Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg, primarily focuses on Lincoln’s efforts to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery, along with the Civil War’s more general influence on the president and his Cabinet,
This film takes a different approach than many older Civil War films, driving home the close relationship between slavery and the war; however, it has been criticized for its use of a “white savior” narrative. Some historians have argued that even though the movie relates the story of the end of slavery, its African American characters seem passive and one-dimensional, simply awaiting the end of slavery at the hands of white leaders.
Lincoln is one of the most critically acclaimed Civil War films. It was nominated for twelve Oscars and won two, including Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. The movie was well received by audiences despite historical flaws. Part of this appeal was Spielberg’s portrayal of Lincoln not just as the President, but also as a friend and family man, an image of Lincoln that has since become a part of national memory.
Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006).
Brian Snee, Lincoln Before Lincoln: Early Cinematic Adaptations of the life of America’s Greatest President (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2016).
Daniel Crofts, Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery: The Other Thirteenth Amendment and the Struggle to Save the Union (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).
Andrea Foroughi, “‘Your Household Accounts Have Always Been So Interesting’: Family Relations and Gender Politics in Lincoln’s Two ‘Houses,’” Rethinking History 19, no. 3 (September 2015): 512-524.
Roger Ebert, “Lincoln Film Review,” Roger Ebert, November 7, 2012.
A.O. Scott, “A President Engaged in a Great Civil War,” New York Times, November 8, 2012.
Ronald White, “We Ask a Historians: Just How Accurate is ‘Lincoln’?,” NPR, November 22, 2012.
Philip French,“Lincoln-Review,” The Guardian, January 26, 2013.
Kate Masur,“In Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln,’ Passive Black Characters,” New York Times, November 12, 2012.
Return to the History of Film and the Civil War Project main page.