• PA History Film List

    While not every film listed here will be used throughout the course of the semester, parents and families are welcome to contact Mr Huesken will any questions or concerns about a particular film being looked at in class as part of our course film study. Films are selected based on their relevence to the course content and curriculum and are usually incorperated into a larger class discussion, debate, project, or unit assessment at their conclusion.

  • History’s Mysteries: The True Story of the Philadelphia Experiment

    by Craig Constantine (Director) Year Published: 2002

    In October, 1943, with the World War II at its highest point, U.S. Navy approved a series of experiments with the idea to make invisible a ship to the enemy radar, using Albert Einstein's theories about electromagnetism and physics. Testing with a boat escort called U.S.S. Eldridge, all crew and the own ship disappeared not only radar, but human eye. Sold little time later to the Greek Marine forces and renamed as "Leone", rumors and weird phenomenons about strange lights from the ship and sailors that appear and disappear from a moment to another grew up the legend of a ship that was supposed and mysteriously teleported from Philadelphia Bay to Norfolk, Virginia, in a 200 miles (320 Km) instant leap and back, with the sailor horribly fused with the metal of the ship. Considered hoax by somebody and believed as real for others, this documentary analyzes a controversial that still alive in the collective memory of the people around the world, subject of movies and journalist investigations, trying to discover the truth

    Comments (-1)
  • America’s Hidden Stories

    by Lone Wolf Media / Smithsonian Channel Year Published: 2019

    America's Hidden Stories" delves into the secrets of America and the stories the viewers need to know. Discover if Revolutionary War hero Gen. Pulaski was actually a woman and was the heartland of the America's the birthplace of the Spanish flu? Modern historians use state-of-the-art equipment and technology along with newly discovered evidence to rewrite the narrative of some of the United States' most iconic stories. Sift beneath the surface as teams dig deep into America's past to uncover truths about the Salem witches and the trials, an alleged spy network behind Pearl Harbor and many other hidden gems.

    Comments (-1)
  • The Lost Gold of Dent’s Run

    by Ryan Cavalline (Director) Year Published: 2019

    In 1863 a wagon load of gold bars, along with it's Army escort vanished somewhere in the foothills of Pennsylvania. The gold has never been found. Aspiring treasure hunters, hobbyists and professionals alike wonder if the gold can still be hiding. Now, the F.B.I. think they know the answers.

    Comments (-1)
  • Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II

    by LeAnn Erickson (Director) Year Published: 2010

    Top Secret Rosies: The Female "Computers" of WWII is a 2010 documentary film directed by LeAnn Erickson. The film is focused on recognizing the contributions of women during WWII, serving as human computers and six of whom went on to program one of the earliest computers, the ENIAC.

    Comments (-1)
  • The Men Who Built America

    by Patrick Reams & Ruán Magan (Directors) Year Published: 2012

    Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford are names synonymous with innovation and big business in America. They all built empires and created advances in technology. They helped shape the country in its early days by doing things such as developing the models for modern railroads, creating the modern financial system and making cars accessible to the masses. The men came from meager beginnings to build their respective empires, which helped formulate the concept of the American Dream. This series profiles the lives of these early visionaries and includes perspectives from such modern business icons as Mark Cuban, Alan Greenspan, T. Boone Pickens and Jack Welch.

    Comments (-1)
  • 1971

    by Johanna Hamilton (Director) Year Published: 2014

    On March 8th, 1971, eight ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office in Media, PA. Calling themselves the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, they removed every file in the office. Mailed anonymously, the stolen documents started to show up in newsrooms. The heist yielded a trove of damning evidence. The most significant revelation was COINTELPRO, a controversial, secret, illegal surveillance program overseen by lifelong Bureau director J. Edgar Hoover. Despite one of the largest investigations ever conducted, the FBI was unable to catch the burglars. Those responsible have never revealed their identities. Until now. For the first time the burglars have decided to speak about their actions. 1971 is their story, examining the consequences and implications of their actions - then and now.

