Those films are not known for their historical accuracy, but there are, however, some films that are quite accurate, rare as they may be. How many of these films have you seen?
Saving Private Ryan
"Saving Private Ryan" begins with a 27-minute-long recreation of the Omaha Beach landing. Intense. The scene sets the tone for the whole film, and was hailed as the “best battle scene of all time.”
Director Steven Spielberg and his production crew made sure every single detail in the scene was as true to reality as possible. While the search for Private Ryan is fictional, it is based on a real directive instituted in 1942, titled the “sole-survivor policy.”
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Unlike other films on this list, the plot of this movie is almost entirely fictional. The reason this film does belong on this list, however, is for its amazing production value. Never before have such accurate costumes or ships been seen on film.
The sound of the naval battles matches their description in the novels of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin, which the film is based on, and makes you feel like you have stepped back in time to the 1800s.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Former stockbroker Jordan Belfort wrote a bestselling memoir that tells the story of how he, and his fellow Wall Street cronies engaged in fraud for years before they were eventually brought down for securities fraud by the Federal Government.
The movie was based on Belfort’s account of events. The accuracy of it is a hotly debated issue, with several law enforcement agencies claiming that parts are untrue. The film is, however, true to the book and the way in which the protagonist sees things.
The film provides a very accurate account of Spartacus’ time at the gladiator school in Capua, including the brutality of the instructors. The real Spartacus did lead the revolt and he and the other gladiators did set up camp on Mount Vesuvius.
The battles in the film are also fairly accurate. Director Stanley Kubrick’s action-packed, and glamorous epic manages to remain surprisingly true to the historical record. The film was a hit with viewers and critics alike and won four Oscars.
Gangs of New York
While many of the characters in the film are based on actual people, some are fictional. The film, however, is accurate in its depiction of the realities of New York City in 1863. Many of the gangs that appeared in the film actually existed at the time.
Scorsese also spent a lot of time and money on making sure that the New York in the film was authentic. Historian Tyler Anbinder was impressed with the sets and said that they, "couldn't have been much better".
All the President's Men
This film recounts the exact chain of events that led to the discovery of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex, and the political aftermath that would eventually lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
The film is based on the book written by journalists Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein, they are the ones who revealed the scandal to the public. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman even spent time in the newsroom where the story broke.
12 Years a Slave
Many films have tried dealing with the difficult subject of slavery in America, but making a well-balanced, thoughtful film is no easy task. The movie is an adaptation of the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup of the same name.
The memoir offers an unpleasant look at his time as a slave. Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen beautifully captures the horrific way in which Northup is treated, but also his complex relationships with other slaves, slave owners, and other free men.
The film gets the story as close to true events as possible in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, it came out 25 years after the harrowing mission took place. Howard waited until film technology had improved enough so that he could capture the exact feeling of the Apollo 13 mission.
All the details of the spacecraft are spot on, and the actors manage to portray what the astronauts went through so convincingly, that viewers felt like they were right there with them.
"Downfall," tells the story of the German Chancellor's last days and succeeds, at least partially, to make one of the most hated men in history somewhat relatable. This portrayal caused quite a stir because many people felt that the Chancellor should not be humanized.
Although not much information exists about what actually took place in the bunker in the last ten days of his life, director Oliver Hirschbiegel tried to be as accurate as possible.
The 2014 historical drama, "Selma," is based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to secure equal voting rights. SCLC activist and former Mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, told The Washington Post that the depiction of the relationship between Johnson and King "was the only thing I would question in the movie.
Everything else, they got 100 percent right." Director Ava DuVernay and writer Paul Webb also got points for recreating important historical scenes, like the attack by local police and state troopers on the peaceful protesters, which became known as Bloody Sunday.
The Last Emperor
The story of the life of China’s last emperor is a source of constant debate by historians because not that much is known about the period. Even today, scholars are still trying to put together an accurate picture of events and when they took place.
Therefore, the film The Last Emperor, cannot claim to be entirely accurate, but director Bernardo Bertolucci and writer Mark Peploe went to tremendous lengths to depict what is known. Details of the emperor’s life may be vague, but the depiction of the royal family’s opulent lifestyle and the shocking politics of the time are considered by many to be spot on.
Suffragette, which depicts British women’s struggle to win the vote in the 1910s, is different from other films on this subject because it focuses on working-class women. Laura Schwartz, an Assistant Professor of Modern British History has praised the way the focus was on life-like characters who worked in a laundromat.
The fictional East End laundry workers Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) and Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff), gave a voice to the experiences of real-life suffragettes of the time.
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Although it may have handsome leading men and a lot of explosions, Michael Bay’s film, "Pearl Harbor," is not exactly ripped from the history books. The film "Tora! Tora! Tora!," is actually the closest to telling the story of the attack on Pearl Harbor as it happened.
