Historical Movies That Took Huge Creative Liberties
When you watch a movie based on a historical event, you might think you’ve got an awesome front row seat to watch some of the greatest stories in history unfold. Unfortunately, some movies that are "based on true events" are barely more than creative fiction with threads of the truth.
True stories trigger a lot of emotions in viewers, so it can be disappointing to learn the truth isn’t as touching as the movie. Let’s take a look at some historical movies that veer so far from reality, the classification of "true story" is nothing more than a farce.
We Were Soldiers
The entertaining war movie starring Mel Gibson was based on Lieutenant General Hal Moore's memoirs from the First Indochina War. The film was well received by war movie buffs, but although it has a lot of entertainment value, the battle scene at the end of the movie really takes a hard left into fiction.
The 2002 movie is probably one of the best/worst examples of the American tendency to structure war films as if they were the sole hero. The film is about the capture of a German military submarine, the Enigma, used to send codes across different channels during WWII.
Jarhead won several awards for its portrayal of the mental anguish that soldiers often go through. However, that depiction was the only part of the film that came close to how the military actually operates and how soldiers behave.
Battle of the Bulge
Named after a famed battle that took place in WWII, The Battle of the Bulge is a 1965 movie that took huge creative liberties. The battle took place in the Ardennes Forest, which is uneven terrain that is frequently plagued with snow and sleet storms.
Red Tails was made to showcase the first African American squadron to fight in the U.S. military and their contributions to the war. The movie ended up being less of a homage to the Tuskegee Airmen and more of a patronizing, inaccurate portrayal of their sacrifices.
After Flyboys' release, the military consultant on set was found to be embellishing his entire war record and proven to be nothing but a fraud. The film depicts American volunteers fighting for the French military at the start of WWI, becoming the first American fighter pilot squadron known as the Lafayette Escadrille.
One thing Windtalkers got right is the use of Navajo Native Americans as code messengers during WWII, but that's where the accuracy stops. No official reports support the depiction in the film of American soldiers killing the Navajo "Windtalkers" to prevent them from becoming prisoners of war.
The plot of Pearl Harbor isn't rooted in any true version of events — other than the attack on Pearl Harbor itself. The initial battle in which the main character, Rafe, got shot down in a British fighter jet didn’t actually happen.
The Green Berets
John Wayne's portrayal of events in the Vietnam War is perhaps one of the worst of the many movies made about the famous war. For one thing, the set was all wrong. It was full of pine trees and red clay, neither of which are found in Vietnam.
The Hurt Locker
The well-received drama The Hurt Locker took the story of a group of elite bomb disarming experts in Iraq and tried to turn it into a more humanized depiction of their sacrifices. Specific complaints tend to focus on the character of Sergeant James.
One of the most fabricated character portrayals ever to hit movie screens is The Patriot's depiction of Francis Marion, who is named Benjamin Martin in the film. In the movie, Martin was a kind, patriotic, dedicated family man.
A Beautiful Mind
The story of John Nash was heavily adapted to paint the genius in a different light, but its historical inaccuracies are the elements that continue to stand out. In the film, Nash is a brilliant man who battles with his own mind with the help of his doting wife, Alicia.
Braveheart tells the story of a rebellion against British King Edward I by Scottish warrior William Wallace. Perhaps the biggest flaw in the historical accuracy of the film is the timeline. Wallace's secondary love interest in the film, Isabella of France, would have been a toddler at the time the movie was set.
Best Picture Oscar winner Gladiator was more for entertainment value than historical documentation. The story follows a general who was forced into slavery and ultimately battled it out to the death in the gladiator coliseum.
300 was based on a comic book series, so historical inaccuracy should have been expected by viewers. The battle it portrayed actually happened, and the Battle of Thermopylae was definitely a one-sided battle, but the overzealous depiction of it was way off base.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Cate Blanchett's portrayal of the first Queen Elizabeth was well received, even though the film itself was riddled with problems. Ivan the Terrible was shown in the film trying to court Elizabeth. In reality, he couldn't have been a love interest because he was dead at the time the film was set.
10,000 BC shouldn't even be considered a historical movie at all. According to the film, mammoths were responsible for building the pyramids. Every historian knows that can't be true, considering they were built around 2400 BC. (How they were built is still an unsolved mystery.)
Playing more like a Hoover propaganda film than a true depiction of American history, J. Edgar, was very loosely based on J. Edgar Hoover’s infamous life. Played by Leonardo DiCaprio, the film missed the mark when it came to utilizing actual history in its storyline.
Pocahontas may be loosely based on real events, but the film was Disney-fied to give it a happy ending children would enjoy. One of the main problems with the film is that when the English arrived in Virginia, Pocahontas was only 10 years old, which would have made a romantic relationship with John Smith highly inappropriate.
The 1991 film pushed conspiracy theories to the brink, with little evidence to back them up. The opening combined real footage, which gave it a more credible feel, but the storytelling failed to include much historical accuracy.
Although the film was engaging, Marie Antoinette's historical inaccuracies were just too prevalent to ignore. The complete lack of politics in the film is one of its main problems. In reality, it was a driving force in her story — and in her death.
Shakespeare in Love
This film's numerous inaccuracies for the time period drew attention away from the storyline. The film followed a young man with writer's block who found his muse and wrote the play of a lifetime, loosely based on Romeo and Juliet.
The award-winning Argo was entertaining, but it missed the mark when it came to telling the story as it actually happened. The movie followed a CIA agent on a mission to rescue six Americans during the U.S. Hostage Crisis.
Born on the Fourth of July
Tom Cruise played the role of Sergeant Ron Kovic, a soldier who ended up paralyzed after getting shot during his second tour in the Vietnam War. The film was based on a book about Kovic's life, and even the book has come under scrutiny for being inaccurate.
The Last Samurai
Straight out of the Hollywood whitewashing handbook is The Last Samurai, a movie that portrayed an American military veteran hired to train Japanese troops in hopes of winning a battle against the country's samurais. Many critics claim the biggest problem with the film was its casting, with Tom Cruise in the lead role.
In the dramatic story of an 1839 slave ship rebellion, Amistad took historical accuracy out of the picture to create heroes in line with American rhetoric. John Quincy Adams was played by the talented Anthony Hopkins, who in the film fought for freedom for African refugees.
The Sound of Music
Julie Andrews stars in the musical classic The Sound of Music, but the accuracy of the film wasn't anywhere near as impressive as her singing. In the film, Captain Von Trapp was played as a bad-tempered, militaristic man. In real life, that wasn’t the case at all.
Good Morning, Vietnam
Good Morning, Vietnam is the story of radio DJ Adrian Cronauer. Played by Robin Williams, the film was nominated for Best Picture. The real-life Cronauer raved about the movie but admitted that creative liberties were taken all over the place.
Scholars across the world are livid at the Oxfordian theory pushed in the film Anonymous. The movie told the story of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and explored the theory that he was the one who actually wrote all of Shakespeare's plays and poems so he could gain political control.
Saving Private Ryan
Although Saving Private Ryan is arguably one of the best war movies ever made, it’s not based on a true story as many people believe. The film followed a company of Rangers as they searched for the last surviving son of an American mother.