"Copperhead," which opens Friday, is not your typical Civil War film. It features no battles, and is about an upstate New York farmer (Billy Campbell) opposed to the war: He wants an immediate peace settlement with the Confederacy. And though it's the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, director Ronald F. Maxwell's film is one of very few projects, along with Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," to tackle the war.
That's because, says Maxwell, "when it comes to historical film, like other genres of film art, it must originate from an individual filmmaker's passion and vision in order to have integrity and validity. Committees and corporate programmers aren't good at this sort of thing."
Here are some of the best films made about the Civil War.
The Birth of a Nation (1915) -- Director D.W. Griffith's flick is an epic cinematic milestone, but its virulent racism (Ku Klux Klansmen are heroes) leaves a truly queasy taste. Fascinating and repulsive at the same time.
Gone With the Wind (1939) -- Another cinematic monument, with that great love affair between Rhett and Scarlett and the tremendous burning of Atlanta scene. But its tolerant attitude toward slavery, featuring racial stereotypes, is off-putting.
The Red Badge of Courage (1951) -- John Huston's film based on the Stephen Crane novel stars real-life war hero Audie Murphy as a Union soldier dealing with an act of cowardice.
The Great Locomotive Chase (1956) Fess Parker stars in this based-on-facts story about a Union raid into the heart of the Confederacy.
Friendly Persuasion (1956) -- A nonviolent Quaker family must deal with feelings about the war. Gary Cooper stars.
The Horse Soldiers (1959) -- Another raid-into-rebel-held territory film, with John Wayne and William Holden. Directed by the great John Ford.
Glory (1989) -- The story of the first black regiment to fight in the war features Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Oscar winner Denzel Washington, above.
Gettysburg (1993) -- Epic re-enactment, directed by Maxwell, of the famous battle. Based on "The Killer Angels," by Michael Shaara, with Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels and Martin Sheen.