Historical movies for older children are pretty easy to find, but more often than not they contain things that are not appropriate for young children. (I was recently reading comments recommending Schindler’s List, one of the most brutal Holocaust movies ever made, to a fourth grader.) Here is a list of historical movies for kids, ages 6-12. All films are rated G unless otherwise noted. The films are somewhat listed by age range, the first films being for younger kids and the latter films for older ones (age 10-12). Additionally, these films include positive themes such as hope, friendship, courage, faith, and doing the right thing.
DISCLAIMER: Not all of these historical movies for kids are “historically accurate,” as the majority are designed for children. If these movies were to be historically accurate, most would be very violent. My family watches a lot of historical movies (both true and fiction) and then we look up what really happened; what was true and what was added. If a fictional event in a historical movie encourages a child to look into what “really” happened and sparks an interest in a time period, then I would say it is a worthwhile movie. After all, a fictional book I read five years ago sparked a lifelong love for history in me. I hope this list encourages you to dig deeper into history!
Historical Movies for Kids
Liberty’s Kids is an animated series designed for teaching young children early American history, mostly the American Revolutionary War. After much hype, I finally bought it and we love it! The whole series (40 episodes) is on Amazon for only $5. The series has been completely worth it!
Inspiring Animated Heroes (Nest)
Explore great historical figures with this animated Christian biographical series. Episodes profile famous people like Harriet Tubman, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and William Bradford.
Valiant is the first animated film I have seen with facts at the end. Set in 1944 before D-Day, this British Disney film is about Britain’s messenger pigeons during World War II. In the end, we learn pigeons played a bigger role in the war than horses, dogs, or cats. Filled with adventure and some humor, it is a bit violent for a G-rated film (I think it deserved a PG rating), but it is definitely a great movie. There are a lot of WWII references that are used appropriately, but younger kids will not understand it.
Six year-old Ruby Bridges was the first black girl to attend a public school during the 1960s. Despite facing racism and challenges, Ruby persevered and is an excellent role model for youth today. I haven’t seen this Disney movie yet, but it has a 5/5 star rating on Amazon.
Torchlighters: Heroes of the Faith
The Torchlighters is an animated series featuring missionaries such as Jim Elliot, Corrie ten Boom and Amy Carmichael. We have the Corrie ten Boom one and although I would exercise some caution for little ones, they really are great lessons!
The Prince of Egypt (PG)
The Prince of Egypt is the classical biblical story of Moses in a stunning animated picture! I never fully appreciated this film until watching “The Making of the Prince of Egypt” (on YouTube) and saw how much heart was put into it. From the beautiful artwork, incredible vocal actors, and stunning soundtrack – this film is incredible and a must-see. Although it is not entirely biblically-accurate, I cannot help but include it in this list.
Joseph: King of Dreams (PG)
This is The Prince of Egypt‘s sister movie, based on the biblical story of Joseph. Although not as good as The Prince of Egypt, it still is a great, quality movie. It is also slightly more biblically accurate.
Adventures in Odyssey
Adventures in Odyssey is best known for its radio broadcasts for children. They also have an incredible historical book series, plus movies. While their movies emphasize on doing the right thing and other virtues, many are set during historical times – a double plus! You can find a lot of these on Amazon Prime.
American Girl Movies
So far, the only American Girl historical movies are; Samantha, Kit, Molly, and Felicity. All are about courageous, noble girls growing up in different time periods. They are packed filled with great lessons; both life and historical. These make great movie nights, with plots and characters both children and adults will love! Amazon currently has all 4 movies in a pack for $10.
Young Felicity is growing up in 1774 during the Revolutionary War, and is learning the difference between the Loyalists and the Patriots. Set in 1904, Samantha lives in New York during the Victorian Era, as she learns about the world around her, and what being a good friend is truly about. Kit is set during the Great Depression, 1934, in Ohio, as she realizes the importance of self-sacrifice, doing the right thing, and helping a friend. Molly is growing up in 1944 during WWII, as she and her family take in Emily, a young refugee from England!
