Images of America

A Social and Historical Look
at America Through the Movies

Instructor : Jack Nilan      Bridgeport Central High School

The Movies
Movie Links

This course will consider the Image of America as presented in the movies. We will see movies that were made from 1931 to 2005. The movies will cover the spectrum of America history from 1528 till the present. A primary theme of the course will be to show how (and why) some movies distort actual historical events. We will also see that some movies that distort actual events are still very important in the overall reflection they cast on a time period. Being able to evaluate the historic strengths and weaknesses of the films we see will be a major focus of this course. There will be several major themes running through the course including Racism in America, McCarthyism in the Movies and The Anti-Hero as Hero.

    Objectives - Students will be able to :
  • understand how movies reflect the concerns and events of the times in which they were made
  • demonstrate comprehension of the concept of film genres and genre criticism, and be able to name representative films in each genre studied
  • explain how film genres evolve in popularity in the historical contexts of their production and audience receptivity;
  • explain how social forces can shape and even control film content
  • discuss and provide examples of how films can challenge and shape American society
  • use the Internet for research and learn how to properly annotate Internet sources used
  • understand that historical movies are not always "good" history. Students will learn to distinguish between movies that portray historical events accurately and those that do not.
    Requirements and Grading :
  • Students will be required to read two on-line essays about the movies to be seen (, NY Times Film Reviews, ReelViews,
  • Students will be responsible for taking part in class discussions before and after each movie. These discussions will form the basis for questions on the tests. Notes taken in class may be used on the tests, as one of the purposes of this course will be to teach students effective note taking skills.
  • Students will have to answer three short essays (total of 20 minutes) after each movie viewing.

Images of America : A Social and Historical Look at America Through the Movies