‘Based On A True Story’ Films That Contain Some Untrue Details

When a movie is marketed as “based on a true story,” look out. It’s rare for a film to be wholly the truth and not have fictionalized events strewn throughout the plot. The reality is that the “true story” is only partially true, and the other part is fluff to make the movie more interesting, dramatic, or even romantic.

Films such as Sully and Argo have been criticized for over-dramatizing the truth, even though they are entertaining films. At the same time, no one thinks twice about the over-romanticizing in Titanic and Pocahontas. Here are some other famous films that utilize the phrase “creative liberty” to their full advantage.

Rudy‘s Teammates Never Put Their Jerseys Down In Protest

Rudy's Teammates Never Put Their Jerseys Down In Protest
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

Arguably one of the greatest sports films of all time, Rudy is based on the story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger as he goes to Notre Dame to play football. Although the movie does stick to the fundamentals of the real story of the young boy who worked his tail off, it took some liberties, too.

While Rudy was sent in to play during the last game against Virginia Tech, coach Dan Devine didn’t have to be coerced by the team. Truthfully, he always intended to let Rudy play in a game. The jersey protest by the other players never happened, it only added to the film for dramatic effect.

Cool Runnings Missed Key Details

Cool Runnings Missed Key Details
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

According to one of the team members of the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, Dudley “Tal” Stokes, the Disney movie Cool Runnings wasn’t very accurate. The film told the story of the unlikely team of sprinters wanting to make their name at the Olympics. But the athletes were actually soldiers before playing in the games, not sprinters.

They also weren’t outcasts, as the movie portrays, but welcomed by the other countries’ athletes. The biggest inaccuracy is that there is no coach named Irving “Irv” Blitzer. Rather, the team has multiple trainers helping them during the games. Also, the Jamaican team was never close to a medal round.

The Imitation Game Forgot To Mention The Other Scientists

The Imitation Game Forgot To Mention The Other Scientists
The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company

Although The Imitation Game is a Grammy Award-winning film, a lot of real details were left out. One such detail was how the German Engima code was cracked during World War II. It wasn’t cracked solely by Alan Turing, but rather a group of scientists that had already been working on the code.

Another controversy was the film’s decision to downplay Turing’s homosexuality, casting Kiera Knightly as his fiancee. Turing’s niece, Inagh Payne, has mentioned that she thought the casting choice for Joan Clarke was inappropriate. “I think they might be trying to romanticize it. It makes me a bit mad.”

Pocahontas And John Smith Are Not The Same Age

Pocahontas And John Smith Are Not The Same Age
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

A Disney movie is definitely going to take some creative liberties with the actual history surrounding Pocahontas, especially when it comes to the title character and her love interest. While the romance between Pocahontas and John Smith has been represented across pop culture, their ‘love life’ is a bit fabricated.

In the film, the two are scripted as being the same age, while, historically, Pocahontas was only a young girl when the two first met. Even so, it’s said that Smith did speak of a romance between the two, only historians believe it was to gain favor back in London.

The Blind Side‘s Michael Oher Was Not Shy

The Blind Side's Michael Oher Was Not Shy
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

While The Blind Side is a beautiful movie of family and second chances, its portrayal of Michael Oher is inaccurate. The film shows Oher as a shy kid who wanted nothing to do with the guys that hung out on the wrong side of the tracks. This isn’t necessarily true. Oher had a tough life growing up, and that included hanging out with the thugs on street corners.

The film also doesn’t show Oher as being athletically inclined, aside from him shooting hoops in one scene. He actually had football knowledge prior to switching high schools. It seems like Warner Bros. went for a theatrical version of the real events.

Sully Exaggerated The Investigation

Sully Exaggerated The Investigation
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Sully is one of those movies that overdramatized a very traumatic event. Based on the plane crash that took place on January 15, 2009, the film takes the Airbus A320 near-tragedy and creates a fake investigation. The truth is that Captain Sullenberger and his co-pilot were never investigated for negligence by a board, as the movie portrays, but rather to see if they made the right decision under the circumstances.

The movie also shows Sully guilt-stricken over something that was out of his control. Although Sullenberger feels awful over the events, he wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Hanks acted.

Shakespeare In Love Has the Queen Doing Un-Queenly Things

Shakespeare In Love Has the Queen Doing Un-Queenly Things
Miramax Films
Miramax Films

Shakespeare in Love does have some historically accurate aspects, such as the names, events, situations, and places. But that doesn’t dissolve the fact that the “true story” is nothing more than a tall tale riddled with historical inaccuracies. Granted, the studio had to make a convincing plot, so liberties were taken.

One such liberty is Queen Elizabeth leaving the court to attend a play in a public theatre. This would never have happened, especially during the Bubonic Plague that was spreading through Europe. Additionally, the film suggests that Shakespear writes Romeo and Juliet and then Twelfth Night when in reality, he published six plays in between the two.

