) Robert Gould Shaw leads the US Civil War's first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices of both his own Union army and the Confederates.

All the King’s Men (1999) On the outbreak of World War One the male staff at the royal residence of Sandringham are swept along by the tide of jingoism and all enlist including 14 year old George Dacre, who lies about his age, the recently-married Ted Grimes and the elderly estate manager, veteran soldier Frank Beck. Blissfully ignorant of the horrors in store they arrive at the Dardanelles, where Beck is shocked by the lack of supplies and organization. Camped on a beach to await orders they are easy prey to Turkish snipers. Ultimately they go into action at Gallipoli where they are apparently swallowed up by a cloud of mist and never seen again. Only Ted, wounded by a sniper and a prisoner of the Germans, returns to Sandringham. Although the queen mother, Alexandra, sends men to try and discover the soldiers' whereabouts, only Beck's watch is ever found.

War Horse (2011) Young Albert enlists to serve in World War I after his beloved horse is sold to the cavalry. Albert's hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on. Nominated for Best Picture in 2011.

Passchendaele (2008) [Rated R]  The lives of a troubled veteran, his nurse girlfriend and a naive boy intersect first in Alberta and then in Belgium during the bloody World War I battle of Passchendaele. Sergeant Michael Dunne fights in the 10th Battalion, AKA The "Fighting Tenth" with the 1st Canadian Division and participated in all major Canadian battles of the war, and set the record for highest number of individual bravery awards for a single battle.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) An inordinately complex man who has been labeled everything from hero, to charlatan, to sadist, Thomas Edward Lawrence blazed his way to glory in the Arabian desert, then sought anonymity as a common soldier under an assumed name. The story opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident in Dorset at the age of 46, then flashbacks to recount his adventures: as a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916, he is given leave to investigate the progress of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. In the desert, he organizes a guerrilla army and--for two years--leads the Arabs in harassing the Turks with desert raids, train-wrecking and camel attacks. Eventually, he leads his army northward and helps a British General destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire.  Winner of 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Chariots of Fire (1981) The true story of two British track athletes competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics. One is a devout Scottish missionary who runs for God, the other is a Jewish student at Cambridge who runs for fame and to escape prejudice. Won Best Picture.

Gandhi (1982) Biography of 'Mahatma Gandhi' , the lawyer who became the famed leader of the Indian revolts against the British rule through his philosophy of non-violent protest. Won 8 Oscars: Best Picture, Actor, & Director.

The King’s Speech (2010) Based on a true story. The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it. Winner of the Best Picture Award - 2010.

Band of Brothers (2001) The story of Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission in WWII Europe from Operation Overlord through V-J Day.

The Pacific (2010) A 10-part mini-series from the creators of "Band of Brothers" telling the intertwined stories of three Marines during America's battle with the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) Following the Normandy Landings, a group of US soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Enemy at the Gates (2001) Two Russian and German snipers play a game of cat-and-mouse during the Battle of Stalingrad.

The Thin Red Line (1998) Director Terrence Malick's adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War. Nominated for Best Picture.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it. Won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director.

The Guns of Navarone (1961) A British team is sent to cross occupied Greek territory and destroy the massive German gun emplacement that commands a key sea channel. Two powerful German guns control the seas past the Greek island of Navarone making the evacuation of endangered British troops on a neighboring island impossible. Air attack is useless so a team of six Allied and Greek soldiers is put ashore to meet up with partisans to try and dynamite the guns.  Nominated for Best Picture.

Downfall (2004) In April of 1945, Germany stands at the brink of defeat with the Russian and Ukranian Armies closing in from the west and south. In Berlin, capital of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler proclaims that Germany will still achieve victory and orders his Generals and advisers to fight to the last man.

Defiance (2008) Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe escape into the Belarussian forests, where they join Russian resistance fighters and endeavor to build a village in order to protect themselves and about 1,000 Jewish non-combatants.

The Diary of Anne Frank (1962) Harrowing story of a young Jewish girl who, with her family and their friends is forced into hiding in an attic in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Nominated for Best Picture.

A Bridge Too Far (1977) An historic telling of the failed attempt to capture several bridges to Germany in World War II in a campaign called Operation Market-Garden.

Valkyrie (2008) Based on actual events, a plot to assassinate Hitler is unfurled during the height of WWII.

