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Fact V. Film: Hollywood Movies That Are Historically Inaccurate

Michelle Man |
March 16, 2014 | 8:33 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

This is Sparta! (sik3rning/tumblr)
This is Sparta! (sik3rning/tumblr)
To some people (or most students the night before their finals), movies are like a crash course in history because to be honest it is a lot more fun that a history book and much easier to remember. But 2.5-hour movies don't always tell the story right.

Here are several films that portray history inaccurately in order to create dramatic plot lines and visual entertainment.

"300: Rise of an Empire," the sequel to the Zack Snyder's "300" in 2006, came out recently this month but similar to its prequel, it was historically inaccurate. In "300," the Spartan 300 were shirtless and buff men that became heroes of the time, standing up against the Persians on their own. The truth is they weren't shirtless in battle (not so much a surprise), but in fact their armors were a valuable asset to them. Audiences would not have been able to identify them if they were in full armor unless they were to look closely.

Actual King Xerxes (kindalatetothegame/tumblr)
Actual King Xerxes (kindalatetothegame/tumblr)
The film also failed to mention the sea battle that was led by Athenians against Persian at the same time during the Battle of Salamis so the Spartans were not really alone. The Spartans were not really the heroic goody two-shoes that was depicted in the film, in fact they were one of the biggest slave owners in Greece at the time. Instead of killing wolves to prove their bravery when they were young, potential Spartan warriors had to kill slaves or else they would be punished. And, really, it was quite impossible for the god-king Xerxes to be gold, bald and tall with piercings everywhere riding elephants in the front line. That was probably an obvious flaw.

Children films like the ones from Disney are known to be based on Grimm's Fairy Tales while drastically censoring the story to allow younger audiences. Yet they used the same approach with "Pocahontas," one of their films based on real history. In the film, Pocahontas is an adult Native American girl that fell in love with one of the British settlers, John Smith. She even went as far as nearly sacrificing her life to save his. However, despite being in love, they chose to part ways in the end of the film. 

The real history was that Pocahontas, whose name was actually Matoaka, was around 11 years old when John Smith came therefore it would've been impossible for them to be in love. Pocahontas did eventually marry a British man named John but she was actually kidnapped by him in order to convert her to Christianity. 

Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth (queensmilitant/tumblr)
Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth (queensmilitant/tumblr)
More obvious films based on history include 1998's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" which depicted the life of Queen Elizabeth I and her romance with Walter Raleigh. Although he was thrown in jail for a while due to his relationship with one of the lady-in-waiting, he was not the dashing hero released from jail and saved the country by fighting off the Spanish Armada. Historical records show that he wasn't even in the fleet at the time but was on land. More so, his relationship with Bess didn't take place until years after. It was pretty obvious that it was far too coincidental the timeline of the events that took place. 

READ MORE: Oscars 2014: Cate Blanchett Wins Best Actress

Ben Affleck in "Argo"(nprfreshair/tumblr)
Ben Affleck in "Argo"(nprfreshair/tumblr)
Looking at more recent films like last year's Academy Award winner "Argo," we can still find many flaws in the history department. The film greatly downplayed the involvement of Canadians, especially the Canadian Ambassadors who actually bought their airplane tickets for escape. Moreover, the airport scene was intentionally dramatized, including them being intercepted by the guards. In real life, the airport scene was smooth as silk, the guards didn't even suspect a thing. 

READ MORE: Oscars 2013: Did 'Argo' Deserve To Win?

These films may be based on history but they are trying to tell stories that are originally bland and possibly unexciting in an attractive and catpitvating way for audiences.  For those who are looking for a crash course in history with films, I'd suggest you to watch the films with a grain of salt or read your history textbooks instead . 

Reach staff reporter Michelle Man here.



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