JUMP TO COMMENTS
Previous
Next

 

 

History class is tough – there are lots of dates and names to remember. But when you’re making a historical movie, you’d think Hollywood would do some extra fact-checking. Not all films, even if they are historical films about real-life figures and actual events, fully honor their original source material. On this list, films from all decades are revealed as having botched the reality of supposed non-fiction and reminded audiences that they were just Hollywood flicks. From Foxcatcher to Hotel Rwanda, and even 1915’s The Birth of a Nation, many films feature blatant errors and historical inaccuracies that will annoy more than just the average history buff. For example, while George Clooney spiced up the third act of Good Night, and Good Luck, its timeline and the implications of that timeline are way off-base.

This list covers more than just the Hollywood endings, however. The opening scene of American Sniper, for instance, feeds into the claims of Clint Eastwood’s “pro-military propaganda” by making an Iraqi woman look evil by giving her son an anti-tank grenade, which never, ever happened.

Lincoln: Connecticut Actually Voted “Yes” On The 13th Amendment

Photo:  Lincoln/Walt Disney Pictures

Even Lincoln‘s screenwriter, Tony Kushner, confessed to this historical misrepresentation. One of the glaring inaccuracies in the film that won Daniel Day Lewis his third Academy Award is that Connecticut was portrayed as voting “no” on the 13th Amendment – a vote against ending slavery. In fact, every single representative in Connecticut’s House voted “yes” for the amendment.

Apollo 13: Ken Mattingly Didn’t Have An Assigned Role In The Rescue Mission

Photo:  Apollo 13/Universal Pictures

Ron Howard’s film chronicling the Apollo 13 mission featured astronaut Ken Mattingly being involved with the rescue mission, although Mattingly himself confesses to this historical falsity. In the film, he was exposed to measles (true) and bumped from the mission (true) before NASA called him back to lead rescue efforts (false). In reality, Mattingly said he had absolutely no assigned role in that rescue; he was a backup crew member who worked with a number of teams, not just one or two projects as portrayed in the film.

Gladiator: Marcus Aurelius Didn’t Die During The Battle

Photo:  Gladiator/DreamWorks Distribution

In the 2000 Russell Crowe movie, Marcus Aurelius was murdered by his own son, Commodus, during a battle in the Marcomannic War. The real Marcus Aurelius died in 180 AD in what is now Vienna. Aurelius actually gave succession to Commodus in real life, a far cry from dying by his hand.

300: King Darius Wasn’t Slaughtered At The Battle Of Marathon

Photo:  300/Warner Bros.

The character of King Darius was portrayed as being present at the Battle of Marathon. The truth is, King Darius wasn’t even there, and, in fact, he died four years later of old age. Though it made for a nice plot point, King Darius was not killed with an arrow by Xerxes’s father at the Battle.

Braveheart: No Scottish Warrior Wore Blue Paint Or A Uniform

Photo: Braveheart/Paramount Pictures

The 1995 Oscar-winning movie has engrained the image of a blue-faced Mel Gibson in film fans’ minds forever. The truth was, no Scottish warrior at that time would have painted his face for battle – nor would they have even been in uniforms. This was changed in the movie so the audience wouldn’t be confused about who was on which side, similar to how Gibson changed Wallace’s wife’s name from Marian to Murron so the audience didn’t confuse her with Robin Hood’s Maid Marian.

The Patriot: Pivotal Locations Didn’t Even Exist

Photo: The Patriot/Sony Pictures Entertainment

In the 2000 film, The Patriot, Mel Gibson’s composite character, Benjamin Martin, opens up to another character about cutting up dead bodies at Fort Wilderness – supposedly located in South Carolina, as are the rest of the film’s locations – and the remains were sent “down the Ashuelot,” originally coming from Fort Charles. The truth is, Fort Charles is in Jamaica, the Ashuelot River is in New Hampshire, Fort Ambercon doesn’t exist, and Fort Wilderness is a Disney property.

Zero Dark Thirty: Torture Tactics Didn’t Lead Directly To Osama’s Courier

Photo: Zero Dark Thirty/Sony Pictures

CIA operatives called the interrogation scenes in the movie “totally inaccurate,” while countless officials have objected to the way in which the film portrays Enhanced Interrogation Techniques as leading to the bin Laden raid. Even Republicans have confessed that this form of torture did not really lead to bin Laden’s courier, despite being portrayed so in the film. In fact, according to the former director of the CIA, the name of the courier came from a detainee who wasn’t even in CIA custody.

Hotel Rwanda: The Story’s Ending Was Actually Unhappy

Photo: Hotel Rwanda/United Artists

This film, starring Don Cheadle, had a classic Hollywood ending that was much more pleasant onscreen than in real life. The refugee camp shown at the film’s close looked like a safe haven for the characters. In reality, that refugee camp was “run like a prison.” The children looked like they had been starving because, unlike in the movie, they had to fight for food.

