Movies Based On True Stories That Are Mostly False – Part 1

Posted on 25 Sep 00:00


For over a century, movies have formed a significant part of human entertainment. Looking back, films are among the earliest sources of enjoyment. If you are a movie buff, you must have noticed that most movies are 'adapted' from or 'based' on some other thing, for instance, a novel or a song. Many movies are said to be based on true stories. Interestingly, you find that many, if not all of movies based on true stories are contain some falsities because cinemas mean to entertain than help  get historical facts straight. Secondly, movies recreate life, a process that cannot happen as precisely as it was in reality. Artistic licenses give leeway for falsehoods. These movies are not really bad just misleading. Here are seven examples of such seven films that are false despite being based on true stories.

1)  Braveheart (1995)

Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical fiction war film whose director and co-producer is Mel Gibson. The film storyline revolves around William Wallace, a warrior in the late thirteenth century Scotland. The Scottish First War of Independence is taking place whereby the Scots are battling English King Edward I. The starred actors in the movie are Mel Gibson (William Wallace), Sophie Marceau (Princess Isabella of France) , Patrick McGoohan (King Edward), and Catherine McCormack (Murron MacClannough). Randall Wallace adapted the movie's screenplay from an epic poem named The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace and written by Blind Harry. Although this film is based on a true story, it is known to be historically inaccurate. First, the movie characters are wearing kilts, which the Scots stopped wearing many centuries after the war. Wallace is portrayed to have been hailed in poverty, yet he was raised in privilege. He never came close to Queen Isabella nor impregnated her. Randall and Gibson remove the bridge from the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge. This is the gravest of errors in the movie. The producer/director (Gibson) and script writer (Randall) take responsibility for the errors.

2.  Sully (2016)

Another movie based on a true story but is primarily false is the 2016 biographical drama named Sully. Otherwise known as ‘Sully: Miracle on the Hudson,’ the film’s script was developed by Todd Komarnicki while Clint Eastwood directed it. The movie’s plot is about a US Airways pilot Captain Sullenberger who makes an emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009. The emergency landing takes place, but all the 155 passengers on-board and the crew survive. They  survive minor injuries. The film also features the publicity that builds around this incident and the investigations that follow. Sully (Tom Hanks), Aaron Eckhart (Jeffrey Bruce "Jeff" Skiles), and Laura Linney ( Lorraine Sullenberger). Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Jamey Sheridan, and Jerry Ferrara take up the supporting roles. Although based on Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow’s 2009 Highest Duty autobiography, the movie contain many falsehoods. The investigations and the trial are all fake.  The aftermath of the landing stirred controversy since it blames the pilot and co-pilot for negligence. The truth is, the plane struck birds and lost its two engines, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing and save the passengers. The actual investigation lasted for 15 months and was not as dramatic as the movie makes it look. Additionally, Sully is presented to have suffered guilt. In reality, he only suffered PSTD and not that kind of guilt presented in the movie.

3.  A Beautiful Mind (2001)

The 2001 biographical drama ‘A Beautiful Mind’ film is another movie based on a true story but is mostly false. Akiva Goldsman wrote the screenplay that Ron Howard used to direct the film. Russell Crowe (John Forbes Nash Jr.)  and Ed Harris (William Parcher), Jennifer Connelly (Alicia Esther Nash ), Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, and Christopher Plummer (Dr. Rosen) are in the cast.  Nash holds a Nobel Laureate Prize in Economics and is a Abel Prize winner. Currently, while at Princeton University, Nash develops paranoid schizophrenia at the start of the movie.  As the he situation deteriorates, he has to endure the delusional episodes his wife Alicia has to experience due to his condition. The plot is based on Sylvia Nasar’s 1997 best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated 'A Beautiful Mind' book. However, the story has many inaccuracies. For instance, Nash was actually diagnosed as a schizophrenic. But, it did not happen at a much later stage in his life as portrayed. He tested schizophrenic earlier in life than what the movie portrays. The film entirely leaves his wife and son out of the picture when in real life, they were there. The imaginary and real people around John Nash are all fictional; he never had all those people around him. The schizophrenic symptoms he suffered are greatly exaggerated in the film. Many events portrayed in Massachusetts have so little to do with his experience in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at all. These are just a few of the many liberties the movie takes.

4)  The Blind Side (2009)

