Whether you have visual learners like I do or just want to add a fun twist to your day while learning about westward expansion, your kids will love these 7 movies about westward expansion.
There are one or two that are documentaries and one or two of the movies that I really love which I feel are both entertaining and educational.
Also, we watched all of them on Amazon Prime which we love.
There are so many advantages to Amazon Prime that we’ve loved while homeschooling, but that is another thread. It has been worth the membership for our family.
Fun Movies About Westward Expansion
Pop some corn, grab the blanket, and enjoy these westward expansion movies!
Heads Up. Most, if not all of the movies I recommend here, we’ve watched.
Obviously, things can change over time. So always preview the movie before you let your children watch and if you see something that has changed to not family rated, let me know.
This is much more documentary like but the pictures, maps, and narration is educational and has quite a bit of background information.
Here is the review from Amazon: Ride along with the pioneers who suffered hardships and victories to forge The Oregon Trail, America’s longest and most famous trail. Then discover little known facts about the legendary Pony Express riders and their part in the Civil War. Breathtaking photography, live re-enactments, illustrated maps and rare photos make these two award-winning historical adventures come to life for all ages.
Out of all the movies, I think this was one of our favorites. It was narrated by “Sacagawea” but it was more movie like than documentary.
From beginning to end, it held our attention as it showed her life, talked about her marriage, and joining the Corps of Discovery. A beautiful way to tell this part of American history.
It mentioned a lot of the Native American people and showed what Lewis and Clark learned along the way about plants and animals.
If I had to choose chose one movie for a middle school kid, it would be this one. It covered quite a few topics.
Here is the review from Amazon. She was an expectant mother, but she endured every hardship these seasoned soldiers experienced. Without her the Corps of Discovery would have failed. This program re-enacts her journey in her words. Sacagawea will save Lewis and Clark time and time again on their expedition from negotiating for horses and show them which plants are edible.
This one talks about how the the great California gold rush impacted American history.
It has nice older black and white pictures along with views of the modern places pioneers panned and mined. What is very interesting in how different people made their living from the gold.
Here is the review from Amazon: Indulge your sense of passion for history with two programs that offer a fascinating link into America’s past. Visit eleven Gold Rush-era ghost towns. Then, bask in the hospitality of America’s most storied inns, taverns, and hideaways.
Then, add in these fun westward ho coloring pages to make learning come alive.
FOUR/ The Wild West Uncovered.
This is a cool documentary about Virginia City after people flocked there and it flourished.
I loved seeing all the old pictures, the way they lived, and the history. Heads up: They do mention there was child prostitution by then, but no pictures. But it’s so cool to learn how the city grew in riches and with so many people of different backgrounds. I never knew the diversity that lived there.
Besides that, the pictures and relics they find and seeing the old saloons, some still intact, makes this a very informative movie.
Too, it was really interesting that Mark Twain wrote there before he was famous. This documentary is not baby-ish and could certainly be viewed by a high school kid too.
Here is the review from Amazon: Discover the real Virginia City. Hollywood has forged our vision of the legendary Wild West through Westerns like the TV show Bonanza. This vision of the west conquered by cowboys, miners and outlaws all hit by gold fever has filled our imagination. Mark Twain’s colorful writings of larger the life characters has also contributed to the picturesque perception of the Wild West and Virginia City.
A beautiful documentary and certainly one that your high school kids will like alongside your middle school kids. Beautiful scenery and I love the fact it starts off with being in Washington D.C. and showing how Americans wanted to go west. He takes a different slant about the west by focusing on the mountains and terrain. Kept our attention the whole time.
Your girls will like it, but I think especially good for boys who may like learning about survivor skills.
Here is the review from Amazon: Bushcraft expert and survivalist Ray Mears explores the awe-inspiring landscape of that shaped the story of the Wild West. How did the mountain ranges, great plains and the deserts challenge westward expansion? Discover how extraordinary topography, extreme weather and ecology presented both great opportunity and even greater challenges for Native Americans and early pioneers of the Wild West.
SIX/ Wildlife of the West.
Beautiful images, scenery, and animals of the west bring this time period in history alive. And you can add a bit of science to this topic while watching this movie.
I especially love the fascinating facts about each animal that is on the side as you watch. I’m tempted to do some notebooking pages for each animal. (ha)
Here is a snippet of how it looks below. But, the movie could be paused so that your kids could write a few facts about the wildlife of the west because no doubt the animals would’ve been the same kind the earlier settlers encountered.Here is the review from Amazon. Experience the wonder of more than 2 dozen of the West’s most intriguing animals. Wildlife of the West takes you stream-side and mountain-side, to dizzying heights and stunning habitats.
This was goofy but had great music. But this movie musical would certainly appeal to a different learner who appreciated the humor, but had a lot of great facts while they’re singing and acting.
It’s too silly for a high school kid and some more mature middle school kids may not like the humor, but you could include your younger kids with this one if you had a middle school kid who loved movies with a spoof.
Here is the review on Amazon: This cult musical comedy turns the tale of Lewis & Clark into a romping spoof of American history. Follow the explorers out on the trail as they discover that destiny may be anything but manifest. With bold, stylized visuals and ten memorable songs — this is an adventure you’ll never forget.
I know you’ll find or two movies here to make your westward expansion unit study come alive!
Also, you may like these other helpful and fun resources:
- Homeschool History Teaching Ancient Civilizations Using Netflix
- 10 Westward Expansion History Fun Coloring Pages
- 10 Westward Expansion Hands-on History Activities
- American History through the Life of Wyatt Earp Free Lapbook
Hugs and love ya,