Non-fiction films give us an impossible insight into some of the most dramatic moments in history. As viewers, we get to see what went down when important decisions were made that potentially shaped the way our world is today. We also get to understand what our ancestors had to struggle with, and what for.
But ask any expert about the historical accuracy of certain “based on a true story” films and you might just get laughed right out of the museum. You see, filmmakers need to tell a compelling story while sticking to the truth as much as possible. This can be a challenge seeing as how some details, though real, may seem so ludicrous or outright boring that they don’t make the final cut.
Take, for instance, these 15 critically acclaimed films with some rather noticeable flaws!
Braveheart’s William Wallace (Mel Gibson) became an inspiration to the entire world to hate the English. It’s a great movie which has received a ton of awards. However, it was far from accurate; one of the biggest mistakes was the depiction of Scotsmen wearing kilts. In the 1300s, they wore things called
But perhaps the largest historical inaccuracy is the film’s title. William Wallace was not Braveheart. The nickname was given to him after he had his heart carried to the Church of Holy Sepulchre all the way in Jerusalem. The nickname had more to do with a literal heart than anything else.
Titanic didn’t launch Leonardo DiCaprio to fame, but it did cement a place for him in Hollywood. It’s a shame that the movie, despite the mountains of historical data available about what truly happened on the Titanic during its final moments, doesn’t stick to historical facts.
In the movie, third-class passengers were locked below the decks and out of view. In truth, nobody was under the decks, and nobody was discriminated against when all hell broke loose.
While we’re on the topic of third-class passengers, there’s absolutely no way Jack Dawson (DiCaprio) could’ve made it to the top deck to mingle with the wealthy. Similar to riding a plane in today’s time, those in economy aren’t allowed to just barge into first-class. That separating curtain actually means something.
3. Back to the Future
We’re pretty sure that everything about time travel in this movie is completely scientifically accurate, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) can be seen rockin’ on a Gibson ES335 guitar during the Under the Sea dance. This might not seem like a big deal, but guitar lovers around the world cringed knowing that this particular model was released in 1958, a full three years after the dance was supposed to take place.
We wish this was all this classic film had wrong about the past, but unfortunately, the opposite is true. While Marty is at a dinner with his young mom, an episode of Honeymooner’s is playing on TV. That episode, which Marty calls a classic in the film, aired on December 31, 1955. Their dinner took place on November 5, 1955.
4. Malcolm X
This film starring Denzel Washington has been praised for not only excellent performances from all involved but for staying true to many of the events that actually happened in Malcolm’s life. Historical facts in this Spike Lee film did not sway too far away from the true happenings of Malcolm’s rise and demise.
However, in the film, the Nation of Islam’s involvement in Malcolm X’s death was toned down to such an extent that Louis Farrakhan, the man who called for Malcolm’s death repeatedly, was not at the scene of his murder.
Furthermore, the man in the film who introduced Malcolm to the Nation was not a fellow inmate but rather his own brother. In the end, not staying completely true to historical evidence did not tarnish Malcolm’s legacy, nor did it raise the Nation to any praiseworthy status. We couldn’t have asked for more.
5. The Aviator
Titanic wasn’t the only film where Leonardo’s character swayed a little too far from the truth. Take, for instance, a scene in the movie which is set in 1928. The psychotic Howard Hughes (DiCaprio) is seen to order 10 chocolate chip cookies. But did you know that the inventor of this cookie, Ruth Graves Wakefield, didn’t invent this tasty treat until the 1930s?
And… that’s about it. Martin Scorsese actually did a pretty great job sticking to facts as much as possible. Historians and movie-goers have repeatedly praised Scorsese for his almost-immaculate representation of what really happened to Hughes.
6. Forrest Gump
1994’s Forrest Gump really should’ve stayed as close to the truth as possible, seeing as how the film was based on a novel of the same name and not history. But even so, there are some things that the movie just got plain wrong about our world.
Remember how Forrest didn’t have to worry about money after Lt. Dan helped him become an investor in the fruit company, Apple? Well, the letter was dated 1975, a full 6 years before the company even went public.
7. Django Unchained
Django (Jamie Foxx) was a pretty badass guy in the movie Django Unchained. Starring alongside Christoph Waltz in this Tarantino flick, the pair would create an elaborate plot to save Django’s wife from the clutches of slave owner Candy.
