Annoyingly Inaccurate Movies That Are Based On True Stories

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There is a level of intrigue in movies based on true stories that are not easily found in other genres of films. But while some movies end up coming out absolutely accurate and engaging, others have completely butchered a ton of real facts in history that they should’ve just left as is! From classics such as A Beautiful MindPocahontas, and Catch Me If You Can, these are some of the most inaccurate movie representations of reality in Hollywood. Good movies or not, this is the true story of your favorite “historically based” film.

1. ​U-571

In the American war film U-571, a German submarine is seen being commandeered by a group of disguised American submariners. While something like this did happen, though the way this story unfolds is incredibly inaccurate.

​U-571

Getty Images

The film is based on “Operation Primrose,” where a U-11 was captured, and not the U-571. What’s even more inaccurate is that Americans weren’t even involved in the operation, which was instead led by the British way before America actually entered the war.

2. ​Shakespeare In Love

While historians have often claimed that Shakespear’s life was pretty dull, Hollywood couldn’t pass on the opportunity to make a movie about him. In the film, Shakespeare has a passionate relationship with Viola, which gives him quite a bit of inspiration, but the truth is that the affair probably never happened.

​Shakespeare In Love

Miramax Films

To make it worse, several scenes in the movie are modernized and the writer is portrayed in ways that dramatically differ from what history says.

3. ​Gangs Of New York

It took quite a number of years for Martin Scorcese to get his passion project, Gangs of New York, off the ground. While the film eventually became an Oscar-nominated art piece, it turned out that the storyline didn’t properly represent a few facts.

​Gangs Of New York

Miramax Films

One of them was the fact that while the “Dead Rabbits” and the “Natives” did exist, they never actually battled over the Five Points turf leaving the whole plot of the movie essentially a fantasy.

4. Argo

Directed by and starring Ben Affleck, Argo was one of the phoniest, most exciting, and tensest films out there. The 2013 movie follows the masquerades of a CIA agent, as he pretends to be a Hollywood producer while trying to save six Americans in Tehran in 1980.

Argo

Warner Bros. Pictures

But the thing is that the movie had several parts that are simply untrue. One of them involves the crew almost getting lynched by a group of Iranians in the Grand Bazaar when that never happened, and the crew was never even near that famous landmark.

5. ​They Died With Their Boots On

This 1914 movie stars actor Errol Flynn as Geroge Armstrong Custer, who contributed towards one of the most inaccurate portrayals of Custer’s life in history. Amongst other things, the movie essentially fails to show the real way in which Custer dies.

​They Died With Their Boots On

Warner Brothers/Getty Images

In reality, he died at the hands of Crazy Horse’s Lakota tribe. Also, historically, Cluster was known to be arrogant and brash, when the movie shows him as humble and self-sacrificial.

6. ​Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor was a super hit at the box office, but who says that it did a good job in retelling the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? The 2001 film follows Danny and Rafe, two fictional characters who were based in Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor when the attack happened.

​Pearl Harbor

Buena Vista Pictures

According to history, only a couple of Japanese fighters were shot down when both characters got on planes and began shooting down their enemies – but the movie shows more than 20 enemy casualties.

7. ​10,000 B.C.

If one thing became clear with the film 10,000 B.C, it’s that there is no way we can rely on a Roland Emmerich flick hoping to learn a little bit about the past. The film follows the journey of a young mammoth hunter, as he attempts to protect his family.

​10,000 B.C.

Warner Bros. Pictures

But the choice of having a mammoth living in the desert is outrageously false, as is making it seem like they helped build the pyramids which is even more fantastical. Just for context, the pyramids were only built 8,000 years after the events of the movie.

8. Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings’ depiction of reality is just upsetting, to say the least. The ’90s classic portrays the inspirational and often funny story of the first-ever Jamaican team to compete in the Winter Olympics.

