FREE STATE OF JONES is an epic drama set during the American Civil War and tells the story of defiant Southern farmer Newton Knight (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey) and his extraordinary rebellion against the Confederate Sates Army. Bringing together an unlikely band of poor white farmers and runaway slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi, to secede from the Confederacy, creating a Free State of Jones. 

With the film arriving in cinemas this Friday, we take a look at some of the best war films – trying to move away from the straight-and-narrow battlefield variety:


Carve Her Name With Pride (1958)

Based on the incredible true story of Violette Szabo, this 1958 British movie stars Virginia McKenna as the French-British secret agent. The rather downbeat and realistic film sees McKenna dropped into war-time France, and with just an encrypted poem committed to memory, she sets about sharing Intel with the French resistance.

Under Lewis Gilbert’s careful direction, the tension slowly ratchets up as McKenna’s Szabo is caught and viciously interrogated by the Gestapo. It’s a subtle tale of heroism, courage and stiff upper-lip as Szabo faces certain death under the German firing squad.


Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler’s List takes us to the darkest place in known history when it comes to World War II. Based on the true story of businessman Oskar Schindler, the film begins as he arrives in Krakow in 1939 – World War 2 has just broken out and he is ready to make his fortune from it. After joining the Nazi party for political expediency, he begins to use his position in the party to staff his factory with Jewish workers for similarly pragmatic reasons. Soon enough the SS begins exterminating Jews in the Krakow ghetto, Schindler then arranges to have his workers protected to keep his factory in operation, but in doing he is also saving countless innocent lives. As the war progresses so does Oskars efforts to try and save as many people as he can from the horrible fates that would await them in the concentration camps.


Lone Survivor (2013)

Lone Survivor is a wartime film based in Afghanistan, starring Mark Walhberg. Nominated for 2 Academy Awards and winning the Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture, the film tells the true story of Navy SEALs Marcus Luttrell, Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz and Matthew “Axe” Axelson. Deployed on a mission to survey and take out the Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, the group are soon spotted by goatherds. Through a series of unfortunate events, the NAVY SEALs find themselves in a devastating battle with the Taliban – completely outnumbered and outgunned.


The Railway Man (2013)

The Railway Man takes place during and after World War II and stars Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. Eric Lomax (Colin Firth/Jeremy Irvine) was one of the many thousands of Allied prisoners of war forced to work in the construction camp of the Thai/Burma railway during WW2. Eric was left traumatised after his experiences during his time as prisoner at the camp and it led to him shutting himself off from the world. Many years later, Eric meets a beautiful woman on a train called Patti (Nicole Kidman) and shortly after they both fell in love. Unfortunately, as Eric’s demons begin taking a toll on their marriage, Patti becomes determined to help Eric work past them. When delving into Eric’s past life she soon discovers that the young Japanese officer who haunted her husband is still alive – should she tell Eric so that he can be given a chance to confront his tormentor and in doing so would she stand by him in his decisions?


Fury (2014)

Fury is another war epic, which takes place during World War II and stars Brad Pitt, Shia Labeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal. It takes place in April 1945. The Allies are making their final push in the European Theatre, Wardaddy, a war-ridden Army sergeant commands a Sherman tank and his five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. They find themselves outnumbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.


The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game is another war film except rather then focusing on the war grounds themselves, this actually takes place behind the scenes of the war, behind the desks of men who were trying to use their minds as weapons against the enemy. MI6 was a newly created British intelligence agency in 1939. They began recruiting agents from Cambridge, which is where they found the mathematical genius, Alan Turing. They recruited Alan Turing to help them crack Nazi codes, including Enigma, which crypt analysts had thought was completely unbreakable. Turing and his team analyse Enigma messages whilst he builds a machine to decipher them. Finally they succeed and become heroes to the country, but in 1952, the quiet genius encounters disgrace when authorities reveal he is gay.


Free State of Jones (2016)

Free State of Jones is an epic drama set during the American Civil War and tells the story of defiant Southern farmer, Newt Knight (Academy Award®-winner Matthew McConaughey), and his extraordinary rebellion against the Confederate States Army. Bringing together an unlikely band of poor white farmers and runaway slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi, to secede from the Confederacy, creating a Free State of Jones. Directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) and starring Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards).

About The Author

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Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle