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Film and history


Feature films, documentaries, newsreels and personal footage are a fantastic resource to use in the classroom, enabling students to visualise history in a very powerful and engaging way. They can be used to develop students’ skills of critical analysis of secondary and primary sources and to consider how filmmakers interpret sources of information and construct a version of historical events.

The use of films, documentaries and newsreel footage helps students to ‘see’ history in a way unlike any other source, making events and people ‘real’ to students, and contributing to the formation of that elusive and intangible ‘sense of period’.

Film is far from simple to use in the classroom, as it often covers fiction as well as fact, and the process of analysing film as a historical source is complex. However, this should be why we teach history – to stimulate debate and discussion, and to ask as many questions as we answer. Used effectively, film can be an extremely accessible and engaging way to generate high order thinking from your students.

This guide will provide information, ideas and resources to help you use feature films, documentaries and newsreels effectively to enhance learning and historical understanding with your students at Key Stage 3, GCSE and AS/A Level.