Cool Runnings

Buena Vista Pictures

But when the movie came out, a former member of the team claimed that the film was absolutely fictitious. While they were a part of the 1988 games, and they did end up in the last place because of a crash, and their portrayal as failed sprinters and outcasts was an absolute lie.

9. ​The Revenant

Those who have watched Hugh Glass’ The Revenant might have loved it, but there is no doubt that some scenes were simply implausible. Sure, Dicaprio’s character did miraculously survive a bear attack, and then did seek revenge against those who had left him to die.

​The Revenant

20th Century Fox

But the real-life character never actually got that revenge, and instead, he forgave those who abandoned him. He also didn’t have a wife or a son. In a way, isn’t that almost a better story?

10. ​Remember the Titans

Remember the Titans was a big hit, and it did an incredible job displaying how the Titans overcame prejudice and managed to win it all during T.C. Williams High’s 1971 season.

​Remember the Titans

Buena Vista Pictures / Getty Images

But although the team did in fact win, the heightened drama, the racist girlfriends, and protesters against them were all apparently a matter of fiction. According to players and teachers from the time, blacks and whites actually coexisted peacefully in the school for quite some time.

11. Titanic

Titanic was a $2 billion success that dramatized the tragic voyage and love story of Rose and Jack. And while the film is basically known all over the world, it turns out that the doomed romance has portrayed several pieces of fiction.

Titanic

Paramount Pictures

One of them includes a part when First Officer William Murdoch shoots two people and then himself after he panics, though there are no historical facts to back this up. That being said, it was a tense moment, and we’ll forgive them for this one.

12. Hoffa

Though Nicholson undeniably gives an unforgettable performance in Hoffa, historians weren’t so impressed with some of the facts shared in the film. Danny Devito’s character is completely fictitious, though he plays a central role in the movie as Hoffa’s old confidant.

Hoffa

20th Century Fox / Getty

The conjecture around Hoffa’s murder is also complicated since there is no confirmation that the mob did in fact kill him in the parking lot of a restaurant. In fact, to this day his murder remains as one of the greatest unsolved American murders.

13. ​Quiz Show

If there is something that Robert Redford is known for, it’s his love for making period films, whether he’s directing or starring in them.

​Quiz Show

Buena Vista Pictures

And though he really did put quite a bit of effort into Quiz Show, a movie that shows the investigation into fixed quiz shows, the actor has admitted that the movie was indeed a mix of reality and fiction.

14. The Hurricane

The Hurricane portrays the story of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who was wrongly imprisoned for murder. But while Denzel Washington gives a commendable performance, Carter’s real-life attorney claimed that the film portrayed the story through the narrative of a soap opera.

The Hurricane

Universal Pictures

Prosecutors fabricating stories, and the constant corruption in the judicial system is omitted in the film, ending with a Canadian commune wrongly getting the credit for Carter’s exoneration.

15. ​Enemy At The Gates

When Enemy at the Gates was released, critics from all over the world were completely split. The film starred Ed Harris and Jude Law and it depicts the various exploits of famed Soviet sniper Vasily Zaytsev.

​Enemy At The Gates

Paramount Pictures

Yet, according to historians, the movie couldn’t have portrayed Zaytsev in a more exaggerated way. Essentially, it suggested that an entire battle’s course would have been changed with his death, which was certainly not the case.

16. Young Guns II

After the success of the Western film, Young Guns, a sequel only made sense for producers. But if the first movie already came with a few inaccuracies, just imagine the second one!

Young Guns II

20th Century Fox

It was agreed by several historians that Billy the Kid was shot dead by a lawman named Pat Garrett. But in the movie, the storyline suggests that a man named “Brushy” Bill Roberts was the actual Billy the Kid.

17. ​The Pursuit Of Happyness

​The Pursuit Of Happyness is certainly not an easy film to watch – and when you think that it’s all based on a real story, then several scenes feel like a punch in the stomach.