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) The story of the battle of Iwo Jima between the United States and Imperial Japan during World War II, as told from the perspective of the Japanese who fought it. Nominated for Best Picture, 2006.

Flags of Our Fathers (2006) The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.


The Longest Day (1962) The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view.

Patton (1970) "Patton" tells the tale of General George S. Patton, famous tank commander of World War II. The film begins with Patton's career in North Africa and progresses through the invasion of Europe and the fall of the Third Reich. Side plots also speak of Patton's numerous faults such his temper and tendency toward insubordination, faults that would prevent him from becoming the lead American general in the Normandy Invasion as well as to his being relieved as Occupation Commander of Germany. Winner Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Sound.

Windtalkers (2002) Two U.S. Marines in WWII are assigned to protect Navajo Marines who use their native language as an unbreakable radio cypher.

Saints And Soldiers (2003) Four American soldiers and one Brit fighting in Europe during World War II struggle to return to Allied territory after being separated from U.S. forces during the historic Malmedy Massacre.

Pearl Harbor (2001) Pearl Harbor follows the story of two best friends, Rafe and Danny, and their love lives as they go off to join the war.

Midway (1976) A dramatization of the battle that turned out to be the turning point of the Pacific Theatre of World War II.

A Soldier’s Story (1984) A black soldier is killed while returning to his base in the deep south. The white people of the area are suspected at first. A tough black army attorney is brought in to find out the truth. We find out a bit more about the dead soldier in flashbacks - and that he was unpopular. Will the attorney find the killer? Nominated for Best Picture.

Winter in Wartime (2008) Near the end of World War II, 14-year-old Michiel becomes involved with the Resistance after coming to the aid of a wounded British soldier. With the conflict coming to an end, Michiel comes of age and learns of the stark difference between adventure fantasy and the ugly realities of war.

Stalingrad (1993) A depiction of the brutal battle of Stalingrad, the Third Reich's 'high water mark', as seen through the eyes of German officer Hans von Witzland and his battalion.

U-571 (2000) A German submarine is boarded by disguised American submariners trying to capture their Enigma cipher machine.

Empire of the Sun (1987) A young English boy struggles to survive under Japanese occupation during World War II.

Schindler’s List (1993) In Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis. Won 7 Oscar Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture.

The Pianist (2002) A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. Won 3 Oscar Awards - Best Director, Actor, and Writing-Adaption of Screenplay.

The Last Emperor (1987) A dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the Emperors of China, from his lofty birth and brief reign in the Forbidden City, the object of worship by half a billion people; through his abdication, his decline and dissolute lifestyle; his exploitation by the invading Japanese, and finally to his obscure existence as just another peasant worker in the People's Republic. Won Best Picture.

Reds (1981) A radical American journalist becomes involved with the Communist revolution in Russia and hopes to bring its spirit and idealism to the United States. This movie tells the true story of John Reed, a radical American journalist around the time of World War I. He soon meets Louise Bryant, a respectable married woman, who dumps her husband for Reed and becomes an important feminist and radical in her own right. After involvement with labor and political disputes in the US, they go to Russia in time for the October Revolution in 1917, when the Communists siezed power. Inspired, they return to the US, hoping to lead a similar revolution. A particularly fascinating aspect of the movie is the inclusion of interviews with "witnesses", the real-life surviving participants in the events of the movie. Won Best Director.

MASH (1970) The staff of a Korean War field hospital use humor and hijinks to keep their sanity in the face of the horror of war. Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. That's where two young surgeons, Duke and Hawkeye end up during the Korean War. There is no plot as such, but instead a series of episodes during which they put their stamp on the camp including a football game against a larger unit with thousands riding on it,and a trip to Tokyo to operate on a congressman's son and play a little golf. Nominated Best Picture.

JFK (1991) A New Orleans DA discovers there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story. Nominated for Best Picture.

Munich (2005) After Black September's assassination of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, Prime Minister Golda Meir okays a black-box operation to hunt down and kill all involved. A team of five gathers in Switzerland led by Avner, a low-level Mossad techie whose father was a war hero and whose wife is pregnant. It's an expendable team, but relying on paid informants, they track and kill several in Europe and Lebanon. They must constantly look over their shoulders for the CIA, KGB, PLO, and their own sources. As the body count mounts -- with retribution following retribution -- so do questions, doubts, and sleepless nights. Loyalties blur. What does it mean to be a Jew? Nominated for Best Picture, 2005.