The Greatest Showman Doesn’t Show Barnum’s True Personality

The Greatest Showman Doesn't Show Barnum's True Personality
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

The Greatest Showman is based on the life of P.T. Barnum as he brings to life the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The movie was a hit with musical lovers, but it didn’t show the behind-the-scenes personality of Barnum. He was a hustler, making a dollar in any way he could, even if it meant exploiting people in the process.

The movie also doesn’t mention his years of abusing the circus animals, even though it is publically known. With the traditional circus industry dying, it’s curious as to why the studio thought a movie about this man was a good idea, and then why they lied about who he was.

Foxcatcher Exaggerates Du Pont And Schultz’s Relationship

Foxcatcher Exaggerates Du Pont And Schultz's Relationship
Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics

As with a lot of true-life murder films, Foxcatcher director Bennett Miller took a few creative liberties. While a majority of the film is ground in the truth, such as the championship sweaters, setting, and the wrestling details, the relationship between John Du Pont and Mark Schultz is highly fictionalized.

In the film, the two seem to have a close-knit relationship, even going as far as having the two do questionable substances together in a helicopter. This is not true, and in Schultz’s memoir, he says that the movie suggests that the men were a lot closer than they actually were.

Anonymous Is Based On Theory And Not Fact

Anonymous Is Based On Theory And Not Fact
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

It’s debatable whether or not the film Anonymous is historically accurate or not. It all comes down to one simple question: do you believe that William Shakespeare wrote his plays? If not, then the movie is highly accurate, as it illustrates the Oxfordian Theory.

This belief notes that Shakespeare was not worldly or educated enough to write the plays which he is famous for, but rather stole them from Edward DeVere, the 17th Early of Oxford. If you do believe Shakespeare wrote works such as Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, then watch this movie because it’s sure to be enlightening!

In The Sound Of Music, Captain Von Trapp Wasn’t Actually Mean

The Sound Of Music, Captain Von Trapp Wasn't Actually Mean
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

The Sound of Music is based on the story of the Von Trapp family as they escape Austria when it comes under Nazi rule. Maria is an unconventional nun who becomes governess to the Von Trapp children, introducing them to music while falling for their military-strict father.

Unfortunately, the movie dramatizes a few aspects of the actual story. The Captain isn’t stern, but rather the loving father we see from the second half of the film. And, when the time came, the family took a train out of Austria instead of hiking over the Alps. One can say that the studio took a few dramatic liberties with the plot.

U-571 Doesn’t Credit British Soldiers

u-571_f585dfbave
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

U-571 was successful in the box office, but when it came to critical reception, the historical inaccuracies were the first thing to be mentioned. The British military, as well as the public, were upset with the film because it portrayed American soldiers capturing an Enigma machine from the Germans, when, in fact, it was British soldiers who risked their lives to capture the device.

In 2006, David Ayer, the screenwriter for the film, apologized on BBC Radio, saying he would not distort history again. Although David Balme, a British naval officer, did think it was a fantastic film, regardless of the historical inaccuracies.

Apocalypto‘s Take On Mayan Culture Is Up For Debate

Apocalypto's Take On Mayan Culture Is Up For Debate
Touchstone Pictures
Touchstone Pictures

Mel Gibson took one too many creative liberties while directing the film Apocalypto. Historically speaking, the Mayan people were more peaceful than their Aztecan counter-parts, even though they did dabble in the occasional human sacrifice and have a few violent tribes. That being said, some historians believe his interpretation of the culture was spot on.

Julia Guernsey, a Mesoamerican specialist, and art history professor, says, “It’s offensive to those of us who try to teach cultural sensitivity and alternative world views that might not match our own 21st-century Western ones but are nonetheless valid.” It seems as though Guernsey is not one of those historians!

10,000 BC Is Historically Inaccurate

10,000 BC Is Historically Inaccurate
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 BC is critiqued for being a film that solely went for the “wow” factor and had no interest in historical accuracy. If you look at the title and then the events that take place during the film, nothing makes a whole lot of sense.

Animals that haven’t evolved yet, along with those that are already extinct, are roaming the Earth. Humans are training huge mammoths while building ships that weren’t invented for another few millennia. Variety‘s Todd McCarthy said, “[the] 10,000 BC reps missed an opportunity to present an imaginative vision of a prehistoric moment.”

Cinderella Man Paints Max Baer In A Bad Light

Cinderella Man Paints Max Baer In A Bad Light
Touchstone Pictures
Touchstone Pictures

The biographical sports drama Cinderella Man is based on the true story of James J. Braddock, a world heavyweight boxing champion. Since the story is about an underdog who makes his way to the top, of course, there needs to be a villain who tries to drag him down.

