Many Hollywood films have attempted to depict notable events in history. We assume they do a lot of research before cameras roll, but sometimes they goof on certain details. Some directors deliberately choose to alter truth, perhaps adding some drama or romance to please the audience. A little artistic license is to be expected, but some stray a bit far from the truth. Don’t expect to get a real history lesson at the movies. On that note, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most inaccurate historical movies.
1. Gladiator Inaccurately Portrayed Commodus
Ridley Scott’s, Gladiator, staring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, portrays the historical events surrounding the Roman Emperor, Commodus. However the portrayal of this leader was no true to life. The real Commodus was nothing like the lout we see in the movie. He was an alcoholic but he managed to rule Rome successfully for over a decade. Furthermore, he did not kill his father, Marcus Aurelius, as implied in the film. Plus he did not actually die in the arena in a dramatic battle with Maximus. He actually expired in his own bathtub, but that wouldn’t have made an epic movie scene, right?
2. Aspects of The Last Samurai Were Very Unbelievable
Contrary to how the movie portrays it, the foreign advisers that were hired by the Japanese to implement modern military strategies were usually French, not American. And can you really believe that an older American War veteran could master a samurai sword that well? Seems a bit far fetched.
3. The Real Spartan Warriors Wore Armor
300 was based on the actual Battle of Thermopylae, but many aspects of the Spartan culture were portrayed incorrectly in the film. Firstly, the Spartan warriors didn’t go into battle wearing Speedos. They wore bronze armor (but women everywhere thank the costume department for taking this liberty). Secondly, the Persian king Xerxes was not eight-feet tall, but actually an average sized man. Lastly, the Spartan council was made up of men over the age of 60, with no one nearly as young as Theron, played by 37-year-old Dominic West.
4. Braveheart Was Too Old for Isabella of Spain
Braveheart was one of Mel Gibson’s most respected films but is actually one of the most inaccurate historical movies ever. Scottish historians say the list of liberties is long and wide. One of their biggest issues with the story is that Scotland’s William Wallace has an affair with King Edward II’s wife, Isabella of Spain. However, at the time, Isabella of Spain would have only been 2 or 3 years old!
5. The Patriot Was Actually a Slave Owner
Oh look, it’s Mel again! Gibson directed another one of our inaccurate historical movies back in 2000. Mel portrayed a farmer turned Revolutionary War hero in The Patriot. In the film, Gibson’s character is an upstanding, intelligent family man, but in real life he was a slave-owner who didn’t get married until after the war. The man Gibson portrayed was actually guilty of raping and murdering native Cherokees.
6. Pearl Harbor’s Bombing Scenes Were Exaggerated
Pearl Harbor gets more buzz for being one of the worst inaccurate historical movies than it does for its dramatic qualities. For example, Captain Rafe (Ben Affleck) and his fighter pilot friend Danny Walker (Josh Harnett) are seen shooting down dozens of planes during the initial attack on Pearl Harbor. In real life only a few planes were shot down that day in Hawaii, but the filmmakers thought the audience needed a little more heroic action. Also, the scene where FDR clumsily rises from his wheelchair to inspire his generals was pure schlock.
7. Pocahontas Never Loved John Smith
One of Disney’s most popular films, Pocahontas, portrayed the English invasion of Jamestown, Virginia very inaccurately. For starters, Pocahontas’ tribe, the Powhatans, was depicted with cliched Native American stereotypes. Also, John Smith and Pocahontas were far from in love. We know every Disney princess needs a bit of romance, but in reality Pocahontas would have been 10 years old at the time, while John Smith would have been 27.
8. Elizabeth Was Really 52 in 1585
Cate Blanchett deftly portrayed Queen Elizabeth in the 16th century in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. However, Queen Elizabeth would have been 52 years old in 1585, but was played by a 36 year old Blanchett, with no attempt to age her. Also, Elizabeth could not have fallen for Ivan the Terrible during that period because he died in 1584. Oh well, it’s a period piece, not a documentary.
9. Marie Antoinette and Louis Did Do the Deed
Aside from a few costume details, the main inaccuracy in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette has to do with Marie and her husband’s inability to consummate their marriage. In the film, Louis is said to be afraid of sex and will not partake in the act. However, the real story is Louis had phimosis, a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be fully retracted. His condition was eventually fixed with an operation. The two did eventually do the deed and ended up having four children together.
10. “The Impossible” Made Up Most Plot Details
The film based on the horrible destruction of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, was very powerful but only loosely based on any true story. The real-life tourist family that was in Thailand at the time was actually Spanish, not English, as depicted in the film. Some critics dismiss the film as “whitewashing” the tragedy rather than focusing on how the tsunami’s affected the local population.
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