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20 Famous Movies That Are Actually Historically Inaccurate

01 June 2013 | Features, Film Lists | by David Zou

historically inaccurate movies

OK, history buffs, time to vent out all your indignation at the mind-boggling liberties Hollywood takes with its “historical” films. We have put together a list of the 20 most historically inaccurate movies, some of them are even considered to be “great movies”. We will let the history be the judge here, let’s see if you can handle the truth!


20. Ed Wood


The Untruth: Tim Burton’s warm tribute to cinema’s greatest awful director. Wallowing in self-doubt Wood meets his idol, Orson Welles, and is inspired to impose more unconvincing monsters on the world.

The Truth: Sadly, Wood never met Welles. If only they had worked together. They would have been the best terrible, terrible films ever made.


19. Man On The Moon


The Untruth: Comedian and prankster Andy Kaufman’s life made flesh by Jim Carrey. He faked his own death just like Elvis didn’t. Or did he?

The Truth: No, seriously, did he? The film deliberately gives more weight to the myth that Kaufman is still alive than it does to the truth – that Andy died at a tragically young age.

But then we prefer the idea that he’s still out there somewhere too, so we’ll go easy on this one.


18. The Social Network


The Untruth: A geeky, unpopular boy called Mark Zuckerberg invents Facebook and is sued by everyone who says they invented it. He goes on to become an incredibly rich, geeky, unpopular boy called Mark Zuckerberg. The Oscars ‘Like’ this.

The Truth: While it’s true that the Winklevoss brothers sued Zuckerberg everyone involved was surprised it was included in the film. The real story of Facebook would be lots of men in a room writing computer code. Lol, sadface etc.

Mark Zuckerberg had a different problem with it. “The thing that I think is actually most thematically interesting that they got wrong is – the whole framing of the movie, kind of the way that it starts is, I’m with this girl who doesn’t exist in real life, who dumps me, which has happened to me in real life, a lot – and basically to frame it as if the whole reason for making Facebook and building something was because I wanted to get girls or wanted to get into some sort of social institution.

And the reality for people who know me is that I’ve actually been dating the same girl since before I started Facebook, so obviously that’s not a part of it.

But I think it’s such a big disconnect from the way people who make movies think about what we do in Silicon Valley – building stuff. They just can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things.”


17. The Iron Lady


The Untruth: Can you help us with our crossword? Four down: ‘highly regarded Prime Minister of 1980s Britain. Hard but fair.’ Sixteen letters? We’re drawing a blank. Let’s watch this film about Margaret Thatcher while we think about it.

The Truth: The film was not made solely for British audiences. Thatcher is seen as an iconic figure around the world, especially in the States. While Meryl Streep’s performance is excellent the former Prime Minister’s reputation in the UK is still that of a milk-snatching goblin. This is yet to catch on internationally.

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  • Korabljenik

    The kilts have been invented several hundred years AFTER the events depicted in Braveheart.
    I really saw no point in adding that Scottish stereotype.
    Also, the film-Wallace was shown as a commoner, while in reality, he was a knight, i.e. a noble.
    Also, Robert the Bruce’s actions were significantly changed… to worse.

    • Cade Ezell

      and the celtics loved to fight naked, or so the internet has told me. Probably a good thing they left that out though

      • Iam_Sparticus

        I’ve been to plenty of their games and never seen them naked. Just the usual required uniforms.

        • Cade Ezell

          hahaha loved that comment

  • WoWed

    “W.” was also grossly exaggerated. That’s Oliver Stone for you.

  • James Tracy

    The inclusion of ed wood here is nuts. 99% of the movie is true except for the one scene mentioned.

  • Alexander Lewis-White

    Margaret Thatcher’s reputation in Britain is NOT a bad one. It is a divisive one. Some people hate her, some genuinely love her.

    • steve button

      Generally speaking the majority of Britain disdains Thatcher. Those who don’t… read Fleet Street unquestionably. Which isn’t really having a real opinion, is it?