    Comments (-1)
  • American Experience: The Battle of Chosin

    by Randall MacLowry (Director) Year Published: 2016

    Revisiting this pivotal 1950 Korean war battle through the eyewitness accounts of Participants / Veterans who were present for this first major military clash of the Cold War. An amazingly harrowing story of the 17 day engagement of bloody combat and heroic survival in subartic temperatures. UN forces largely outnumbered and surrounded, due to a surprise attack led by 120,000 Chinese troops. Also featured; insights from historians, and archival footage.

    Comments (-1)
  • American Experience: The Johnstown Flood

    by Mark Bussler (Director) Year Published: 1992

    Exploding dam kills thousands in massive flood catastrophe in Pennsylvania in 1889.

    Comments (-1)
  • American Experience: The Richest Man in the World - Andrew Carnegie

    by Austin Hoyt (Director) Year Published: 1997

    A historical look at the life and times of one of America's richest titans of industry and the maker of Steeltown, USA - Pittsburgh, Andrew Carnegie

    Comments (-1)
  • Braddock America

    by Gabriella Kessler & Jean-Loïc Portron (Directors) Year Published: 2013

    An enormously powerful portrait of a once-mighty steel town eviscerated by the closure of its factories, Gabriella Kessler and Jean-Loïc Portron's BRADDOCK AMERICA is both a finely detailed investigation into a specific community and a reflection on the fate of so many similar towns throughout the United States. Part of a recent wave of documentaries about disaster-stricken, post-industrial American cities, BRADDOCK AMERICA distinguishes itself by the degree of its commitment and its refusal to fetishize urban ruin. It features archival footage of Braddock in its heyday, fly-on-the-wall observation of city council meetings, protest gatherings, police patrols, and other aspects of the town's daily life, and most importantly, expansive interviews with Braddock's residents. Their unapologetically emotional, remarkably candid testimony makes BRADDOCK AMERICA an unforgettable document of post-industrial America.

    Comments (-1)
  • Brother Outsider: The Life of Baynard Rustin

    by Nancy Kates & Bennett Singer (Directors) Year Published: 2003

    During his 60-year career as an activist, organizer and "troublemaker," Bayard Rustin formulated many of the strategies that propelled the American civil rights movement. His passionate belief in Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence drew Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders to him in the 1940's and 50's; his practice of those beliefs drew the attention of the FBI and police. In 1963, Rustin brought his unique skills to the crowning glory of his civil rights career: his work organizing the March on Washington, the biggest protest America had ever seen. But his open homosexuality forced him to remain in the background, marking him again and again as a "brother outsider." Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin combines rare archival footage — some of it never before broadcast in the U.S. — with provocative interviews to illuminate the life and work of a forgotten prophet of social change. Update: On August 8, 2013, President Barack Obama named Bayard Rustin a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Comments (-1)
  • Father's Kingdom

    by Lenny Fineberg (Director) Year Published: 2007

    Father Divine was called an ingenious entrepreneur, a civil rights leader, a charlatan, a con man, and a fraud. His followers called him God. His religious movement once claimed to have millions of followers. Today, only a few remain, living as an interracial family on an exclusive estate outside of Philadelphia, struggling to keep Father's legacy alive.

    Comments (-1)
  • Gettysburg

    by Ron Maxwell (Director) Year Published: 1993

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara becomes this sprawling historical epic. As in Shaara's novel, director Ronald Maxwell focuses on a handful of major players to dramatize the events of July 1863, when the armies of the Union and Confederacy clash at the small Pennsylvania town of the title. Among them are Martin Sheen as General Robert E. Lee, who disagrees with his top advisor, General James Longstreet (Tom Berenger) over battle strategy, and Jeff Daniels as Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a college professor whose unorthodox techniques save the day (and possibly the war) for his beleaguered army. Other cast standouts include Richard Jordan in his final film appearance as the ill-fated General Lewis Armistead, and cameo roles for Civil War buff Ken Burns and media mogul producer Ted Turner. Filmed on-location at Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg was shot as a television miniseries for Turner's TNT cable channel, but earned a limited theatrical release.

