One would think that movies based off of actual events in history would do all that they could to be 100% accurate, but sadly, that's not usually the case. As the 10 movies featured in this Archive will show, Hollywood is not shy about taking liberties with the facts, spinning its own truths to create what may be deemed a more "entertaining version."
Were lords really able to bed brides on their wedding night? Wasn't Wallace's execution a bit more detailed? Did Scottish soldiers still paint their faces when Wallace led them to independence? Wasn’t there a rather impeding bridge at the Battle of Stirling? If you're asking these questions while watching Mel Gibson's Braveheart, then you know your history! In fact, if you know your history that well, chances are you're going to have a hard time getting through the 1995 biographical drama which tends to be more fiction than not. Including those already mentioned, there's question as to who Wallace married, if he ever left Scotland prior to invading Northern England, the identity and fate of his father, when Edward I really died, and, well, dozens of other inaccuracies. In defense of the screenplay, Randal Wallace claimed inspiration from Blind Harry's epic, The Acts and Deeds of the Illustrious and Valiant Champion Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, which has been deemed mostly incorrect.
The Social Network
Aaron Sorkin is not shy about the blatant fictional qualities of his version of the Mark Zuckerberg story, but considering it's a real story about a real person, one may think accuracy would be of great concern. From the opening scene with the fictitious breakup and spiteful ambition to create Facebook, to the heated confrontation between the CEO and his former friend, Sorkin was clearly not concerned with 100% accuracy. Additional liberties taken with the story, some of which pulled from Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires, include the Winklevoss twins learning of Facebook's expansion into Europe in 2004 when, in reality, the site was still strictly stateside by that time. The Social Network may have earned over 120 awards, but that doesn't mean it needs to be accurate. Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and played by Justin Timberlake, went on record saying "The Social Network is a complete work of fiction" and "I wish my life was this cool.. There are no Victoria's Secret models in Silicon Valley."
If you want to know all about the attack on Pearl Harbor, you travel to Pearl Harbor. If you want to catch a dramatized and inaccurate version of an incredibly important part of American history, you check out Michael Bay's 2001 film starring Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale. For this film, the inaccuracies pile high and include showing products that weren't available for another 30 years, utilizing aircraft and cars that didn't exist in 1941, the use of incorrect aircraft weaponry, and a little flip-flopping with the timeline. Pearl Harbor also goofs on how Affleck's character joins the Eagle Squadron, which, as an active-duty U.S. Air Force member, would have been impossible, and incorrectly depicts Jimmy Doolittle's raid, which bombed 4 vital Japanese locations rather than the one shown in the film.
The Doors were one of the finest musical groups of the late 60's, so, of course, a movie was going to be made about them. Taking the helm was Oliver Stone and co-writer J. Randal Johnson who, despite The Doors' rather public career, decided to alter history in favor of beefing up the drama. Some of the more notable changes include The Doors' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which depicted Morrison as jumping around on stage, blatantly ignoring a request to change the lyrics to "Light My Fire," and a moment where Morrison locks then-girlfriend Pamela Courson in a house and sets it on fire. One of the greatest disservices, at least according to the surviving members of the band, was with how Morrison was portrayed. Though John Densmore, Patricia Kennealy, and Robby Krieger served as advisors, they claim Stone often opted to ignore their input, a decision that diluted Morrison to little more than a sociopathic character with a substance abuse problem.
According to director Zack Snyder, the events in the 2006 epic fantasy 300 is 90% accurate, but there seems to be discord when determining if that statement itself is factual. For one, the noble depiction of the Spartans is a little on the more fantastical side. Believed to encourage pedophilic relationships and kill slaves just for fun, Spartans weren't quite as clean cut as shown; and as for their opponents, the Persians? The well-organized fighting force was really believed to be under the control of an inept military leader. In regards to the 300 soldiers that stayed behind at Thermopylae - despite what the movie shows - they were backed by about 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans. Does 300 make for a really fun action flick? Absolutely! Is it the go-to source for Grecian history? Probably not.
Set around the early 16th century, Apocalypto follows a Meso-American tribesman, Jaguar Paw, who finds himself facing threat of Mayan ritualistic sacrifices as the Mayan kingdom faces collapse. Though Gibson and co-writer Farhad Safinia had extensively researched Mayan civilizations, Mayan expert Zachary Hruby was quick to cry foul about some of the film's depictions. For one, Paw's hunting village contradicts the fact that Mayans were an agricultural people and wild game was a small part of their diet. Additionally, Hruby states Mayans weren't known to capture innocent men and women for slavery or sacrifice and the type of large-scale sacrifice depicted in the movie was not connected to Mayan culture. The film's biggest guffaw, however, is the arrival of the Spaniards, which didn't occur for about 400 years after the Mayan collapse.
Being a Disney flick, of course, the production team was going to have to alter some of Pocahontas' history to be "child-friendly." One of the biggest changes was to Pocahontas herself, who, in real life, was only around 10 or 11 years old when Captain John Smith came around. Since the Native American girl was so young, there's little doubt that the two ever had a romantic relationship outside of the Disney iteration. In the real story, Smith left Virginia for England about 2 years after meeting Pocahontas for the first time. According to David Price, author of Love and Hate in Jamestown, their first interaction was actually when the girl saved Smith from Chief Wahunsenaca's club.
Yes, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise piloted the ill-fated Apollo 13 lunar mission, but that doesn't mean every aspect of Ron Howard's 1995 docudrama was 100% accurate. In fact, there were quite a few alterations made during filming that differed from the actual story. While it's true that Thomas "Ken" Mattingly was pulled from the flight crew after testing positive for German Measles, his involvement in bringing his 3 fellow astronauts home was quite a bit different. Instead of secluding himself in a simulator to devise a remedy for the oxygen tank explosion, Ken was assigned to several different teams. Several of the more technical aspects of the movie were also toyed around with and, while the film made it seem like the astronauts came up with solutions like a carbon dioxide filter on the fly, many were scenarios NASA already had in place.
When Oliver Stone tackled the 1991 movie based on the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy, he must have known he was taking on an issue that was still relatively fresh. Of the factual follies that some believe plagued JFK was the use of unreliable eyewitness accounts, including Jean Hill and Beverly Oliver. From Julia Ann Mercer's identification of Jack Ruby as the man that delivered the rifle to a claim that Oswald had no paraffin residue on him, the film is speckled with alterations of the truth. The movie also depicts Oswald printing "Hands Off Cuba!" leaflets but ignores that the actual pamphlets were ordered and picked up by a man named Lee Osborne that bore no resemblance to Oswald. Though much of the assassination is still shrouded in mystery, the film clearly veered from provable facts in favor of creative directions.
Milos Forman's adaptation of Peter Shaffer's stage play about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a lot more fun than it probably should be, due in part to Tom Hulce's over-the-top depiction of the musician. That, in fact, is one of the most glaring issues of this award-winning period piece as accounts of Mozart's personality are glaringly different. Shaffer claimed to have altered Mozart's personality into this living cartoon character to help fuel the jealousy of supposed rival Antonio Salieri, which actually reveals another touch of the writer's creativity. While Salieri and Mozart were not known to be best of friends, there was believed to be enough mutual respect that the notion of the two locked in a murderous rivalry can be easily dismissed.