To make things look even more real, parts of the film were shot on Yorktown, an actual aircraft carrier, which was provided by the Navy before being decommissioned.
The battle of Stalingrad, which took place in World War II, was one of the largest and most gruesome battles in history. Many directors have tried to use the battle as a backdrop for other stories, but the 1993 film "Stalingrad" was determined to show the battle as it was.
Director Joseph Vilsmaier focused on a small band of soldiers who face actual atrocities that take place at the time. The film’s accuracy stems from its insistence on showing the actual violence and horror of war.
The King’s Speech
Director Tom Hooper’s heartwarming film about King George VI took the world by storm and even won four Oscars. Although some aspects of the story were exaggerated, the film was for the most part historically accurate.
Additionally, although historian Andrew Roberts has some specific criticisms of the film, especially regarding the pivotal final scene, he does praise it overall.
The story of German businessman Oskar Schindler was immortalized in the Steven Spielberg film "Schindler’s List." He starts out trying to make money off the war, but once he witnesses what was really going on, Schindler decides to save as many Jews as he can.
The film does take some dramatic liberties with the story, changing a few characters and events, the overall narrative, however, remains true to the novel "Schindler’s Ark" by Thomas Keneally on which it was based.
The sleeper hit "Green Book" tells the story of "Tony Lip" Vallelonga, an Italian bouncer who is looking for work and becomes the driver of an African American classical pianist who is touring the South in the 1960s, with the two become unlikely friends.
The film is considered by many to be extremely accurate since Vallelonga’s son Nick is one of the screenwriters. The film won three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor.
The film "Black Robe" is a story about a priest in 1600 who is traveling to find a remote Canadian mission amongst Huron settlements. The film focuses on the lives and culture of the indigenous people and was hailed for its respectful and accurate representation.
Director Bruce Beresford decided to make the film adaptation after reading the novel by the same name by Brian Moore. He made it his mission to bring the people in the book to life as accurately as possible.
If you’ve ever been curious about one of the most decisive battles in the Civil War, then Gettysburg is the film for you. The film's deliberately slow pace offers director Ronald F. Maxwell the chance to show not only the two front lines but also what took place behind the scenes.
The film focuses on every detail and has received praise from both audiences and critics, both for its incredible performances and for how it tried to represent the historical events accurately.
The Lion in Winter
These days Medieval films try to accurately portray the hardships experienced by lower classes, but they used to be all about glamour. Although the characters in "The Lion in Winter look polished," it makes more sense because the film is mostly about royalty. Its greatest strength, however, is in its depiction of the life of King Henry II.
The film focuses on his failure to choose an heir to his throne and how his sons and his wife manipulate his decision for their own personal gain. The riveting story and incredible acting earned the film three Oscars.
"Moneyball" is based on a bestselling novel of the same name written by Michael Lewis. It tells the amazing true story of the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s 2002 season, in which general manager Billy Beane uses his small budget and a new way of choosing players in order to create a winning team.
Most people involved claim that the film stuck mostly to the facts but did change the order of some events. Nonetheless, director Bennett Miller's film was a box office hit and was even nominated for six Oscars.
Hollywood films which tell the story of someone’s wrongful death are common, but films that tell the true story of someone’s last day in a thoughtful way are much rarer. Michael B. Jordan’s performance as Oscar Grant III was applauded by critics.
The film tried to stay true to who Grant was and the tragedy of his last moments. To keep the film even more authentic, the final scenes were shot in Oakland, California, on the very same platform on which the real Oscar Grant III was killed.
Paul Greengrass directed this dramatic biographical thriller about the hijacking of an American ship by Somali pirates. The film was based on Richard Philips’ own account as documented in his book, "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea."
The film stays true to the book, and the harrowing story drew audiences to the movie theaters, was well-received by critics, and received six Oscar nominations.
The film focuses on the last months of Lincoln’s life and his attempt to abolish slavery. Lincoln highlights both the public and the private persona of America’s 16th president and gives viewers a chance to identify with him as a man and not just a political figure.
The movie is both riveting and, according to historians, true to the feel and events which took place at the time. It is believed that actor Daniel Day Lewis’s portrayal of the great man, is the most accurate to date, including his surprisingly high voice.
Born on the Fourth of July
Directed by Oliver Stone, this film is a biography of Vietnam War veteran turned political activist Ron Kovic. The film is based on Kovic’s autobiography of the same name. Stone and Kovic set out to make a film for veterans everywhere.
Stone’s first-hand knowledge of the war helped make the film look and feel right and he also understands the emotional turmoil veterans go through during and after the war.
The film "Das Boot," about a German submarine in WWII, really lets you experience the frustrating reality of fighting a war inside a submarine. It highlighted the difficult reality of being protected on the one hand and also extremely vulnerable on the other.