Various Biographies for Kids
Look at your local library in the kids DVD nonfiction section, and try to find historical biographies (George Washington, Harriet Tubman, etc.) for kids!
This is America Charlie Brown
One of my readers brought this up. I am sure I watched this movie when I was younger. Anyway, this is American history – from the point of view of Charlie Brown.
How could I not include this classic film? It is a wonderful true story, musical, and family movie. Maria is a free-spirited nun in pre-WWII Austria who becomes the governess of seven children. If you don’t own it, you really need to.
American Legends (Disney)
This animated Disney film features 4 American legends: John Henry, Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and Casey Jones. With catchy tunes and fun animations, this is a great film for the little ones and older ones alike!
Miracle of the White Stallions
Made in 1963, this movie can be slow at times. But, it is a true story and completely clean, best used for 8+. This Disney film is about the evacuation of Lippizaner horses from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during WWII.
Walt Before Mickey (PG)
Walt Disney wasn’t always the big name in the entertainment industry. Walt Before Mickey is an inspiring film about Walt Disney’s life before his big hit – Mickey Mouse. It was also an interesting look into the history of movies, and how old movies were made.
In 18th century England, illegitimate and mixed-race Belle overcomes racial barriers to help end slavery. It has a couple sensual scenes and many women wear low-cut blouses, but otherwise it’s a really great movie!
It’s a Wonderful Life
This classic Christmas movie seems slow at times, but it is 100% clean and has very great lessons about contentment, family, and selflessness. George Bailey wants to know what life would be like if he had never existed – and an angel makes it happen. This film was originally in black and white, however there is also a colorized version available.
I Love Lucy
Although not quite “historical,” this old, clean series is fantastic entertainment for “the newer generation!” Lucy and her best friend Ethel, find themselves wrapped in mischievous adventures!
I haven’t seen this movie yet, but many readers have mentioned it, so I thought it was worth sharing. Inspired by the Newbery award winner written by Esther Forbes, Johnny Tremain covers the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride, and the battles at Lexington and Concord.
The Whipping Boy
This is an old, old Disney Channel film based on the Newbery winning children’s book. Despite the title, the film has little violence, and is a fantastic historical film. If you’re lucky enough to find this film, it is about a young orphaned whipping boy’s journey’s with a spoiled prince, known as Prince Brat.
This Disney musical is a fictional version of the Newsie Strike in 1899. Although the actual strike really happened, a lot of events and main characters are fictionalized; although certain characters and events were real. (The main characters are fictionalized and the minor characters were real…weird) Themes include friendship, teamwork, never giving up, courage, and speaking up. Featuring an amazing cast and great musical numbers, Newsies is a great movie for the whole family. (PS Although the film portrays the strike a success, in real life, it was only a partial success. Sorry to ruin the whole movie for you.) (PPS this film has some violence and can be a tad slow at times, but it will be OK for most!)
Fiddler on the Roof
Traditions!! I love Fiddler on the Roof! Tevye is a poor Jewish milkman with five daughters (and no sons). In a time of strict tradition, Tevye’s three oldest daughters are free-spirited and break-away from “tradition” by refusing a matchmaker. Through classic songs and Tevye’s humor, this film contains great lessons on traditions and is a great film for introductory to the Orthodox Jewish culture. What I liked most about this film was the fact Tevye has five daughters, with an age gap between the first three and the last two; which is exactly like my family!
Dolphin Tale (PG)
Dolphin Tale is the true story of how a dolphin gets a prosthetic tail! It’s not the most “historical” film, but it’s a true story, and have no doubt it will be seen as “historical” within the next few decades!
In this American underdog story, Madison follows the small town of Madison, Indiana and their journey to the hydroplane 1971 Gold Cup, against all odds. With a string of luck, the town is chosen to host the Gold Cup, much to the dismay of the “big shots.” However to host the race, the town must raise $50,000, plus get the Miss Madison, the town’s boat, in shape. It’s also based on a true story, and is packed with great lessons on determination, perseverance, and teamwork.
Mr. Peabody and Sherman (PG)
Don’t laugh – I found this animated, time-travelling movie a great intro to historical characters for younger kids! It prompts discussions on Marie Antoinette, the Trojan War, and Leonardo Da Vinci!