For Max Baer, the belt winner before Braddock, the writers turned him into the character everyone despised. Unlike his actual self, the movie version of Baer was a boastful person who would do anything to put Braddock down, including publicly insulting him. Although it is true that Baer didn’t train as hard, the rest of his personality is over-exaggerated and not true.

The Legend Of Wild Bill Has A Twist No One Asked For

The Legend Of Wild Bill Has A Twist No One Asked For
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The Old West folk hero Wild Bill Hickok is known for his work as a wagon master, scout, spy, gambler, showman, actor, among other things. His tale has been recreated in many mediums, including the 1995 film Wild Bill. However, the film’s writer, Walter Hill, took a few liberties in recreating the tales surrounding the historic figure,

The biggest inaccuracy is Wild Bill’s death. Historically speaking, Jack McCall shoots Bill in the back after losing a poker match. Hill’s version of the tale had McCall revealing he is Bill’s son, and he had planned to kill his absentee father years prior.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age Has The Wrong Person Taking On The Spanish Armada

Elizabeth: The Golden Age Has The Wrong Person Taking On The Spanish Armada
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

While some of the history surrounding Elizabeth: The Golden Age is true, the direction of the film took some liberties with the Queen’s love life. The movie alludes to Queen Elizabeth having an affair with Sir Walter Raleigh. In real life, no such love affair occurred. Truthfully, the Queen was known as the Virgin Queen because she put the state’s needs above her own desires.

Also, Raleigh is made out to be a hero in the film, sailing off by himself to face the Spanish Armada. Historically, he stays on land while Sir Francis Drake and Lord Howard of Effingham led the English fleet. They don’t even make an appearance!

The Theory Of Everything Was Romanticized

the-theory-of-everything_05e8e6
Focus Features
Focus Features

The Theory Of Everything doesn’t stray too far from the truth about Stephen Hawking, but there are some inaccuracies portrayed in the film. For one, the relationship between Hawking and his wife Jane is remarkably different than what Jane writes in her memoir, Travelling to Infinity.

In the book, she writes that their conversations about religion got “personal, diverse, and hurtful.” Their talks in the movie were more intellectual and challenging. The film also portrays the separation of Hawking and Jane to be sad but mutual. The actual split was anything but civil! It’s safe to say that the film was romanticized for the audience.

Argo Left Out A Key Player From The Real Event

Argo Left Out A Key Player From The Real Event
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Argo is an interesting film about the CIA plotting to make a fake movie in Iran to rescue hostages. If you don’t know the actual story that inspired the film, then it’s a pretty sound plot. The only thing is, a lot of people know what happened, and were not happy when the studio left out details or incorporated new ones.

For one, the movie completely left out Canada’s aid in the mission, even though they contributed a significant amount to the rescue effort, glorifying the CIA’s “junior partner” involvement. Also, the film shows the plan hitting speed bumps when, in reality, everything went smoothly.

300 Depicts Spartans Inaccurately

300 Depicts Spartan's Inaccurately
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The war film 300 is a historical film taking one too many liberties. First, no one mentions the thousands of other Greek warriors allied with Sparta. Yes, there were only 300 men at the Battle of Thermopylae, but that doesn’t mean the script should have excluded the allies that were waiting to be called upon if needed.

Another inaccuracy is the lack of body armor worn by the Spartans. This is the Grecian region known for their fighting; they would know how to dress for war appropriately! Also, the portrayal of King Xerxes is laughable, as he is seen as a giant covered in piercings and gold necklaces.

Amadeus Throws A Fictional Feud Into The Plot

Amadeus Throws A Fictional Feud Into The Plot
Orion Pictures
Orion Pictures

The film Amadeus explores the rivalry between two famous composers, Mozart and Salieri, at Emperor Joseph II’s court. However, no such feud has ever been proven between the two men. Although, the idea of Salieri plotting Mozart’s demise makes for a much better plot to a film.

In one of Mozart’s letters, he actually writes about how he picked up his “rival” as well as his wife on the way to the show The Magic Flute. If there was any hatred between the composers in real life, then it was that of friendly competition and not an evil plot to kill one another.

The Revenant Includes Fictional Events

The Revenant Includes Fictional Events
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Leonardo DiCaprio was long overdue for a Best Actor Oscar, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some historical inaccuracies in the film The Revenant. In the movie, 19th-century explorer Hugh Glass survives a brutal bear attack. The thing is, there is no proof the attack ever happened; Glass never mentioned it, nor did he write about the event.

Another issue is that the story is based around Glass getting revenge for the death of his half-Pawnee son. Surprisingly, there is no evidence that he ever had a wife, let alone a son. That’s a problem when it’s supposedly based on a true story!

The Pursuit Of Happyness Gets Some Details Wrong

The Pursuit Of Happyness Gets Some Details Wrong
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

The story of Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness didn’t need to be fluffed up by a Hollywood studio, but they did it anyway. The story has Gardner rising from homelessness to being a millionaire stockbroker, something that did happen but with very different events in between.