Wolfgang Peterson, who directed the film, conveys the powerful emotions felt by the crew and the fatigue which arises when engaged in a never-ending fight. The battle scenes were intense and give audiences a new perspective on submarine warfare.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The film, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," directed by Andrew Dominik, is not only a great western that features many of the genre’s main elements but is also based on the truth.
The film tells the story of the last seven months in the life of famous outlaw Jesse James but centers on his relationship with the young Robert Ford. The film’s historical accuracy and convincing performances earned its nominations for two Oscars.
The Iron Lady
Political biographer John Campbell who answered questions about Thatcher for the film was asked if he felt that the filmmakers got things right and replied, “I think it's a remarkable achievement, it rings very true as a portrayal of her.”
Film critic Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote: "Only an actress of Streep's stature could possibly capture Thatcher's essence and bring it to the screen. It's a performance of towering proportions that sets a new benchmark for acting."
Cold Mountain, based on the book of the same name, tells the tale of a wounded Confederate army deserter at the end of the Civil War, who travels home to reunite with his beloved. The characters are fictional, but the time and events depicted are not.
The film also gets high marks for its portrayal of what Southern women went through during the war. The film was a surprise hit at the box office, was well-received by critics, and won an Academy Award.
During the 1960s in Northern California, there was a serial killer famously dubbed the Zodiac Killer. Until this day he has never been identified or caught. The movie Zodiac tells the story of the hunt for him as it occurred.
Many viewers did appreciate the 18 months of research that went into the film, and the numerous details which shaped it into what some believe is Fincher’s best work.
A Night to Remember
The sinking of the RMS Titanic is one of the most famous tragedies in human history. Its most famous modern depictions are James Cameron’s "Titanic" and Roy Ward Baker’s "A Night to Remember."
"A Night to Remember," focuses more on the people of different classes who were on the ocean liner and how they struggled through the night to survive the disaster. The film portrays events in a gritty and realistic manner through the eyes of the ship’s second officer.
Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese picked up the book Wiseguy, a non-fiction novel on the life of mafia mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill, by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi and immediately knew he wanted to make a movie out of it.
Scorsese co-wrote the screenplay with Pileggi and they based everything that took place on Pileggi’s news reports and the famous Lufthansa airline heist in 1978. They tried to change the book as little as possible, but only make the adjustments necessary so that it would work on the big screen.
French film Joyeux Noel tells the story of the World War I Christmas truce from the point of view of French, British, and German soldiers. It is a touching film about an informal truce that took place on the Western Front on Christmas Day in 1914.
The story may be hard to believe, but it is completely true. The characters in the film may be fictional, but everything else is based on fact. The film was even shot in three languages, French, English, and German.
The Pianist was based on an autobiographical book of the same name, written by Polish-Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman. The book was lauded for its incredibly touching tale of how Szpilman had survived the horrors of the Holocaust.
The film was directed by the controversial figure, Roman Polanski, who was deeply passionate about the project due to his own escape from the Krakow Ghetto in the Second World War. Polanski managed to find shelter in a farmer’s barn and stayed there until the end of the war.
Mountain climber Aron Ralston was canyoneering alone in the Utah desert when he became trapped by a boulder and was forced to cut off his arm in order to survive. He told his story in a book that he wrote, and that book inspired the film "127 Hours."
Ralston gave the film high praise for its accuracy. The only scene that he felt differed from what happened was when he showed two hikers a hidden pool when in reality he gave them climbing tips. Of the rest of the film, Ralson said it was “so factually accurate it is as close to a documentary as you can get and still be a drama.”
City of God
The Brazilian film "City of God" from 2003 was applauded around the world following its release. It is based on a semi-autobiographical book written by Paulo Lins by the same name. The book describes the rise of organized crime in the “Cidade de Deus” (City of God) suburb of Rio de Janeiro.
The story is told from the point of view of two boys, one grows up to be a photographer, while the other becomes a kingpin. Lins, who wrote the book, actually grew up in the Cidade de Dues, which allows him to tell the story from his unique point of view.
The movie "Rush," directed by Ron Howard, does its best to depict the rivalry between F1 racecar drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1970s. Most of the events in the film and the look and feel of the races themselves are fairly accurate, while Howard took dramatic license with the relationship between Hunt and Lauda, making them intense rivals.
The website, Information is Beautiful stated the film was 82.9% accurate, summarizing that there was "a little staging to get Lauda and Hunt in the same locations sometimes, but otherwise true".
Natalie Portman takes on the iconic role of Jackie Kennedy in the 2016 biopic, "Jackie." Director Pablo Larraín and writer Noah Oppenheim tried to make the film as true to her life as possible.
The most accurate part of the film is the televised White House tour that Jackie gives to the country. Despite a few murmurs about inaccuracy in the portrayal of Jackie’s relationship with Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, the film was well-received.
The Martian – Honorable Mention
So, we get what you are thinking, and you are right, The Martian has clearly not happened... at least not yet. The film, based on the novel by Andy Weir, tells the story of an astronaut who is left behind on Mars when a mission goes wrong and must survive on that inhospitable planet alone until he can be rescued.
