To-Watch List: Movies and Documentaries About Philippine History

History may not be the most interesting class in school. Fortunately, there are filmmakers who have turned these stories into movies that are easy to watch! These films are great references that do not only pique the interest of viewers toward the subject, but also challenge their thoughts. Whether you want a quick recap or just something to watch to pass the time, here’s a list of movies and documentaries about Philippine history for you!

Jose Rizal (1998)

Cesar Montano is the lead actor in this film about Philippine history titled “Jose Rizal”. It reenacts Rizal’s life as a brother, lover, and friend, as well as his works as a writer, propagandist, and doctor. Montano is joined by Joel Torre, Gloria Diaz, and more familiar faces such as Jhong Hilario.

Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo (2014)

Throwback to Senator Robin Padilla’s portrayal of another one of our revolutionary heroes, Andres Bonifacio. “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo” is a 2014 Metro Manila Film Festival winner of the Best Picture, Best Musical Scorer, Best Theme Song, Best Cinematographer, and Best Sound Engineer awards. The biopic also stars the senator’s nephew Daniel Padilla, with former Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Eddie Garcia, Jericho Rosales, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, and more.

Dekada ’70 (2002)

“Dekada ’70” follows the story of a middle-class Filipino family who struggles to survive during the martial law era in the country. The film adaptation of Lualhati Bautista’s novel was directed by Chito S. Roño. It stars Batangas 6th District Representative Vilma Santos-Recto, Piolo Pascual, Dimples Romana, Kris Aquino, and more.

Oro, Plata, Mata (1982)

Set during World War II, “Oro, Plata, Mata” is about a wealthy family who is oblivious of the forthcoming danger. They continue to hang on to their privileged life but the violence that is happening around them soon creeps into their refuge. Starring Joel Torre, Cherie Gil, Jaime Fabregas, and more, this film is a Peque Gallaga masterpiece.

El Presidente (2012)

“El Presidente” is about the life story of the first Philippine President, Emilio Aguinaldo, and how he led Filipinos to victory and freedom from Spanish conquerors. It is written and directed by Mark Meily, starring Jorge Estregan, Cesar Montano, Cristine Reyes, and more.

Heneral Luna (2015)

Set during the Philippine–American War, director and writer Jerrold Tarog highlighted the life of General Antonio Luna in the film “Heneral Luna”. The Filipino historical biopic depicts the hero’s leadership of the Philippine Revolutionary Army. John Arcilla plays the lead, joined by co-stars Paulo Avelino, Mon Confiado, and Archie Alemania, to name a few.

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral (2018)

Three years later, Jerrold Tarog comes back with another biopic release. This time, he focuses on the life of Gregorio “Goyo” del Pilar in “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral”. Goyo is one of the youngest generals who fought in the Battle of Tirad Pass, which also happened during the Philippine-American War. Paulo Avelino reprises his role in the film with Mon Confiado, Arron Villaflor, and more.

Coup d’Etat: The Philippines Revolt (1986)

Australian journalist Peter Couchman covered all for days of the Philippines’ People Power Revolution in 1986. He narrates who participated in the nonviolent revolt in the “Coup d’Etat: The Philippines Revolt” documentary and how it became successful. Participants also told their stories, including then-church leader Cardinal Jaime Sin, then-Secretary of Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile; coup leader Gringo Honasan, as well as then-president Corazon “Cory” Aquino.

The Last Journey of Ninoy (2009)

“The Last Journey of Ninoy” tells the story of the final days of Ninoy Aquino, before being assassinated at the Manila International Airport. The documentary directed by Jun Reyes also features interviews and commentaries from former Philippine president, Cory Aquino.

The Kingmaker (2019)

In “The Kingmaker”, American director Lauren Greenfield puts the spotlight on First Lady Imelda Marcos. The documentary was filmed as the family prepares for President Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr.’s previous vice presidential candidacy. It features the Marcos family, former Philippine presidents Rodrigo Duterte and Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, former vice president Leni Robredo, and many more.