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20 Historical Facts That Movies Got Totally Wrong

Updated December 3, 2018 458.9k views20 items

History class is tough – there are lots of dates and names to remember. But when you're making a historical movie, you'd think Hollywood would do some extra fact-checking. Not all films, even if they are historical films about real-life figures and actual events, fully honor their original source material. On this list, films from all decades are revealed as having botched the reality of supposed non-fiction and reminded audiences that they were just Hollywood flicks. From Foxcatcher to Hotel Rwanda, and even 1915's The Birth of a Nation, many films feature blatant errors and historical inaccuracies that will annoy more than just the average history buff. For example, while George Clooney spiced up the third act of Good Night, and Good Luck, its timeline and the implications of that timeline are way off-base.

This list covers more than just the Hollywood endings, however. The opening scene of American Sniper, for instance, feeds into the claims of Clint Eastwood's "pro-military propaganda" by making an Iraqi woman look evil by giving her son an anti-tank grenade, which never, ever happened.

So what historical facts has Hollywood gotten completely wrong? Read on to find out and be sure to up-vote the most egregious history mistakes in these Hollywood movies.

  • Even Lincoln's screenwriter, Tony Kushner, confessed to this historical misrepresentation. One of the glaring inaccuracies in the film that won Daniel Day Lewis his third Academy Award is that Connecticut was portrayed as voting "no" on the 13th Amendment – a vote against ending slavery. In fact, every single representative in Connecticut's House voted "yes" for the amendment.

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  • Ron Howard's film chronicling the Apollo 13 mission featured astronaut Ken Mattingly being involved with the rescue mission, although Mattingly himself confesses to this historical falsity. In the film, he was exposed to measles (true) and bumped from the mission (true) before NASA called him back to lead rescue efforts (false). In reality, Mattingly said he had absolutely no assigned role in that rescue; he was a backup crew member who worked with a number of teams, not just one or two projects as portrayed in the film.

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  • In the 2000 Russell Crowe movie, Marcus Aurelius was murdered by his own son, Commodus, during a battle in the Marcomannic War. The real Marcus Aurelius died in 180 AD in what is now Vienna. Aurelius actually gave succession to Commodus in real life, a far cry from dying by his hand.

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  • Photo: 300 / Warner Bros.

    The character of King Darius was portrayed as being present at the Battle of Marathon. The truth is, King Darius wasn't even there, and, in fact, he died four years later of old age. Though it made for a nice plot point, King Darius was not killed with an arrow by Xerxes's father at the Battle.

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