We do believe that this film belongs on this list, because although the story is completely fictional, the science behind it is not. NASA experts and engineers were involved with the story from day one, explaining exactly how they would deal with the situation if it arose.
Director Gus Van Sant directed the 2008 biopic about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California history, with accuracy in mind. He used Milk’s own recorded oral history as voice-overs in the film, the production worked closely with LGBT activist Cleve Jones who was close to Milk, and writer Dustin Lance Black.
The film uses a lot of archive footage and most of it was shot on location in San Francisco, the crew even recreated Milk’s Castro Camera store by using old photos and consulting with his friends.
Come and See
Despite what some war movies will have you believe, war is not cinematic and organized, it is a brutal, messy business. That feeling shines through in this film, which gives audiences a glimpse into the horrifying reality of World War II as seen by a Belarusian whose village is massacred.
It was important to director Elem Klimov to show the true story behind Russia’s involvement in the Second World War. Historians gave the film high marks for its honest portrayal of death camps, resistance fighters, and difficult emotions.
The film "Munich" is a historical drama, directed by Steven Spielberg, and based on the novel Vengeance, which tells the story of the Israeli government's secret retaliation against the PLO that was a response to the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Spielberg attempted to make the depiction of the hostage-taking and killing of the Israeli athletes historically accurate and the film uses actual news clips shot while the hostage situation was taking place. The deaths of the members of Black September also stick mostly to the facts.
If you love sports movies and have missed this one, you should watch "Miracle" on your next movie night. The film tells the story of the United States men’s hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics, as they take on the favored Soviet team in the semifinals.
It’s a true underdog story and the match has since become known as the “Miracle on Ice.” Director Gavin O’Connor mixed actual footage from the match into the film in such a way that it is almost impossible to tell which is which.
Flags of Our Fathers
The 2006 war film, "Flags of Our Fathers," was directed, co-produced, and scored by Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood. The film was based on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller of the same name and tells the story of the five Marines and one Navy corpsman who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima.
The moment was famously captured by war photographer Joe Rosenthal. The movie did not do as well as expected at the box office but was fairly well-received by critics, many of whom were impressed by Clint Eastwood’s respect for sticking to the facts.
Bridge of Spies
Steven Spielberg is back on the list with "Bridge of Spies," which tells the story of a lawyer who is charged with negotiating a hostage exchange during the Cold War between an Air Force pilot who was shot down and a convicted Soviet KGB spy.
Although the film does not always portray events accurately, critics have forgiven the departures and lauded the film for maintaining the spirit of the events. In this case, Information is Beautiful declared the film was 88.8% accurate, summarizing it as "pretty damn truthful, reflecting a general trend in Hollywood towards more historically accurate tales".
The film "Glory," directed by Edward Zwick, tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, which was the first all-black volunteer company in the American Civil War. The screenplay, written by Kevin Jarre, was based on several books.
James M. McPherson, a Civil War historian, stated the film "accomplished a remarkable feat in sensitizing a lot of today's black students to the role that their ancestors played in the Civil War in winning their own freedom."
Kingdom of Heaven
Like any film which tries to depict a religious conflict, Ridley Scott’s "Kingdom of Heaven" was controversial from day one, and that controversy also applied to the film’s historical accuracy. The film tells the story of Balian of Ibelin who travels to Jerusalem during the Crusades and ends up becoming the city’s defender.
Despite a few dramatizations, many of the characters in the film are based on actual historical figures, and events, such as the Battle of Hattin, are shown accurately. The film succeeds in the portrayal of the battles and helps explain the decline and fall of the First Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The film "Spotlight" from 2015, centers around the Boston Globe’s investigative journalism team of the same name. The film centers on their investigation into the systemic sexual abuse of children by numerous Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area.
The reports on which the film is based earned the paper a Pulitzer Prize and the story and performances in the film earned the filmmakers an Academy Award for Best Picture. According to the website, Information is Beautiful, the movie was rated 76.2 percent accurate when compared to the actual events.
The Imitation Game
Like several other movies on this list, this 2014 film also deals with one of the events of World War II. This time, it's from a British perspective. It tells the story of Alan Turing, a man who is considered to be one of the first computer scientists ever and a mathematical genius in general.
Historically speaking, the events in the film are dubbed as true to reality. When it comes to Turing's character, however, it seems that there are some inaccuracies – Turing is portrayed as socially inept, while it appears that in reality, he had good social skills.
Having a full historical period named after you means you left quite a legacy. Queen Elizabeth I is one of the few people to be awarded this honor. With her uncompromising stance in the face of patriarchy, it's hardly a surprise.