Thirteen Days (2000) A dramatization of President Kennedy's administration's struggle to contain the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962.

Apocalypse Now (1979) During the on-going Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Green Beret who has set himself up as a God among a local tribe. Won 2 Oscars for best cinematography and sound.

Full Metal Jacket (1987) A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow Marine recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting set in 1968 in Hue, Vietnam.

Platoon (1986) Chris Taylor is a young, naive American who gives up college and volunteers for combat in Vietnam. Upon arrival, he quickly discovers that his presence is quite nonessential, and is considered insignificant to the other soldiers, as he has not fought for as long as the rest of them and felt the effects of combat. As the war continues, Chris himself draws towards psychological meltdown. And as he struggles for survival, he soon realizes he is fighting two battles, the conflict with the enemy and the conflict between the men within his platoon. Won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The Killing Fields (1984) Sydney Schanberg is a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia. Together with local representative Dith Pran, they cover some of the tragedy and madness of the war. When the American forces leave, Dith Pran sends his family with them, but stays behind himself to help Schanberg cover the event. As an American, Schanberg won't have any trouble leaving the country, but the situation is different for Pran; he's a local, and the Khmer Rouge are moving in. Nominated for Best Picture. Won Best Actor in Supporting Role, Best Film Editing & Best Cinematography.

Frost/Nixon (2008) A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon. Nominated for Best Picture, 2008.

All the President’s Men (1976) Reporters Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon's resignation. Nominated for Best Picture.

Deer Hunter (1978) An in-depth examination of the way that the Vietnam war affects the lives of people in a small industrial town in the USA. Won 5 Oscar awards, including Best Picture & Best Director.

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)  The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for. Nominated for Best Picture.

Casualties of War (1989) During the Vietnam War, a soldier finds himself the outsider of his own squad when they unnecessarily kidnap a female villager.

We Were Soldiers (2002) The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) A drama based on Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson’s covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.

Black Hawk Down (2001) 123 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.

Jarhead (2005) Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford's best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.

The Hurt Locker (2008) Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb. Winner - Best Picture, 2009.

Green Zone (2010) Discovering covert and faulty intelligence causes a U.S. Army officer to go rogue as he hunts for Weapons of Mass Destruction in an unstable region.

Documentaries:

Martin Luther - Reluctant Revolutionary PBS Documentary. The Catholic Church uses all of its might to try and silence Luther, including accusations of heresy and excommunication.

The Romantics (2006) Tremendous BBC Documentary about the birth of the individual.  The 18th century was a time of opulence and privilege for some. Europe was dominated by the twin authority of the Church and King - but beneath the surface, new forces were gathering to challenge their absolute rule.  

Simon Schama's "Rough Crossings" (Slave Trade and the Middle Passage) Simon Schama tells the fascinating story of the African-American slaves who chose to fight for Britain – and their freedom – in the American Revolutionary War. With gripping, powerfully vivid story-telling, Simon Schama follows the escaped blacks into the fires of the war, and into freezing, inhospitable Nova Scotia where many who had served the Crown were betrayed in their promises to receive land at the war’s end. Their fate became entwined with British abolitionists: inspirational figures such as Granville Sharp, the flute-playing father-figure of slave freedom, and John Clarkson, the ‘Moses’ of this great exodus, who accompanied the blacks on their final rough crossing to Africa, where they hoped that freedom would finally greet them. Rough Crossings is the astonishing story of the struggle to freedom by thousands of African-American slaves who fled the plantations to fight behind British lines in the American War of Independence.

Slavery & The Making of America Slavery and the Making of America is a four-part series documenting the history of American slavery from its beginnings in the British colonies to its end in the Southern states and the years of post-Civil War Reconstruction. Drawing on a wealth of recent scholarship, it looks at slavery as an integral part of a developing nation, challenging the long held notion that slavery was exclusively a Southern enterprise.

At the same time, by focusing on the remarkable stories of individual slaves, it offers new perspectives on the slave experience and testifies to the active role that Africans and African Americans took in surviving their bondage and shaping their own lives.

