Hollywood often gets history completely wrong, and biopics in particular often make their subjects look better than they really were - like when The Patriot ignored the fact that Mel Gibson’s character was a murderer and a rapist. All the films on this list of the most inaccurate historical movies have major historical problems. These inaccurate movies based on true stories change all sorts of things, from the gruesome tactics used in the real William Wallace’s execution to the way Roman emperors died in Gladiator.
The movies based on true stories that are wrong include Braveheart, JFK, and Pocahontas, all of which take major liberties with the facts. In the case of Gladiator, one of the historical advisors even quit because of all the problems. Some of the movies make intentional choices to change history, like in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet or Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. But viewers who aren’t up on their history might not realize all the problems with a movie like 10,000 BC, which shows wooly mammoths building the pyramids.
Here’s your chance to weigh in on the most historically inaccurate movies of all time.
- Photo: Warner Brothers5
Yes, 300 Spartans did hold a pass against an invading Persian army in the Battle of Thermopylae. But the 2006 movie 300 even gets that wrong. The Spartans were not alone; in fact they were supported by as many as 7,000 other Greeks—in spite of the fact that the Spartans get all the credit. But one of the biggest problems with the movie is how it portrays the Persians.
In the movie, the Persians are treated as bloodthirsty savages led by the ruler Xerxes, who is portrayed as an effeminate bald giant. In reality, the Persians had one of the most advanced empires in the world when they took on the Greeks—and they had banned slavery, unlike the Spartans who were one of the largest owners of slaves in Greece. In fact, the movie faced a backlash in Iran because of the insulting portrayal of the Persians.1,5151,029Is this wildly inaccurate?
Disney makes a lot of changes to their movies, like removing the most tragic parts of the Beauty and the Beast story or dropping the necrophilia and rape from Sleeping Beauty. And Pocahontas is no exception. Pocahontas was a real person, and she did not have a romantic relationship with John Smith—that would have been creepy, since Pocahontas was only ten years old when the English arrived in Virginia. The cheerful Disney ending, which shows a reconciliation between the Natives and the English, is also completely wrong, as English settlers attacked and wiped out Native populations.
And although Pocahontas did decide to stay with her people when John Smith returned to England, that’s not where the story ended. She was kidnapped by the English who took her across the Atlantic as a curiosity for the English court, where she was forced to marry an Englishman named John Rolfe. Not exactly a Disney ending.1,072956Is this wildly inaccurate?
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Cate Blanchett’s Queen Elizabeth looks really good for 52 in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. And maybe that’s because Cate Blanchett was only 36 when the film was shot. That’s only one of the problems with Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which takes a lot of liberties with history. For example, Ivan the Terrible, who courts Queen Elizabeth in the movie, died the year before the film was set. The gowns might be amazing in the movie, but the history had a few problems. It downplays Elizabeth’s political power and her ability to rule, while playing up the romantic flirtations with Sir Walter Raleigh.
And the movie’s major military conflict between the English and the Spanish Armada are also full of problems. The Spanish attack wasn’t a surprise, and Elizabeth’s inspiring speech actually came after the battle, not before. Plus the speech is completely different from what the queen actually said.721657Is this wildly inaccurate?
- Photo: Warner Brothers
It doesn’t get much worse than mammoths building the pyramids. In the 2008 movie 10,000 BC, the historical inaccuracies are everywhere. The epic follows a mammoth hunter who is apparently a time-traveler, since the Egyptian pyramids were build around 2400 BC. The movie journeys from the ice age to the Egyptian age with no mention of the millennia in between, showing mammoths in the Nile Valley building the pyramids.
The time-travelers have also somehow discovered ships, horseback riding, and steel, thousands of years before any existed. At some point, you just have to give up and start laughing.1,1501,071Is this wildly inaccurate?