We would be rightfully skeptical thinking there is no way that dialogues were historically accurate. When it comes to thrones changing hands, however, there are books and proofs galore. Visually speaking, in order to capture the true sense of the time, costumes, hair, and makeup were based on portraits of the queen from back then.
This biopic was directed by Ron Howard, who adapted it from a play of the same name. The film is essentially a retelling of the interviews that talk show host David Frost had with President Richard Nixon. What started as Nixon's attempt to gain forgiveness and possibly rebuild his political career turned into a discussion of his Watergate failures.
Scenes that depict what happened backstage or off-camera were subjected to dramatic license. The film was nominated for dozens of awards. It ended up winning Las Vegas Film Society Awards, including Best Film and Best Director.
Perhaps the most famous pacifist in the world, Mohandas Gandhi is another historical character with an inspiring biographical drama. The film covers key points in his life, starting from when he was taken off a white-only train compartment in 1893, and ending with his 1948 death and funeral.
Ben Kingsley got to embrace his Indian roots and play Gandhi himself – a role that has won him an Oscar for Best Actor. Given that the original Gandhi fought (non-violently, of course) British colonialism, we believe that he would approve of the joint British-Indian efforts to make the film happen.
Letters From Iwo Jima
World War II had so many fronts and participants that it seems like it would never stop inspiring filmmakers. The 2006 film Letters From Iwo Jima is telling the story of one of the WWII battles, a battle that became known as the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The film is predominantly in Japanese, covers the Japanese side of the battle, and features a mostly-Japanese cast. Interestingly enough, however, the film was an American production directed by Clint Eastwood. One famous scene in the film involves Lieutenant Ito attacking a tank by strapping himself to a mine. This powerful scene is based on the real story of Satoru Omagiri.
This cinematic masterpiece has Martin Scorsese as a director and Robert De Niro as the lead. And honestly, it's hard to create something less than perfect with those two. The film tells the life story of Jake LaMotta – the legendary boxer with a temper.
The film was adapted from LaMotta's autobiography titled "Raging Bull: My Story." The real LaMotta actually met De Niro and boxed with him in order to prepare him for the portrayal of his own character. It is said that LaMotta watched the movie with his wife Vikki and was surprised by his own bad behavior. When he asked Vikki if it was true to reality, she replied by saying he was even worse back then.
The Passion of Joan of Arc
The oldest film on this list is also the only silent film on it. It brings to the screen the final hours of the life of Joan of Arc. We know what you're thinking – how historically accurate can a 1928 film be if it portrays events that happened in 1431? Apparently – pretty accurate.
As it turns out, Joan's life was incredibly documented for her time. There are the actual records from the trial as well as from the appeal of her case on which the film could be based. Director Carl Theodor Dreyer researched the trial transcripts for more than a year before he even began working on the script.
This is one of the biggest musical movies in the last few years. This biographical drama follows the life of Freddy Mercury, the lead singer of Queen. It starts with the 1970's Mercury and ends with his iconic performance at Live Aid in 1985.
Portraying Mercury is Remi Malek, who won an Oscar for the role. Those who made sure that the films maintain a close relationship with reality are Brian May and Roger Taylor. Both are Queen members who knew Mercury personally and served as consultants to director Bryan Singer.
It would be safe enough to assume that people didn't spontaneously burst into song throughout key points in Elton John's life, but that didn't stop this musical feature from happening. The film follows the eccentric musician through his formative years from childhood until his global rise to fame.
Serving as executive producer, Elton John didn't want this film to be a full-on documentary, but the real people and events portrayed in the film are based on reality. One such occurrence is Reggie Dwight deciding to name himself Elton, after a fellow musician.
Margot Robbie plays former figure skater Tonya Harding in this 2017 comedic drama. The film follows Harding's life and her involvement in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, a rival skater, in 1994. In preparation for their respective roles, Robbie met with Harding, and Sebastian Stan met with Jeff Gillooly, Harding's ex-husband.
So the preparation work in order to make things true to reality was done. The only trouble is that people sometimes have different recollections of the same events.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile
This film is not for the faint of heart as it deals with the life and trial of a real-life serial killer – Ted Bundy, who brutally murdered dozens of young women. This movie portrays Ted Bundy through the eyes of Elizabeth Kendall.
Kendall was his girlfriend at the time of the trial and believed him to be innocent for way too long. This means that it holds true to Kendall's recollection of the events. It is based on "The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy," Kendall's memoir.
Ford v Ferrari
This film is about cars, adrenaline, and American determination. It is based on the events leading up to the 1966 Le Mans race in France. It is a 24-hour-long race – the longest endurance race in the world.
Both Shelby and Miles are superstars in the eyes of almost any racing fans you ever meet. They were both tasked by Henry Ford II to build a car that would end the reign of the Ferrari racing team in Le Mans.
Saving Mr. Banks
"Saving Mr. Banks" may choose to portray Walt Disney in a nearly care-bear state, despite his temper in real life, but this is not the character that gave this film a spot on our list. P.L. Travers, the woman who wrote the book, was never happy with the hit "Mary Poppins."