      • Alexander Lewis-White

        I was ready to be offended at your dismissal of my opinion and my nationality. Just because you and yours don’t like her doesn’t mean me and mine don’t love her equally as much. And i do not read Fleet Street. But then i realised you were just a bit of an idiot who cannot handle the fact that someone might feel differently to them.

  • Rivethead

    Why is 300 not on this list? Why is Bay’s, Pearl Harbor, not on this list?

    • Steven Flores

      I know… “Pearl Harbor” is filled with lots of inaccuracies. It’s essentially the worst history term paper ever created filled with exaggerations and a heavy-handed romantic plot. It’s also the worst film ever made.

    • John Whatmeworry

      To be fair, ’300′ is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, not on actual history.

      • Rivethead

        Good point. I still thought it sucked. :)

        • Raphael Deutsch

          Not quite sure what historically inaccuracy has to do with quality but ok.

  • Seth Rosenberg

    WTF, “The Patriot” isn’t #1. Sorry. It’s the most inaccurate piece of jingoist propaganda ever made. The Redcoats are Nazis in red, and Mel Gibson plays a character based on a real person – a major South Carolina landowner and leader. The problem is that in the movie, his character had freed all his slaves out of the goodness of his heart and they all stayed on the plantation and work for him voluntarily. Yeah … that happened.

  • The Rant As Art

    WHAT?! I thought these movies were all documentaries…

  • Michael Capanelli

    Braveheart is deservedly no 1. I’m an historic fencing practitioner and I can tell you first hand there are too many inaccuracies to count. From the weapons to the face paint to the clothing to the…..I can go on all day. The worst is having Robert the Bruce in the same room as Wallace. And Robert Betraying him? C’mon Hollywood.

  • Chuck Jones

    Mary Queen of Scots was raised in France but she was Scottish by birth…
    I’ve heard of a movie called ’10, 000 BC’ which I would have given the number one spot. It depicts the Pyramids being built by mammoths in 10,000 BC!

  • Bob Thayer

    I had read that “Amadeus” was based on Salieri’s own confession in an asylum toward the end of his life. It’s not known how much of what he claimed was true.

  • Nick

    “Helfgott is not very good at playing the piano.”
    Get it together folks… He is one of the greatest piano players alive.

  • paulj

    300 (actually there were about 9000 + the entire Athenian navy (guarding the seaward flanks)) So that alone should make it a contender. The rearguard action on the final day was by 700 Thespians (from Thessaly) 400 Thebans as well as the 300. This enabled the rest of the army to escape for what that was worth. Historically speaking 300 is shiiiite.

    Hmm any film about the Alamo is gonna have certain inaccuracies. The background to that war was hmm not quite as righteous as we might like. The truth can really suck at times.

  • David Hill

    Also, Elliot Ness and Al Capone never met and certainly didn’t exchange words.

  • Andrew

    lol….. who fact-checks this bullshit? oh, that’s right… nobody. mary, queen of scots, was born in scotland, grew up in france, and returned to scotland in… was it 1561? pretty sure. anyway, pissweak effort.

  • steve button

    Actually, it is factual that there was a second shooter. The Zapruder film demonstrates it quite clearly. The problem is the media insistence on the “lone nut” hypothesis…which has zero evidence to substantiate it. But for those a bit better read, the reasons for the media complicity are more than obvious…

  • steve button

    I don’t think Hollywood has ever made a film that shouldn’t be on this list…

  • Aroreiel

    Every historical film exaggerates the truth, invents things etc. What would be more difficult to find is one that is purely accurate and that isn’t a documentary.

  • Austin Duffield

    U571 should be on this list. It portrays the Nazi Emiga Machine being captured by the Americans. In fact it was captured by the British.

  • Vince Duggan

    Ness didn’t kill Frank Nitti.

  • Red Lagoon

    “The real Brockovich has denied deliberately using her breasts as a distraction technique, as definitely depicted in the movie. That’s like finding out the real Magic Mike was a bit shy.” …and let’s forget the fact that she and her firm kept more than half the money of the victims, which need them for medicine! Way to go Erin!

  • william jerome sperber

    Also in The Doors one of the band members has one little girl. The fact is he never had a kid…