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“Over The Rainbow To The Land Of Mordor!” The Escape Into Sci-Fi and Fantasy

written by: Sarah Degnan Moje • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 10/14/2013

Want to get your students really interested in history? These lessons were developed for a year-long high school history elective that sought to make connections between the films in a time period and the historical or cultural impact these films had on American society.

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    Why Study Film?

    “Over The Rainbow To The Land Of Mordor!” The Escape Into Sci-Fi and Fantasy Seeking a creative outlet for your burned out students in the 11th and 12th grades? Why not engage them in a genre study; not of genres of literature, but in genres of film? It may sound like a way of sneaking in a preparation period while they sit, eyes glazed over, staring at a dark screen, but if done correctly, a genre study can make students see strong connections between the cinema of America and how it shaped American Culture and Society.

    The Science Fiction and Fantasy film genre might seem extremely far removed from our society today. But, is it really? Or can we see traces of our country’s economic, social, political and even emotional history in this genre of film. Wasn’t OZ where America went during the Great Depression? Didn’t our visit to the Land of Mordor in the 2000’s lead to an increase of student reading in most of our schools? Didn’t a baseball field in Iowa spark ticket sales for America’s oldest pastime? And that galaxy far, far away where Luke Skywalker fought for freedom; did it mirror a form a government that fell in the 1990’s in Russia?

    The connections are there. The films can be used as more than just time fillers once a unit of text is done. However, before you jump into the films, you need to become a media studies teacher for a week or so. Introduce the genre. Discuss some fine examples. Ask for student suggestions and test student comprehension with a test on the genre. Then, you are ready to undertake a journey into fantasy and fiction that is not quite as far removed from our world as you once thought.


    Use the downloadable power point on the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre to teach and then use the downloadable test as an assessment tool.

Film Genre Study: Sci-Fi / Fantasy

Teaching a class on film is not just a throw-away elective. Popular movies often make references to history or the state of the culture at the time. Use 'The Wizard of Oz' to teach about the Great Depression, or 'Star Wars' to teach about the rise of communism with this series.
  1. “Over The Rainbow To The Land Of Mordor!” The Escape Into Sci-Fi and Fantasy
  2. Heading “Over the Rainbow” to Escape the Depression with 'The Wizard of Oz'
  3. “Use The Force” to Teach Communism: Drawing Connections Using Star Wars
  4. Teaching Transcendentalism Through A “Field of Dreams”
  5. From the Shadow Filled Depths of Mordor Emerges a Love of Reading