The biggest inaccuracy is that Gardner didn’t get an interview with Dean Witter Reynolds solely by solving the Rubik’s Cube on his desk. Also, his arrest in real life was because of domestic abuse and not just due to unpaid parking tickets. But with a hard topic like homelessness with a child, we can understand the detail being excluded.

Pain & Gain Paints The Characters Wrong

Pain & Gain Paints The Characters Wrong
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

The film Pain & Gain is the true story about bodybuilders getting involved in organized crime. Unfortunately, the characters are not portrayed accurately. Mark Wahlberg played Daniel Lugo, a criminal who headed a huge Medicare scam. Only Wahlberg didn’t paint him that way. Instead, that character is shown as a simple thug who is a bit dumb.

Then there is The Rock’s character, Paul Doyle. So, this man doesn’t exist, but rather they took three scrawny guys and mashed them into the character of Doyle. It’s also said that the characters were designed to have the public sympathize with them, something that wouldn’t happen in real life.

Braveheart‘s Wardrobe Is Ahead Of The Film’s Timeline

Braveheart's Wardrobe Is Ahead Of The Film's Timeline
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Hollywood took a lot of historical liberties in the film Braveheart. The movie follows the story of Scottish rebel William Wallace as he leads a revolt about the King of England. This is all well and good, except that the timeline makes no sense, historically speaking. The movie suggests that England controlled Scotland for a few years when in all actuality, they only had ruled for a year before the rebellion.

Also, the namesake of the movie should belong to Robert the Bruce, who isn’t mentioned in the film. The kilts and face paint are also way ahead of the time, fictionalizing a lot of the “true” story.

Captain Phillips Wasn’t The Hero He Is In The Movie

Captain Phillips Isn't The Hero He Is In The Movie
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Unfortunately for the film Captain Phillips, the crew members aboard the real MV Maersk Alabama paint the events of the ship captured by Somali pirates in a totally different light. While the film portrays Phillips as a hero who sacrificed himself for the safety of the crew, that is not what happened.

He did not give himself up, and the crew says that it is because Phillips disregarded safety regulations that they were attacked in the first place! Apparently, the Captain isn’t the big hero he is in the movie. His crew even filed a lawsuit against Maersk Line and the Waterman Steamship Co.

Anastasia Features A Highly Fictionalized Rasputin

Anastasia Features A Highly Fictionalized Rasputin
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Anastasia is a film about the orphan Anya as she makes her way to Paris with two con men who tell her she is the last surviving child of the Romanov family. Unfortunately, the film is historically inaccurate. In 1917, the royal family was placed under house arrest because of the Revolution. In spite of that, the film shows the family trying to flee from the palace.

The film also has the death of the family on the hands of Rasputin and the Romanov curse. While the holy man did “foresee” the end of the Royals, he was not directly responsible for the royals’ demise.

A Beautiful Mind Gets John Nash’s Illness Wrong

A Beautiful Mind Gets John Nash's Illness Wrong
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

While the story of A Beautiful Mind remains generally truthful to the real events of John Nash’s life, it omits important details. Some include his sexuality, his relationship with his wife Alicia, and the absence of his illegitimate son. The studio also took a lot of liberties pertaining to his paranoid schizophrenia.

In the film, Nash suffers from hallucinations and takes his medicine from the time of diagnosis until a “new” medicine is prescribed. Truthfully, he didn’t see people, but rather heard voices, and was overly paranoid when he saw certain things. He also stopped taking his medication after 1970.

Titanic Portrays The Real-Life Murdoch Wrong

Titanic Portrays The Real-Life Murdoch Wrong
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

The movie Titanic was meant to be a fictionalized version of historical events, but is based on a true story with real-life people and class “rules.” One person inaccurately portrayed in the film is William McMaster Murdoch, the ship’s First Officer. The movie shows Murdoch losing it on deck, accidentally shooting someone before himself. In reality, he was praised for his efforts in organizing the lifeboat launches.

Another inaccuracy is the third-class passengers being “jailed” while the ship’s sinking. This didn’t happen. And while the gates were there, it was to prevent the spread of disease. It would also make it unlikely that Jack and Rose would ever meet, given their different classes.

The Patriot’s Hero Was Not A Good Man

The Patriot's Hero Was Not A Good Man
Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

The American Revolution-based film The Patriot follows the story of Benjamin Martin, a widow with a military past. Although the film does portray the brutality of the war, it takes some creative liberties when it comes to the opposing side. The film shows the British as ruthless bloodthirsty barbarians, burning down churches and killing innocent people.

There is no historical evidence that those events occurred during the war. But one of the most significant inaccuracies is the main character, Martin. He’s not an actual person but rather a mash-up of several real-life people, one of which was a horrible man who regularly abused his slaves.