Not everyone goes to the movies for accuracy – in fact, most of us would probably rather just get lost in a good story and not notice all of the mistakes. But if you’re someone who knows anything at all about history, I bet these 12 movies made you cringe.
And frankly, if the filmmakers can’t be subtle in their inaccuracies, it’s hard for me to want to watch their stuff again.
12. The Last Samurai
You’re probably not shocked that the Tom Cruise vehicle doesn’t quite get the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion quite right. For starters, there were no ninjas, and the fight scenes employ swords instead of guns and rifles, which were plentiful at the time.
Spielberg’s take on an 1839 slave ship rebellion gets a whole lot wrong, including the idea that a bunch of sympathetic white heroes, like John Quincy Adams, were ready and waiting to save the day. It also conveniently left out the fact that over 3,000 white people paid 12 cents each to stare at the jailed Africans as they awaited trial.
There were many Scottish rebellions against English rule during the late 13th and early 14th centuries, but although there were battles, very little is actually known about the real William Wallace.
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Though Captain John Smith did tell a story about the chief’s daughter saving his life, the historical record still debates whether she did it on purpose. We’re also not sure about her role in brokering a supposed peace agreement between early colonizers and the Powhatan tribe.
Also, Pocahontas was only 12 at the time and was not romantically involved with John Smith. She did later marry an Englishman by the name of John Rolfe, but only after being captured at the age of 19. And, unfortunately, Pocahontas – along with 90% of the native population that encountered the early settlers – perished due to disease and/or genocide.
I’d like to see Disney tackle that with an uplifting song.
8. Marie Antoinette
As something of a royalist, or at least a royal apologist, this one got under my skin – it depicted Antoinette as little more than a shallow teenager who loved the fashion and excess that came with the crown, while historians agree she was intelligent, politically savvy, and cared deeply for her children and the people of France.
Also, she probably never said “let them eat cake,” but if she did, it’s likely the context would have made the statement appropriate.
7. Shakespeare In Love
Unlike many of these films, this one is not trying to recount a true story – it’s more a historical pastiche. But still, there are too many glaring anachronisms to recount here, and they run the gamut from accent to props. Safe to say, it’s not going to win over any Shakespearean or Renaissance scholars anytime soon.
6. A Beautiful Mind
Real life math genius John Nash was a schizophrenic, and most critics believe his disease manifested differently than the film indicates. It also doesn’t capture the complexities of his treatment.
A real battle between the Spartans and the Persians did indeed take place in 480BC, but those involved probably weren’t dressed to showcase their abs – and wardrobe isn’t the only department that took serious liberties. The Spartan army is believed to have been closer to 7000 strong, and if there was a smaller force of 300 sent to hold the line, all of them would have likely perished for their effort.
4. Pearl Harbor
This movie is terrible for so many reasons, but the fact that military details are glossed over, omitted, exaggerated, or just plain wrong certainly increases the eye-rolling factor.
Just so we’re clear – FDR never climbed out of his wheelchair to prove “impossible” things can happen because, you know…he was actually paralyzed due to childhood polio.
3. The Patriot
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This much-loved movie takes many liberties, adding scenes and events that aren’t at all factual. British troops never burned people alive in a locked church, for one, even though there weren’t any set “rules of war,” as Gibson’s character keeps insisting.
The slaves in the film were also disturbingly happy.
2. The Sound of Music
The real Captain Von Trapp was a loving and involved father, but the family’s escape was quite dramatized for the film. If they would have hiked over the Alps from Austria they would have ended up in Germany, not Switzerland, so in real life, they left via Italy just hours before the borders were closed for the duration.
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Though the premise of the film – that a fake movie production was created to undertake the rescue of six Americans stuck in Iran – is true, the film downplays Canada’s significant involvement in the effort. Also, in real life there was no drama during the airport escape.
But you have to admit, that scene is probably what won them the Best Picture Oscar, so maybe it was worth it.
I mean, why not just hire an expert to make sure you get it right? Or you know, Google enough to ensure you’re not messing up anything big?
Do things like this bother you? Are they deal breakers? Tell us about it in the comments!