Empires: Napoleon For nearly two decades he strode the world stage like a colossus – loved and despised, venerated and feared. From his birth on the rugged island of Corsica to his final exile on the godforsaken island of St. Helena, Napoleon brings this extraordinary figure to life. Napoleon bears passionate witness to a man whose charisma swayed an empire and sparked his exalted belief in his own destiny. “The Summit of Greatness” recounts Napoleon’s brilliant conquest of most of Europe, including a legendary victory at Austerlitz. To sustain his rule, he must keep fighting, but invading Spain reaches too far. “The End” describes Napoleon’s downfall, including the invasion of Russia and his final battles. First exiled to Elba, he escapes to face final defeat at Waterloo.

The Samurai They were the knights of medieval Japan, an elite warrior class that held the reins of power and the fascination of the people for more than 700 years. Masters of sword and bow, driven by an unforgiving code of ethics, they proved ferocious in combat. They beat back foreign invaders and fought each other for land, status, honor and glory. The Samurai explores the extraordinary legacy of martial artistry, ceremony, self-discipline and tenacity in battle that reaches to this day. Modern-day samurai explain the ways of life in the Bushido, while scholars detail the pivotal events in their centuries-long history. From the heyday of the Heian Period (794-1185) to the inevitable decline that followed the opening of Japan in 1853, this is the definitive study of some of world’s most famous fighters.

Marie Antoinette The Last Queen of France Marie Antoinette, the young and beautiful Austrian princess who was strategically married into the most prestigious monarchy in Europe, was to become the symbol for the wanton extravagance of the 18th century aristocracy and was to be France’s last queen. This is the story of a callous monarch, swept to her death in the torrent of the French Revolution. It is also the tale of a fragile young woman struggling to find herself during one of the most turbulent moments in human history. Filmed in France and Austria, with rare access to Versailles, Le Petit Trianon, and the Austro-Hungarian palaces of her youth, Marie Antoinette will tell the intensely human story of the often misunderstood monarch who was beheaded during the turbulence and horror of the French revolution.

Haitian Revolution: Toussaint Louverture The Haitian Revolution represents the only successful slave revolution in history; it created the world’s first Black republic – traumatizing Southern planters, inspiring U.S. Blacks, and invigorating anti-slavery activist world-wide. At the forefront of the rebellion was General Toussaint Louverture, an ex-slave whose genius was admired by allies and enemies alike. The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) was a period of conflict in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Haitian republic. Although hundreds of rebellions occurred in the New World during the centuries of slavery, only the St. Domingue Slave Revolt, which began in 1791, was successful in achieving permanent independence under a new nation. The Haitian Revolution is regarded as a defining moment in the history of Africans in the New World.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII Queen, lover, mother, outcast, victim and survivor – this is how historian and series narrator David Starkey assigns the roles of the six wives of Britain’s most famous monarch Henry VIII in the sexual intrigue and cut-throat power politics of his long reign from 1509 to 1547. The series The Six Wives of Henry VIII takes a fresh approach and presents each wife’s story from her perspective.

The History of Chocolate Delicious, delectable, soothing and, yes, American. Chocolate was a New World discovery, one of the most sought-after treasures brought back to Europe from the brave new land across the Atlantic. Cacao, from which chocolate is created, is said to have originated in the Amazon at least 4,000 years ago. The Aztecs were so enthralled with the bean that they attributed its creation to their god Quetzalcoatl who, as the legend goes descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cacao tree stolen from paradise. In fact, the Aztecs valued the cacao bean so much that they used it as currency. The Aztecs also used the cacao beans to prepare a thick, cold, unsweetened drink called chocolatl – a liquid so prestigious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after one use. Christopher Columbus, in 1502, was the first European to run across the beans on his fourth voyage to the New World.

The Dark Side of Chocolate While we enjoy the sweet taste of chocolate, the reality is strikingly different for African children. In 2001 consumers around the world were outraged to discover that child labor and slavery, trafficking, and other abuses existed on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, a country that produces nearly half the world’s cocoa. An avalanche of negative publicity and consumer demands for answers and solutions soon followed.

The Revolution They came of age in a new world of intoxicating and innovative ideas about human and civil rights, diverse economic systems, and self-government. In a few short years, these men and women would transform themselves into architects of the future through the building of a new nation unlike any that had ever come before. From the roots of the rebellion and the signing of the Declaration of Independence to victory on the battlefield at Yorktown and the adoption of The United States Constitution, The Revolution tells he remarkable story of this important era in history.

