7 Greatest Movies About Harry Truman (Or That Feature President Truman)

Last updated on December 30th, 2023 at 07:37 am.

One of the ways in which Harry S. Truman has been immortalized is through cinema, with many filmmakers choosing to focus on the man and his presidency in their work. In this article, we will explore some of the most notable movies about Harry Truman or that feature the 33rd president of the United States. From biographical dramas to political thrillers, these films provide unique insights into the life and times of one of America’s most celebrated leaders.

Throughout history, few figures have commanded the kind of respect and admiration as former U.S. President Harry S. Truman. From his decision to drop the atomic bomb to his advocacy for civil rights and labor reforms, Truman’s legacy continues to shape American politics and culture.

Movies About Harry Truman

Best Movies About Harry Truman

Harry S. Truman was born in Missouri, Lamar, Missouri (on May 8 of 1884 to be exact). From humble beginnings in the developing Midwest during the late 1800s, to building his way up to hold the most prestigious office in all of America, Harry Truman’s life was full of fascinating stories, as well as stories linked to his life as president. Today, he also has the legacy of being one of the most quoted U.S. presidents of all time.

Therefore, it is more than conceivable to guess that he would have a good number of movies that either star him as a character, or are specifically about him or that feature archival footage of him in important documentaries. That assumption would be correct. From blockbuster movies taking in hundreds of millions of dollars, to smaller budget well researched documentaries, here are 7 movies involving Harry Truman. 

Truman (1995)

Truman Movie with Gary Sinise

This is definitely the movie that focuses the most on Truman as a character and as a person hence the name, Truman.

This movie about President Truman is a biographical account of America’s President for the latter part of WWII. The movie shows Truman’s rise from small-town nobody to leader of the USA, his decision to use the Atomic Bomb against Japan, and subsequent election as the US’ post-war President.

The movie explores Harry Truman‘s rise from vice president to president after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945. The movie navigates the critics, saying that he was inexperienced and ready for the presidency, as well as the ups and downs of his career as president.

If you’re looking to learn the most you can about Harry Truman in the shortest amount of time, this two hour and 15 minute movie will fill you in on everything you need to know not only about his presidency, but also about his personal life and history. 

The HBO movie features Gary Sinise as Harry S. Truman and Diana Scarwid playing Bess Truman and is directed by Frank Pierson. Pierson won an Emmy award for directing Truman.

Gary Sinise melts into the role of President Truman as the very calm and reluctant President who would help guide the nation through the end of the Second World War even at the risk of more lives lost.

Though the film is in a typical if not longwinded biopic fashion and produced through HBO, it still gives a wonderful glimpse into Truman’s life and his family as they reluctantly were thrust into the national spotlight. As you watch, make sure to note how this film also shows off the many Kansas City landmarks.

Oppenheimer (Release Date: July 21, 2023)

Oppenheimer movie poster

Perhaps one of the most anticipated movies of 2023, Oppenheimer is a blockbuster that opened in theaters in July of 2023 and is directed by Christopher Nolan.

Starring Cillian Murphy from Peaky Blinders fame as the lead role of J Robert Oppenheimer, the man who created the first atomic bomb. Alongside other superstars, such as Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, and many more, this big budget historical piece tells the story of not only J Robert Oppenheimer, but focuses on US political relations at the time, with Gary Oldman starring as Harry Truman.

The story chiefly takes place between 1942 through 1945, the years that the Manhattan project was the first project to create an atomic bomb. During this time, Harry Truman was vice president of the United States while Franklin D. Roosevelt presided over World War II.

As second in command, Harry Truman played a vital role in the Manhattan project and I can speak not only for myself, but for a large majority of the cinematic community, when I say that I am more than excited for this movie. 

White Light/ Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2007)


This White Light/ Black Rain documentary uses never before seen film of the aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It also has harrowing interviews with survivors of the bombings.

This is an important film for anyone seeking to get a realistic view of the horrors of war and atomic weapons.

A documentary that puts World War II in a whole new light for many who have never seen the side of events, this is another great watch for history buffs as well as those looking for both sides of World War II’s conflict.

While you do not have to agree at all with the Japanese, nor should you, for their actions in World War II, it is certainly interesting and at times heart wrenching to hear the stories of the survivors of the bombings, as we know that many of them did not believe in what their country was doing.

A must watch for not only historian lovers, but also documentary and physics, lovers, designs packed documentary is a thrilling and incredibly interesting watch. 

Please note: Some reviews say that while it gives a good perspective and shows real images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, this movie is incredibly violent and bloody.

The documentary includes archive footage from President Truman, Franklin, D. Roosevelt, American physicist Harold Agnew, Japanese physician who was an eyewitness when the Little Boy atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima Shuntaro Hida and many others. 

