Historical films and biopics are popular genre that directors and filmmakers venture because you know the story behind certain personalities and events. However, portraying a certain historical figure or important event in the past can always be big challenge not because of the research that has to be made but the possible controversies it may create.
During the Golden Age of Philippine cinema, we enjoyed classic films that helped us understand our history, culture, and even our own identity. After all, real people, places, and events are rich source of inspiration in movies. In this way, directors can help instill good values of honor and patriotism and shape our national consciousness at the same time.
These historical films do not just entertain its audiences but inform them about our rich cultural heritage and immortalize events that formed our country. Here are the greatest historical films in the history of Philippine cinema:
1. Jose Rizal the Movie (1999)
Considered to be the most expensive and highest grossing Philippine movie of all time, this Marilou Diaz-Abaya film portrays our national hero by showing the different sides of his human nature. Made in time for the Philippine Centennial, dramatic actor Cesar Montano can make Rizal proud because of his display of a wide-range of emotions during our national hero’s trying times.
2. Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (1976)
I’m not sure if people know about this movie but I managed to see this film on a Holy Week when I was a kid. Historical films like this is quite remarkable because it show how times change because Kulas (portrayed by Christopher de Leon) experienced how life changed from the last years of the Spanish colonial rule to the early beginnings of the American occupation. With an epic storytelling style, the classic film show how a probinsyano search for his identity in rapidly changing environment in parallel to the changing fortunes of the Philippines under different foreign rulers.
3. Dekada ‘70
Though not a Piolo Pascual fanboy, Dekada ’70 for me is one of the most notable films I saw that showed what life is like in the turbulent decades of the seventies. Under the shadow of Martial Law during President Ferdinand Marcos’ rule, you can see how an ordinary middle class family was affected from the changing political order and social climate. The counterculture and student protest movements also played a big part in the film that eventually test the family’s resolve to its limits.
4. Aguila (1979)
This three-hour historical epic that starred the late Fernando Poe Jr. and dramatic actor Christopher de Leon is one of the greatest FPJ films I ever watched. It may not be as popular as his other successful films but Aguila somehow serves as an entire chronicle of the Filipino people’s collective historical experience. It covers the 1896 Philippine Revolution to the widespread student protest movements of the seventies.
5. Sakay (1936 and 1993 remake)
Dramatizing the life of the last Filipino revolutionary to surrender to the Americans was the Lamberto Avellana film Sakay, where Leopoldo Salcedo played the lead role. About sixty years later, Julio Diaz picked up the role of the supremo in the Raymond Red biopic of the same name.
6. Lupang Hinirang (1973)
Some may say that it is a propaganda film commissioned by President Marcos but this star-studded film is no doubt one of the greatest historical films ever made. It is a montage showing a slice of our glorious past as portrayed by greatest thespians of our time like Eddie Garcia, Caridad Sanchez, Hilda Koronel, and Alicia Alonzo. The film showed how life during the Spanish colonial era was simple and peaceful. It also focused on the oppression and injustices made on the local people by the corrupt government and church institutions.
7. Urduja (1974)
This biopic of the most controversial figure in Philippine history can be considered a pioneer in portraying a woman as a lead character in historical films. Usually, male historical figures are portrayed in various films that were made. The beautiful Amalia Fuentes played the legendary princess wherein not only she showed her female elegance but her strength of an Amazon.
8. Oro, Plata, Mata (1982)
Two haciendero clans in Negros were torn apart by social changes, family intrigues, and the Second World War. Directed by Peque Gallaga and includes award-winning actors Cherie Gil and Joel Torre, this film is composed into three sub-stories that highlights the families' intertwining lives, associations, and affairs during three critical periods.