Pocahontas

  • Directors: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
  • Producers: James Pentecost
  • Writers: Carl Binder, Susannah Grant, Philip LaZebnik
  • Genres: Animation, Drama, Family, History, Musical, Romance
  • Actors: Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, John Kassir, Russell Means, Frank Welker, Christian Bale, Linda Hunt

In 1607, a ship carrying British settlers from the Virginia Company sails for North America in search of gold and other material riches. On board are Captain John Smith and Governor John Ratcliffe. A storm erupts, and Smith saves the life of a young settler named Thomas when he falls overboard, befriending him in the process.

In the “New World”, Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan’s daughter, learns that her father wants her to marry Kocoum, one of his finest warriors, but a bitter and serious man. Pocahontas does not want this marriage, and asks the advice from a talking tree spirit named Grandmother Willow. Grandmother Willow tells Pocahontas to listen to her heart.

The British settlers land in Virginia and dig for gold under Ratcliffe’s orders. John Smith explores the territory and encounters Pocahontas. The two spend time together, with Pocahontas teaching John to look at the world in a different way, and to not think of her people as “savages”. Back at the settlement, the Powhatan warriors and Englishmen have a skirmirsh, and one of the warriors is injured. The warriors retreat, and Powhatan declares that the white men are dangerous and that no one should go near them.

A few days later, John and Pocahontas meet again, during which John learns that there is no gold in the land. They agree to meet at Grandmother Willow’s glade again that night.

John is only wounded, but he must return to England for medical treatment if he is to survive. Pocahontas and her people arrive to see them off, and John and Pocahontas bid their goodbyes.

Apollo 13

  • Directors: Ron Howard
  • Producers: Brian Grazer
  • Writers: Book, Jim Lovell, Jeffrey Kluger, Screenplay, William Broyles Jr, Al Reinert
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, History
  • Actors: Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris

Apollo 13 opens with a flashback of the Apollo 1 fire incident, accompanied by narration by Walter Cronkite. As Cronkite’s monologue ends, the film moves on to July 20, 1969 where veteran astronaut Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) is on his way home to a party for the Apollo 11 moon landing. After witnessing Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps on the moon, an inebriated Lovell stares up at the moon and tells his wife, Marilyn (Kathleen Quinlan), of his wish for a moon landing of his own.

A few months later, Jim, who’s expecting to fly Apollo 14, is giving a VIP tour of NASA’s towering Vehicle Assembly Building while Apollo 13’s massive Saturn V rocket is being assembled. As the U.S. representatives among the VIPs question the possibility of any further moon landings after beating the Soviet Union to the moon, he is informed by Deke Slayton (Chris Ellis) that he and his crew have been bumped up to be prime crew of Apollo 13. After informing his family of his new flight assignment, Lovell and his crew, Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) begin training for Apollo 13 instead of Apollo 14. As the launch date approaches, Marilyn’s fears for her husband’s fourth space mission manifest in her unwillingness to go to the launch.

After witnessing the damage suffered by the scarred Service Module, the crew strap in for their descent into atmosphere. With one final goodbye to Aquarius, the lunar module that saved their lives is jettisoned. Then, Odyssey re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, and after over four minutes of radio ionization blackout – three minutes is normal for re-entry – the crew reports that they have made it alive and well. Celebration rushes through Mission Control and in the homes of the astronauts’ families. In an emotional scene, Kranz simply sits down as everyone applauds around him, looking overwhelmed and fighting back tears. After splashing down, the crew is plucked out of the water and taken to the USS Iwo Jima for a heroes welcome. The film then concludes with a slow-motion sequence with monologue by Hanks (as Lovell) about the events that would follow their return from space. Lovell shakes hands with the captain of Iwo Jima while narrating as the sequence ends with “I look up at the moon and wonder: ‘When will we be going back, and who will that be?'”

300

  • Directors: Zack Snyder
  • Producers: Frank Miller, Zack Snyder, Gianni Nunnari, Jeffrey Silver, Mark Canton
  • Writers: Screenplay, Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Michael Gordon, Comic Book, Frank Miller, Lynn Varley
  • Genres: Action, History, War
  • Actors: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Vincent Regan, Rodrigo Santoro

Through Dilios’ narration, the life of young Leonidas is depicted, chronicling his journey from a boy to a man per Spartan doctrine. Years later, after Leonidas is crowned King, Persian messengers arrive at the gates of Sparta demanding its submission to King Xerxes. Offended by their threats and behavior, King Leonidas and his guards kick the messengers into a well. Knowing that these actions will precipitate a Persian attack, Leonidas visits the Ephors — ancient priests whose blessing he needs to convince the Spartan council to authorize going to war. He proposes a strategy to repel the numerically superior Persians by using the terrain of Thermopylae (the Hot Gates)—his plan involves funneling the Persians into a narrow pass between the rocks and the sea. The Ephors consult the Oracle, who decrees that Sparta must not go to war. After Leonidas departs a messenger from Xerxes appears, rewarding the Ephors for their covert support and revealing that they have been corrupted by Xerxes.

Denied by the Ephors, Leonidas follows his plan anyway. While he does not require the council’s permission for this, taking such a small force, turns what had been a bold strategy into a certain suicide mission. Leonidas hopes that the sacrifice of himself and his men will spur the council to defy the Ephors and all of Greece to unite against the threat to freedom and democracy (represented by Greece) posed by slavery and tyranny (represented by Persia).

In Sparta, Queen Gorgo reluctantly submits sexually to the influential Theron in exchange for help in persuading the Spartan council to send reinforcements to Leonidas. Following her address to the Council, Theron publicly betrays the Queen, prompting the councilmen to cry out in outrage and Gorgo to kill him out of rage, which spills open a bag of Xerxes’ gold from his robe. The exposure of Theron’s treachery, along with their Queen’s plea, prompts the Council to unite against Persia. Meanwhile, at Thermopylae, the Persians use the goat path to surround the Spartans. Xerxes’ general demands their surrender, again offering Leonidas titles and prestige. Leonidas seemingly bows in submission, allowing one of his men to leap over him and kill the general. A furious Xerxes orders his troops to attack. As Persian archers shoot at the remaining Spartans, Leonidas rises and hurls his spear at Xerxes, cutting the King on the cheek, thus making good on his promise to make “the God-King bleed.” Visibly disturbed by this reminder of his own mortality, Xerxes watches as all of the Spartans are cut down by a massive barrage of arrows. Concluding his tale before an audience of attentive Spartans, Dilios declares that the Persian army, depleted by desertions out of fear the heavy casualties they suffered at the hands of a mere 300 Spartans, now faces 10,000 Spartans commanding 30,000 Greeks. Although still outnumbered, Dilios declares that the Greeks shall have victory. Praising Leonidas’ sacrifice, Dilios leads the assembled Greek army in a charge against the Persian army, the Battle of Plataea.

Changeling

  • Directors: Clint Eastwood
  • Producers: Clint Eastwood, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Robert Lorenz
  • Writers: J Michael Straczynski
  • Genres: Drama, History, Mystery
  • Actors: Angelina Jolie, Jeffrey Donovan, John Malkovich, Jason Butler Harner, Colm Feore, Michael Kelly, Amy Ryan

In 1928 Los Angeles, single mother Christine Collins (Jolie) returns home to discover her nine-year-old son, Walter (Griffith), is missing. Reverend Gustav Briegleb (Malkovich) publicizes Christine’s plight and rails against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for its incompetence, corruption and the extrajudicial punishment meted out by its “Gun Squad”, led by Chief James E. Davis (Feore). Several months after Walter’s disappearance, the LAPD tells Christine that he has been found alive. Believing the positive publicity will negate recent criticism of the department, the LAPD organizes a public reunion. Although “Walter” (Conti) claims he is Christine’s son, she says he is not. Captain J. J. Jones (Donovan), the head of the LAPD’s Juvenile Division, insists the boy is Walter and pressures Christine into taking him home “on a trial basis”.