​The Pursuit Of Happyness

Columbia Pictures (Sony Pictures Releasing)

But it turns out that the real Chris Gardner never got an interview with Dean Witter Reynolds after solving a Rubik’s Cube, and he was also never arrested for unpaid parking tickets, instead, he was arrested for domestic abuse. But if that had been added to the film, we’re not sure the reception towards him would have been quite as warm.

18. The Hurt Locker

Although the war Oscar-winning film, The Hurt Locker, was a hit in Hollywood, real-life veterans called the film a sensationalization of the Iraq War. Specifically, they claimed that bombs are almost never dismantled by hand, it is usually done by robotics instead.

The Hurt Locker

Summit Entertainment

To add, a former British bomb disposal officer claimed that Jeremy Renner’s character simply portrayed a “hot-headed, irrational adrenaline junkie with no self-discipline,” ouch!

19. Gladiator

Here goes another Oscar-winning film that didn’t do such a good job in bringing all the historical facts to the screen. The general-turned-slave-turned-gladiator narrative story stars Russel Crowe as the Roman General, Maximus Decimus Meridius.

Gladiator

DreamWorks Pictures / Getty Images

Though many historians were hired to consult for the film, apparently, one of them decided to quit when the script was drastically changed. The claim is that many storylines, including when Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius gets killed by his son, are total lies. In reality, he actually died of chickenpox.

20. ​The Sound Of Music

The Sound of Music was released in 1965, telling the story of an Austrian woman who is named the governess to a Naval officer’s children.

​The Sound Of Music

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation / Getty Images

The movie is iconic and beautifully shot, but the real Maria von Trapp actually came through with the aim of tutoring George von Trapp’s sickly daughter. In the movie, she is portrayed as helping all seven children, with their names being somewhat off from reality.

21. ​Conquest Of Paradise

Conquest of Paradise was released on the five-hundred-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ famous voyage. The film joined another one that year on the same subject, but Ridley Scott’s 1492:Conquest of Paradise was certainly the one that got the most attention.

​Conquest Of Paradise

Paramount Pictures

Gerald Depardieu plays Columbus with quite a heavy french accent when historically, it’s known that he spoke Castilian Spanish with an Italian-Portuguese accent. Not to mention that his heroic portrayal would certainly cause some issues with today’s viewers.

22. ​Battle Of The Bulge

Though Battle of the Bulge was made only twenty years after World War II, war veterans and buffs share the same disappointment with the portrayal of events in the film. From equipment inaccuracies to combat errors, perhaps the biggest mistake made in the film is the weather during the battle.

​Battle Of The Bulge

Warner Bros. Pictures

While the movie shows the battles happening on flat ground, it was known that in real life, snowy weather was what these brave men actually fought through.

23. ​The Green Berets

If there is one historical movie that was admittedly a complete flop, that is The Green Berets starring John Wayne. Everything from set design, to costumes and dialogue, was full of errors.

​The Green Berets

While the movie supposedly takes place in Vietnam (it follows the story of a reporter who was sent out to cover the Vietnam war) the lack of something as basic as palm trees in the film is dumbfounding.

24. ​Red Tails

Red Tails portrays the story of a group of black pilots who flew through the Second World War. With George Lucas as executive producer and starring Cuba Gooding Jr., the film really grabbed the attention of historians worldwide, and not for a good reason.

​Red Tails

20th Century Fox

Though the movie portrays the Tuskegee Airmen as not losing one single bomber to enemy fire, that wasn’t quite true. It was reported that at least 25 were killed during the attacks.

25. ​Apocalypto

Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto centers around the fall of the Mayan empire and provides viewers with quite the spectacle. But as fun as the movie may be, it should definitely not be taken as historical accuracy.

​Apocalypto

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In the film, the Mayan characters are portrayed as radicalized savages, though they were actually pretty peaceful. They also almost never performed any sort of human sacrifice, though they portray them doing so.