The History of Britain by Simon Schama Stretching from the Stone Age to the year 2000, Simon Schama’s Complete History of Britain does not pretend to be a definitive chronicle of the turbulent events which buffeted and shaped the British Isles. What Schama does do, however, is tell the story in vivid and gripping narrative terms, free of the fustiness of traditional academe, personalizing key historical events by examining the major characters at the center of them. Not all historians would approve of the history depicted here as shaped principally by the actions of great men and women rather than by more abstract developments, but Schama’s way of telling it is a good deal more enthralling as a result.

Part 6. Burning convictions: 1500–1558. Here Simon Schama charts the upheaval caused as a country renowned for its piety, whose king styled himself Defender of the Faith, turns into one of the most aggressive proponents of the new Protestant faith.

Part 7. The body of the Queen: 1558–1603. This is the story of two queens: Elizabeth I of England, the consummate politician, and Mary I, Queen of Scots, the Catholic mother. It is also the story of the birth of a nation.

Part 8. The British wars: 1603–1649. The turbulent civil wars of the early seventeenth century would culminate in two events unique to British history; the public execution of a king and the creation of a republic. Schama tells of the brutal war that tore the country in half and created a new Britain – divided by politics and religion and dominated by the first truly modern army, fighting for ideology, not individual leaders.

Part 9. Revolutions: 1649–1689. Political and religious revolutions racked Britain after Charles I’s execution, when Britain was a joyless, kingless republic led by Oliver Cromwell. His rule became so unpopular that for many it was a relief when the monarchy was restored after his death, but Cromwell was also a man of vision who brought about significant reforms.

Part 10. Britannia incorporated: 1690–1750. As the new century dawned, relations between Scotland and England had never been worse. Yet half a century later the two countries would be making a future together based on profit and interest. The new Britain was based on money, not God.

Part 11. The wrong empire: 1750–1800. The series is the exhilarating and terrible story of how the British Empire came into being through its early settlements—the Caribbean through the sugar plantations (and helped by slavery), the land that later became the United States and India through the British East India Company – and how it eventually came to dominate the world. A story of exploration and daring, but also one of exploitation, conflict, and loss.

Part 12. Forces of nature: 1780–1832. Britain never had the kind of revolution experienced by France in 1789, but it did come close. In the mid-1770s the country was intoxicated by a great surge of political energy. Re-discovering England’s wildernesses, the intellectuals of the “romantic generation” also discovered the plight of the common man, turning nature into a revolutionary force.

The World At War (1973) A multi-volumed documentary mini-series, "The World at War" covers the entire history of World War II from the causes of the 1920s to the aftermath of the Cold War in the 1950s. Emphasis is also placed on several inside story episodes, where events are covered which occurred inside Germany and Japan such as resistance to Hitler, life in general under a dictatorial regime, and particular emphasis is focused on the Jewish Holocaust.

The War of the World (2008) Controversial historian Professor Niall Ferguson argues that in the last century there were not in fact two World Wars and a Cold War, but a single Hundred Years’ War. It was not nationalism that powered the conflicts of the century, but empires. It was not ideologies of class or the advent of socialism driving the century, but race. Ultimately, ethnic conflict underpinned 20th-century violence. Finally, it was not the west that triumphed as the century progressed – in fact, power slowly and steadily migrated towards the new empires of the East.

Episode One: The Clash of Empires - The series begins with how the first World War ignited fires of racial animosity in people, exploited by new and more terrible nation-states that were far more preoccupied with national and racial purity. It was the beginning of an age of genocide. An alternative perspective to the events of the 20th century, offering different explanations for the two world wars and the shifting balance of power as the 1900s progressed. He begins by studying the origins of World War One, arguing that the conflict sparked racial hatred which was exploited by nation states for their own ends.

Episode Two: The Plan 

How the US became the envy of the world in the aftermath of World War One, a state of affairs that was shattered by the Wall Street crash. He also considers the effect of the Great Depression on people’s attitudes to capitalism and democracy, and how it led to the rise of totalitarian states.

Episode Three: Killing Space

Killing Space. How the rise of the Axis powers led to a fundamental redrawing of the world map. He pinpoints 1942 as a pivotal year, and considers how the 20th century might have unfolded had World War Two ended differently, with totalitarian regimes dividing the globe between them.

Episode Four: Tainted Victory

The last years of World War Two, considering the terrible ethical compromises the Allied nations were forced to make to defeat their German and Japanese enemies, and the long-term consequences for the victors.

