Films for a course on nonviolence

I love hunting for unusual ways to enrich courses through media.  An instructor came into the library looking for films that could be added to his upcoming course on Nonviolence.  I first assumed that someone on the internet had already created such a list, so I went hunting for some giant’s shoulders to stand upon.  I found one here (, but was largely frustrated with my results.  Instead of the concept of peaceful resistance, I kept finding lists of videos with “no violence.” For children, one could assume.  (What passed for a non-violent film in some of the lists did make me wonder sometimes.)

Therefore, internet, I give to you my results.  The summaries are from Amazon,, and

All Quiet on the Western Front A group of young World War I German recruits pass from idealism to disillusionment with war.
Apocalypse Now A United States Army officer/trained assassin is sent into the depths of a southeast Asian jungle to seek out a renegade colonel and terminate his command during the Vietnam War.
Bloody Sunday Recreation of the events of “Bloody Sunday”, Jan. 30, 1972, when British troops fired on unarmed protesters in Derry, Northern Ireland. By the end of the day, 13 civilians were dead and 14 more wounded in the tumult and tragedy of Northern Ireland’s darkest day.
Born on the Fourth of July Follows the young Ron Kovic from his days as a zealous teen who eagerly joins up for the Vietnam War, to his return from the war as an embittered veteran, paralyzed from mid-chest down. Chronicles his disillusionment with the country’s continued involvement in Vietnam, his physical struggle and his emergence as a brave new voice for thousands of disenchanted vets.
Diary of Anne Frank Dramatization of a young girl’s diary describing the lives of eight people who hide in an attic for two years to avoid arrest by the Nazis.
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb A satire in which the President and his military advisers struggle ineptly to avert a holocaust after a psychotic Air Force general launches a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union because he fears the Russians are poisoning the water supply in the United States.
Europa! Europa! The true story of a Jewish teenager who survived World War II by living as a Nazi for 7 years.
Freedom Song Freedom Song is a compelling microcosm of the Civil Rights Movement, a stirring chronicle of unsung small-town citizens who risked their lives to bring change at the grassroots level.
Friendly Persuasion The story of a family of Quakers in Indiana in 1862. Their religious sect is strongly opposed to violence and war. It’s not easy for them to meet the rules of their religion when Southern troops pass through the area. Should they join the fight?
Gallipoli Two friends are involved with the battle between Australia and the German-occupied Turks in this commentary on the wastes of war.
Gandhi Chronicles the life of Gandhi beginning with his political activities in South Africa during the late 1890’s and ending with his assassination at the hands of a Hindu extremist in 1948. Shows the development of his philosophy of non-violence as he leads the people of India to independence from the British.
Grand Illusion Tells of two French officers captured by German forces in 1916. While prisoners the two officers encounter an aristocratic German officer. The conflicts between enemies and between the classes emphasize their awareness that certain ways of life are gone forever. The message of the movie is the tragic observation that war itself is the grand illusion.
Invictus After Nelson Mandela becomes president of South Africa he rejects revenge, forgives oppressors who jailed him 27 years for his fight against apartheid, and finds hope of national unity in an unlikely place: the rugby field. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.
Iron Jawed Angels Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were two defiant suffragist women who fought for the passage of the 19th Amendment. The two activists broke from the mainstream women’s rights movement and created a more radical wing, daring to push the boundaries to secure women’s voting rights in 1920. In a country dominated by chauvinism, this is no easy fight. Along the way, sacrifices are made: Alice gives up a chance for love, and colleague Inez Mulholland gives up her life.
Munich The movie starts with a rush, but director Steven Spielberg then delves into complex ethical questions about the cyclic nature of revenge and the moral price of violence.
Paths of Glory During World War I on the French front, a regiment of soldiers are set up for suicide missions and are generally manipulated in ways that show no regard for their lives.
Schindler’s List The story of a Catholic war profiteer, Oskar Schindler, who risked his life and went bankrupt in order to save more than 1,000 Jews from certain death in concentration camps.
Sergeant York The story of a hillbilly sharpshooter drafted in WW1 despite his claim to be a pacifist, who ends up becoming a war hero.
Shenandoah Charlie Anderson is a farmer in Shenandoah, Virginia and finds himself (and his family) in the middle of the Civil War. He decides not to get involved in the war because he believes that this is not “his” war. But he eventually has to get involved when his youngest boy is taken prisoner by the North.
The Day the Earth Stood Still A spaceship lands in Washington, D.C., capturing the attention of the world. But the alien emissary it brings refuses to reveal his mission to any single government, leaving the military, the politicians, and millions of ordinary people to wait in fear. Soon their distrust turns to calls for violence.
The Hiding Place Traces the life of Corrie Ten Boom, from the quiet years before World War II, to her work with the “underground” in helping to save the lives of countless Jewish families.
The War Ken Burns (840 min) tells the story of ordinary people in four quintessentially American towns – Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and Luverne, Minnesota – and examines the ways in which the Second World War touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America.
The Weather Underground For the youth political movement, seemingly ineffectual methods of peaceful protest and resistance led to the rise of a faction that wanted a more extreme approach that the government could not ignore.
Three Kings Absurdly comic tale set after the end of the Gulf War, when three American soldiers looking to plunder stolen gold become involved in an uprising.

What didn’t make the list?  Quite a number of films, actually.  Some were films I didn’t think we would buy (Summer of My German Soldier, The Chocolate War).  Some were films that didn’t quite have the focus requested (Eyes on the Prize).  Many war films were listed, so I only added a few to my list.  I wanted to add a superhero movie to the list, but couldn’t find one that had the right fit.

Dear reader, if you have a title to add to my list, please leave a comment.


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