After Christine confronts Jones with physical discrepancies between “Walter” and her son, Jones arranges for a medical doctor to visit her. He tells Christine that “Walter” is shorter than before his disappearance because trauma has shrunk his spine, and that the man who took Walter had him circumcised. A newspaper prints a story that implies Christine is an unfit mother; Briegleb tells Christine it was planted by police to discredit her. Walter’s teacher and dentist give Christine signed letters confirming “Walter” is an impostor. Christine tells her story to the press; as a result, Jones sends her to Los Angeles County Hospital’s “psychopathic ward”. She befriends inmate Carol Dexter (Ryan), who tells Christine she is one of several women who were sent there for challenging police authority. Dr. Steele (O’Hare) deems Christine delusional and forces her to take mood-regulating pills. Steele says he will release Christine if she admits she was mistaken about “Walter”; she refuses.

On the day of the city council’s hearing into the case, Christine and Briegleb arrive at Los Angeles City Hall, where they encounter thousands of protesters who are demanding answers from the city. The hearing is intercut with scenes from Northcott’s trial. The council concludes that Jones and Davis should be removed from duty, and that extrajudicial internments by police must be reviewed. Northcott’s jury finds him guilty of murder and the judge sentences him to death by hanging. Two years later, Christine has not given up her search for Walter. Northcott sends her a message saying he is willing to admit to killing Walter on condition that Christine meets him before his execution. She visits Northcott, but he refuses to tell her if he killed her son. Northcott is executed the next day. In 1935, David Clay—one of the boys assumed to have been killed—is found alive. He reveals that one of the boys with whom he was imprisoned was Walter. David, Walter and another boy escaped, but were separated. David does not know whether Walter was recaptured, giving Christine hope he is alive.

Letters from Iwo Jima

  • Directors: Clint Eastwood
  • Producers: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Steven Spielberg
  • Writers: Screenplay, Iris Yamashita, Story, Iris Yamashita, Paul Haggis, Book, Tadamichi Kuribayashi, Tsuyuko Yoshido
  • Genres: Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase

In the present day, Japanese archaeologists explore tunnels on Iwo Jima. They find something in the dirt and the scene changes to Iwo Jima in 1944. Private First Class Saigo, a baker conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army, and his platoon are grudgingly digging beach trenches on the island. Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi arrives to take command of the garrison and immediately begins an inspection of the island defenses. He saves Saigo and his friend Kashiwara from a beating for having uttered ‘unpatriotic speeches’ and orders the men to stop digging trenches on the beach and begin tunnelling defenses into Mount Suribachi.

Later, Lieutenant Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi, a famous Olympic gold medalist show jumper, joins Kuribayashi for dinner. They discuss the grim prospect of no naval support and the fanaticism their fellow officers would show. Kuribayashi evacuates the civilian population of Iwo Jima to mainland Japan. He clashes with some of his senior officers, who do not agree with his strategy of defending inland instead of the beaches; Kuribayashi believes the Americans will take the beaches quickly, and only the mountain defenses will have a better chance for holding out against the enemy.

Poor nutrition and unsanitary conditions take their toll on the garrison; many die of dysentery, including Kashiwara. The Japanese troops begin using the caves as barracks. Kashiwara’s replacement, a young soldier named Superior Private Shimizu, arrives for duty on the island. Saigo and his friends suspect that Shimizu is a spy sent from Kempeitai to report on disloyal soldiers. The first American aerial bombings occur shortly after, causing significant casualties. After the raid, Saigo is sickened when he sees the corpse of a friend, still sitting upright. Another casualty was Jupiter, Baron Nishi’s horse, which was also killed by a bomb. The raid forces the Japanese to dig deeper into the volcanic island. The battle for Iwo Jima begins.

The scene shifts back to the Japanese archaeologists who uncover the bag of letters written by Japanese soldiers on the island, never sent, that Saigo buried in 1945. As the letters fall from the bag, the voices of the fallen Japanese soldiers are heard reading from them.