As entertaining as the film was, there are a few things we just can’t ignore. Like the swaggy shades Django puts on multiple times throughout the movie. Sunglasses weren’t very Western-y and they didn’t become a fashion piece in the US until the early 20th century. Slavery was abolished in 1865, so having slaves and sunglasses in the same movie doesn’t make a lick of sense. They do look cool, though.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean
What years did pirates wear pirate hats and sail the seven seas? 1400s? 1500s? 1800s? Captain Jack from Pirates of the Caribbean was always ahead of his time, especially in terms of humor and apparel. But one thing that really stands out in this movie Captain Hector Barbossa munching on a granny smith apple.
These tart species of apple weren’t cultivated until 1868 in Australia. Now, since piracy in the Caribbean didn’t phase out until the 1830s, it’s possible that the Captain could’ve gotten his hands on one if he took a Delorean to the future and back. Wait, that’s another movie franchise…
9. No Country for Old Men
Setting up a shot for a film can be a hard job, especially since you have to take into consideration the infrastructure that exists in the film’s surroundings. Now, it’s impossible for film crews to demolish a building simply because it didn’t exist at the time of the movie’s story, but can’t computers just erase unwanted buildings in the background?
Apparently, the No Country for Old Men’s crew didn’t get the memo that Carl’s Jr. restaurants didn’t exist in El Paso, Texas, in 1980, the year this film takes place. It’s not a big deal though; people who caught a glimpse of the future restaurant were probably aching for a delicious Carl’s Jr. burger after the movie. Wait, do companies place advertisements in movies now?
This epic, loosely based on a Homer (not Simpson) poem, was set in Ancient Greece, between 12th and 9th century BC. Needless to say, much of the things we see in modern times didn’t exist back then, so the production team had to be extremely careful about what could and couldn’t make the film.
It’s understandable if they miss a thing or two, but they should never, ever, EVER have let a parasol (an umbrella-like thing) make it to the final cut. Paris apparently couldn’t stand the Ancient Greece heat so he had his most forward-thinking engineers produce something that would not be invented for another 500 years. Why not have electric wires and automobiles in the background while you’re at it?
There were many things that took place during the times of gladiators that didn’t make the movie. For example, gladiators were seen as something like a celebrity and would be paid quite handsomely to endorse certain products or services. It would be weird to see the Spaniard holding up a bottle of lion piss while smiling at an imaginary camera, but that would totally go against the badassed-ness of Maximus.
While we’re talking about the Spaniard, the term “Spaniard” wasn’t used during the gladiator times or in 180 AD when the film supposedly takes place. Spaniard was a word coined by the French in the 14th century. So… yeah… He most likely would’ve been referred to as slave, gladiator, or as the spokesperson for [insert name of ancient produce here].
12. Captain America: The First Avenger
There are several things wrong with this movie. First, the choice of cast. The role of Captain America is played by Chris Evans, who was also the Human Torch in 2005’s Fantastic Four and its 2007 sequel. Next, he was also one of the seven evil exes in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World!
As for the movie, you can see the entire battalion consisting of people of different races fighting for America. However, it wasn’t until after the Korean War (1953) that the military was desegregated, but Captain America knew better and didn’t mind fighting side-by-side in WW2 with people of all ethnicities. So this can be considered a positive inaccuracy in a way.
13. The Green Mile
Children cried while watching Bambi, but men cried when John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) was executed by way of the electric chair. However, after hearing his sentence, John should’ve been jumping up and down for joy. Either that or have been as confused as the judge sentencing him. Death by electric shock didn’t exist until 1940, which was a full half a decade after the time of this movie. Back then, inmates on death row were hung. We guess there wasn’t any other way to get rid of annoying guy Percy (Dough Hutchinson).
14. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
The story of Robin Hood has been told numerous times, both in animation and live-action. But even the red fox Robin Hood didn’t make as many historical mistakes as the 1991 retelling starring Kevin Costner. In the film, Azeem (Morgan Freeman) hands over a telescope to Robin, but the story takes place in 1194 – more than four centuries before the first telescope was invented. Apparently Robin has the ability to steal from the future, or at least Azeem does.
15. Beyond the Sea
This biographical film got a lot right about Bobby Darin’s life and rise to fame in the music and entertainment industries. But one thing they forget to check Wikipedia for (the film was released in 2004, Wikipedia launched in 2001) was regarding assignments of Secret Service agents. In the film, Robert F. Kennedy can be seen accompanied by agents, but it wasn’t until after RFK’s assassination by Sirhan Sirhan that were they tasked to guard important figures.