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The 12 Most Inaccurate War Movies Ever Made

Updated November 1, 2017 10.5k votes 2.1k voters 84.3k views12 items

List RulesVote up the war movies that got everything wrong.

Movies have always been given considerable creative liberties when retelling real-life events. When it comes to the most inaccurate war movies, however, there is something sort of unsavory about reshaping such a serious narrative to fit the filmmaker's goals and intentions. After all, to quote General Sherman, "War is Hell." Fiddling with the facts of a real-world war does a great disservice to those who were involved with or in any way impacted by the conflict.

None of this means these films didn't find an audience. Some movies that get war all wrong are astonishingly successful. Many generate hundreds of millions of box office dollars. Others are celebrated Academy Award winners. Others, of course, are just plain failures--critically, commercially, and historically.

Sure, movies are an escape, so why quibble over historical accuracy? Because movies are also an accessible way to inform, educate, and enlighten. Historical accuracy should be a priority in any movie dealing with war. While there are countless films that do make attention to detail a priority, read on to discover several that clearly didn't and vote up for what you think are the least realistic movies about war.

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    One veteran described Kathryn Bigelow's 2008 Iraq War movie as being "completely made up, with no basis in reality." Despite Bigelow's claims that she wanted the movie to feel as documentary-like as possible, there is very little in The Hurt Locker that measures up to what really happened to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team or how they operated. The movie portrays a tense, 130-minute high-wire act of coursing adrenaline. In reality, those who work in EOD must be logical, measured, and extremely cautious, and they don't barrel into warzones alone. What could have been a jarringly real portrait of the EOD instead got the action movie makeover, with all the typical character tropes and contrived situations action flicks typically entail.

    • Actors: Evangeline Lilly, Ralph Fiennes, Jeremy Renner, Guy Pearce, David Morse
    • Released: 2009
    • Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
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    Not even the dreaminess of Jake Gyllenhaal or the brilliance of director Sam Mendes could save the disaster that was 2005's Jarhead. What was meant to be an honest, heartfelt tribute to the Marines was a totally implausible, completely unrealistic portrayal of Marine lives and experiences. Even the Defense Department turned down a request from producers to consult on the film, advising them that:

    "...the script was not a 'feasible interpretation of military life.'"

     The details of Marine life are so carelessly presented, it's easy to believe the filmmakers never consulted military personnel at any stage of production but also may not even have read the book the movie was based on, written by a veteran Marine. 

    • Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, John Krasinski, Chris Cooper, Peter Sarsgaard
    • Released: 2005
    • Directed by: Sam Mendes
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    The Last Samurai has something in common with U-571 in terms of sheer audacity. Just as U-571 transferred British triumphs to the American soldiers, The Last Samurai took the honor and nobility of the samurai and lavished it on whitebread Tom Cruise. The movie is supposed to be based on the Meiji Restoration of Japan and the Satsuma Rebellion of the late nineteenth century. The filmmakers claim that none of the characters are based on real people, but that's hardly the point. Portraying (white) America as the dominant force bringing "The West" (which is really just code for "supremacist civilization") to oh-so-primitive Japan, The Last Samurai has understandably been called racist and misinformed.

    In addition, the nobility of the samurai in the film has been called into question. Technically the samurai were a noble warrior class of citizenry in Japan, however, they were historically ruthless in their attempts to maintain power, often crushing common citizens or refilling its ranks with uneducated poor.

    • Actors: Tom Cruise, Billy Connolly, Timothy Spall, Tony Goldwyn, Ken Watanabe
    • Released: 2003
    • Directed by: Edward Zwick
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    There are many, many people in the world who would consider criticizing Braveheart to be nothing short of sacrilege. But despite all its pomp and circumstance, its pre-crazy Mel Gibson (newsflash: he was always bonkers), its five Oscars, and its cheap sentimentality, Braveheart was a mess from a purely historical perspective. The movie took what could have been a riveting epic of Scottish history and turned it into an action-adventure movie with very little basis in how things actually were or how they actually happened. From blatantly wrong timelines to incorrect clothing to Chinese weapons to a gay king decked out in powder blue and sexually frustrating his queen, Braveheart wasn't particularly brave when it came to facts. Which, come to think of it, is probably something Mel Gibson (who also directed and produced) struggles with, too.

    • Actors: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox, Catherine McCormack
    • Released: 1995
    • Directed by: Mel Gibson
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