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The Best Movies Based On History Novels

Updated August 28, 2020 997 votes 88 voters 4.2k views42 items

List RulesVote up your favorite movies based on or inspired by historical literature.

From the Trojan War to the Civil Rights Movement, film adaptations of historical novels combine fact and fiction. The best movies based on history books feature real life events. Many films based on historical novels feature political figures while other good history movies that are books feature fictional characters living in historic times. Some of the best history films based off books have even won Academy Awards.

What historic novels adapted into movies will you find on this list. Forrest Gump has to be near the top. Based on Winston Groom's book of the same name, Forrest Gump stars Tom Hanks as the title character who finds himself at several historic events. The March on the Pentagon, The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, and the Vietnam War are just a few of the noteworthy events featured in the film. Dances with Wolves is another good movie based on a historical novel.

Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas star in The English Patient, based on Michael Ondaatje's novel. Other good movies based on historical books include Enemy at the Gates, Spartacus, The Scarlet Letter, and Troy.

Which movie based on a historical novel is the best? Give your favorites a vote and and please add any great new films we may have missed.

Photo:
  • 1
    Forrest Gump is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
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    11

    Forrest Gump

    Tom Hanks, Sally Field

    Released1994

    Directed byRobert Zemeckis

    Forrest Gump is a 1994 American epic romantic-comedy-drama film based on the 1986 novel of the... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 2
    Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
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    Schindler's List

    Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes

    Released1993

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 3
    The Help is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    35
    18

    The Help

    Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain

    Released2011

    Directed byTate Taylor

    The Help is a 2011 American period drama film directed and written by Tate Taylor, and adapted... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 4
    Gone with the Wind is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    28
    11

    Gone with the Wind

    Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh

    Released1939

    Directed bySam Wood, George Cukor, Victor Fleming

    Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American epic historical romance film adapted from Margaret... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 5
    Spartacus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    28
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    Spartacus

    Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier

    Released1960

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    Spartacus is a 1960 American epic historical drama film directed by Stanley Kubrick. The... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 6
    The Godfather is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    32
    20

    The Godfather

    Al Pacino, Marlon Brando

    Released1972

    Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola

    The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 7
    The Last of the Mohicans is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    28
    17

    The Last of the Mohicans

    Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe

    Released1992

    Directed byMichael Mann

    The Last of the Mohicans is a 1992 historical epic film set in 1757 and produced by Morgan... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 8
    The Sound of Music is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    22
    14

    The Sound of Music

    Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer

    Released1965

    Directed byRobert Wise

    The Sound of Music is a 1965 American musical drama film produced and directed by Robert Wise... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 9
    Dances with Wolves is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    21
    12

    Dances with Wolves

    Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell

    Released1990

    Directed byKevin Costner

    Dances with Wolves is a 1990 American epic western film directed, produced by, and starring... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 10
    The Hunchback of Notre Dame is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    22
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    The Hunchback of Notre Dame

    Demi Moore, Kevin Kline

    Released1996

    Directed byGary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

    Madacy Kids brings to life Victor Hugo's classic novel for this entry in their animated... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 11
    Hidden Figures is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    19
    14

    Hidden Figures

    Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer

    Released2016

    Directed byTheodore Melfi

    Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, based on... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 12
    True Grit is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    17
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    True Grit

    Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon

    Released2010

    Directed byEthan Coen, Joel Coen

    True Grit is a 2010 American Revisionist Western film directed by the Coen brothers, based on... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 13
    Shutter Island is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    19
    17

    Shutter Island

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams

    Released2010

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

    Shutter Island is a 2010 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese. The... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 14
    The Pianist is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    15
    11

    The Pianist

    Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann

    Released2002

    Directed byRoman Polanski

    The Pianist is a 2002 historical drama film co-produced and directed by Roman Polanski,... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 15
    The Three Musketeers is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    13
    9

    The Three Musketeers

    Charlie Sheen, Tim Curry

    Released1993

    The Three Musketeers is a 1993 Austrian-American action-adventure film from Walt Disney... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 16
    Glory is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    15
    12

    Glory

    Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington

    Released1989

    Directed byEdward Zwick

    Glory is a 1989 American drama film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick,... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 17
    Downfall is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    14
    11

    Downfall

    Alexandra Lara, Bruno Ganz

    Released2004

    Directed byOliver Hirschbiegel

    Downfall is a 2004 German film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, depicting the final ten days... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 18
    Troy is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    19
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    Troy

    Brad Pitt, Eric Bana

    Released2004

    Directed byWolfgang Petersen

    Troy is a 2004 epic period war film directed by Wolfgang Petersen, loosely based on Homer's... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 19
    Cold Mountain is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    11
    12

    Cold Mountain

    Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman

    Released2003

    Directed byAnthony Minghella

    Cold Mountain is a 2003 epic drama film written and directed by Anthony Minghella. The film is... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 20
    Enemy at the Gates is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    9
    11

    Enemy at the Gates

    Rachel Weisz, Jude Law

    Released2001

    Directed byJean-Jacques Annaud

    Enemy at the Gates is a 2001 film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. The film's title is taken... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button

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  • 21
    Greyhound is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    1
    0

    Greyhound

    Tom Hanks, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

    Released2020

    Directed byAaron Schneider

    Greyhound is a 2020 war film directed by Aaron Schneider, based on The Good Shepherd by C. S.... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 22
    The Physician is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    8
    9

    The Physician

    Ben Kingsley, Stellan Skarsgård

    Released2013

    Directed byPhilipp Stölzl

    The Physician is a 2013 adventure, drama and history film written by Jan Berger and Noah... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 23
    True History of the Kelly Gang is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    1
    1

    True History of the Kelly Gang

    George MacKay, Essie Davis

    Released2020

    Directed byJustin Kurzel

    True History of the Kelly Gang is a 2020 British-Australian biographical western film directed... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 24
    The English Patient is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels
    9
    12

    The English Patient

    Willem Dafoe, Ralph Fiennes

    Released1996

    Directed byAnthony Minghella

    The English Patient is a 1996 romantic drama directed by Anthony Minghella from his own script... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 25
    Master and Commander: The Far  is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies Based On History Novels

    Released2003

    Directed byPeter Weir

    Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a 2003 epic historical drama film... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
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