Historical events

10 historical events that require film adaptations

Hollywood has been fascinated with telling historical stories since the beginning of movies. The idea that viewers can watch a true story unfold in theater the same way it happened in real life has captivated audiences for years.

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Unfortunately, the history of the world is so vast that no film can truly tell all the stories worth telling. That said, there have been quite a few notable events over the years that have long awaited their turn on the big screen.

The Winter War

Soldiers marching in the snow

One of the first major conflicts of WWII, the Winter War between Finland and Soviet Russia is an incredible true underdog story. Although outnumbered and outgunned by hundreds of thousands, the Finnish Army resisted the might of the Red Army for over three months.


Finnish soldiers used many clever guerrilla strategies to fight against the overwhelming enemy, which would make for an exciting war movie, and several Finnish soldiers, including the deadliest sniper in recorded warfare, could do great protagonists of war movies. There have been a few Finnish films about the Winter War, but so far Hollywood has yet to adapt this fascinating part of the story.

Pilgrimage of Mansa Musa

An illustration of Mansa Musa

Outside of ancient Egypt, Africa’s history is rarely depicted in movies, despite centuries of stories to tell. One of the most interesting of these is the story of Mansa Musa, a king of the Mali Empire. Mansa Musa is widely regarded as the richest man who ever lived, which would cause trouble during his famous pilgrimage to Mecca.

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Musa gave away so much gold on his journey through Egypt that he destabilized the country’s entire economy, and he had to rebuild it almost single-handedly on his way back. The hilarious situation could make for a great road trip comedy with a real historical backdrop.

The Haitian Revolution

An illustration of the Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution is considered a major turning point in world history, but unfortunately it is rarely discussed. Beginning in 1791, the revolution saw thousands of enslaved Haitians rise up against the brutal French regime that ruled the country. Often compared to the much more famous revolt of Spartacus in Rome, the Haitian Revolution is one of the most successful rebellions of former slaves in history.

Not only did this create an entirely new country free from French rule, but it also caused the rest of the world to look at the institution of slavery in a different light. While the revolution itself would make for a brutal watch, it would be an inspiring story worth telling. Several Hollywood stars, including Danny Glover, tried to get a film based on the revolution produced according to black outlook, but so far to no avail.

The Battle of Itter Castle

Exterior view of Itter Castle

Another bizarre World War II story, the Battle of Castle Itter is bizarre enough that it’s surprising it hasn’t already been made into a movie. The battle was one of the only instances in the war where the U.S. Army, German Wehrmacht soldiers, and French POWs fought side by side, defending the castle from an attack by the Nazi SS.

With just 36 people, the defenders held out for a day against the attackers, until tennis star Jean Borotra, one of the prisoners released with the group, managed to escape through German lines and to return with reinforcements. It’s one of the weirdest battles of the war, which means this story would be perfect for the Hollywood treatment.

Yuri Gagarin and the space race

Astronaut Yuri Gagarin lying down

The space race between the United States and Russia has been adapted for the screen several times, but almost always from the American point of view. The historic moon landing and even the Apollo 13 crisis have seen space-related films, some even featuring the stories of real astronauts, but the films have rarely peeked beyond the curtain of iron.

The Soviets were actually the first to achieve several huge advancements in the race, including the first artificial satellite and, more importantly, the first human to venture into space. A film that takes a look at the space race from the Soviet perspective could be an interesting look at one of the most scientifically significant periods in recent history, and could even dive into the daring first spaceflight of Gagarin.

Battle of Stamford Bridge

Vikings Valhalla Stamford Bridge

The Viking Age has seen surprisingly few adaptations over the years. And if any part of their little story needs to be adapted, it is the battle of Stamford Bridge. Set between the Viking forces of Harald Hadrada and the English monarchy, the battle is an almost mythical story from the Viking saga.

The battle was romanticized in history as the brave last stand of the Vikings and produced the famous legend of a single Viking holding the bridge against the entire English army. The mix of history and legend around the battle could make for one of the best Viking films of all time, and the end of the Viking Age would provide a powerful backdrop.

The Emu War

An emu running in an open field

An event turned into endless memes, the Emu War is a real military operation that actually happened. By 1932, the Western Australian emu population had grown so much that they had become a legitimate threat to farms and people, and the military was called in to deal with the threat.

Three soldiers armed with mounted machine guns were dispatched to take out as many emus as possible, but soon found that the emus were not so easily defeated. Incredibly fast and incredibly resilient, the Emus proved they wouldn’t go down without a fight, and the military was eventually forced to end the operation. The premise is so ridiculous that it could make for the perfect dark comedy or even a parody of war movies in general.

The Hellfighters of Harlem

A photo of the Harlem Hellfighters

World War I doesn’t feature as much in the media as World War II, but it was also host to many incredible stories. One of the most inspiring and misunderstood stories is that of the Harlem Hellfighters. One of the first black regiments to serve overseas, the Hellfighters served on the front lines of war longer than any other American regiment. The Hellfighters gained a reputation for their bravery and skill, and would never have abandoned a post or had a man captured.

Despite their combat fame, the men were still discriminated against, especially back home in America after the war ended. The bravery and courage of the Harlem Hellfighters certainly deserve to be showcased on the big screen.

The 1904 Olympic Marathon

Competitors running during the 1904 Olympic marathon

The 1904 Olympic marathon in St. Louis was a comedy of errors from the start and perhaps one of the most bizarre sporting events in history. At the start line were several men who had never run a marathon before, several without shoes and one in pants that he had cut into shorts.

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During the race, several men gave up due to dehydration as there were hardly any water stops, one tore his stomach lining from all the dust in the air and one been chased off course by wild dogs. When the race finally ended, the winner was disqualified for hitchhiking to the finish line, and the next winner was hallucinated after being fed strychnine as a stimulant. It was a series of events that most writers wish they could make up that would make for a fun comedy.

The Christmas Truce

Soldiers on a snowy field

The Christmas Truce is one of the most heartwarming tales of any war and could provide a bittersweet look at people’s humanity, even in the worst of times. During the horrors of World War I, German and Allied troops laid down their arms and gathered in no man’s land to celebrate Christmas.

The opposing sides sang Christmas carols together, exchanged gifts and even played friendly games with each other. It was a tender moment in an otherwise brutal conflict and one of the last times opposing armies could meet as men, not soldiers. A film about the event could be a reminder of humanity even during war, and perhaps one of the best war movies of all time could actually be a tale of peace.

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