Rewriting history has often been one of the most prevalent tropes in Hollywood cinema. While it’s true that adding a bit of spice and creative liberty can make movies more distinct from a documentary, romanticizing it to the point where it’s almost completely fictional can dangerously skew some public perception of the actual events.
Sadly, throughout cinema history, there have been many films or directors guilty of bending the truth a little too much. It does make the films more dramatic or entertaining but some historical inaccuracies go too far and maybe should have dropped the historical context of their titles or stories. In fact, some of these films would have done just as well without the blatant historical inaccuracies.
10 Braveheart’s Depiction Of William Wallace
It’s one of the most highly-rated films about rebellion and peasant uprisings but Braveheart is more of a tall tale and stereotype about Scotland than a period piece. Braveheart depicts William Wallace’s plight as he leads his rag-tag army of Scottish peasants against the full might of Medieval England.
The problem is that “Braveheart” in history isn’t even about William Wallace but rather, Robert the Bruce who was relegated to a side character role in the film. Moreover, even Wallace’s background and the behavior of his peasant comrades is around 1,000 years too outdated as woad and tartan kilts were grossly out of fashion already during the film’s supposed time period.
9 Pearl Harbor’s Franklin Roosevelt Ignores His Paralysis
It’s a Michael Bay movie about a rather huge tactical defeat by the US during World War II so some historical tampering is to be expected. However, some liberties are too much such as a paralyzed and wheelchair-bound Franklin D. Roosevelt suddenly standing up to inspire his cabinet and generals.
The reality is that Roosevelt didn’t even have to pull that stunt because his cabinet and generals were all itching to retaliate and join the war. That and Franklin Roosevelt’s affliction makes standing up on his own a little impractical unless it’s for a public speech.
8 Gladiator’s Marcus Aurelius & His Relationship To Commodus
Speaking of historical leaders doing some questionable feats, Marcus Aurelius was not spared from cinema magic, as well. In Gladiator, his relationship with his son and successor, Commodus, was troublesome and the film explicitly displays Marcus’ disdain for his son as an Emperor.
The actual event is vastly different as Marcus Aurelius actually approved of Commodus’ succession and also wasn’t killed by his own son. So the whole film shouldn’t have existed at all in that case. Amazing what they could come up with by changing a small historical detail.
7 Enemy At The Gates And The Janky Red Army
Enemy at the Gates gets a few things right about its portrayal of the Eastern Front in World War II. But the film also has some wildly inaccurate inclusions like including Nikita Khrushchev as being in charge from a Stalingrad bunker. He, in fact, did not play a crucial role in that battle’s orchestration at all.
Moreover, the film portrays two female snipers, but they never shoot anyone. This belies the number of women snipers on the Soviet side with enemy kills numbering in the thousands. Other Red Army tactics and strategies are altered to portray the Soviet Army in a specific way that isn’t historically accurate.
6 A Beautiful Mind’s John Nash & His “Strong Marriage”
A Beautiful Mind is a biopic that follows the genius exploits of mathematician John Nash and his battle with schizophrenia. As debilitating as that mental disorder is, Nash’s wife looked after him. The film portrays her as someone approaching martyrdom with how much she sacrifices for her husband.
Such noble and selfless love is sadly the stuff of fiction in this case as the real John Nash divorced said wife in 1963. Moreover, John Nash was bisexual and had several relationships with men. There were also allegations of abuse where he physically hurt his wife.
5 The Patriot’s War Crimes And Fabricated Heroes
Back to another historically inaccurate Mel Gibson movie, The Patriot is quite a handful. It’s also guilty of a lot of historical fabrications — most notable of which is the hero of the film who was based on Francis Marion or the “Swamp Fox.” The man, in real life, actually hunted Native Americans for sport and violated his female slaves. That’s not exactly a heroic figure even if he fought against the British.
Moreover, the atrocities supposedly committed by the British in the film are unfounded. There’s no evidence of British officers shooting a child in cold blood. The person who did in the film was based on Col. Tarleton who didn’t even break any rules of engagement at the time.
4 The Greatest Showman’s P.T. Barnum Is Way Too Nice
P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman was painted as a responsible and hardworking family man whose only fault was having too much ambition and a semi-excusable amount of exploitation. His real counterpart, however, is more or less a scum of the Earth type.
The actual P.T. Barnum was a shady individual who had already spent time in jail prior to his show business career. He also tricked businessmen into lending him money and employed slaves while also employing minors in his “freak show”. Their working conditions were miserable and it was mostly Barnum who got rich off of their languishing.
3 300’s Alien King Xerxes
#300 is an adaptation of Frank Miller’s highly fictionalized graphic novel of the same name. Of course, it is also based on the historical event the Battle of Thermopylae. Since it’s live-action, the filmmakers surely could have opted for a bit of sense. This depiction of King Xerxes falls somewhere between Mad Max, a Las Vegas showgirl, and stereotypical representation of non-Western people of color.
The Xerxes in the film is bald and has more body and face rings on him than strands of hair. The only clothing he wears is also just underwear. The actual Xerxes would have been dressed more decently with robes and also sported a full beard as most Persians at the time did.
2 The Last Samurai’s Impractical Samurai
The Last Samurai is based on a real Frenchman who did side with the rebel samurai against the Meiji government. However, the way they handled the tactics of the time period is just questionable.
Because during that era– the late 1800s or nearly the turn of the century, samurai were no stranger to using firearms for combat. Guns had already been a staple of Japanese warfare long before the Meiji era. The war the film was based on, the Satsuma Rebellion, had samurai that also primarily used guns against the Imperial Meiji forces.
1 Everything In 10,000 BC
If you’re going to make a film with an actual date in the title, then you best make sure it at least represents the time period well. 10,000 BC in that regard, should have been named something else. This film is a mess of historical inaccuracies that would have given historians some painful migraines.
Pyramids didn’t exist at the same time as sabretooth tigers and mammoths. Those Egyptian super-structures weren’t built until 2,400 BC. Even things that didn’t exist at that time period, such as animal husbandry, steel, and ships were present. Truth be told, one doesn’t have to be well-versed in history to see the whole title as a joke.