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8 of the Most Historically Inaccurate Historical Movies

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Most period pieces take some liberties with history. You have the small accidental mistakes, like the wrong kind of shoes, an anachronistic turn of phrase, or a song that was released the year after the film is set. Then you have the purposeful changes that add to a movie’s drama and streamline the plot, like when a team of FBI agents becomes one lead detective, a car wreck becomes an explosion, a historical figure who was actually a plain 40-year-old becomes a smokin’ hot 25-year-old. But then you have the movies that make changes which are… just ridiculous. These are those movies. Here are eight of the most historically inaccurate historical movies.

 

Apocalypto

Not only does Apocalypto confuse the Mayan and the Aztec civilizations, it also seems to have no idea what year it takes place in. The Mayans in the movie speak ancient Mayan, which is pretty authentic and super dope, but then they kill commoners in human sacrifices (the Mayan gods feasted on the blood of high-status prisoners of war). The movie ends with Spanish ships approaching across the horizon… which didn’t actually happen until 400 years after the Classic Mayan empire collapsed. Oops.

 

300

Please don’t take 300 seriously as a historical movie. There are monsters in it, for crying out loud. Yes, it’s vaguely based on the Battle of Thermopylae, but little else is accurate. There weren’t 300 Spartans vs 1 million Persians in the final battle – it was more like 1500 assorted Greeks vs 120,000 Persians (which, granted, were still sh*tty odds for Leonidas). The Persian Empire also wasn’t full of nasty slave-owning freaks. They were actually a sophisticated society that prohibited slavery due to their Zoroastrian religion and wrote the first known human rights declaration. The Spartans, on the other hand, were slave-owning pedophiles (that’s a complicated issue in itself, just google it). And no, they didn’t fight in their undies (even though that looks cool as f*ck).

 

10,000 BC

For a movie with a year in its title, 10,000 BC has no idea what millennium it’s set in. In it, The Pyramids of Giza have been built, when in real life they weren’t constructed for another 7,500 years. And they certainly weren’t built by WOOLLY MAMMOTHS, which could not have survived in the desert (you know, because of the whole “woolly” thing). The characters are using metal tools, although metal wasn’t used for another 6,000 years. And then you have the inexplicable fact that the main tribe is all white, even though they’re from Africa. I can hear Karen Smith in my head right now.

 

Inglorious Basterds

Inglorious Basterds is historically inaccurate on purpose, and it’s amazing. And honestly if you don’t already know what’s inaccurate about it, your knowledge of history is atrocious. Hitler didn’t get murdered by French and American Jews but I sure f*cking wish he did.

 

The Patriot

The New York Times review from 2000 says, “The Patriot is to history as Godzilla was to biology.” Getting into the details of the inaccuracies almost seems silly because most of the movie is inaccurate, but here we go anyways: the Brits never locked the citizens of a town into a church and burned them alive. That was done by the Germans in France during WWII.

But possibly most fascinating is that in The Patriot, Mel Gibson’s character is a principled man driven by the desire to protect his family. He’s based partly off of the real-life Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion, who murdered Native Americans and raped his slaves. Originally the movie was supposed to be about Francis Marion, until I guess the screenwriters decided that the whole rapist/murderer angle wouldn’t sell as well, so they created the fictional Benjamin Martin instead. British author Neil Norman declared Marion, “a thoroughly unpleasant dude who was, basically, a terrorist.”

Then you also have the issue of slavery — having a plantation owner in South Carolina not own any slaves just because modern audiences don’t like to admit that white war heroes back then did indeed own slaves is, as Spike Lee put it, “a whitewashing of history.”

 

Pocahontas and Pocahontas II

For starters, Pocahontas is a cartoon and features an anthropomorphic Weeping Willow. As far as I know, neither of those things are true to life. But it’s also highly unlikely that John Smith and Pocahontas were in love, since in real life she was about 10 when he showed up. Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World is even more inaccurate, since the real-life Pocahontas was married to John Rolfe, took the new name of Rebecca, wore Western clothes, converted to Christianity, and had a son. She did go to England, where she quickly died of disease at the age of 20-21. For some reason, they didn’t put that part in the straight-to-video Disney movie.

 

JFK

This Oliver Stone film presents a conspiracy theory as fact in portraying a CIA plot to kill Kennedy. It implies that Vice President Johnson was in on it, which is more than a little scandalous. JFK uses a conspiracy first put forth in The Report from Iron Mountain, which was published in 1967 and declared a hoax by its author five years later. But that didn’t stop people from taking this film as fact — a 2001 poll showed that 81% of Americans believed there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy. I can’t wait for Stone’s next film, Bush Did 9/11.

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