    Comments (-1)
  • History Channel's UFO Files: Kecksburg

    by The History Channel Year Published: 2005
    Many people believe the government is not telling the truth about it's involvement in the retrieval of a crashed UFO in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania in 1965. If a UFO did crash from the sky, was it man-made, an alien spacecraft from another world, or was the story only a hoax? Follow the events of December 9th, 1965, with UFO Investigators as witnesses describe what they saw. Complete with alternative theories to explain what really happened in Kecksburg.
    Comments (-1)
  • Invincible

    by Ericson Core (Director) Year Published: 2006

    This is the true story of Vince Papale, who became a member of the Philadelphia Eagles football team as a 30-year-old in an open tryout. He is the oldest rookie to make an NFL team (excluding kickers) who never played college ball.

    Comments (-1)
  • Iron Jawed Angels

    by Katja von Garnier (Director) Year Published: 2004

    German filmmaker Katja von Garnier directs the HBO original movie Iron Jawed Angels, inspired by a pivotal chapter in American history. Hilary Swank plays Alice Paul, an American feminist who risked her life to fight for women's citizenship and the right to vote. She founded the separatist National Woman's Party and wrote the first equal rights amendment to be presented before Congress. Together with social reformer Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor), Paul struggled against conservative forces in order to pass the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States. One of their first actions was a parade on President Woodrow Wilson's (Bob Gunton) inauguration day. The suffragettes also encountered opposition from the old guard of the National American Women's Suffrage Association, Carrie Chapman Catt (Anjelica Huston). The activists get arrested and go on a well-publicized hunger strike, where their refusal to eat earns them the title of "the iron-jawed angels." Iron Jawed Angels was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 before its television premiere on HBO

    Comments (-1)
  • Let the Fire Burn

    by Jason Osder (Director) Year Published: 2015

    In the astonishingly gripping Let the Fire Burn, director Jason Osder has crafted that rarest of cinematic objects: a found-footage film that unfurls with the tension of a great thriller. On May 13, 1985, a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and controversial radical urban group MOVE came to a deadly climax. By order of local authorities, police dropped military-grade explosives onto a MOVE-occupied rowhouse. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated-and resulted in the tragic deaths of eleven people (including five children) and the destruction of 61 homes. It was only later discovered that authorities decided to "...let the fire burn." Using only archival news coverage and interviews, first-time filmmaker Osder has brought to life one of the most tumultuous and largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern American history.

    Comments (-1)
  • Lincoln

    by Steven Spielberg (Director) Year Published: 2012

    In 1865, as the American Civil War winds inexorably toward conclusion, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln endeavors to achieve passage of the landmark constitutional amendment which will forever ban slavery from the United States. However, his task is a race against time, for peace may come at any time, and if it comes before the amendment is passed, the returning southern states will stop it before it can become law. Lincoln must, by almost any means possible, obtain enough votes from a recalcitrant Congress before peace arrives and it is too late. Yet the president is torn, as an early peace would save thousands of lives. As the nation confronts its conscience over the freedom of its entire population, Lincoln faces his own crisis of conscience -- end slavery or end the war.

    Comments (-1)
  • Mumia Abu-Jamal: A Case for Reasonable Doubt?

    by John Edginton (Director) Year Published: 1998

    African-American journalist and political activist Mumia Abu-Jamal has become one of the leading "cause celebres" of the political left since his conviction for the murder of a white police officer in a 1981 shooting in Philadelphia. Abu-Jamal has stubbornly proclaimed his innocence ever since his arrest, but has never provided an explanation for what occurred when he was found shot only a few feet from the fallen officer. While Abu-Jamal waits on death row, activists have called for a new trial, pointing out major inconsistencies and irregularities in the conduct of his trial and the evidence which was presented. This documentary, produced for HBO and presented her in expanded form, examines the case and asks: is this man a murderer, or a political prisoner?