26. Newsies

The 1992 Disney film Newsies was a total flop when it was released. The musical was about the newsboy’s strike that took place in 1899 and follows the trajectory towards the revolt against Joseph Pulitzer after he raises the price for the distribution of the newspaper.

Newsies

Buena Vista Pictures

While Bale Jack Kelly leads the strikers in the films and eventually gets Pulitzer to give in to their demands, Kelly never existed in real life. The strike was actually led by a one-eyed young man called Louis Balletti, who plays a smaller role in the movie.

27. Catch Me If You Can

There is no doubt that Steven Spielberg’s Catch me If You Can is a legendary movie, but even when it comes to a too-good-to-be-true tale there is still space for errors. According to historical accounts, Frank Abangale Jr. didn’t actually masquerade himself as a doctor, a lawyer, and an airplane pilot because of the consequences of his parent’s marriage.

Catch Me If You Can

DreamWorks Pictures / YouTube / MovieClips Classic Trailers

He did so to get girls instead. Even more, the character Carl Hanratty played by Tom Hanks in the film is a completely fictitious character.

28. ​Brotherhood Of The Wolf

This action film follows the life of the legendary Beast of Gevaudan, one of the most terrifying “monsters” during the 1760s in France, which resulted in the death of over 100 people. It was said that the animal was shot dead by a hunter in 1767, and though what the hunter managed to kill still remains a mystery, some people believe it was a gigantic wolf.

​Brotherhood Of The Wolf

Universal Pictures

But in the film, a Canadian Kung Fu master catches the beast, which ends up being a trained African lion in Armor. The lion had been sent by a French aristocrat who wanted to undermine the king.

29. Hoosiers

If you love a good basketball drama, then you’re probably more than familiar with Hoosiers. But no matter how feel-good the movie was, it came with a bunch of flaws that critics could simply not let go of. 

Hoosiers

Orion Pictures / Getty

Gene Hackman’s character was based on Marvin Wood, the real-life coach who was 26 at the time and attending his second year of university, not his first. Several scenes were further invented, including the trouble Wood faced when trying to fill his roster, and even the death of a coach that never happened.

30. ​Girl With A Pearl Earring

Many may not know that Girl With A Pearl Earring is actually based on a painting. Though the film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, the painting did come first. The piece was created by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer during the mid-17th century.

​Girl With A Pearl Earring

Lions Gate Films

The subject of his painting remains a mystery to this date, though the film posits the young woman, who is played by Scarlett Johanson, as someone who catches Vermeer’s eye. Though there is no telling who this girl really was, there is a theory that she was actually his eldest daughter.

31. ​Field Of Dreams

Field of Dreams has been highly criticized for mishandling an important character in history, something that critics really weren’t able to let go of. In the film, the plot makes a huge deal about Joe Jackson’s batting right while throwing left.

​Field Of Dreams

Universal Pictures

But in reality, the real Jackson was the opposite, a lefty batter who threw righty. This error was particularly annoying because they made such a big deal about a fact that they got totally wrong.

32. JFK

One of Oliver Stone’s greatest passions is to make memorable historical movies. So it only made sense that he would direct a movie about one of the most known presidents in history. The opening starts with a montage that puts together both recreated and archived footage, which gives viewers the idea that the film will take a documentary-style approach when it actually doesn’t.

JFK

Warner Bros.

It also ends up mixing conspiracy theories with real-life facts, which may confuse many viewers. One of the most vital scenes in the film is the part where David Ferrie breaks down and confesses, which was later confirmed to be pure imagination from the director.

33. 300

The legendary film, 300, retells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae. In the entirety of history, the battle is one of the most one-sided historical accounts of any battle ever recorded. The 300 Spartans were not able to match their enemy and to form an important alliance with other Greek city-states.

300

Warner Bros. Pictures

Also, their very impressive attire matching the wonderful six-packs were only there for the camera and were also a great source of inspiration for Halloween costumes all over the world. In reality, the Spartans would have worn actual protective armor, obviously. Persians were also terribly represented in the film, with the Persian Empire actually prohibiting slavery due to their Zoroastrian beliefs. The Spartans, on the other hard, actually did own a lot of slaves.