The 2009 biographical sports drama ‘The Blind Side’ film is a movie based on Michael Lewis’ 2006 'The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game' book but is  mostly false. John Lee Hancock developed the script that he later used to direct the movie. The film stars are Sandra Bullock  (Leigh Anne Tuohy, Tim McGraw (Sean Albro Tuohy, Quinton Aaron (Michael Jerome Oher), Nick Saban, Kathy Bates (Miss Sue), and others. An American football offensive lineman, Michael Oher, is at the center of the film’s plot. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy adopt Oher, who eventually makes it to the National Football League (NFL) despite hailing from a destitute background and having an impoverished upbringing. Although it tells of a real-life story, 'The Blind Side' and Michael Oher complained. First, all but Michael enjoyed the film, but, he said it poorly represented his life and did more damage than good. He felt that although Quinton did an excellent job, he did not portray the real Big Mike realistically. The film portrays Oher as overly serious, aloof, and occasionally uptight, something that Oher finds untrue. Oher experienced a lot of struggles, including a difficult upbringing. At one point, he lacked real family and was homeless, which the movie portrays. However, the film simplifies his struggles. The truth is that his upbringing was tough, with the mother suffering from alcoholism and not being able to give Oher and his eleven siblings the care they needed. At the same time, the father was a frequent jailbird, eventually being murdered in prison. Additionally, the movie simplifies racism, while in real life, racism was a problem for Oher, who had to deal with  while living with the Tuohys. Life wasn’t as perfect while Michael lived with the Tuohys as the movie makes it appear. It’s also not Lee Tuohy who is behind Oher’s success.

5)  Pocahontas (1995)

The 1995 'Pocahontas' is an animated musical historical film that has many errors making it mostly false despite being loosely based on a true story of Pocahontas, a Native American. Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg directed the movie that stars Irene Bedard (Pocahontas), Mel Gibson (John Smith), David Ogden Stiers (John Ratcliffe (governor), Russell Means, Christian Bale, Billy Connolly, and Linda Hunt. The plot depicts a fictional encounter of Pocahontas with John Smith, an Englishman, and the Jamestown settlers from Virginia Company. The film is recognized to have historical inaccuracies and racial overtones, causing it to receive mixed reactions upon release. Many historians view the romance portrayed in the movie between Smith and Pocahontas to be a myth. While it's true that Smith met Pocahontas, they only did so when Pocahontas was ten years old. 

6)  The Imitation Game (2013)

The 2014 historical drama 'The Imitation Game' film is one of the primarily false movies despite its adaptation stemming from a true story. Graham Moore drafted the film script from Andrew Hodges’ 1983 biography 'Alan Turing: The Enigma', a script that Morten Tyldum used to direct the movie. The film's starring actors are Benedict Cumberbatch (Alan Mathison Turing), Keira Knightley (Joan Elisabeth Lowther Clarke), Matthew Goode (Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander), Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, and Mark Strong. The storyline revolves around Alan Turing, a British cryptanalyst. The setting is during World War II, and Turing decrypts German intelligence messages for the British government. Despite being based on a true story, the movie is mostly historically inaccurate. First, the characters around Alan, whether real or imaginary, are entirely fictional. Second, the whole idea of Turing singlehandedly inventing and literally building the machine that decrypts the German messages is untrue. The truth is that Turing cracked the 'Enigma' by first looking at a combination of characters that seemed unlikely to yield results. Third, a mathematician named Gordon Welchman collaborated with Alan Turing to design the useful machine. However, throughout the film, there is no single mention of Gordone Welchman and his contributions. Alan Turing's personality is also twisted in the movie. He is a friendly person, while the film presents him as irrationally impatient, eccentric, and shy. In the movie, Turing says he doesn't know German, in reality, Turing studied German. He even visited Germany before and after the war. Eventually, Turing committed suicide with cyanide when his life went downhill. The suicide is not mentioned in the movie.

7)  The Patriot (2000)

Another film that is primarily false, although based on a true story, is the 2000 historical fiction-war The 'Patriot' film. Its screenplay was penned by Robert Rodat and directed by Rolland Emmerich. The setting of the movie is South Californian rural Berkeley County, and the protagonist is Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson). Martin is nominally loyal to Great Britain, although he is an American colonist. His home life gets disrupted, causing him to be swept up by the Revolutionary War. Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs are the Patriot film's starring actors. This film stirred many controversies because of the many liberties the producers took and made lots of mistakes. There is a time when a historical scene involves a church filled with colonists burning and unable to leave as they are locked in. Historical reviews, especially by Roger Ebert, concluded the whole scene was entirely ahistorical and had no single thing to do with the Revolutionary War. This gross inaccuracy was created to make the British soldiers appear extremely bloodthirsty, evil, and sadistic. Worse off, the film compared events to a closely related war with atrocities - World War II in France, where the Nazis afflicted people. Martin represents four characters, including Swamp Fox, who is portrayed as a family man and a hero who singlehandedly defeats warriors. The truth is, Swamp Fox  (Martin) found fun in persecuting Cherokee Indians, even killing them one by one, and possessed quite disturbing traits. He would even rape the female slaves. The film is quite misleading, and many critics regard it as a whitewash of history.


Movies have formed a significant part of human entertainment. We enjoy watching them, whether they are single episodes or as series of films in a franchise. The movies receive a different response upon release, with some being positively received; others negatively criticized, while others get mixed reactions. One reason why some movies are negatively received is the falsehood in the film. A film could be based on a true story, as many are, while it turns out to be mostly false. Why so? The scriptwriters and directors take many liberties while working on producing the movies, making them highly inaccurate. The production team sometimes changes the chronology of events, creates fictional characters, mispresent an individual's personality, among other errors. This article focused on seven examples of such movies, which are primarily false despite their basis of true stories. 

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