Premiering in December 1986 and running in the June and December issues of the Journal of American History, the "Movie Reviews" section features an eclectic program of a dozen or so motion pictures self-consciously driven by history. The format may be film, video, or digital; the forum exhibited, broadcast, or streamed; the genre the popular Hollywood blockbuster, the television miniseries, or the documentary feature. Recognizing the central role played by motion pictures in preserving, transmitting, and shaping American history, the section seeks to highlight films with special scholarly interest or pedagogical usefulness. The criticism accords with the purview of the journal: historical in cast but not blind to the ways cinematic style informs thematic meaning. In an age in which the photo-realistic image no longer requires a real-world referent, the power of the motion picture to bring the past before our eyes, always a fertile field for historical inquiry, warrants a level of scrutiny in line with its influence.
Thomas Doherty, professor of American studies at Brandeis University, is the editor of the "Movie Reviews" section of the Journal of American History. He can be reached at doherty at brandeis dot edu and welcomes suggestions of films to review, names of screeners, and swag.