We don't usually go to the movies or watch TV hoping for a history lesson. Most of the time, we just want to kick back, relax, and be entertained. Even when we watch a movie or show supposedly based in history, the facts don't need to get in the way of a good story.
But sometimes when we see the same mistakes and inaccuracies coming up in movie after movie and show after show, the version of history that pop culture puts out becomes the version that most people think is true. These are the dumb things pop culture made us believe about history - that we finally figured out are inaccurate - in 2021.
- Photo: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King / New Line Cinema11,814 VOTES
When Sheathing And Unsheathing A Sword, It Makes A Metal-On-Metal 'Sching!'
The Trope: When a knight pulls a sword from its scabbard, the weapon sings out with a "sching" sound.
Why Is It Inaccurate? Swords can make a sound when they slice through the air. But the metal-on-metal noise that sound editors add to shots of warriors unsheathing weapons has little basis in reality.
Swords were carried in scabbards, containers usually made of leather or wood. Thus, it wouldn't be possible for a sword to make a metal-on-metal noise when pulled from a scabbard.
Although some scabbards were made of metal - which theoretically would produce a "sching" sound - medieval ones likely had wool inside to cushion the blade and keep it clean. This would have further muffled any sound the blade made as it was being unsheathed.
Notable Offenders: Frozen; The Lord of the Rings trilogy; Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; Dracula Untold; Wonder Woman; Merlin
- Photo: Robin Hood / Lionsgate21,450 VOTES
Archery Bows Creak When They're Drawn
Trope: Bows make a loud, creaky sound when they're drawn.
Why Is It Inaccurate? Bows aren't the only weapons that get this treatment in Hollywood. You may have noticed that guns and swords also make some stock sounds when they show up on screen, either a "click" or "shing," respectively.
Most archers will tell you: if your bow is creaking, there's something wrong with it. As author and archer J.W. Elliot writes:
BOWS DON'T CREAK! Why would they? When wood is bent it makes no sound until, or unless, it is stressed to the breaking point. Strings don't creak either. They are almost always waxed to keep moisture out and wax simply doesn't creak.
Notable Offenders: Robin Hood, Kingdom of Heaven, Lord of the Rings, Hawkeye
- Photo: Saving Private Ryan / DreamWorks Pictures31,775 VOTES
Bullets Ripped Through People Underwater During World War II
The Trope: A soldier attempting to storm a beach, probably somewhere near Normandy, has second thoughts when he's met with a barrage of bullets and dives back under the surf for protection - only to have bullets rip through the water and puncture his body anyway.
Why Is It Inaccurate? Consider that, as recently as 2019, US Special Forces were still hard at working trying to invent a bullet that would travel effectively underwater. Water is, after all, 800 times denser than air, which is what most bullets are designed to pass through. In reality, and as The Smithsonian Channel and the Mythbusters have both conclusively proven, bullets can only pass through a few feet of water at the absolute most, continuously slowing down as they go. As it turns out, real soldiers on D-Day could, and did, earn a temporary reprieve from oncoming gunfire by ducking under the waves.
Notable Offenders: No film is more guilty of this than Saving Private Ryan, where director Steven Spielberg described the difficulty he had replicating bullets passing through water on film without realizing the obvious reason why that was:
Often the pellets wouldn’t go far enough but at least they gave us a really good reference so we were able to digitally augment the shot with a stronger visual of a projectile coursing through the water.
- Photo: Troy / Warner Bros. Pictures41,711 VOTES
You Can Simply Pull Arrows Out Of Your Body
Trope: Arrows are easy to pull out of the body.
Why Is It Inaccurate? Imagine you're a French soldier fighting against the English at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). Suddenly, you're struck by a pointy triangle of metal launched from an English longbow with at least 100 pounds of force.
Fortunately for you, the arrow didn't hit any major organs. Unfortunately, the metal tip has embedded itself in your humerus. Even if you could muster the strength and leverage to rip the arrow out of your arm bone, the pain would make it nearly impossible.
Now, supposing you did, somehow, get that arrow out? Many arrow tips were barbed, so there's a good chance it would take pieces of you with it. You might also just rip out the shaft, leaving the arrow tip (and splinters) behind.
And in the unlikely event you did manage to get the whole thing out? Now you have an infection to worry about.
Notable Offenders: Troy, The Road Warrior, Heroes, Xena: Warrior Princess
- Photo: Dunkirk / Warner Bros. Pictures51,431 VOTES
Ammunition Never Runs Out In War
The Trope: Film characters can go an entire two-and-a-half hour movie without ever needing to reload their weapons, despite firing large and indiscriminate bursts of ammunition with alarming frequency.
Why Is It Inaccurate? Supply chains are an ever-underrated and pivotal aspect of warfare, and the limitations thereof have always ensured that real-life soldiers are a lot more conservative with their ammo than their Hollywood counterparts. This is especially true when it comes to World War II, with infantry usually able to carry 100 or so rounds at most into battle, and often far fewer.
It’s also especially true when it came to WWII-era aircraft. The notion of one pilot shooting down multiple enemy bogies on a single run is essentially fiction, with Spitfires specifically carrying 14 seconds' worth of ammo on them at a time. Apparently, nobody told Tom Hardy.
Notable Offenders: Dunkirk, Saving Private Ryan, Where Eagles Dare. In fact, it’d be far easier to list the few programs that make of point of showing their characters reloading and conserving ammo, like Band of Brothers.
- Photo: Saving Private Ryan / DreamWorks Pictures61,130 VOTES
World War II Was Fought By Men In Their 30s And 40s
The Trope: The typical WWII combatant was a tough and grizzled 30- or 40-something, best portrayed by Hollywood’s leading middle-aged actors like the Toms Hanks and Tom Hardy.
Why Is It Inaccurate? The average WWII soldier was much younger than the average age of the actors who portray them. Or, as The Saturday Evening Post puts it:
[I]f you were the average frontline G.I., you would fit the following description. You are a 26-years-old white male with nine years of education, who comes from New York and is named John. You were drafted into the army and are now a rifleman in the infantry with a rank of private.
Back home, you have a wife and at least one child hoping for your return. You are 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and you weigh 144 pounds. During your basic training, which you received at Fort Benning, GA, you gained 5 to 20 pounds and added an inch to your 33 1/4-inch chest.
That may not sound like the stuff of a blockbuster action flick, but it is reality. And while older actors may add gravitas to a role, so too does the knowledge that the majority of those who fought and perished in the war still had their whole lives ahead of them.
Even combat officers tended to be young; for instance, Easy Company's commander Major Dick Winters was all of 27 when the war ended. By contrast, Tom Hanks was 41 when he portrayed the fictional Captain John Miller in Saving Private Ryan (although, according to this fan wiki, the character is supposed to be "only" 34). Meanwhile, Tom Sizemore, who played Tech Sgt. Mike Horvath, was 35 when the movie was filmed.
Notable Offenders: Saving Private Ryan, The Longest Day, Battle of the Bulge