    Comments (-1)
  • My Tale of Two Cities

    by Carl Kurlander (Director) Year Published: 2008

    Screenwriter (St. Elmo's Fire) and TV writer/producer (Saved By The Bell) Carl Kurlander was living in Hollywood when he received an offer to go back to his hometown and teach at the University of Pittsburgh. In search for a more meaningful and balanced life for himself and his family, Carl decided to move back to Pittsburgh, the real life "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Shortly after, Fred Rogers died, and the city of Pittsburgh declared itself "financially distressed." With both himself and his hometown in a mid-life crisis, Kurlander set out on a Don Quixote quest to make a film to help the place where he grew up. Armed with a cranky cameraman, funded by his dermatologist, and often battling his wife, who longs to return to the sunny West Coast, Carl asks his neighbors from the famous (Franco Harris, Teresa Heinz Kerry) to the not-so-famous (his old gym teacher, the girl who inspired St. Elmo's Fire) how this once great industrial giant, which built America with its steel, conquered...

    Comments (-1)
  • Secrets of the Dead: Ben Franklin's Bones

    by Kate Thomas-Couth (Director) Year Published: 2015

    Why were skeletons found in the basement of Ben Franklin's home in England? Scientists investigate the people who lived at the house at the time, including a professor of medicine.

    Comments (-1)
  • Secrets of the Dead: Death on the Railroad

    by Keith Farrell (Director) Year Published: 2013

    Has the 150-year-old mystery behind the deaths of 57 Irish immigrants who came to Pennsylvania to work on the railroad finally been resolved?

    Comments (-1)
  • The Molly Maguires

    by Martin Ritt Year Published: 1970

    Irish immigrant coal workers rebel against the harsh company policies in a Pennsylvania coal town. The company hires Pinkerton detective James McParlan (Richard Harris) to infiltrate the rank and file workers and report back on any union activity. Their leader is Jack Kehoe (Sean Connery), the tough Irish organizer who stands up to the company when he asks for a decent suit of clothes for the funeral of a co-worker. The Molly Maguires is the secret society of miners that seeks to right the wrongs of the unjust and callous owners of the company. McParlan tries to join the gang, but Jack is suspicious of the visitor. The two gain mutual respect for each other despite being on different sides, and McParlan even rescues a union member from certain death. The gang carries on an underground war against the evil forces of the cold-hearted company.

    Comments (-1)
  • The Town That Was

    by Chris Perkel (co-director), Georgie Roland (co-director) Year Published: 2007

    Filmmakers Chris Perkel and Georgie Roland offer an affecting and informative portrait of a Centralia, PA, a once-thriving mining town that caught fire back in 1962, and has been burning out of control ever since. It started as a simple trash fire, but the flames ignited a seam of anthracite coal just beneath the earth's surface. Over 20 years later, suffocating clouds of smoke and deadly carbon monoxide gas were still billowing from fissures in the ground, and the local population had been reduced from 1600 to about eleven. Lethargic after struggling to quell the flames to no avail, the government was only pressed into action after a young boy nearly perished by falling into a smoldering mine subsidence. Even then, the government scoffed at the cost of extinguishing the fire, instead opting to relocate the town's entire population and raze the local buildings. Today, the youngest resident in Centralia is John Lokitis, a man who has dedicated his entire life to keeping his hometown alive, even as it's ashes swirl all around him. While Centralia may have been forgotten by most, it is still John's home, and he looks forward to the day it will thrive again. Additional interviews with historians, politicians, former residents, and geographical scholars provide additional insight into the town known to some as the "real" Silent Hill.

    Comments (-1)
  • Won't You Be My Neighbor?

    by Morgan Neville (Director) Year Published: 2018

    From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), Won't You Be My Neighbor? takes an intimate look at America's favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers. A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination.

    Comments (-1)