Remember the Titans (PG)
This classic, starring Denzel Washington, is the true story of how a black football coach broke racial barriers. You may want to preview this movie first due to some profanity, but it is an incredible movie with great themes!
One Night With The King (PG)
This movie is best for ages 9+. The story of Esther, told in this wonderful movie. Esther, a young Jewish orphan, was chosen to become the king’s bride. Haman, the king’s right-hand man and the second in command, wants to kill the Jewish race. Esther bravely stands up to the king, and saves her people.The first few minutes of the movie are somewhat violent, but violence is mostly off-screen.
I Am David (PG)
This movie is best for ages 9+. David is a 12 year-old boy growing up in a concentration camp. He knows nothing of the outside world. When he gets the chance to escape with nothing but some bread, a letter, and mysterious directions to get to Denmark, he seizes his chance. The story could get brutal. But it doesn’t, instead making this a great family movie. The ending is a bit odd compared to the incredible book (my favorite novel of all-time!) but the film feels like a Hallmark film, and includes great messages about self-sacrifice, faith and courage.
Below are some of my favorite historical movies that have great values and lessons and minimal violence, making them more appropriate for more mature children. I would recommend the below films for ages 12+.
Miracle at Midnight
This is a made for TV Disney movie, and it is rumored to have been loosely based on the excellent children’s Holocaust novel Number the Stars. It is a simple but good film showing the heart of Denmark during WWII, and how the nation pulled together to save 99% of their 7,000+ Jews. There’s an off-screen mention of suicide (by hanging), but other than that it’s pretty good for ages 9+.
Sergeant York (NR)
Set during WWI, Sergeant York is a classic black and white biopic made during WWII. Alvin York struggled with alcoholism for quite some time, before accepting Christ into his heart. Despite becoming a pacifist, he became a famous WWI hero, known for capturing a German position single-handedly. It can seem slow at time for younger children, but overall is a pretty clean movie.
Island on Bird Street (PG-13)
Inspired by Uri Orlev’s semi-autographical novel, Island on Bird Street follows an 11 year-old Jewish boy and his survival in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust as he awaits the return of his father. It’s a great film for tweens and teens, and it is Dove-family approved for ages 12+.
Run, Boy, Run (PG-13)
Run, Boy, Run is the incredibly true story of a 9 year old Jewish boy, forced to survive the Holocaust on his own, by living both in the woods and with Polish families. During this time, he also loses his arm. This is definitely one of the most incredible survival stories I have ever heard.
Return to the Hiding Place (PG-13)
Most Christians are familiar with the classic story of Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.” Few know of her secret group of teen resistance fighters. This is their story, and contains strong messages of sticking up for righteousness. Also, being a Christian film, the violence is toned down but not downplayed. Here’s my full review on the film.
Diary of Anne Frank (NR)
Based on Anne Frank’s diary she wrote while in hiding from the Nazis. I haven’t seen this version, but I would preview it for showing it to children.
The Drop Box
Pastor Lee Jong-Rak and his wife have taken in and care for hundreds of orphaned and/or special needs children throughout South Korea. Here is their insightful story of life, faith, and God’s love.
The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (PG)
This Hallmark Hall of Fame film is one of my favorite films ever. Irena Sendler was a Polish Catholic social worker who rescued 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. Incredibly, she and all of the children she saved survived the war. I would preview this before giving it to kids. (Near the end, there is a very heartbreaking scene where guards torture Irena, however she refuses to talk.)
Hidden in Silence (PG/PG-13)
I actually picked this movie up at a garage sale for $1. It is the true story of a courageous Polish teenager and her 8 year old sister who hid 13 Jews in their attic for 2.5 years. Same warning as above, but I saw this in the “related” section of Amazon and just wanted to let you know that I’ve seen it and I love it.
A few more of my favorite true story biopics worth mentioning: (G/PG)
If you’re interested in history alternatives to boring textbooks, check out 30+ Ways To Teach History Without a Textbook.
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100 Historical Books for Kids (With Reviews!)
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