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Top 10 Historically Inaccurate Movies

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nathan Sharp Based on a true story. Whenever you see that tagline, take it with a grain of salt. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Historically Inaccurate Movies. For this list, we're looking at those movies that claim to be based on a true story, but have taken extreme liberties with history and have produced a borderline fictional film. Special thanks to our user Spencer Higham and john1138, sical4christ, Bohemian Brandi and Kilt Wearing Warrior for submitting idea at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Historically Inaccurate Movies

“Based on a true story.” Whenever you see that tagline, take it with a grain of salt. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Historically Inaccurate Movies.

For this list, we’re looking at those movies that claim to be based on a true story, but have taken extreme liberties with history and have produced a borderline fictional film. There’s no specific time period; anything in the past is considered historic. Also, we’re excluding movies that purposely alter history, such as “Inglourious Basterds,” and also movies based on myths, as there is no way to know if they are actually historic.

#10: “Argo” (2012)

While we’re certainly not downplaying Tony Mendez’s heroic rescue of U.S. diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis, we are saying that “Argo” took tremendous liberties with the story for the sake of drama. For example, neither the British nor the New Zealand embassy refused to help, and actually played a huge role in sheltering the Americans. But perhaps the most slighted were the Canadians involved in the operation, especially Canadian ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor. Even President Jimmy Carter admitted that roughly 90% of the plan to get the hostages out of Iran came from the Canadians. While director and star Ben Affleck claims the film has a “spirit of truth,” any Canuck alive during the crisis calls bullshit on that.

#9: “U-571” (2000)

While the film is exciting enough as a story, as a history lesson, it definitely takes some liberties, with even Prime Minister Tony Blair attacking it. The movie follows American troops as they board the German U-571 to capture the famous Enigma cipher machine. Even in that synopsis there are glaring mistakes, as the U-571 was never actually captured; it was the U-110. Also, Americans had nothing to do with it, since it actually occurred months before the United States even entered the war. In real life, it was an entirely British operation, hence Blair’s nasty remarks.

#8: “Anastasia” (1997)

This isn’t the first time an animated children’s film has tampered with history, and it certainly won’t be the last. “Anastasia” tells the story of the Grand Duchess of Russia, but in this version she survived the famous Romanov shooting that saw to the execution of her entire family. Throughout the film, there are countless small errors – for example, people call her “Princess” Anastasia, although Russians never use that term, the real Marie did not escape to Paris and the movie is actually pushed ahead in time about ten years. But the biggest, and perhaps the saddest, inaccuracy? Anastasia was brutally shot along with the rest of her kin – unless you believe the conspiracy theories, that is.

#7: “300” (2006)

Director Zack Snyder went to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy when adapting Frank Miller’s graphic novel; however, even Miller said he’d altered some details to suit his story. While King Leonidas and his outnumbered men did heroically block the pass against the massive Persian attack, it was less 300 soldiers and more like 7,000. And, while Spartan soldiers were definitely muscular, they weren’t parading around their six packs, as they would definitely have been wearing armor. Xerxes wasn’t a vaguely effeminate giant with a baritone voice, and war elephants were never used on the Thermopylae battlefield. There’s plenty more, but we’re out of time.

#6: “Apocalypto” (2006)

While we have to give “Apocalypto” props for using the authentic Yucatec Maya language, its use is actually dangerous because it lends the rest of the movie credibility and might make audiences think it’s an accurate depiction of the Maya people, when in fact it is anything but. When a Mayan tribesman is sentenced to be sacrificed, someone should’ve told him not to worry because the Mayans rarely performed human sacrifices (that was the Aztecs), and even when they did, it was against elites, not common folk. The film also portrays the Mayans as cruel sadists, which again is more akin to the Aztecs, as the Maya were actually a very peaceful group.

#5: “The Last Samurai” (2003)

Inspired by the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877, the film stars Tom Cruise as a civil war veteran who befriends an enemy samurai during the Meiji Restoration. First of all, it is extremely doubtful that an old civil war soldier could become a master samurai in such a short time. Also, like “U-571,” the film over-glorifies America, as Japan never consulted the U.S. as military advisers. Finally, the samurai themselves are constantly portrayed as noble men, when in reality the Meiji reformers were not fighting for unselfish reasons, but to stay at the top of the social caste system. Because of this, the idea of them letting a foreigner into their ranks is extremely unlikely.

#4: “The Patriot” (2000)

Rape. Murder. Slaves. Doesn’t quite sound like content suitable for the protagonist of a story, does it? Unfortunately, one of the men upon whom Mel Gibson’s Benjamin Martin is based did exactly all of those things, apparently even hunting Native Americans for sport and raping his female slaves; yet in this film, he is revered. What’s more, the British are unfairly depicted as cruel, murderous villains of the Revolutionary War for the sake of drama. Needless to say, these gross inaccuracies and the fact that their countrymen were depicted in a similar fashion to Nazis during World War II made sure British viewers and critics did not given “The Patriot” favorable.

#3: “Braveheart” (1995)

Mel Gibson just loves changing history, doesn’t he? “Braveheart” tells the mostly historical story of William Wallace leading the Scottish army in their First War of Independence, but the film dramatizes a lot for storytelling purposes. For example, the time period is also off because – although it’s supposed to take place beginning in the year 1280 – the lives of the real-life historical figures featured do not line up. This is important because the idea that William Wallace, and not Edward III, fathered Isabella of France’s eldest child has gained traction in popular imagination – even though she would’ve been 9-years-old when Wallace died. Also, as cool as those kilts look on the Scots, they’re about 200 years too early.

#2: “Pearl Harbor” (2001)

While it’s an undeniable fact that Japan bombed the United States outpost at Pearl Harbor, that’s about all that this Michael Bay movie has in common with reality. Aside from relatively small details like out-of-time planes, and the fact that the main characters are entirely fictional, some real historical events were altered for effect. To name one such example, Admiral Kimmel was not golfing the morning of the attack and was not warned of the Japanese embassy leaving Washington prior to the attack. But the most heinous of all – even to Americans – might be the scene where President Roosevelt stands up from his wheelchair for the purpose of a dramatic speech.

Before we change up history for our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Battle of the Bulge” (1965)
- “Amadeus” (1984)
- “Midnight Express” (1978)
- “The Alamo” (1960)
- “10,000 BC” (2008)

#1: “Pocahontas” (1995)

Yes, even Disney isn’t exempt from choosing story over history, as their colorful “Pocahontas” is rife with inaccuracies. To start, both she and John Smith are depicted as adults in the film, when Pocahontas was really roughly 10-years-old at the time when the Susan Constant reached the new world. Secondly, there’s no indication of romance between the lovebirds in the film; only a mutual, platonic friendship. Perhaps even more important, Smith’s story about Pocahontas rescuing him from her tribe may not even be historically accurate either. Finally, the end of the story is also whitewashed: the real girl was married off, renamed “Rebecca,” and taught Christianity before dying at the age of 22. But that wouldn’t make a great movie, now would it?

Do you agree with our list? What movie do you think is the most historically inaccurate? For more informative top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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