Travers really was reluctant to make the changes and adaptations Disney wanted to make. While in real life Travers and Disney didn't meet many faces to face, many of the scenes in the film are based on real telegrams, letters, and phone calls the two had.
A black cop infiltrating the KKK sounds too dangerous to be true. That is exactly what director Spike Lee thought when he heard about the story of Ron Stallworth. The real Stallworth was the first black police officer in Colorado who infiltrated a KKK chapter to bring it down from the inside.
While the director did use some dramatic license and added cinematic elements, most of the events in the film are pretty accurate. "BlacKkKlansman" is based on "Black Klansman," a memoir written by Stallworth himself.
The Blind Side
There is so much hope in rags to riches kind of plots and people just can't get enough of them. Michael Oher's story is just that, now known as a big football star he had a rough childhood that included extreme poverty and several foster homes.
Leigh Anne Tuohy, a rich white mother of two, notices Oher's hardships, takes him in, and adopts him officially. She hires a private tutor to help him improve his grades and he starts receiving recognition as a talented athlete, specifically on the football field.
Will Smith plays the role of Muhammad Ali in this 2001 biopic. The film covers 10 years of Ali's life and includes not only key points in the boxer's career but time-relevant issues in America. Prior to the film being made, writers Stephen J, Rivele, and Christopher Wilkinson researched Ali's life from when he was just a child.
Interestingly enough, Smith wasn't even inclined to take to the part when it was offered to him. What made him take the part after all was a personal call from Ali himself asking him to do it.
The Return of Martin Guerre
Perhaps one of the earliest documented cases of identity theft, the real events depicted in this movie took place in 16th-century France. Transcripts of Martin Guerre's trials were published in a book written by the presiding judge in Guerre's case.
The original Martin Guerre went off to war, leaving his village, wife, and child behind. About nine years later, he comes back, much to the villager's surprise. Later on, however, doubts begin to arise about his identity until he eventually faces trial.
We can't really vouch for the story of Maximus, the Roman soldier turned gladiator. But this film is here for its overall portrayal of ancient Rome. Ridley Scott, who directed this film in 2000, was keen on sticking to history as best as he could.
For the sake of historical authenticity, he hired a number of historians as consultants on that matter. One interesting historical bit that didn't find its way into the film was gladiators promoting different products before they fight.
In the Battle of Thermopylae battle, King Leonidas and his small brigade of 300 Spartans fought the Xerxes and his Achaemenid Empire. Spartan discipline and education were extremely strict and focused on the values of bravery and physical shape.
Proof of that bravery can be found in Leonides's line "come and get them" as he teases his rivals to fight his army and take his soldiers' weapons. That line was actually said by Leonides according to Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian.
The Amistad was a real ship that was meant to ship kidnapped Mende tribesmen from Sierra Leon to be sold as slaves. The film depicts how the captive people took over the ship off the shores of Cuba. They were eventually captured by an American revenue cutter.
The film has a long line of big names and professionals who have worked on it. Playing the main roles are Morgan Freeman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Djimon Hounsou, and Matthew McConaughey. They were all directed by Steven Spielberg.
The mind of a killer is a confusing thing, even to people who have studied the subject for decades. With that in mind, we still have to give props to “Chapter 27,” the film about Mark David Chapman, who fatally shot legendary musician John Lennon in 1980.
Uncomfortable to watch from start to finish (and that might be the point), Chapman is a constant source of tension. The era is represented well, and Chapman's descent into celebrity-crazed madness is just as realistic. Every scene is uncomfortable because we know what happens at the end of the movie, but also because of the realism Jared Leto gives this character.
Full Metal Jacket
The Vietnam war was a watershed moment in American history, and there have been dozens of movies made about it, about its effects on culture, and the world at the time. It created some of the most unforgettable moments in cinema history, such as “Apocalypse Now,” and “Good Morning Vietnam.”
Stanley Kubrick's “Full Metal Jacket” is another example, and if you know anything about Kubrick, you know that he demands perfection. The environment of the soldiers and their psyches, the elements of the war itself, and more are all harrowing in their accuracy. Kubrick's extensive research yielded results that are still wowing movie fans today.
Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott's 2001 “Black Hawk Down” is about a real-life attempt to arrest a Somali warlord and the events that unfold throughout the movie. Though some liberties were taken with characters for the sake of the story, the events that you see onscreen are exactly how they happened during the incredibly intense military action.
It's been widely praised as one of the finest war movies ever made, which is no easy task up against the likes of “Full Metal Jacket” or “The Longest Day.” While the attempted raid became a major fubar for American forces, the movie is moving and memorable for its accuracy for the entire runtime.