34. Marie Antoinette

This memorable depiction of Sofia Coppola during the lead-up to the French Revolution from a French perspective turns out to be a beautiful film. Everything from the costumes to the color palette really adds to the movie’s visual look, which almost managed to disguise its often inaccurate portrayal of real facts. The artistic liberty ended up resulting in France’s Queen looking more like a painting than a photograph.

Marie Antoinette

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The visual style that was given to her was also problematic. This includes the dyed colors that were simply impossible to get at the time, the pair of Converse shoes that were obviously nonexistent back then, and the list goes on.

35. The Last Samurai

The Last Samurai portrays the story of Nathan Algren, played by Tom Cruise, an American military advisor who was hired by the Japanese. He had been previously captured during a battle, but the truth is that the Japanese were known to never hire Americans as advisors, they would rather hire the French instead.

The Last Samurai

Radar Pictures

But though the change of origin of an advisor is probably forgivable, stating that a previous military advisor could become a Samurai after a short period of time is a little too much.

36. The Patriot

The American Revolution is portrayed in The Patriot, by following Benjamin Martin as the leader of the Colonial Militia. He does so after his son is murdered by a British officer, and he hopes to get some sweet sweet revenge. And while they probably had some good intentions, the movie ended up being more aligned towards American patriotism than anything else.

The Patriot

Columbia Pictures Centropolis Entertainment

British Soldiers were wrongly portrayed and represented. There are several scenes where they are almost portrayed as Nazis, for example, in the scene where the soldiers burn women, children, and the elderly to death in a church.

37. Alexander

The portrayal of Alexander’s conquest of the world can be a little bit of a controversy for many, but it did make for some interesting TV. Some people took the controversy so seriously though that director Oliver Stone and Warner Bros even received a lawsuit for the film’s inaccuracy.

Alexander

Warner Bros. Pictures

According to one of the lawyers who was thoroughly involved in the public case: “the production company should make it clear to the audience that this film is pure fiction.” The filmmakers seemingly condensed a bunch of life events from Alexander’s life, which ended up omitting too many details about his actual time on Earth.

38. Braveheart

Braveheart follows the life of William Wallace, a Scottish warrior from the 13th century who starts a revolt against King Edward of England. Like many other films, the movie is incredibly dramatized, and even the timeline is completely altered.

Braveheart

20th Century Fox

Many historians have criticized the characters’ ages in the film, which simply do not add up with what really happened in real life. Wallace’s romantic interest is also a complete flop since it was impossible that he seduced King Edward II’s wife, Isabella of France, because she was three years old at the time. Yikes.

39. Pocahontas

One of Disney’s most beloved classics, Pocahontas, shares the story of an English soldier and the daughter of an Algonquin chief who fall madly in love with each other. This happens in the midst of English colonists invading Virginia during the 17th century, and if we know a little bit about colonialism, the circumstances around the romance may be a little weird for some.

Pocahontas

Walt Disney Pictures Walt Disney Feature Animation

And there’s a little problem in the story. While the film portrays Pocahontas and John Smith as adults in the movie, historical reports actually claim that she was about 10 when Smith arrived, and the list of errors just goes on and on.

40. A Beautiful Mind

In A Beautiful Mind, Russel Crowe portrays the real life of John Nach, one of the world’s most renowned math geniuses. But when the biopic was released, critics began claiming that the biopic didn’t particularly portray Nash and his eminent mental illness with accuracy.

A Beautiful Mind

Universal Pictures DreamWorks Pictures Imagine Entertainment

Nash had schizophrenia, but it manifested quite differently from the way it was shown in the film. The complexities of Nash’s diagnosis or the struggles he faced throughout his treatment were simply not portrayed in a way that reflected the man’s actual life.

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