13 Times A Real Historical Figure Is A Character In An Extremely Fictional Movie

List Rules
Vote up the historical figures who were perfect fits in fictional settings.

Period pieces can be a lot of fun when you're in the mood. That being said, isn't it more enjoyable when production teams bring actual historical figures into entirely fictional films? It just brings an ineffable kind of spark to the proceedings. Appearances like this can be used to lend an air of authenticity to the picture - like Nikola Tesla in The Prestige - or used to tell completely fabricated stories, like Abraham Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Then there are movies like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Midnight in Paris, where historical figures are a dime a dozen. Whatever the case, it's hard not to love the kinds of stories in which real people show up in fabricated tales. Remember to vote up your favorites.


  • The Historical Figure: The inventive electrical engineer/futurist played an important part in creating modern electricity. The workaholic claimed to sleep a scant two hours every night and had countless grand ideas like wireless energy and "thought cameras." His legacy has only grown in stature during the 21st century - and you've probably heard about the electric car manufacturer named after him.

    What Is He Doing In This Movie? Played by the irreplaceable David Bowie, Tesla is called upon by Hugh Jackman's Robert Angier to create a teleportation machine. Nothing in The Prestige is ever as it seems, and this movie's Tesla ends up instead creating a cloning machine by accident. When handing the machine over to Angier, Tesla offers a piece of free advice to the obsessive magician: "Destroy it. Drop it to the bottom of the deepest ocean. Such a thing will bring you only misery."

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  • The Historical Figures: There is a stacked roster of famous figures in the 1989 sci-fi/comedy classic Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud all have a role to play in the film. It really is a "who's who" of high school history textbooks.

    What Are They Doing In This Movie? All these illustrious people are brought to 1988 San Dimas, CA, by Keanu Reeves's Ted "Theodore" Logan and Alex Winter's Bill S. Preston, Esq., via a time-traveling phone booth. You see, Bill and Ted are directly responsible for the future utopian state of the world... if, that is, they manage to pass their high school history class. The pair of vapid best buds round up this crew to help them pass their class. And much hootin' and hollerin' is had by all.

  • The Historical Figure: Frida Kahlo is the very definition of an artistic icon. The Mexican painter's existence was marked by various tragedies and tumult, with the legendary artist dealing with everything from polio to a tragic bus accident that left her in a wheelchair for the majority of her life. Though she was relatively unheralded during her life, Kahlo has become a celebrated figure in the decades since her 1954 passing. Thanks to her masterful self-portraits, Kahlo's reputation as an expert of her craft grows bigger and brighter with each passing year.

    What Is She Doing In This Movie? 2017's Coco is as much a celebration of Mexican culture as it is a family-friendly film from the creators at Pixar. And, since the young protagonist, Miguel, finds himself stuck in the Land of the Dead for most of the movie, it seems only fitting that the great Frida Kahlo would not only make an appearance but assist him, as well. She encourages Miguel to follow his artistic dreams and helps the boy's family in their quest to find Héctor's photograph and keep his memory alive.

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  • The Historical Figure: Edward Teach, better known as the infamous Blackbeard, was a pirate who operated in the West Indies during the early 1700s. While he only operated for a short period of time (because pirating was a dangerous profession, after all) and wasn't all that successful, his legend only grew in the centuries following his demise. A larger-than-life personality, Blackbeard loved to play up the theatricality of the pirating game, pretending to be more menacing than he actually was.

    What Is He Doing In This Movie? The Blackbeard of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is obviously just the historical figure in name only. Ian McShane is having a blast as the antagonist of the film, and the more magical nature of Disney's franchise makes its way into the actor's portrayal. It's doubtful that the real Blackbeard had a sword imbued with the power to make his ship come alive and attack his enemies. If he did have a sword like that, he probably would've lived much longer than he did.

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  • The Historical Figure: Come on. It's Leonardo da Vinci. He painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. He drew the Vitruvian Man. He was a renowned anatomist and engineer in addition to being one of the greatest artists who ever lived. Surely, you've heard of Leonardo da Vinci at some point in your life.

    What Is He Doing In This Movie? Ever After, the 1998 retelling of the Cinderella everybody knows, is set in 1500s France. Leonardo appears throughout the film as the court's resident artist, here portrayed as an older gentleman by Patrick Godfrey. A fun quirk of the film is that it uses one of his real paintings, La Scapigliataas a depiction of Drew Barrymore's Danielle de Barbarac, the film's stand-in for Cinderella.

  • The Historical Figures: There are almost too many to list concisely. It's a lot. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dalí, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso, T.S. Eliot, and many others make at least a momentary appearance in Midnight in Paris. It really does make 1920s France seem like it was the place to be.

    What Are They Doing In This Movie? This Woody Allen film sees Owen Wilson's Gil Pender travel back in time every night at midnight. Leaving the disaffected relationship with his fiancée behind, Gil finds himself embracing the wild lives of the aforementioned renowned icons more and more. Oh, and Adrien Brody's Salvador Dalí is a lot of fun to watch.

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