Historical dramas can be epic and thought-provoking. Seeing historical events unfold can create a better understanding of the time period depicted and explain why certain battles, missions, and alliances are so important. However, while most filmmakers try to create a historically accurate film, making it entertaining is always the first priority.
Taking creative liberties with real events is often necessary. Sometimes these freedoms are taken too far and can give audiences the wrong impression of the real people and events the film is based on. As such, there are many historical films that are not accurate.
10/10 The Events of Elizabeth: The Golden Age Didn’t Happen in a Year
Elizabeth: The Golden Age is the sequel to the 1998 biographical period drama Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett in the role titular role of Queen Elizabeth I of England. In Elizabeth: The Golden AgeQueen Elizabeth deals with the incoming threat from Spain, while King Philip II is determined to return England to Roman Catholicism and has sent his armada to carry out this task.
One of the biggest inaccuracies is the timeline of events. Elizabeth: The Golden Age is set in 1585 and depicts not only the Spanish Armada, but also the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, The Babington Plot, and Raleigh’s two expeditions to the New World in the same year. These events actually happened between 1584 and 1592.
9/10 Apocalypto was not an accurate representation of Mayan culture
by Mel Gibson apocalypto depicts the height of the Mayan kingdom and follows Jaguar Paw after being chosen for a ritual sacrifice, but escapes to reunite with his wife and son. The story is set around 1502 in Yucatán, Mexico, and all dialogue is spoken in Yucatec Maya.
Strongly criticized historians apocalypto for its inaccuracies, and many felt it was offensive to Mayan culture. For starters, the film focuses heavily on ritual human sacrifice, which many scholars believe was more prevalent in other cultures and portrays the Maya as barbaric. apocalypto has also been criticized for overlooking the achievements of the Maya in science, engineering, agriculture, and art.
8/10 The copycat game was critically acclaimed but took creative liberties
The imitation game is a 2014 war drama. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch like Alan Turig, the mathematician who was able to decipher German messages during World War II, including the Enigma machine. The film also features Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, Charles Dance as Commander Denniston, and Mathew Goode as Hugh Alexander.
Critics praised The imitation game, but it was still claimed for its various inaccuracies. For example, the film suggests that Turig invented and built the machine that broke the German Enigma code, which is not true. There was a machine that Polish cryptologists had already built before Turig started working for the British government.
7/10 Braveheart omitted a key part of the Battle of Stirling Bridge
In Brave heart, Mel Gibson starred as Sir William Wallace, who led a rebellion against King Edward I to free Scotland from his tyrannical rule in the First War of Scottish Independence. Brave heart won several awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture. However, the film aged the characters and incorrectly depicted the battles that took place during Scotland’s struggle for independence.
A historical inaccuracy is the film version of The Battle of Stirling Bridge. The fight is famous for how Scottish warriors used the narrow bridge to their advantage to defeat English soldiers. However, in Brave heartthe Battle of Stirling Bridge takes place on open ground. Brave heart also aged Isabelle of France and made Wallace’s love interest. In reality, she was 3 years old at the time and lived in France.
6/10 The Last Samurai Described the Satsuma Rebellion as Right or Wrong
The last Samourai stars Tom Cruise as former Army Captain Nathan Algren, haunted by the terrible deeds he committed during the Native American Wars. He travels to Japan intending to help the Imperial Army put down a rebellion led by samurai against the new Emperor. However, Algren ends up siding with Lord Moritsugu Katsumoto. Algren trains in kenjutsu, learns the language and culture, and begins to overcome his guilt.
The last Samourai depicts the actual Japanese Rebellion, also known as the Satsuma Rebellion, which marked the end of the samurai. The biggest inaccuracy is to portray the rebellion as a situation between good and evil, but it was actually to maintain privilege. In the film’s final battle, the samurai only use traditional weapons, but modern weapons have been used on both sides.
5/10 Argo downplayed the important role played by Canada
Ben Affleck starred in and directed the 2012 historical thriller Argo, which tells the story of the 6 American diplomats who were taken hostage in Iran on November 4, 1979. The story focuses on Tony Mendez, an American CIA agent. Tony travels to Iran posing as a film producer who is scouting locations for a sci-fi movie, but sets out to secretly rescue the hostages.
Whereas Argo was critically acclaimed, it greatly downplays the importance the Canadian government played during the hostage crisis, especially since the mission was dubbed the “Canadian Caper”. Former US President Jimmy Carter even said that most of the plan to save the hostages is attributed to Canadian men.
4/10 The gladiator was lost in Roman history
Gladiator tells the story of a respected Roman general, Maximus, who ends up fighting as a gladiator after the late Emperor’s son, Commodus, orders the death of Maximus’ family. There are a number of historical inaccuracies with Gladiatorincluding during the filming of the film.
The events of the story take place 150 years after Julius Caesar’s great-nephew, Augustus, transformed Rome into an empire from a republic. The film suggests that Rome became a republic again after Commodus’ death, but that was not the case. Other inaccuracies include Aurelius banning gladiatorial games and the death of Commodus, which did not occur in the arena.
3/10 Pocahontas is a problematic movie
Disney’s 1995 animated musical Pocahontas is loosely based on the real Powhatan girl and the Virginia Company English settlers. Pocahontas was a box office success and the soundtrack won several awards. Nevertheless, the film’s inaccuracy is considered incredibly problematic.
The main inaccuracies with Disney’s Pocahontas were the love story between Pocahontas and John Smith and her age. In the film, Pocahontas is a young adult who quickly falls for Jon Smith. However, the real Pocahontas (also known as Matoaka or her birth name, Amonute) was only 12 or 13 when she was kidnapped. The decision to make her story a love story is problematic.
2/10 Alexander was not a grand retelling of events
alexander tells the story of one of history’s most fascinating characters, Alexander the Great. The film features an impressive cast, including Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer, Rosario Dawson, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
alexander seemed to ignore key battles and sieges and portrayed the Persians as unorganized. In reality, the Persians were a formidable force and were slow to defeat Alexander and his armies. The cast of Angelina Jolie as Alexander’s mother seemed to pull the audience out of the story. Although her performance was praised, it was difficult for audiences to accept her as the mother of Farrell’s character when the two actors were so close in age.
1/10 U-571 created a false account of real events
U-571 follows a team of US Navy soldiers tasked with recovering an encryption machine that is aboard a sunken German U-571 submarine. The war drama was directed by Jonathan Mostow and stars Mathew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi.
In real life, the Americans never recovered the Enigma encryption machine or the codebooks related to it; British forces are credited with doing this. The first Enigma machine was actually found on a U-110 and the code books were found on a U-559. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair much criticized U-571 for giving credit to American forces rather than British and Canadian forces that carried out these missions. America did not join the war until 1941 and by then Enigma machines had already been captured and were being used to crack encrypted codes.