Historically based movies with gross inaccuracy

Two Movies based on historic events were mentioned in a GD Thread
** A Beautiful Mind**

and September Dawn

and comments were made about how inaccurate they were. Of course we don’t really expect Hollywood productions to be that accurate but I’d say there is a line where it goes from dramatic license to total bullshit, with a disregard for the concept of “based on a true story” or historical events.

I enjoy movies based on true stories and history. I often will watch a movie and then do the research to see where they have distorted it. Sometimes the details are wrong but the heart is intact. Other times significant details are wrong that changes the heart of the story.

So what historic movies , or movies based on actual events, have you discovered are grossly inaccurate or, fairly accurate for Hollywood.

There was actually a book out that discussed this: Future Imperfect: History According to Hollywood.

My feeling on this is simple: I don’t mind minor inaccuracies if it makes for a better story. The only time I object is if these become major plot points. It’s no big deal if, say, the Little Big Horn Massacre is moved to Arizona (e.g., Fort Apache, but if Custer is saved, then there is a problem.

U-571 is condemned by British historians because it made Americans the heros, but the movie was a good adventure story.

Mad Men pissed me off on the very first episode when, to resolve the main plot point, Don Draper “invented” a slogan that had been used continuously for over 40 years (at the time of the show) and presented it as a new idea. That was a blatant cheat (and a bit of a deus ex machina). A great writer would have used an actual slogan from the time to make the point; a good writer would have invented something new; a terrible writer would just say, “Let’s just pick something; no one will know.” (This has been a consistent issue with the show every time I try to watch; the writers have no concept about attitudes of the time.)

As remarked previously (many times), you’d be more efficient to ask which movies have been the most accurate.
Most “historical” movies have truly egregious errors.
My personal favorite is 300, which is so overblown over-the-top preposterous that it’s great guilty fun. You can’t even begin listing all the errors and misconceptions – you’ll fall over yourself trying to get them all out.

My choice for most accurate is probably A Man for All Seasons. Granting that Bolt necessarily re-arranged things for dramatic effect, the biggest criticisms seem to be “it doesn’t tell the whole story – it leaves out x.”

The Birdman of Alcatraz is an especially infamous example. The guy in real life was allegedly something of a psychopath as well as a pedophile.

Let’s also consider movies that are based on true stories rather than major historic events.

I watched The Hurricane
and decided to do a little research. It was interesting to discover just how far off the story was and that many people believed he was guilty as hell.

The Doors movie took way too many liberties and portrayed Morrison as a sociopath.

Braveheart is a well-known example of a film that took, uh, “liberties” with actual history. Too many to list.

TVTropes page: Hollywood History.

And that’s a Historical Hero Upgrade.

See also You Fail History Forever.

The British cartoon Monkey Dust had brilliant bits on Hollywood movies of The Crusades & The Diary of Anne Frank. (Anne gets rescued by her boyfriend, an American GI. This is not close to the most absurd thing in the piece. I’d find it on youtube, but I’m posting from work.)

Amadeus is not factually accurate - but then, it’s not supposed to be.

In particular it leaves out a Crowning Moment of Awesome, when More pulled away his long beard so it would not rest beneath his neck on the chopping block, saying, “This, at any rate, has given the king no offense.”

Pretty much all Oliver Stone movies.

I’ve never seen it but there’s a movie called Krakatoa, East of Java. No idea how inaccurate the actual movie is, but Krakatoa is actually west of Java. Kind of awesome when even the title gets it wrong.

Bridge on the River Kwai


Great Escape - was POW camp for captured British soldiers. There were no Americans. All that stuff with Steve McQueen was fantasy. PBS did a NOVA special about the true story.

The thing that bugs me about A Beautiful Mind beyond the stuff they left out is that Alicia actually divorced Nash sometime around 1960. It’s in the book. The she let him move back into her house. I think this was a stretch, since she was working as a programmer for NJ Transit, and didn’t drive. Her house was a few hundred feet from the Princeton Junction railroad station.

I think her support of Nash was more admirable than shown in the movie, since it was not the slightest bit romantic at the time. Something about Alicia attracted mathematicians, John Moore, a topologist at IAS adored her. They seem to have thrown out a lot of truth and instead used the invisible friend theme.

I never studied that stuff when I was at MIT, but people in the MIT Club of Princeton spoke of him in these reverent tones two steps above Jesus. I don’t think the movie showed why he was treated with such respect even when he was sick.

I’ll have to watch it again to see if they got Alicia’s accent right, but I don’t think so, which is probably just as well.

I saw the recently released “Robin Hood” at the drive-in and was mildly entertained until the French assaulted the English coast in wooden LST Landing Craft - the kind of boat where the front opens down onto the beach so the troops can run out (usually confronted by Nazi or Japanese machine-gun fire).

Since the story of Robin Hood (in the movie) was based in the 14th century and LSTs weren’t invented until the late 1930s, I found this to be a bit of a stretch.

I’m glad I wasn’t the only one bugged by this. Why would they specially build boats that were so inaccurate when they could have used practically any other boat laying around and been closer to reality?

I was thinking the same thing. I don’t know - maybe Russell Crowe thought they were more dramatic. Although I can’t fathom why.

What was the slogan?