The Defeated and the Dead

Teaching About War Through Film

Mark Pearcy, Rider University

A volume in the series: Hollywood or History. Editor(s): Scott L. Roberts, Central Michigan University. Charles J. Elfer, Clayton State University.

In Press 2024

How do we teach about war? How can social studies teachers empower students to understand how wars are started, how they are fought, and how they are ended? Films about war are featured in nearly all social studies classrooms across the US, with practically every American teenager watching at least one “historical” film during their time in middle and high school. Without the mandatory class viewing, most of these movies would not have been seen by them otherwise. Film is the medium through which most Americans learn about their national past. But a passive viewing of a movie about war does little to help students learn to be critical thinkers about their country’s choices.

In The Defeated and the Dead: Teaching About War Through Film, Dr. Mark Pearcy outlines strategies and resources for teachers to incorporate movies about war into their classes in an effective, thoughtful manner. Employing elements of the “Just War” doctrine (the basis for most international law and treaties), this book highlights how teachers can make use of widely-used films like Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, and Glory, as well as other movies that span our nation’s history, from the American Revolution to modern conflicts.

By focusing on critical frameworks like Just War, as well as featuring films both about war and the avoidance of war, The Defeated and the Dead offers social studies teachers a valuable tool to approach difficult, contentious topics in their classrooms.

CHAPTER 1: War Films: What (and Who) Are They For? CHAPTER 2: The History of the War Film. CHAPTER 3: Just War Doctrine. CHAPTER 4: Glory. CHAPTER 5: Saving Private Ryan. CHAPTER 6: Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July. CHAPTER 7: The Clip Approach: Lincoln, The Conspirator, War Horse, Fury, Flags of Our Fathers/Letters From Iwo Jima, and Zero Dark Thirty. CHAPTER 8: Movies About Modern War. CHAPTER 9: Conclusion: “We’re Not Here for Right and Wrong. We’re Here to Kill Them.” Author Biography