Gladiator

  • Directors: Ridley Scott
  • Producers: Douglas Wick, David Franzoni, Branko Lustig
  • Writers: David Franzoni, John Logan, William Nicholson
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, History
  • Actors: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, Ralf Moeller

General Maximus Decimus Meridius leads the Roman Army to victory against Germanic barbarians in the year A.D. 180, ending a prolonged war and earning the esteem of elderly Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Although the dying Aurelius has a son, Commodus, he decides to appoint temporary leadership to the morally-upstanding Maximus, with a desire to eventually return power to the Roman Senate. Aurelius informs Maximus and offers him time to consider before informing Commodus, who, in a bout of jealousy, murders his father. Declaring himself the emperor, Commodus asks Maximus for his loyalty, which Maximus, realizing Commodus’ involvement in the Emperor’s death, refuses. Commodus orders Maximus’ execution and dispatches Praetorian Guards to murder his wife and son. Maximus narrowly escapes his execution, but is injured in the process. He races home only to discover his family’s charred and crucified bodies in the smoldering ruins of his villa. After burying his wife and son, a grieving Maximus succumbs to exhaustion and blood loss as a result of his injuries and collapses on their graves.

Slave traders find Maximus and take him to Zucchabar, a rugged province in North Africa, where he is purchased by Proximo, the head of a local gladiator school (and a freed gladiator himself). Distraught and nihilistic over the death of his family and betrayal by his empire, Maximus initially refuses to fight, but as he defends himself in the arena his formidable combat skills lead to a rise in popularity with the audience. As he trains and fights further, Maximus befriends Hagen, a Germanic barbarian, and Juba, a Numidian hunter, the latter becoming a close friend and confidant to the grieving Maximus, the two speaking frequently of the afterlife and Maximus’ eventual reunification with his family.

Concluding that legends born in the Colosseum must die there, Commodus challenges Maximus to a duel in front of a roaring audience. Acknowledging that Maximus’ skill exceeds his own, Commodus deliberately stabs Maximus with a stiletto, puncturing his lung, and has the wound concealed beneath the gladiator’s armor. In the arena, the two exchange blows before Maximus rips the sword from Commodus’s hands. Commodus requests a sword from his guards, but they betray him and refuse to lend him their weapons. Maximus drops his own sword, but Commodus pulls a hidden stiletto and renews his attack. Maximus then beats Commodus into submission and kills him with his own stilletto, plunging it into his neck. As Commodus collapses in the now-silent Colosseum, a dying Maximus begins seeing his wife and son in the afterlife. He reaches for them, but is pulled back to reality by the Praetorian prefect Quintus, who asks for instructions. Maximus orders the release of Proximo’s gladiators and Senator Gracchus, whom he reinstates and instructs to return Rome to a Senate-based government. Maximus collapses, and Lucilla rushes to his aid. After being reassured that her son is safe and Commodus is dead, Maximus dies and wanders into the afterlife to his family in the distance. Senator Gracchus, Quintus, and Proximo’s gladiators carry his body out of the Colosseum. That night, a newly freed Juba buries Maximus’ two small statues of his wife and son in the Colosseum, and says that he too will eventually join them, but not yet.

The Great Escape

  • Directors: John Sturges
  • Producers: John Sturges
  • Writers: Book, Paul Brickhill, Screenplay, James Clavell, W R Burnett, Walter Newman
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, History, Thriller, War
  • Actors: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn

Upset by the soldiers and resources wasted in recapturing escaped Allied prisoners of war (POWs), the German High Command concentrates the most-determined and successful of these prisoners to a new, high-security prisoner of war camp that the commandant, Luftwaffe Colonel von Luger (Hannes Messemer), proclaims escape-proof.

On the day of arrival, some of the prisoners make on-the-spur escape attempts which are all foiled by the sharp-eyed German “ferrets” or guards. As the POWs settle into their new camp, the Gestapo and the SS deliver the one they consider to be the most dangerous POW of all: “Big X”, Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough), who is the prime organizer of most of the escape attempts made by Allied prisoners in Germany. Gestapo agent Kuhn (Hans Reiser) warns the Briton that he will be shot should he ever escape again. Locked up with “every escape artist in Germany”, Bartlett immediately plans the greatest escape attempted — a tunnel system for exfiltrating 250 prisoners of war, the idea being to “confuse and harass the enemy” to the point that more troops and resources will be wasted on finding and detaining POWs rather than being used on the front line.

Hilts is brought back alone to the camp, and subsequently to the cooler. His fellow American officer, USAAF 1st Lt Goff, throws him his baseball and glove as he walks into solitary confinement. As the Luftwaffe guard locks him in his cell and walks away, he hears the familiar sound of Hilts bouncing his baseball against the cell walls. The film ends with this scene under the caption “This picture is dedicated to the 50.”

