Historical Figures That Hollywood Got Wrong

Everyone loves a good historical drama. While a different one takes the Oscars by storm every year, that doesn't mean Hollywood is actually doing their historical subjects any favors. If you think you're an expert on European history because you watch a lot of costume dramas, you're in for a big surprise.  

Inaccurate film portrayals of historical figures are pretty rampant. These differences include erasing (or exaggerating) a subject's disability, accusing a politician of murder, and even making two people that never met have sex. Word to the wise: don't cram in a love triangle that doesn't fit your period piece. And as it turns out, love triangles and historical people Hollywood got wrong go together like peanut butter and jelly.

It's time to learn more about how little history has gone into some of the most successful and award-winning historical dramas of all time.


  • Film: Marie Antoinette (2006)
    What Hollywood Did: Portrayed Marie-Antoinette as a spoiled and oblivious child. 
    Why It's Wrong: First off, this Sofia Coppola film starring Kirsten Dunst is as beautiful as it is ridiculous, and manages to get a lot right historically - despite throwing around Chuck Taylors and Adam Ant songs. It totally misrepresents Marie-Antionette, though.

    While she's become a symbol of ye olde France's decadent aristocracy, the real Marie-Antoinette was totally aware of the world of cutthroat politics she lived in, possessing her own political interests. She wasn't just a shopaholic with a sweet tooth

  • Film: Gladiator (2000)
    What Hollywood Did: Portrayed Commodus as a father-killing super-creep. 
    Why It's Wrong: While Commodus was a terrible emperor who succumbed to insanity by the end of his reign, he never killed his dad. In fact, he served as joint emperor with his father, Marcus Aurelius, for three years as a teen leading up to Aurelius's death. While people have been criticizing the reign of Commodus for thousands of years, and Joaquin Phoenix's performance is nightmare-worthy, Commodus never actually Macbeth-ed his father. 

  • Film: Braveheart (1995)
    What Hollywood Did: Jerry Springer-ed it up.  
    Why It's Wrong: Not only did William Wallace and Isabella of France never meet in real life, but the film reduced a pretty historically cunning and intelligent royal lady to a romantic object. During the historical events Mel Gibson's Braveheart was inspired by, Isabella was around 3 years old and living happily in France. Furthermore, Wallace was executed before Isabella ever married, so she definitely never cheated on her husband and had a baby with the Scottish hero.

  • Film: Pocahontas (1995)
    What Hollywood Did: Portrayed Pocahontus as a fully grown woman in love with John Smith.   
    Why It's Wrong: John Smith was almost 30 when he met Pocahontas, who was only 10, meaning that if there was any wind-painting epic romance going down, it would not exactly be Disney film material. In reality, teenage Pocahontas was kidnapped by the English and forced to marry John Rolfe, who kept her as a curiosity in his house in Middlesex until she died of tuberculosis in her early 30s.