Ridley Scott might be better known for his science-fiction fare such as “Blade Runner,” but his dips into historical fiction are just as good. “The Duelists” is essential viewing for history buffs, since Scott and the producers pulled out all the stops to make it as accurate to the time as possible.
The movie has two French soldiers, Gabriel Feraud and Armond d'Hubert duel multiple times over the period of two decades, partially during Napoleon's long period of war. The acting, cinematography, and music are all top-notch, and the adherence to history pushes it over the edge into great movie territory. If you have free time, give it a watch.
Son of Saul
WWII was a time that created some amazing cinema. Among those titans is “Son of Saul,” a Hungarian film about an imprisoned Hungarian Jew. Just like in real life, the movie shows the horrors he went through. Tricky camera angles, off-screen brutality, and a focus on the main character made Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes's debut one to remember.
In the film, Saul is one of the men who worked in the camp, and the things he sees are chilling in their horror. He finds the body of a young Jewish boy while cleaning others, and decides to arrange an illegal burial, which is only the start of the story.
Though a complete bomb at the box office (losing over a hundred and forty million dollars), “The Alamo” nevertheless is notable for its historical accuracy. It was released at the same time as “Kill Bill 2” and “Hellboy,” which didn't help matters. It's the story of the thirteen-day siege of the famous Texas fort and a better showing of the famous battle than the John Wayne version by far.
It recounts the charges and defenses, the role of the Tejanos on the Texan side, and the deaths of famous historical figures such as Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie (of “Bowie knife” fame). While history threatens to bury this movie, the movie itself has kept this legendary conflict alive.
Focused on the life and struggles of the celebrated Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, “Frida” remains a look into the era of Mexican culture and a figure that is still discussed today. Frida suffered from chronic pain due to a bus accident, and she was in a time and in a place when such an affliction was near-impossible to remove entirely.
Turning to painting, she became a legendary figure in the art world. The film never turns away from both Frida's success and her trials, which include losing a baby and an unfaithful husband. Numerous shots of the film are based on Frida's paintings, and the bus crash scene, arresting though it is, is said to be exactly as it occurred in real life.
The Great Debaters
During the height of the Jim Crow era, colleges were separated by race. While this abhorrent practice would remain in place for decades, the 1930s saw a shock to the system, as recounted in “The Great Debaters.” Based on the true story of a debate team led by Melvin B. Tolson, it presents the era of the thirties in an unflinching manner, using the dress, speaking styles, and attitudes to create a triumphant piece of filmmaking.
The film follows Tolson and his debate team from the historically black Wiley College as it takes on the debate team from the prominent and white Harvard University. The movie's biggest diversion from real life is that Harvard wasn't the champ at the time – in real life, Tolson's team beat the University of Southern California.
Though it's presented in a schlocky way, “Patton” remains a true look at the famous general who led the United States Army to victory during World War II. His interactions with his own forces, his battles with the similarly-famous Erwin Rommel, and the rest of his life. The film doesn't shy away from the man's flaws, including when he verbally and physically bullied members of his army suffering from shellshock.
Many viewers were somewhat surprised at how the movie not only showed Patton as a brilliant military leader but also as a man with issues and mistakes. Such a complicated topic is going to reduce or excise elements from the film, but it's still an accurate portrayal.
Eat Pray Love
Elizabeth Gilbert’s memories are brought to life with Julia Roberts as the lead. Her journey around the world just after divorcing her partner is awakened through an inspiring search for happiness.
What seems like a light and loveable romcom is in fact the true travels through India and Italy that Elizabeth Gilbert took at the time. Obviously, a few facts were twisted and adorned with a touch of Hollywood, however, Roberts' character is real, and so is the rest.
The Pursuit of Happyness
When a homeless father does everything in his power to bring up his child alone, climb his way up to success, and become a stockbroker, there is only one name who could fit in the role — Will smith. This is one heartwarming and inspiring story.
Smith, with great talent, steps into the gigantic shoes of Chris Gardner who, against all odds, battles with the chaos of life, kept his son in good spirits, and turned a sad story into something to look up to.
Argo is one of those films, that if it wasn't based on a true story, no one would have probably been interested in it. Ben Affleck's directing talent is noticed, however, his acting abilities in Argo were controversial.
During the 1979 Iranian revolution, six American diplomats are smuggled out of the chaos. How do they get out? A CIA agent who happens to be a movie freak pretends to shoot a fake movie and smuggles them out. This Oscar-winning movie is a must-watch.
The Social Network
Could you imagine the world without Facebook? Well, Mark Zuckerberg wasn't always around, and “The Social Network” reveals the whole truth behind it. Apparently, the idea for a social network was not entirely Zuckerberg's concept.
This so-called dark drama is mandatory to watch. Its borderline indication of the influence social media would have on history in years to come is clear and in bold between the lines.
Dog Day Afternoon
“Dog Day Afternoon” is a Drama. It is also a tragicomedy. It doesn't matter how you look at it — is it hard to digest today and it was even harder back in the 1970s when it first came out. Al Pacino and many others star in this true story.
