Most historically accurate/inaccurate movies

I oncwe knew a teacher who told me “Mississippi Burning” (a personal fav of mine), was VERY innacurate. IIRC, he told me the FBI was much slower than depicted in responding to the murders.

More fundamentally, the FBI finally caught the guilty parties by offering a big cash reward for information. Ultimately, greed won out over bigotry.

Pretty much, there is no such thing as a historically acccurate movie. Some things are going to HAVE to be changed in order to get it to fit in a 90 minute time frame, or make it more cinematically interesting. But there are extremes. Take the Vietnam war: If you want accurate, watch Hamburger Hill, if you want inaccurate, there’s Platoon.

But even the most accurate movies are going to have little mistakes or changes. Take the Civil War movie Glory. Very accurate, except little things like one of the extras playing a slave child forgot to take his digital watch off before filming, or flogging was made illegal a year before the flogging scene took place. Things like that.

But the most inaccurate of all is Star Wars. “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away” Yeah right, find that in my history book. heehee.

The character Mel Gibson purportedly played in The Patriot was a real bastard in real life. None of this touchy-feely race neutral 18th Century South Carolina portrayal.

Braveheart is amazingly inaccurate–anti-historical, even. Let’s see, William Wallace didn’t wear a kilt (nor paint his face blue), Isabella of France was a child in France during his campaigns, Longshanks wouldn’t have “given” lords the right of droit de seigneur

Pretty sure Queen hadn’t written “We Will Rock You” by the time A Knight’s Tale was set. :slight_smile:

Of course, in some cases, the filmmakers don’t pretend they’re going for accuracy. Gladiator, for example: Ridley Scott wanted to base the appearance of the movie on 19th century French Neo-Classical paintings, so there’s no point in cataloguing the many anachronisms in the film. (I was more annoyed at the proposition that Marcus Arelius intended to restore the Republic; in fact, you sort of get the impression at the end of the movie that that’s about to happen.)

I would have mentioned Braveheart if someone hadn’t beaten me to it. In this case, I don’t know a good excuse for the script; maybe Randall Wallace didn’t think an accurate potrayal of his ancestor would be sympathetic enough. I would have liked to have seen Wallace fighting in mail and a greathelm, as he did in real life.

I’m not a Civil War expert, but I was very impressed with Gettysburgh, and look forward to the upcoming Gods and Generals.

Glaring examples innacurate potrayals of the past in movies is a pet peeve of mine. I think it perpetuates, or in some cases actually creats, myths and misconceptions about the events and people of the past. I’m not so anal about every little inaccuracy that I allow it to ruin a decent movie though sometimes they do ruin the movie.

The Patriot was ruined for me from the very scene where the black plantation worker on Mel’s farm says “We’re not slaves we’re free men.” Yeah, my ass your free. It is insulting to my intelligence that the producers/directors of this film wanted me to believe a South Carolina plantation didn’t derive their labor from slaves. I guess they were afraid of presenting a main character who had any real flaws. It would have been much more interesting to have a man who wanted freedom from England but at the same time depended on slaves for his economic livlihood.

Braveheart as pointed out by foolsguinea has some glaring innacuracies. They had the battle of Sterling Bridge without a bridge!!

Amadeus really had very little to do with Mozart besides including his name and his music.


I will give Braveheart credit for one thing. I never heard of William Wallace before the movie came out. I realize he might be a big deal in Scotland but I never heard him mentioned in college. It is kind of neat to learn about someone new though you have to find another source besides the movie of course.


Can you give some examples of what makes one accurate and the other inaccurate? Just curious, I’ve only seen one of these and it’s been a while. How would you compare Full Metal Jacket? :wink:
Also, didn’t both Braveheart and Platoon win Academy awards for Best Picture? Interesting that those are both noted here as inaccurate…

Regarding Full Metal Jacket: Vietnam does not look that much like England.

A little known Australian film which was beautifully made and amazingly accurate starred a young Mel Gibson BEFORE his move to the U.S. - it was called “Gallipoli” - about a doomed assault by Australian forces on an untakeable headland on the Turkish coast in World War 1 which was ordered by the British primarily as diversionary tactic. The Australians were pinned down on the cliff faces for 15 months and tried valiantly to get ‘over the top’ time and time again but were slaughtered in their tens of thousands.

The British didn’t care though - it was purely a diversionary tactic on the grander stage and it was only those ‘colonial inbreds’ the Australians and New Zealanders that were being sacrificed. (Nobody important!)

It was Mel Gibson’s first really ‘Braveheart’ style role - he’d already made Mad Max (the original) by that stage but “Gallipoli” was the film which got him into Hollywood for sure. And in a final irony? Today, the Turks honour Australians as epic heroes thrown to their deaths by a callous higher command, and the bonds between the two countries are deeply bound within the human heart.

There are movies that are accurate in the sense of historical “sweep”, but have partially or entirely fictional characters created to observe the events from a hopefully fresh POV. I would put The Patriot in this category. Maybe Pearl Harbor, dreadful as it was, as well.

There are characters and events of history we know almost nothing about, so we simply make up lots of stuff. Braveheart, and frankly MOST films made about times more than a century ago, fit here.

A few fall in-between. All the President’s Men is the only one that comes readily to mind, but there have been a few courtroom dramas taken almost word for word from trial transcripts, for example (though for the life of me I can’t name one now).

“Gallipoli casualties by nation” submitted to Google led to this site:

stating that over twice as many non-ANZAC British troops were killed than ANZAC.

Two highly ahistorical biographies:

Viva Villa! (1934), starring Wallace Beery as Mexican rebel Pancho Villa. At least the producers at MGM prefaced it with a title admitting that this is more the Villa of folklore than history.

Hans Christian Andersen (1952), which had the title character played by Danny Kaye as a poor, semi-literate itinerant instead of the erudite scholar that he was.
For all its attention to historically accurate costume and set decoration, the climatic battle in Heaven’s Gate (1980), based on the Johnson County wars, was writer-director Michael Cimino’s invention.

Slithy Tove, I stand corrected. Obviously there is fair bit of revisionist history taking place down here on the matter, and I for one, will make an effort to point that out in future.

Thank you…

What? No mention of Raquel Welch fleeing from the pterodactyl in One Million B.C.? :stuck_out_tongue:

ARTEMISIA, an Italian movie about the artist Artemisia Gentileschi. In the movie her father finds out she’s having an affair with her teacher, but thinks he’s raped her and so the man is put on trial, found guilty and Artemisia pines for him. In reality she accused him of rape, he was acquitted and she moved around Europe for several years establishing her reputation as an artist and proto-feminist.

Sounds like the real story would have been pretty interesting, so why’d they change it?

“Accuracy” in historical movies is a pretty recent concept.

If you watch old films based on historical people or events, you’ll find that efforts to maintain historical accuracy are pretty negligible. Lots of examples spring to mind: “biopics” such as * Calamity Jane, Annie Get Your Gun, Love Me or Leave Me, Madame Curie, Gypsy,*–all based on real persons–were all essentially fluff pieces. This was kind of the standard of the day.]

I don’t know where the fashion of protesting the accuracy of a film’s historical setting started; anyone have any thoughts on that?

An acurate historical movie is called a documentary. If it’s not called that…it won’t be acurate.