This movie was Directed by Steven Okazaki.

MacArthur (1977)

MacArthur movie with Gregory Peck

MacArthur follows the storyline of General Douglas MacArthur, as it looks back on his career in the military through his farewell address to West Point. The story line goes from his youngest days of battle, to his days in the South Pacific, WW2 and the Korean War.

Harry Truman famously relieved MacArthur of his duties stating that MacArthur was “unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the United States Government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties.”

The movie, while not necessarily painting Truman as the villain, does touch on some of his more controversial opinions and decisions, which I do think is important to look at with historical figures. While Truman had a great amount of accomplishments, stories like General Douglas MacArthur‘s are important to tell more than one side of the story. History buffs, and especially war history buffs will love this movie.

During his farewell address to West Point, General Douglas MacArthur (Gregory Peck) looks back on his storied military career. Beginning with his legendary promise, “I shall return,” at the outset of the Battle of Bataan and continuing through his troops’ subsequent successes in the South Pacific, the film also touches on his anti-Communist activities following the war and his role in the rebuilding of postwar Japan, until his 1952 ouster by President Harry S. Truman (Ed Flanders).

General Douglas MacArthur was played by Gregory Peck and President Harry S. Truman was played by Ed Flanders. The movie was directed by director Joseph Sargent.

Atomic Cafe (1982)

Atomic Cafe

Atomic Cafe is a documentary that famously uses surprisingly dark humor to cover the aspects of not only the atomic bomb but it’s role in the Cold War as well as World War II.

Following the key players in the Cold War as well as the time between World War II and the Cold War, Harry Truman, is obviously at the top of the list to focus on. As President of the United States from 1945 through 1952, Truman was chiefly responsible for the US during its movement into the Cold War.

Many people criticize Truman on his handling of the transition of World War II into the Cold War, while many others say that it was a foregone conclusion at that point because of the Soviet Union’s communist ideologies.

Which ever way you tend to lean, this unique documentary is sure to keep you engaged and teach you facts you may never have known about not only about President Harry S. Truman, but also about American and international politics in the 1940s through the 1960s. 

The movie is a compilation of clips from newsreels, military training films, and other footage produced in the United States early in the Cold War on the subject of nuclear warfare. This movie is much more than a focus on the Atomic Bomb.

The reason the movie was so sucessful and interesting to a 1980’s audience was because many Americans had lost much of their faith in their government following additionally the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and what seemed to be a never-ending arms race with the Soviet Union.

The Atomic Cafe reflects and reinforces this idea as it exposes how the atomic bomb’s dangers were downplayed and how the government used films to shape public opinion.

This movie was directed by Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader and Pierce Rafferty.

If You Love This Planet (1982)

If You Love This Planet is a short documentary that records Dr. Helen Coldicott, An Australian pediatrician, giving a speech at SUNY (State University of New York) about the ramifications of atomic and nuclear warfare. A great historical think piece to watch, this is a great quick watch for those who love, Ted talk style videos, and want to hear more about the anti-nuclear side of the debate in America, as opposed to decide that wanted to keep us in the race for nuclear arms to deter other countries from trying to invade or attack us. 

The documentary includes real clips from archive footage from everyone from President Truman to Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Franklin, D. Roosevelt to Stalin. 

This movie was Directed by Terre Nash and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subjects.

The Hoaxters (1952)

Those looking for a documentary that presents the ideas of America and its anti-communist values in the 1950s look no further. The Hoaxters was released in 1952, in the middle of the Cold War, and is a documentary that is staunchly anti-communist, and espouses it’s anti-communist beliefs throughout the documentary.

The hoaxters of the title, such as Adolf Hitler, are compared to carnival snake-oil salesmen, to promote totalitarian ideas, including fascism, Naziism, and communism. After a review of the fall of fascism and Nazism resulting from World War II, the film presents a short history of Russian communism and warns of its dangers to the American way of life.

It is a fantastic watch for those who like to see things in a historical perspective, as in the way people during that time, and get to see the media and how people react to said media. And, of course, coming out in 1952 when Truman was still president, the movie, heavily centered around Truman, his cabinet, and their political and defense beliefs.

The documentary was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. It includes real clips from archive footage from everyone from President Truman to Dwight D. Eisenhower, J. Edgar Hoover, and Winston Churchill, as well as Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler.

More on Truman

Truman by David McCullough

If you are interested in more about Mr. Truman, we recommend the pulitzer prize winning book entitled Truman by David Mccullough as well as checking out the 37 best Harry Truman Quotes.

You may also be interested in 13 Excellent President Truman Attractions in Missouri (a Harry Truman Trail Road Trip).

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