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The 10 Most Historically Inaccurate Movies of All Time

24 February 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Rollyn Stafford

historically inaccurate movies

In all honesty, any movie about history is not going to be completely accurate. If one looks hard enough, they are bound to find something the director/screenwriter changed for reasons concerning character development or dramatic storytelling.

However, there are some films that just itch at you and make you say, “that just can’t be right.” here are a few films that have a few (if not many) historical inaccuracies.


1. 300

300 movie

Zack Snyder’s 300 dramatizes the tale of how a few number of Spartan soldiers fought against many Persians at the battle of Thermopylae.

There are in fact some truths in the film, like how the Spartans discarded their unfit offspring and how Spartan children left home at seven to train to become warriors. And King Leonidas did in fact consult an oracle before going to battle against the Persian Empire (History Vs. Hollywood), but the majority of the film is fictionalized.

a. In the film, a Spartan soldier states he sees millions of Persians ready for battle. However, there were in fact closer to 300,000 Persian soldiers facing the Spartans (Seitz).

b. There were in fact not 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae, as the title suggests. According to Herodotus, there were closer to 5,200 Spartans and Athenians facing the Persians (Seitz).

c. About half way through the film, King Leonidas speaks with Xerxes one on one. This was a fictionalized event. Or if it did happen, it was not recorded by Herodotus (Today I Found Out).

d. 300 portrays the Persians, as well as Xerxes, as deformed monsters, who crave nothing but wild battle. In reality, the Persians were well educated and trained soldiers with “great respect for Greek culture and civilization” (Today I Found Out).


2. Amadeus

Amadeus(1984) Tom Hulce Credit: Warner Bros./Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

Amadeus revolves around the artistic rival between Mozart and Salieri and his plans for revenge against the musical genius. The movie does get many characteristics of Mozart correct. He was known for crass humor and pranks and did love billiards, but the plot holds little facts.

a. The movie states that Mozart and Salieri were rivals and that Salieri even planned Mozart’s death, but there is no actual evidence to suggest this. If anything, they were best friends or at least respected each other (Fact or Fiction).

b. Mozart was not poisoned by Salieri as the film states. He in fact died from Trichinosis, a deadly disease gotten from poor meat (Drucker).

c. In the beginning of the film, Salieri explains how he traded his chastity for musical talent, but Salierie had eight children and several mistresses. He was not “sexually frustrated, dried-up old bachelor” (Guardian).


3. The Wild Wild West

The Wild Wild West

Everyone pretty much knows that The Wild Wild West is not based in reality. No, there was not a mad inventor named Loveless who created a giant machine tarantula and tried to undo what the American Civil War had done. Wild Wild West the movie is in fact based on a television show from the 1960s. Here are some of the small historical inaccuracies of the film.

a. When Jim West arrives in Washington, DC, the Capital Building is under construction. This makes no sense however, since the building was “finished in 1864 – 5 years before the movie’s set” (Movie Mistakes).

b. At the end of the movie, President Grant announces to Jim West and Artemis Gordon that he is starting the Secret Service and makes them both agents. As cool as this sounds, it was in fact President Lincoln who invented the Secret Service in 1865. (Now I Know)

c. Once Loveless has captured President Grant, he declares to former Confederate men that Arizona will be one the states taken back by the confederacy. Arizona was not a state during Grant’s term. (Movie Mistakes 2)


4. JFK

JFK 1991

Oliver Stone has a reputation for bending historical truths to fit the dramatic narrative needs of his films and JFK is no exception. The movie suggests that the FBI and CIA were involved in the assassination of the president and DA Jim Garrison searches for the truth.

a. There is a scene where David Ferrie confesses the JFK assassination plot to Garrison. Ferrie was in fact a real person who worked with anti-Castro Cuban exiles, but he never confessed anything to the New Orleans DA. (McGrath)

b. Garrison’s key witness in the movie during the trial scene is Willie O’Keefe, but he is pure fiction. Garrison’s real star witness was Perry Russo, who was subjected to sodium pentothal and hypnosis before testifying. (Tunzelmann)

c. In the final scene of the trial, Garrison explains there had to be a second gunman because of the “magic bullet theory”, which states that Oswald’s bullet made all sorts of windy twists and turns before finally killing Kennedy. This is not true. The “bullet’s trajectory continued normally downwards and was consistent with a shot from the book depository” (Tunzelmann) where Oswald was stationed.


5. Braveheart


Braveheart shows how William Wallace from Scotland help lead his country against the tyranny of King Edward I of England. Although beautifully told, the movie is false in it’s timeline and characters.

a. Braveheart shows a romance between Wallace and Isabella. This is probably unlikely, given that Isabella was a baby at the time the film is set. (McGrath)

b. Trouble did not begin between Scotland and England until after Alexander III death in 1279. However, this movie is set in 276. At this time there was peace between Scotland and England. (Owen)

c. The movie claims William Wallace grew up in poverty and as a farmer, but most historians believe he was born into Scottish aristocracy and became a knight. (Hande’s Blog)



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  • feast for

    That is one of the things that I liked of 300 back in the day, it’s actually pretty accurate because it is propaganda, you never see the battle of Thermopilae, you listen to the tale of the one spartan who survived, who was not there in the final day and knows what works better to inspire the troops, so Leonidas actually died first in the third day, but since the survivor was not there at that point…it just makes sense, 300-2 can’t stand on the same ground though it was quite fun seeing their version of Marathon.

  • Yes… Braveheart. But, man I love that movie!!

    • Vincenzo Politi

      It’s a great movie!

