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 these borrowed figures any favors. If you think you're an expert on English history because you watch a lot of costume dramas, you're in for a big surprise.
Inaccurate film portrayals of historical figures are actually pretty rampant. These differences run from wrongly portraying or erasing the movie subject's disabilities to accusing them of all sorts of intrigue to even having two people that never even met get it on. Word to the wise: don't cram a love triangle that doesn't fit into your period piece. And don't use important world events as a backdrop for your love triangle.It turns out love triangles and historical people Hollywood got wrong go together like peanut butter and jelly. To learn more about how little history has gone into some of the most successful and award-winning historical dramas of all time, read on.
Film: Marie Antoinette (2006)
What Hollywood Did: Portray 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. However, it totally misrepresents Marie Antionette. While she's become a symbol of the decadence of the aristocracy of ye olde France, the real Marie Antoinette was totally aware of the world of cutthroat politics she lived in and had her own political interests. She wasn't just a shop-a-holic with a sweet tooth. see more on Marie Antoinette
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 was completely insane 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 Macbeth-ed his dad IRL. see more on Commodus
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 a child living happily in France. She didn't even get married for the first time until long after her fake movie side piece was dead. She definitely never cheated on her husband and had a baby by William Wallace. see more on Isabella of France
Film: Pocahontas (1995)
What Hollywood Did: Portrayed her as a fully grown model-looking woman that was in love with the also super-hot John Smith.
Why It's Wrong: John Smith was almost thirty when he met Pocahontas IRL, and Pocahontas was only ten, meaning that if there was any "wind painting epic romance" going down it would not exactly be Disney film material. In real life, 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 twenties. see more on Pocahontas