War films like Saving Private Ryan, The Longest Day, and Sands of Iwo Jima are classics for a reason. Their unflinching portrayals of combat and comradeship inspire audiences and garner well-deserved acclaim. But how accurate are they? Unfortunately, there are plenty of things movies get wrong about basic training.
Whether these mistakes come from a lack of research on the part of the filmmakers, or simply a desire to make scenes more dramatic, they're obvious to anyone who has served in the armed forces. Inaccuracies about basic training in film range from the seemingly small (the haircuts) to the glaringly overt (recruits being killed with no repercussions). Some of the worst depictions of basic training in movies even ignore the typical ages of soldiers.
Fictional movies will always contain elements of, well, fiction. But these things movies got wrong about basic training seem especially over-the-top.
In Ridley Scott's G.I. Jane, Senator Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore) is accepted into the fictional Navy Combined Reconnaissance Team training program. It's based on BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEALs).
BUD/S, according to the Navy SEALs official site, is a SEALs training program held only at Coronado in California. It lasts for six months, and is considered one of the toughest training programs in the United States military.
In Jarhead, actor Peter Saarsgaard and other stars look more mature than the typical recruit. To join the U.S. Marines, for example, you have to be between the ages of 17 and 28. As Business Insider reports, plenty of movies are guilty of skewing the ages of their fictional members of the armed forces. One Redditor explained:
"Ages always seem well off, movies and TV shows seem to have private soldiers averaging in their 30s whereas reality is more 19/20 years old. A realistic depiction of your typical infantry platoon would have the audiences wondering why all these kids are running about playing soldiers."
In G.I. Jane, Demi Moore's character is seen entering a barber shop with hair past her shoulders. When she sees that there is no one else in the shop, she finds a buzzer and shaves off her long hair.
While the fact that Moore shaved her head was accurate, the timing of said shave was not. Speaking to The Baltimore Sun, retired U.S. Navy captain Georgia Sadler said, "No woman in her right mind would have started the training with long hair."
In the 1986 movie Heartbreak Ridge, Marine Sergeant Tom Highway (Clint Eastwood) fires an AK-47 assault rifle at his own soldiers to teach them how to identify the sound the weapon makes. He also cuffs a recruit with the butt of his gun, a move Marines know is a court martial offense.