  • Why am I not surprised Pearl Harbor isn’t in the list? That is a film with a lot of inaccuracies but also some of the most idiotic and obscene moments in film.

  • Any movie coming from hollywood that says “Based on real events” is using it as a selling tool not to respect the actual events. So, you can be sure its not even close. Here are couple of notable mentioned from the top of my head: The Ghost and the Darkness, (1996), Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

    • Kriss_Kringle

      Not to respect the actual events?There’s a reason they make films inspired by actual events,you know,and that is for entertainment.It will bend the story for dramatic purposes if the source material is boring or too fact based and that is called artistic license.
      Not every movie should be a slave to the source material,because there’s a certain amount of money invested in the project and they have to make a profit.At the very best it should strive to be entertaining and make you interested in finding out more about the actual story it’s based on.

      • There is, sorry there should be an ethical obligation in my opinion… for the filmmakers to honer the people who actually were there in history. When they try to use them as selling tool, they rape the dead in way. Great for profit bad for culture in my opinion.

        With all the fictional materials, there is no need to use the historical events and twist them into something there are not jut for quick cash. That is something I don’t agree with. I can understand it, I’m not naive, but I disagree with the practice. Simple as that.

        For the end I will add this: Rich Hall – Dirty South – Biopic Clip

  • Harsha Raman

    Hey hey hey. Inglourious Basterds is THE MOST accurate movie of all time. Good thing you didn’t include it in your list.

    • Klaus Dannick

      Has anyone actually taken Inglourious Basterds to be anything but a work of fiction?

    • mel now from surrey

      When I saw this I worried younger people would think it is history.

  • Terek Brajan

    I don’t remember Salieri poisons Mozart in the movie…..

    • Thomas d’Auteuil

      We’re talking about a metaphorical poison

  • Tobias Palma

    There is a difference between films ‘based on true story’, ‘inspired by’ or just historical fiction. I’d be surprised if anyone thought 300, 10000BC or Wild Wild West even pretended to be accurate. It is much more interesting to find inaccuracies in films that actually pretend to show a perspective on historical events, like in Amadeus, JFK, Braveheart. It is also a great thing to clarify that many children film have adaptations to make them family rate, like Pocahontas.
    I would have liked you saved space and forget about the obvious historical fantasies to write about, just saying, Pearl Harbour, The Danish Girl, Schindler’s List, etc. Films that are usually believed to be accurate but they’re not.

  • Bobby Calloway

    Lol someone forgot to check who made Anastasia – because it’s not a Disney film. It’s inspired by the 90s Disney formula but Fox released it. And do that and Pocahontas really count when they were advertised as historical fairy tales, not meant to be taken as fact? Ironically Disney made a DTV sequel to Pocahontas where she does hook up with John Rolfe and go to England after all. If they do count then why isn’t Inglorious Basterds on the list? Hitler dying in a donnybrook inside a Paris cinema is a wee bit against history, wouldn’t you say?

  • mel now from surrey

    “Battle of the Bulge” Eisenhower actually made a statement about how inaccurate it was.

  • Ted Wolf

    I really like the research on this one, thank you! I think there needs to be a special list of the golden era movies that were biographies, like Abe Lincoln in Illinois, or Young Tom Edison.

  • Elad1977

    What about “Argo”? That piece of US flag-waving actually won the Best Picture Oscar.

  • Vincenzo Politi

    Excuse me, but where is the Gladiator? That film stunk from beginning to end, the Marcus Aurelius of that movie is totally different from the real Marcus Aurelius and the reconstruction of Ancient Rome is inaccurate, cheesy and just too “plastic fantastic”. It is rumoured that some of the historians who were hired as advisors for the movie development actually resigned; others did not break the contract but asked not to appear in the credit of the movie! Lastly, not only the reconstruction of Ancient Rome is inaccurate, but even the reconstruction of Rome as a city, whether we are talking of how it was back then or of how it is now, is topographically, structurally wrong! In the last scene, one can see the river Tevere a few stapes away from the Colosseum. In reality, there are almost FOUR KILOMETRES separating the Colosseum from the river Tevere!!!!

  • Jeroen Ledderhof
  • TheEpicShowPodcast

    Wait! I swear I read Braveheart was set during and after 1280. It even says when you watch the movie in the beginning, “Scotland 1280 A.D.” Is Rollyn high?

  • TCM

    About 10000 B.C. and point c. “Even the
    creatures the movie presents are out of their timeframe. The hero saves a
    giant saber-toothed cat in the movie called Smilodon, but this cat
    never actually lived in the Americas.”

    Isn’t the scene with the saber-thoothed cat meant to take place around the Urals and the majority of the film meant to take place in AFRICA?

  • Ruchit Negotia

    again, 300 is based off a comic book not actually events.

  • Dave

    I commend you on your research. When I saw your category the film that sprung immediately to mind is They Died With Their Boots On. That one is too easy to pick apart as is any old Hollywood classic.

  • killerjoe1985

    300 was not a historical movie, is from comic book. And I recomended the best movie about American Revolution, call Revolution (1985) by Hugh Hudson and a great actor crew with: Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland.

  • Stewart J. Klein

    U-571 is an affront to history.

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  • Rikum D4

    the flintstones

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    Raise the Titanic.

  • Piotr Grabowski

    Love all that PC ‘not entirely accurate’ when describing blatant rewriting of history in Hollywood movies. For instance, Disney’s Anastasia is an ultimate c**p afa historical accuracy is concerned. Diabolical Rasputin was in fact devoted friend of Tsar’s family. And so on, and so on ……