Django Unchained: Django’s Sunglasses Wouldn’t Have Existed

Photo: Django Unchained/Columbia Pictures

Sunglasses have existed since the 12th century; however, their earliest usage was most likely in China. Sunglasses didn’t reach America until Sam Foster put them into mass production in 1929, whereas the Tarantino film was set in 1858 – a 71-year difference.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age: Walter Raleigh Didn’t Sail To Armada

Photo: Elizabeth: The Golden Age/Universal Pictures

Walter Raleigh, Clive Owen’s character, is portrayed in this 2007 film as a naval hero who sails by himself to Armada. You might remember the suspenseful scene in which his ship is set ablaze, and he swings away on a rope just in time to save his own life. In reality, however, Raleigh was forced to stay on shore. His duties involved organizing defenses on land, whereas Sir Francis Drake did the coastal dirty work, despite the fact that he wasn’t really in the movie.

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Wasn’t A Loser Who Invented A Machine

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Photo: The Imitation Game/FilmNation Entertainment

Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, Alan Turing, was portrayed in the film as a loner who single-handedly built “the Bombe.” The truth is, not only was Turing fairly popular in Bletchley Park, but he made improvements to a machine that had been invented several years prior. The Polish mathematicians who first invented the machine received little credit in the film.

Foxcatcher: There Was A Long, Important Time Gap Before The Killing

Photo: Foxcatcher/Sony Pictures

Bennet Miller’s 2014 movie about Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz is not the most true-to-history biopic ever made. Without spoiling the movie’s infamous ending, the death of one character at the hands of another is implied to occur shortly after the film’s previous events and as a result of their relationship. There is no evidence to suggest that, as is the case in the real-life story, the murder happened several years later and, during that time, the murderer suffered severe mental health issues.

Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise: Real Pirates Would Never Look Like This

Photo: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl/Walt Disney Pictures

In the franchise, every pirate wore massive hats and had a musket or a handgun in their leather straps. Those leather straps, in real life, would only be seen on rich pirates. The same could be said for pistols, which were exclusively for the rich, while, in reality, muskets were rarely available at all. What’s more, no real pirate wore a hat regularly, since the weather was always hot; rather, hats were only worn to show the pirate’s position to others.

Selma: LBJ Didn’t Stop MLK’s Plans

Photo: Selma/Paramount Pictures

There is no evidence to suggest that President Lyndon B. Johnson was opposed to the Voting Rights Act (initially) or the Civil Rights march that made history. In fact, LBJ urged MLK to lead a demonstration like the one in Selma. Unlike the way he was depicted in the film, Johnson (by no means seen as a kindhearted) never really served as a blockade on the path to voting rights or the march.

American Sniper: The Iraqi Woman Didn’t Really Sacrifice Her Son

Photo: American Sniper/Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood’s controversial movie opens with Bradley Cooper’s character, Chris Kyle, watching an Iraqi woman walk out of her house and hand her son an anti-tank grenade, leading Kyle to question whether or not he should fire. According to the real-life Chris Kyle, the woman held a small hand grenade, but there was no such child. Portraying the woman as heartless enough to send her son out on a fatal mission, even though this portrayal was completely false, made her look unnecessarily cruel.

Dallas Buyers Club: AZT Has Actually Saved Lives

Photo: Dallas Buyers Club/Focus Features

This film takes several missteps in its depiction of the under-the-counter drug AZT. The movie tries to make Matthew McConaughey’s character, Ron Woodroof, a superhero, which is why they made AZT seem unequivocally poisonous. The truth is, many patients have benefited from the drug at an appropriate dosage.

The Theory of Everything: The Term “Black Hole” Was Actually Coined Years Later

Photo: The Theory of Everything/Focus Features

This Stephen Hawking biopic focuses on the protagonist’s journey in unearthing the concept of black holes. In the film, Hawking attends a lecture on the subject in 1963. While astronomers may have introduced the concept by the 18th century, the phrase “black holes” was not used until 1967. The screenplay fails to mention physicist John Wheeler, who coined the term four years after the lecture scene supposedly took place.

Argo: The Trip To Iran Was Already Approved

Photo: Argo/Warner Bros.

Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning CIA movie features a pivotal moment in which the mission is called off the very night of the team’s scheduled departure for Iran. Though suspenseful, this sequence of events is anything but accurate. President Carter had previously approved the team’s flight to Tehran. In fact, policymakers in Washington, D.C. and Ottawa had approved it by that time as well.

Good Night, and Good Luck: Edward R. Murrow’s Show Was Not Abruptly Cancelled

Photo: Good Night, and Good Luck/Warner Independent Pictures (WIP)

Sometimes movies favor dramatic endings over historical accuracy. George Clooney clearly felt that way with respect to his Edward R. Murrow biopic. The ending hinges upon the antagonists canceling Murrow’s show because of his McCarthy reports. As it turns out, the show lasted an entire additional season before even being rescheduled.

The Birth of a Nation: KKK Members Didn’t Conduct Paramilitary Action

Photo: The Birth of a Nation/Epoch Producing Corporation

Though D.W. Griffith claimed everything was accurate in his 1915 movie, the Klu Klux Klansmen are glorified in ways that, by 21st-century standards, are objectively wrong. Mass paramilitary actions are taken in the movie, but in real life, the KKK would have done no such thing. They were usually small groups of night riders and gathered as a large body to disarm state militias only a handful of times. Nor, as some argue the film depicts, were KKK members justified in any of their violence.

JUMP TO COMMENTS
Previous
Next
Please wait...

And Now... A Few Links From Our Sponsors