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Monday, September 27, 2021

Oscar special: Before Darkest Hour, five historical dramas you should watch

Oscar-nominated Darkest Hour is not the best historical film out there, in case you were wondering. There's a lot more, and a lot better than where that came from.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
March 4, 2018 6:20:56 pm
oscars, bright star, malcolm X, denzel washington If you are a history buff, you would appreciate these movies.

The 2017 British war drama Darkest Hour has been nominated for six Oscars, including one for Best Picture and for Best Actor (Gary Oldman). But in case you are one of those who has a soft spot for historical dramas, then there are better films than the Darkest Hour out there waiting for your time and attention. Here’s a look at some of them:

The Last King of Scotland

Directed by Kevin Macdonald, The Last King of Scotland was based on the events that transpired during former president of Uganda, Idi Amin’s reign. Of course, the entire character of James McAvoy was fictionalised. The 2006 movie was based on the book of the same name by Giles Foden.

McAvoy plays a Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan, who travels to Uganda and becomes the personal physician of Idi Amin. Things then began to unravel in the chaotic, terrible fashion that makes you clutch the handle of your seats in anticipation of what might happen next.

Forest Whitaker’s Idi Amin is monstrous, fearsome and his performance makes you squirm uncomfortably, as it is supposed to. Whitaker dominates the screen like a true king, inhabiting his character in a manner that makes you wonder, ‘Was he born to portray Amin on screen?’

McAvoy carves his own space as the not-so-innocent witness to Amin’s escapades. Whitaker had won an Academy Award for his performance in the movie.

Bright Star

Based on British poet John Keats last three years, Bright Star is a romantic drama that sweeps you off your feet in the most unassuming fashion. The film’s directed by Jane Campion (best known for directing the 1993 acclaimed movie The Piano), and the movie’s main plotline revolves around Keats’ relationship with Fanny Brawne. Bright Star starred Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish in the lead.

Based on the Romantic poet’s life, the film is as poetic and picturesque as you could wish it to be. The shots are oh-so-pretty, and Whishaw delivers a solid performance as the detached yet emotional poet. Cornish wonderfully portrays a young confident woman, who is conscious of herself and her lover.

Bright Star is one of those movies that can be described as an activity akin to digging into a hot chocolate lava cake; as you dig deeper, you realise that the film is a lot more than it lets off at first glance.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X starred Oscar winner Denzel Washington in the titular role. The movie was directed by Spike Lee and was based on the autobiography of Malcolm X and Alex Haley’s Roots. That Denzel Washington is one of the finest actors we have is not news, but he is especially powerful as the controversial African-American leader.

In the two-minute-and-thirty-nine-second long opening monologue, you see nothing of Denzel Washington but only hear his commanding voice. Commanding your attention, like he really is the famous leader, commanding attention of all the hair on your skin. And you are left with no choice but to listen. The film is moving, but one can hardly call it sentimental.


Steven Spielberg’s biopic on the former president of America is one of the most celebrated movies of all times. One, because Daniel Day-Lewis wore Lincoln like a precious piece of cloth throughout the movie, thus giving one of his most heartfelt performances on screen, and two, because the direction was never dramatic. The movie’s just there, like a living, breathing thing. Perfection.

A Dangerous Method

Directed by David Cronenberg and starring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender in the lead, the film is set during the period of World War I. The movie’s story revolved around Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, and their relationship with Sabina Spielrein, a patient of Jung initially, who then goes on to become one of the first female psychoanalysts.

The film is disturbing, because how can a picture featuring two greats from the field of psychoanalysis not be? But it is also thought-provoking. The actors give credible performances, and Mortensen especially stands out as the cigar-smoking and controversial Freud.

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