The History of Terrorism: a Film Anthology

In creating a Memorial Day Movie list it got me to thinking about other movie list, so I thought I would start with a favorite subject of mine: The Study Of Terrorism and Guerilla Warfare.

Here are some films worth watching if you are interested in learning more about this subject. Most of these films can be found on Netflix or Amazon.

Keep an eye out for more “Film Anthologies” like this in the future.

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Carlos

This is by far one of the best movies ever made in recent times about Political Terrorism in the 70’s and 80’s. Carlos the Jackal was one of the most infamous terrorist and criminals and this movie is extremely accurate in the historical details and action scenes, in particular the Murder of an unarmed Police Officer in Paris in 1975, one of the many crimes which made Carlos a Wanted Man for decades. This movie is quite violent and gritty, but no overly so.

The Baader-Meinhof Complex

With two members of this group recently Back in the News, it would not hurt to watch a movie to refresh your memory on European Political Terrorism in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. The RAF or Red Army Faction, (also called the Baader-Meinhof Gang) was one of the key Terrorist groups during this time. The only thing I disliked about this movie is it had quite a bit of flagrant nudity and un-needed sexual situations which had nothing really to do with the plot.

Michael Collins

A Wonderful Biopic of one of the Founding members of The Irish Republican Army. This movie begins where the rebellion of Ireland against Great Britain began, The Easter Uprising of 1914. Collins was responsible for virtually writing the book on Guerilla Warfare and Counter-Intelligence Operations used by the IRA for decades to come. You should watch this and The Wind that Shakes the Barley together, as the two mesh on the historical timeline of the IRA, as the assassination of Collins was due to the Peace Agreement he made with Great Britain. This is one of Liam Neesons finest performances.

Munich

More a film about Counter-Terrorism than Terrorism, Steven Spielberg directed this epic film about the 1972 Munich Olympics Terrorist Attack and the proceeding Israeli Mossad Operation (Called Wrath of God) to Assassinate all the Palestinian terrorist involved. This movie is a great historical biopic of not just the Mossad Operation, but European Political Terrorism in the 70’s as a whole. In true Spielberg style this movie is gritty and violent, taking you right into the center of the action. Next to Carlos, this is one of my favorite Films about Terrorism (and Counter-Terrorism).

The Kingdom

This is more of an action film than a terrorist biopic, but none the less I included it because of the Counter-Terrorist aspects. The last 45 minutes of this film is one of the best gunfight scenes in film history. The only gunfight scene that tops it IMO is the one in Heat with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

Fifty Dead Men Walking

The semi- True story of a British Police informant who infiltrated the IRA during the period known in Ireland and England as “The Troubles”. Not the best film about the IRA, but no the worst either.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

A Really Great Historical Film about the early struggles of the IRA, it tell the story of the early Irish Republican Army and the bloody civil war that ensued due to the very unpopular Peace Agreement with Great Britain. A Phenomenal movie about the reality of civil uprisings and the practical applications of Guerilla Warfare. Some have commented this film is too “one-sided” and that it shows the British as the “bad guys”, but I would counter that the early behavior by the “Black and Tans” (British Army) against Irish civilians was brutal and un-called for and was a major factor in why the Irish rose up like they did and fought back.

Flame and Citron

More a film about Urban Guerilla Warfare, this is the True Story of two members of the Danish Resistance in World War II who assassinated high ranking members of the Gestapo and SS. Being a WW2 Historian, I really liked this film and wished more like it would be made. So many Resistance fighters have not been memorialized properly for their fight against tyranny and it is high time books and films were written and made about them.

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Netflix Flicks Worth your Time

Even with the recent Announcement that Netflix is yet again raising it’s monthly rate of $7.99 to $8.99 for new members, (current members get their current rate of $7.99 locked for 2 years) I still feel that a lot of you out there (me included) will continue their subscription.

In that case, here are a few movies the CO should check out if they have not already:

 

  • Flame and Citron

No, this is not some weird foreign documentary on cross-dressing midgets. This is the astounding TRUE story of two actual members of the Danish Resistance (the Holger Danske) in World War 2. Read a short, informative history HERE.  A word of caution: It is sub-titled, but I assure you the realism and action throughout the film will more than make up for it; Lots of cool WW2 era weapons too. If you are like me, when you watch this movie, you will find something really gratifying about watching people grow a set of balls and take up for their homeland and their beliefs, no matter the cost. Something ALL Americans can learn from at this time in our History….

  • Che 

As in Che Guevera, the marxist guerilla who helped Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution. Yeah, I know, I hate the guy too, and like all of you got really tired and pissed off seeing teenagers wearing shirts idolizing the asshole like he was some kind of rockstar.

The Director, Steven Soderbergh, who did films like Contagion, Oceans 11 and Traffic, does not seek to glamorize the life of Guevera in this film however, but rather show the rough and hard life of a Marxist Guerilla Insurgent during the throws of the Cold War. The show has relevancy for the CO to study also because it shows the in’s and out’s of Guerilla Warfare and Counter-Insurgency at the same time. You get a real feel for the tactics and the politics from both sides. It also parallels really well that what worked for Castro and Guevera in Cuba failed miserably in Bolivia where Che was ultimately cornered and killed with the help of the CIA. Word of warning: Most of the film is sub-titled, as Spanish is spoken throughout.

  • Carlos

Yeah, I know what you are thinking..”Wow, this guy really likes foreign history films!” since all of my picks so far have been obviously made across the pond, deal with subject that happened decades ago and involve people other than Americans! The key is though, and I have discovered this over the years: Don’t knock them until you have really tried them! Take this movie: Carlos, about the notorious terrorist, Carlos the Jackal. This movie is awesome if you want to learn about the european and middle eastern state sponsored terrorism of the 70’s. Plus, along the way, learn how the Urban Guerilla movement of the 70’s evolved. It is spot on historically accurate and is packed with plenty of gun play and action throughout. The coolest thing about this movie to me was that again, it did not seek to glamorize Carlos, but show him for what he truly was: an egotistical, arrogant coward. OhYeah, almost forgot..like the other two, most of the movie is sub-titled, so be warned!!!

 

  • The Wind that Shakes the Barley

The story of the early beginnings of the Irish Resistance against the British in 1919 Ireland. The story revolves around the County Cork Brothers, who both join the IRA early on and then later, wind up fighting each other in the Irish Civil War. This is a very interesting and in-depth story about not only the IRA but the history of Ireland as a whole. It is fascinating to see a group of men literally change the course of history by their actions. Good news on this one..No subtitles!!

 

  • The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of my Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby

I will warn you ahead of time, if biographical type documentaries are not your thing, you might not like this one. For me, it touches on two of my favorite subjects: The CIA and the Cold War. It is directed by Colby’s son, and the entire theme of the movie is him basically interviewing various people, including his mother, extensively trying to find out more about his dad, former CIA Director William Colby. It touches on Colby’s early time in the OSS, then on to his early career in the newly formed CIA. What I found most interesting, was Colby’s first assignment in Italy right after WW2, when the order of the day was stopping the Italian Communist Party from gaining power. Most people do not realize how close Italy came to becoming a full blown Communist state and by consequence, a Soviet pawn. You can thank Bill Colby for that little known early cold war victory. The latter part goes into the CIA “Witch-hunt” Senate Inquiries of the 70’s that would eventually run Colby out of the CIA. This one is worth your time!