Top 7 Historically Inaccurate Films

Whenever you see the tagline, 'based on a true story', you'd be well advised to take it with a grain of salt, and to prove it, here is our list of the top seven historically inaccurate movies. We're looking at films that are supposedly based on true stories but which have taken extreme liberties with history to create films that border on fiction. We've not chosen any specific time period, (we consider anything in the past to be historic) and we've excluded those films that purposely alter history, such as “Inglorious Basterds” (2009). We've also left out myth-based films like “Troy” (2004), as there is no way of knowing if they are actually historic.

Argo (2012)

While we're certainly not downplaying Tony Mendez's heroic rescue of US diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis, we are saying that Argo took tremendous liberties with the story for the sake of drama. For example, neither the British nor the New Zealand embassy refused to help and actually played a huge role in sheltering the Americans. But perhaps the most slighted were the Canadians involved in the operation, especially Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor. Even President Jimmy Carter admitted that about 90% of the plan to get the hostages out of Iran came from the Canadians. While director and star, Ben Affleck, claims the film has a 'spirit of truth', any Canadian alive during the crisis would, with extreme prejudice, disagree.

 

U-571 (2000)

While the film is exciting enough as a story, as a history lesson it definitely leaves much to be desired, with even former prime Minister Tony Blair attacking it. The film follows American troops as they board the German U-571 to capture the famous Enigma cypher machine. Even in that synopsis, there are glaring mistakes; the U-571 was never actually captured, it was the U-110. Also, Americans had nothing to do with it since the incident occurred months before the US entered the war. In real life, it was an entirely British operation. Hence Blair's nasty remarks.

 

Anastasia (1997)

This isn't the first time an animated children's film has tampered with history, and it probably won't be the last. Anastasia tells the story of the Grand Duchess of Russia, but in this version, she survived the infamous Romanov shooting which sought the execution of her entire family. Throughout the film, there are countless small errors. For example; people call her Princess Anastasia, although Russian's never used that term. She did not escape to Paris, and the movie is actually pushed about ten years ahead in time. But the biggest and perhaps the saddest inaccuracy is that Anastasia was brutally shot, along with the rest of her kin. Unless you believe the conspiracy theories, that is.

 

300 (2007)

Director Zack Snyder went to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy when adapting Frank Miller's graphic novel. However, even Miller said he'd altered some details to suit his story. While King Leonidas and his outnumbered men did heroically block the pass against the massive Persian attack, he did it with more like 7,000 soldiers and not just the 300. And while Spartan soldiers were definitely muscular, they weren't parading around their six-packs, as they would have been wearing armour. Xerxes wasn't a vaguely effeminate giant with a baritone voice and war elephants were never used on the Thermopylae battlefield.

 

Apocalypto (2006)

While we have to praise Apocalypto for using the authentic Yucatec Maya language, it's use is actually dangerous because it lends the rest of the film credibility, and might make audiences think it's an actual depiction of the Maya people. In fact, it's anything but. When a Mayan tribesman is sentenced to be sacrificed, someone should have told him not to worry because the Mayans almost never performed human sacrifices, (that was the Aztecs), and on the rare occasions they did it was against the ruling class, not the common folk. The film also portrays the Mayans as cruel sadists, which again is more akin to the Aztecs, as the Maya were actually a very peaceful bunch.

 

The Last Samurai (2003)

Inspired by the Satsuma rebellion of 1877, the film stars Tom Cruise as a Civil War veteran who befriends an enemy Samurai during the Meiji Restoration. First of all, it is extremely doubtful that an old Civil War soldier could become a master Samurai in such a short time. Also, as in U-571, the film over glorifies America as Japan never consulted the US as military advisors. Finally, the Samurai themselves are constantly portrayed as men of great honour, when in reality the Meiji Reformers were not fighting for purely selfless reasons, but to stay atop the social caste system. Because of this, the idea of them allowing a Yankee to join their ranks is extremely doubtful.

 

The Patriot (2000)

If you think murder, rape and enslavement doesn't sound like content suitable for a heroic protagonist then you are not alone. But one of the men upon whom Mel Gibson's Benjamin Martin is based did all of those things. He reportedly even hunted Native Americans for sport. Yet in this film, he's revered. The British are unfairly depicted as cool, murderous villains of the Revolutionary War, simply to boost the on screen drama. Needless to say, these gross inaccuracies and the fact that their countrymen were depicted as something akin to Nazis during WW2, made sure British viewers and critics did not give The Patriot favourable reviews.

 

Braveheart (1995)

Mel Gibson just loves changing history. Braveheart tells the mostly historical story of William Wallace leading the Scottish army in their first war of independence. But the film dramatises a lot for storytelling purposes. For example; the time period is off. Although it's supposed to take place beginning in the year 1280, the lives of the real-life historical figures featured do not line up. This is important because the idea that William Wallace and not Edward III fathered Isabella of France's eldest child has gained traction in popular imagination. Even though she would have been nine years old when Wallace died. Also, as cool as those kilts look on the Scots, they're about 200 years too early.

 

So, what do you think of our list? Which film or films do you consider to be historically inaccurate? Drop us a line and let us know. We'd love to hear from you.

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