People have always been captivated by historical films, and that is unlikely to ever change. These films take audiences on a journey through time, offering the opportunity to visit bygone times and meet people who have made history. However, they often don’t allow the audience to learn specific details about this story.
Many generally acclaimed historical films take a lot of liberty with the story, altering both past events and people’s actions or characters to suit the plot goals. Whether it’s shooting fake romances or shutting out important people, many enjoyable historical films don’t necessarily come true.
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
Based on a novel by Philippa Gregory, The other Boleyn girl tells the story of the complicated love triangle between Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and his sister Mary. While it offers captivating performances and beautiful sets, it treats the story very liberally.
For example, he presents Mary Boleyn as Anne’s younger sister, even though Mary was older than Anne. It also suggests that Mary had children with the king, although this has never been proven. Finally, he fails to mention that Mary’s romance with the King ended long before he started chasing Anne.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Oscar winner Shakespeare in love Another historical film based on the Tudor era that doesn’t follow the story too closely. The romance between William Shakespeare and Viola de Lesseps was not a real aspect of his life, but was created for the film.
At one point in the film, Queen Elizabeth tells Viola’s future husband that Viola is no longer pure and has had a physical relationship with another man. It might have been enough to end the engagement, but Viola’s fiancé continues and marries her anyway. This despite the fact that it would mean risking raising children who were not his own, which no nobleman of this period would be willing to do.
It’s somewhat understandable that Zack Snyder’s action piece 300 does not follow the story closely, as it is based on the comics. Nonetheless, its basic premise and the title itself are all wrong.
The film follows the battle of 300 Spartan men against a much larger Persian army – except when the actual historic battle took place there were thousands of warriors, not just 300. They were still outnumbered against their enemies, but not as much as the movie would like audiences to believe.
Brave Heart is now a classic and one of Mel Gibson’s most successful films, but again, it takes a lot of creative liberties with the story. For example, this suggests that the main hero, William Wallace, was raised as a farmer. In real life, however, Wallace was a Scottish nobleman.
In the film, Wallace is motivated to fight English rule over Scotland because of the tragic death of his wife. While this is a noble cause, the true Wallace must have had different reasons for joining the fight, as his wife is not mentioned in any historical documents and notes.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a brilliant composer, and Antonio Salieri was so jealous of him that he wished his rival dead. At least that’s what the blockbuster historical film Amadeus would like the audience to think. However, there is no evidence that Salieri ever plotted Mozart’s death or was so bitterly jealous.
Speaking of Mozart’s death, Salieri did not poison him; on the contrary, Mozart died of trichinosis, a parasitic disease. The real Salieri also had several children, unlike his film counterpart who abandoned relationships for his music, which resulted in unhappiness.
The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)
contrary to The other Boleyn girl, this comedy gives room to several wives of Henry VIII, not just Anne Boleyn. What connects these films, however, is that they both place very little importance on historical accuracy. For example, Charles Laughton played Henry as a gluttonous man who constantly flirted with women.
In real life, Henry VIII had very little business known to the public, as he prided himself on his discretion. The film also suggests that the king’s fourth wife, Anne de Clèves, wanted a divorce in order to marry her lover. In real life, it was Henry who initiated the divorce and Anne never remarried.
The Imitation Game (2014)
Following his iconic portrayal of Sherlock in the BBC series that made Benedict Cumberbatch famous, Cumberbatch shone in this film as real-life genius Alan Turing. But while Turing was indeed instrumental in cracking the Enigma codes during WWII, he didn’t do it alone, as the film suggests.
In fact, a whole team of people worked to crack the German codes, because they knew very well that it could turn the tide of the war to their advantage. However, given that the film focuses primarily on Turing, it makes sense that it diminished the accomplishments of others to some extent.
To be fair to director Oliver Stone and everyone who worked on the film, it was difficult, if not impossible, to make the story one hundred percent accurate. After all, it is still unclear to this day what exactly happened on the day of President Kennedy’s death. The film combines real events as well as conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination. However, it differs in some ways that audiences were already familiar with at the time of filming.
For example, the film features a scene in which David Ferrie collapses and confesses. In fact, Ferrie never acted that way. JFK also suggested that Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s successor, had something to do with the assassination; however, this has never been proven.
Apocalypto depicts the struggle of a group of people captured by the Mayans, who must be sacrificed. The biggest misconception lies in the somewhat harmful way the film portrays the Mayans. He presents them as a savage and barbaric people, determined to sacrifice the young people they have captured.
This is different from their actual behavior, as the Mayans hardly ever made human sacrifices. If they did, it was as punishment against traitors of noble standing, rather than innocent commoners.
Kirsten Dunst’s eye-catching costumes and performance were enough to make the movie enjoyable. However, once again, he doesn’t follow the story too closely. For example, it shows Marie-Antoinette and her husband quickly becoming lovers.
In fact, it took them about seven years. The film also pays very little attention to the politics of this era. As such, that doesn’t explain why so many people don’t like young Marie-Antoinette in the movie.
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