Historically Inaccurate Movies People Actually Believe
Some of the most memorable films ever made focus on key historical events. However, relying on these movies for accuracy is seldom a good idea. Most are just theatrical adaptations that push the boundaries of the truth to increase the drama and appeal to more viewers. These on-screen versions of history can leave people with wild misconceptions of what really happened.
Of course, some filmmakers try to stick closer to the truth out of respect for history, but others blatantly deviate from reality without thinking about the consequences. Let’s take a look at some historical movies that are more fiction than fact.
The Mel Gibson film Braveheart is one of the most popular movies of all time. It won five Oscars and dozens of other awards. However, it would never win a prize for historical accuracy. William Wallace, the main character, is depicted as being from a farming family, and that was not the case.
In the 2000 film The Patriot, lead actor Mel Gibson portrayed Benjamin Martin. In the movie, Martin, a single father of seven children, fought off invading British soldiers almost single-handedly during the American Revolution. The story is captivating. The problem is Martin wasn’t a real person, and the man the character loosely represents was not so noble.
Gladiator was a huge hit when it premiered in theaters in 2000. However, the movie is more suitable for entertainment than education. While emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son, Commodus, are real historical figures, the main character, Maximus, was not.
300 is about the Battle of Thermopylae, which was a real event. However, most of the details in the film are made up. In the movie, King Leonidas led 300 Spartans into battle against the massive Persian army. During the real-world fight, more than 7,000 ally troops from neighboring Greek territories joined the Spartans during the conflict.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Elizabeth: The Golden Age portrays the Queen of England as being obsessed about her relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh. In the film, the queen struggled to rule her kingdom due to her infatuation with the charismatic explorer. The creators misrepresented the "Virgin Queen," however.
The 2008 film 10,000 B.C. is a love story based in the prehistoric time period. It brought in millions at the box office, but that wasn’t due to historical accuracy. Much of this flick is entirely far-fetched and pure fiction.
J. Edgar, a film directed by Clint Eastwood, is arguably accurate by some accounts. However, there are some doubts as to the former head of the FBI's sexual orientation. Eastwood portrayed him as having a long-term affair with his number two man, Clyde Tolson.
Pocahontas is a well-known Disney classic that was meant to teach kids about historical events while entertaining. However, the story portrayed is very different from reality. Pocahontas and Captain John Smith were not romantically involved. In fact, there was a significant age difference between the two that Disney doesn’t show.
Sofia Coppola took liberties with her film Marie Antoinette when it came to historical events, as most directors in Hollywood do. Her representation of Antoinette wasn’t solely meant to depict reality. It was also meant to appeal to the target audience.
Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare In Love was never meant to be an accurate depiction of real events. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact that many viewers didn’t realize that and were misled. For example, the Queen of England attends a Shakespeare play during an outbreak of the bubonic plague.
Oliver Stone's JFK film, which premiered in 1991, brought together conspiracy theories to focus on the story that most people believe to be true. The main thing wrong with the filmmaker's portrayal was that the documentary-like movie appears to be factual. Several of the liberties Stone took include David Ferrie’s confession of involvement and the freely given testimony of Perry Russo.
Pearl Harbor, produced by Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer in 2001, netted more than $449 million at the box office. The movie was entertaining, but it also left a lot of people believing the story of the two fighter pilots was true. In reality, they didn’t exist, although the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan was obviously a real event.
A Beautiful Mind
A Beautiful Mind is a film about Nobel Prize winner John Nash. In the movie, Nash was diagnosed with schizophrenia and suffered from hallucinations that caused problems in his personal life. It also showed the mathematician being invited by the Pentagon to do cryptography work.
Amistad is a Stephen Spielberg movie that tells the story of a slave ship in 1839. Many people claim the movie doesn’t offer a fair depiction of the slaves' true experiences.
Argo, released in 2013, stars Ben Affleck as a CIA agent who masqueraded as a producer in Tehran so he could save six hostages in 1980. There are several details in the movie about the mission that are completely false, however.
Newsies writers actually did a pretty good job portraying the newspaper strike orchestrated by nearly 5,000 kids who sold newspapers in the late 1800s. The Disney film used some variations of the real kids' names, but many of them went by nicknames anyway.
Sadly, much of the beloved movie Cool Runnings is fictional, including the existence of several of the main characters. In the on-screen story, the Jamaican bobsledders were sprinters who didn’t qualify for the Summer Olympics. Instead, they decided to try their luck at bobsledding and hired a coach named Irving Blitzer.
The Greatest Showman
The Greatest Showman is an entertaining production, but it doesn’t do a good job of depicting the life of PT Barnum, however. The circus owner was portrayed as a kind man who put together a group of misfits and led them on a journey to find their self-worth.
Captain Phillips featured Tom Hanks playing the title character in the 2013 film. The man himself is far from the man he appeared to be on screen. The Hollywood version showed him giving up to save the rest of his crew when Somali pirates captured their ship, the MV Maersk Alabama.
The Blind Side
The Blind Side tells the story of American football player Michael Oher, starting shortly before his adoption by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her family. However, it doesn’t tell the story exactly the way it occurred. In the film, Tuohy immediately offered Oher a place to live.
Titanic features a wonderful love story — next to impossible in the four days the ship stayed afloat — and the movie has some major historical flaws. The main characters, Jack and Rose, were from two different social classes, but they fell in love before the ship hit a massive iceberg and sank into the ocean.
The Oliver Stone film Alexander boasts an all-star cast, including Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, Colin Farrell, Anthony Hopkins and Rosario Dawson. Like many historical stories played out on the big screen, this one was sensationalized for entertainment and ticket sales.
Schindler's List is a movie that shows some of the very horrible atrocities suffered by Jewish people during the Holocaust. For the most part, Steven Spielberg does a good job depicting a very difficult topic in a way that allows viewers to truly feel what the people of that time endured at the hands of the Nazis.
Bonnie and Clyde
It’s not surprising that the 2013 film Bonnie and Clyde romanticizes one of the most notorious crime couples of all time. After all, these two have always been made out to be larger than life. Maybe the fascination stems from the fact that few couples are involved in crime the way these two were.
Patch Adams, portrayed by the late Robin Williams in 1998, was a doctor on a mission to create a free hospital for people who suffered from various illnesses. Patch had traveled the world for much of his adult life, attending to sick and dying patients of all ages.
In 1987, The Untouchables made a big impression on the silver screen. However, the audience may falsely remember that Agent Eliot Ness ultimately took down one of the most infamous gangsters in history. That wasn’t a completely accurate portrayal of actual events.
Amadeus, released in 1984, described a fierce rivalry between composers Antonio Salieri and Amadeus Mozart. In the screenplay, Salieri's jealousy over the talent of the younger Mozart led him to kill. Historically speaking, the film has numerous flaws.
U-571 depicted American soldiers taking down a German submarine in an attempt to obtain an Enigma machine and break the German’s secret code during World War II. The actual event didn’t involve any Americans. It was British soldiers who acquired the famous Nazi coding machine.
The Last Samurai
The Last Samurai features the award-winning actor Tom Cruise. What it doesn’t feature is historical accuracy. In the film, Cruise travels to Japan to teach the last of the Samurai to fight with guns. In real life, it wasn’t an American who took on that role.
Mel Gibson's Apocalypto includes real Mayan language, but it doesn’t correctly depict the Mayan people. Gibson portrayed this historically peaceful civilization as a bunch of ruthless killers who believed the only way to further the existence of their people was through sacrificing humans to the gods.