The American Revolution is a hot topic right now. Whether it’s because you’re a fan of Hamilton or because you’re comparing current events to events leading up to the American Revolution. Either way, we’re fascinated by the events and men surrounding that time. We’re in the middle of studying the revolution right now, and towards that end, I’m planning some American revolution movies to watch with my kids as we finish up those history lessons.
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Side note, I’ve called this family-friendly American Revolution movies because I’m going to share movies for all age ranges, and while your teenager may not enjoy the movies your preschooler can watch, there is still something to learn from those movies for them.
Family Friendly American Revolution movies
I’m going to tell you right now, I’m cheating for this category. I’m including a TV show my kids watched obsessively. It’s totally not a movie, but it’s also the best way to teach any kid under 13 the American Revolution in great detail. It’s 8 years later and my kids still remember bits and pieces from this.
- Liberty Kids– you all knew this was going to be recommended. This was an all-star voice cast, including a stunt casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger for Colonel von Steuben (he’s Austrian). This frequently shows up on streaming services, so keep an eye out for it. >>> I had intended to watch this together with the kids as we went through the American Revolution this time in high school, but we got away from it.
- Felicity: An American Girl Story– We watched both of these the first time we went to Colonial Williamsburg with the kids. For Felicity, it was especially interesting because they filmed it on-site at Colonial Williamsburg. >>> I should rewatch it with the kids.
Let’s talk making this relevant for your teens: It’s very easy to dismiss these because they’re both rated G. But they discuss hard topics. In the very first episode of Liberty Kids, the pro-revolution kid is forced to confront the downside and terror to someone tarred and feathered just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You have both sides represented on the show, the Loyalists and the Rebels, and they’re represented honestly.
Felicity dives into a hard decision, do you conform to societal norms when you think something is wrong? What do you do when your family is split over a political issue? That’s a great discussion no matter how old your child is.
Elementary/Middle School American Revolution movies
I’m calling this Elementary/Middle School because some families will want to wait for older, and some families will be fine with their kids watching these movies now. I’ll also add one choice is almost a family-friendly movie, but the kids might be bored.
- Johnny Tremain– Your preschooler could watch this movie, but they might be bored. We read the book and then watched the movie, and sadly the movie removes some of the moral drama that comes about from his choices. Either way, it’s a great movie for your kids to think through what are the right choices. >>>>> Another one, I might rewatch with the kids to discuss the ideas again.
- Swamp Fox– It looks like this is currently in the Disney Vault, which is a SHAME. It’s also unfortunately not on Disney+, and I hate that. It’s vaguely based on the real person, Francis Marion, aka Swamp Fox, and is a fun adventure story. If you have a high schooler, it would make a great comparison with a movie I’m going to name down there. >>>>> If I can find a copy ANYWHERE, I will totally watch this with them now. I grew up watching this, so it has a soft spot in my heart.
- 1776– The forerunner to Hamilton, and there are a few nods to it in Hamilton. It’s one every theater kid probably knows a song or two from, but it’s also a much slower and a more traditional take on a musical. > We’ve watched it a couple of times, and tend to watch it from time to time on Independence Day, so won’t watch it during the study.
- Beyond the Mask– I’m including this with a big caveat, it’s set in the American Revolution, but it’s more of an excuse for a crazy adventure story with a rather ham-fisted Christian conversion story added in. I watched it in the theaters when it first came out as a special screening, and though then “it’s an okay adventure movie,” and then rewatched it this summer with Jeff and the kids and thought, “Wow, this is bad, like really bad,” so you could totally watch it with your whole family, but it’s aimed more at the elementary/middle school age.
Middle School High School American Revolution movies
Every family has a different threshold, and some movies I wouldn’t let my middle school student watch, you might be fine with your middle schooler watching. I’ll try to explain any hesitations you might have for the movie.
Hamilton- If you don’t know, then you don’t know. Since this is on Disney+ I don’t have a link for it. There are some language issues and strongly implied sex (but not overtly on the scene, it happens, clarifying because some of the later ones it’s a lot more obvious).
John Adams– This is an amazing mini-series from HBO before they got into the all-sex and all-violence all the time trend. There is some nudity, and there is some violence (the tar and feather scene, in the beginning, is very disturbing), but it a great long-term look at the life of John Adams. It takes away the shiny polish on the Founding Fathers. >>>> This mini-series is what got me writing this post. It’s on my plan to watch with them in the next week or so.
The Patriot– This is amazingly bloody, has some sex scenes and is only loosely based in history. They took inspiration from Francis Marion, who is known for his guerilla tactics, and Banestre Tarleton, who was so cruel in his fighting the idea of “Tarleton’s Quarter” is named after him. But, it’s still an interesting movie to watch, as long as you understand it’s not got much in the way of historical accuracy. >>>> I’m pretty sure if I bring this up to Jeff, he’ll happily watch it with the boys, but I’ll let Princess skip it, since she’s not big on movies.
Turn– Jeff and I watched this when it first came on and ended up not finishing it because the series focused so much on the sex life of the characters at the expense of the history of the show. That being said, I’ve heard a lot of praise for the series, and it’s based on a great nonfiction book focusing on Washington’s spies. >>>> That’s a no for me.
There are more American Revolution movies
I’m only including movies (or series) that I’ve got some amount of personal experience with, either because I’ve actually watched it, or I’ve heard it highly recommended by people I trust. I did a quick glance at these American Revolution movies from Wikipedia, but it’s also missing a few movies I know of, but it did remind me of a few movies I’d forgotten to include.
Interesting teacher’s guide to American Revolution suggestions.
More ways to learn with movies
- 11th Grade books made into movies
- Shakespeare at the Movies
- World War 2 movies for the whole family
- Great Depression movies
- Personal Purity and Movies