Historical feature films are regularly nominated for Oscars, grossing billions of dollars in revenue, and are consumed by the public more frequently than history books (Rosenzweig & Thelen, 1998). Film is also popular among history teachers and has become a ubiquitous part of the classroom. Teachers tend to use films to get students excited about a topic or present them with background knowledge (Stoddard & Marcus, 2005). But too often these rich interpretations of the past go unquestioned, unanalyzed, and unconnected to the disciplinary ends of history. This study informs educators' efforts to integrate film into the classroom. The purpose of this study is to examine the influence of film on struggling readers' ability to comprehend historical primary sources. In this study, students read two letters written by a black Civil War soldier and responded to questions about each letter to measure their comprehension. Prior to reading each letter, participants were given either a film scene or a textbook equivalent with relevant background information. After reading each letter, participants responded to a series of questions designed to measure their comprehension. This study asked the following questions: 1. Can viewing a film scene help struggling readers to comprehend the literal meaning of the text; and/or make inferences related to and which go beyond the text? 2. How does the content and characteristics of a scene influence struggling readers' comprehension of a related primary source? 3. How do adolescence make sense of historical feature films? What do they understand and misunderstand? What parts of a scene resonate with young people? Participants' responses to the questions were evaluated. No significant differences were found between the film and textbook conditions. However, there were intriguing differences in the patterns of response that give rise to a variety of hypothesis about the influence of film on literacy and historical understanding. Additionally, participant comments revealed patterns of interaction with film that were not anticipated prior to this study. This study offers no conclusive evidence for the benefits of film on reading comprehension. If anything, it provides insight into how film can both help and thwart comprehension. This study offers a framework for teachers and researchers to evaluate the potential negative and positive influence that background information has on comprehension. Finally, this study hopes to lay the foundation for pedagogical practices that support teachers' discerning use of film in the history classroom and beyond.