Der Untergang

  • Directors: Oliver Hirschbiegel
  • Producers: Bernd Eichinger
  • Writers: Joachim Fest, Bernd Eichinger, Traudl Junge
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara

The film begins with a clip from the documentary Im toten Winkel, where the real-life Traudl Junge wonders why she decided to work for Hitler. The narrative then starts in 1942, in Rastenburg, East Prussia, where Traudl Humps and four other applicants vie for the position of secretary to Hitler. Upon hearing Traudl comes from Munich, Hitler takes an immediate liking to her and tests her dictation skills. Portrayed as a kindly employer who loves his dog, he overlooks Junge’s nervous errors and hires her.

The narrative moves to Hitler’s 56th birthday on April 20, 1945. Traudl, now Traudl Junge, resides in the FГјhrerbunker with Gerda Christian and Constanze Manziarly, another secretary and private cook, respectively. Generals Wilhelm Burgdorf and Karl Koller indicate the Soviets are only 12 kilometres from the city center. Hitler is now visibly aged, shaking, and in poor humor. At his birthday reception, Heinrich Himmler, his adjutant Hermann Fegelein, party leader Martin Bormann and Walther Hewel of the foreign ministry are present. Hitler resolves to stay in Berlin. By contrast, Fegelein wishes to leave. Hewel and Himmler urge Hitler to try a diplomatic solution, which Hitler rejects. Albert Speer and Eva Braun later arrive, and reject Fegelein’s advice to leave for Bavaria.

The film ends with Traudl and Peter escaping Berlin by bicycle. An epilogue details the final fates of many of the film’s historical characters. Another interview excerpt with the elderly Traudl Junge is shown. While the Nuremberg Trials made her aware of the horrors of the Holocaust, she had excused herself because of her youth, ignorance, and lack of personal guilty acts. After seeing the memorial to Sophie Scholl, who was of her own age and executed for resisting the Nazis, Junge realized that she could have acted differently.

Das Boot

  • Directors: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Producers:
  • Writers: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Genres: Action, Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Klaus Wennemann

The film is the story of a single mission of one World War II U-boat, U-96, and its crew. It depicts both the excitement of battle and the tedium of the fruitless hunt, and shows the men serving aboard U-boats as ordinary individuals with a desire to do their best for their comrades and their country. The story is based on an amalgamation of the exploits of the real U-96, a Type VIIC-class U-boat commanded by Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, one of Germany’s top U-boat “tonnage aces” during the war.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Lt. Werner (Herbert GrГ¶nemeyer), who has been assigned as a war correspondent on the German Submarine U-96 in October 1941. He joins its Captain (JГјrgen Prochnow), who is only named as der Alte (“the Old Man”) or Kaleu (short for his rank of KapitГ¤nleutnant) and Chief Engineer (Leitender Ingenieur or LI, played by Klaus Wennemann). As the U-96 officers, including the “1WO” (the First [watch] Officer, played by Hubertus Bengsch) and “2WO” (the Second [watch] Officer, played by Martin Semmelrogge) drink in a cabaret, KapitГ¤nleutnant Phillip Thomsen (played by Otto Sander), celebrating his Ritterkreuz award, gives a crude drunken speech in which he mocks Adolf Hitler.

Their return to La Rochelle on Christmas Eve is a little less triumphant than their departure; the boat is battered, the crew is pale and weary after their long tour. The wounded navigator is taken ashore to a waiting ambulance, but as soon as Admiral Dönitz comes aboard for an inspection, Allied planes strafe the facilities. Werner, the LI, the 1WO, Pilgrim, Frenssen, the Chief Bosun, Schwalle, and Dufte take refuge in the secure U-boat bunker, though most of the men are wounded. After the raid, Werner leaves the bunker and is horrified when he sees the lifeless bodies of Johann, Ullmann, and the 2WO, their bodies riddled with bullets and crushed by concrete. Looking towards the entry passage he finds the Captain, with multiple bullet wounds and bleeding from the mouth, watching the U-96 sink at the dock. When the Captain collapses after the conning tower disappears, Werner rushes to his side, then backs away in horror.