Episode Five: Icebox

How during the Cold War, World War Three actually took place. With the US and the Soviet Union unable to engage in battle with each other directly for fear of the nuclear consequences, Third World nations ended up serving as proxies for the superpowers, causing carnage to rival World War One.

Episode Six: The Descent of the West

Controversial historian Professor Niall Ferguson concludes the series by challenging the received wisdom that the fall of the Berlin Wall represented ultimate triumph for Western values, pointing to racial conflict in the last decades of the 20th century. He also considers the possibility of a further global war in the future.

The Making of Modern Britain: The Great War (BBC Documentary 2009) Andrew Marr's The Making of Modern Britain is a 2009 BBC documentary television series presented by Andrew Marr that covers the period of British history from the end of the death of Queen Victoria to the end of the Second World War. It was a follow-up to his 2007 series Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain. Dealing with World War I and its effects, Marr focuses on Lord Kitchener and his volunteer army and German gun-boat attacks on the north-east coast of England. Meanwhile, John Fisher, First Sea Lord disappears in strange circumstances and a sex scandal threatens the British establishment. In Belgium, Marr visits trenches of Flanders and describes the terrible conditions and gallows humour that prevailed. Back in Britain people worked tirelessly for the war effort.

The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century (1996)

The eight-part PBS series, The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, a co-production of KCET/Los Angeles and the BBC, in association with England's London-based Imperial War Museum, premiered on PBS November 10, 1996 to great critical acclaim. The series won two Emmy awards, the Alfred du Pont Journalism Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, the Producers Guild of American Vision Award, the International Documentary Association: Best Limited Series Award, and a Director's Guild Nomination. It was the first TV production ever to go beyond the military and political history of World War I to reveal its ongoing, social, cultural and personal impact.

 

The series featured a large cast of noted actors, including Leslie Caron, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeremy Irons, Yaphet Kotto, Martin Landau, Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, Martin Sheen, Jean Stapleton, Michael York, with Salome Jens as narrator.

Episode 1: “Explosion” 1914-1918 - The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, Part I Narrated by Helen Mirren.

Episode 1 of 7 of a great documentary series about the First World War, the Great War.

Playlist for all of  episode 1 

Episode 2: “Stalemate” 1914-1918 - The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, Narrated by Helen Mirren.

Episode 2 of 7 of a great documentary series about the First World War, the Great War.

Episode 3  Episode 4 Episode 5 Episode 6 Episode 7

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

Niall Ferguson follows the money to tell the human story behind the evolution of finance, from its origins in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest upheavals on what he calls Planet Finance.

Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot, lucre, moolah, readies, the wherewithal: Call it what you like, it matters. To Christians, love of it is the root of all evil. To generals, it’s the sinews of war. To revolutionaries, it’s the chains of labor. But in The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson shows that finance is in fact the foundation of human progress. What’s more, he reveals financial history as the essential backstory behind all history.

The Wall, A World Divided (Watch the full program at that link from the PBS site)

The most memorable symbol of the revolution that swept across Europe two decades ago is the November 1989 opening of the Berlin Wall after 28 years. The Wall — A World Divided tells those dramatic events from the perspective of ordinary East Germans whose lives were caught up in the wheels of Cold War politics. And it presents the lesser-known story of how the autumn of 1989 set the stage for three world leaders — George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Helmut Kohl — to come together and guide the completely unanticipated spiraling series of events that ended the Cold War.

How did the Berlin Wall come crashing down in late 1989? According to historian Frederick Taylor and other experts, part of the answer lies in the Protestant churches of East Germany that served as a sanctuary for a small but determined opposition movement. At the same time, forces of reform triggered in part by Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev were sweeping through other Soviet satellite states. But what finally opened the Wall was — surprisingly — a mistake. An East German bureaucrat misspoke at a press conference on November 9, 1989, and triggered a flood of people at one of the East Berlin crossing points. The border guards had no instructions and were forced to let the crowds through — catching the world's leaders by surprise.

After 28 years, without a shot being fired, East Germans were suddenly free to live their lives.

The Tank Man: PBS Documentary that you can watch the entire documentary from the program Frontline on their website for free through streaming it. On June 5, 1989, one day after the Chinese army's deadly crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, a single, unarmed young man stood his ground before a column of tanks on the Avenue of Eternal Peace. Captured on film and video by Western journalists, this extraordinary confrontation became an icon of the struggle for freedom around the world.