It takes place in August 1972 when two criminals rob a bank so one of them can undergo gender reassignment surgery. It ends tragically with one losing his life and the other behind bars, however, becomes one of the signature pictures of that era.
Dallas Buyers Club
For many reasons, Matthew McConaughey is considered a superb actor. For his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" he won an Oscar, which without a doubt, he damn well deserved. Back in the day, the story behind Dallas Buyers Club had a controversial storyline, telling the story of Ron Woodruff.
Woodruff is diagnosed with HIV and fights a battle against medical establishments that are in no rush to provide appropriate medication for his condition. While he searches for an alternative treatment, he also exposes the controversial scandals that came along.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
This movie projects how sad and how low unsuccessful writers can actually go. Magnificent Melissa McCarthy takes the lead and played the role of Lee Israel who forged letters from playwriters and authors who no longer existed, just to make ends meet and bring her career back to life.
Melissa McCarthy was perfect for such a sour character. McCarthy turns bitter Israel into an almost-likable character and finds empathy and sympathy within her towards the character she becomes. Ironically, the autobiography which carries the same name was Israel's best seller.
Into the Wild
What starts off as a truly tragic story, rotates into a light voyage, and turns Christopher McCandless's journal into a mystical trip into the wilderness in search of enlightenment. A trip from which he never returned.
Emile Hirsch takes on the lead performance and although both the storyline of the movie and the director (Sean Penn) slide a bit from the real facts and details, neither of them made the film any less interesting or beguiling.
You don't need a good story to make a movie great. All you have to do is bring Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, and Christopher Plummer together, and you have a real-life masterpiece. "The Insider" reveals the Tabacco industry scandals and the secrets kept away from the consumers.
The movie takes us through the courts, the testimonies, and the astonishing performance of the three who are for sure the main reason this picture was so successful. Sometimes you need more than just a good story.
The movie "Zola" covers every single illegal and controversial matter in our world. It tells the sad story of a waitress who is seduced into some quick cash as a partly-dressed dancer. This one-off session turned into her new way of life which involved the use of illegal substances and the world's oldest profession.
The movie is based on a true Twitter thread that became viral back in 2015. Aziah King shared the outcomes of her Florida trip, not knowing that it would be that base to a Hollywood picture.
The political situation in Northern Ireland was a base for many movies. "In the Name of the Father", "Belfast", and "Michael Collins" are only some of the names that bring this period in history to life. And so does "Hunger" with Bobby Sands's story.
Sands was a member of the IRA who went on a six-week hunger strike protesting against the ending of Special Category Status in the prison. The movie stitches together Sands' childhood memories and accurate events that took place. Michael Fassbender's fascinating performance as the lead character leaves the viewers almost disturbed.
Zero Dark Thirty
To avoid propaganda and to keep the critics silent, instead of being completely aligned with true facts, "Zero Dark Thirty" is a relatively modest interpretation of what led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
This could have turned into a horror movie, however, Kathryn Bigelow, who directed the movie kept the script easy to digest. Even the fact that a female leads the operation reveals the fine-tuning that was put into this story.
The Bling Ring
This movie came out in 2013. It tells the story of a bunch of teenagers who are obsessed with celebs, and by using the internet, they tack down their favorite stars and their whereabouts, so they can break into their houses. And yes, it's all based on a true story.
Emma Watson plays one of the teenagers in the movie, which is based on the Vanity Fair article "The Suspects Wore Louboutins". It was a huge success among the younger generation.
"Rillington Place" is a three-part mini-drama based on true events that took place in post-war London. It covers the tragic tale of John Christie and Timothy Evans and the way the lives of the two ended. John Christie was the real criminal, however, Timothy Evans was sentenced for his crimes.
This disturbing story puts light on the dark days of the 1950s in London, England. The casting, and falling into character were no piece of cake for Tim Roth who played the problematic character of Christie.
Escape From Alcatraz
In this case, the tile says it all. "The Birdman of Alcatraz", the first movie telling the tale of one of the most famous prisons in the world is better remembered, however, the updated version starring Clint Eastwood is praised.
"The Birdman of Alcatraz" covers the story of Robert Stroud, and "Escape From Alcatraz" is a modern-time adaptation. It is a superb example of turning real-life events into a wide-screen movie.
"Spencer" is not another royal family movie telling the tale of the most famous marriage breakup of the 20th century. It is much deeper than that and it manages to dig deep into the Princess's soul, revealing what really was going on within the palace walls.
The entire plot is set over a three-day Christmas break when Diana realizes her marriage was completely and totally over. The final scene of the movie lightens up the heavy atmosphere the picture brings with it. Kristen Stewart as Diana is worth watching.
The troubles, the concerns, and the reality that was present in 1960 Belfast are brought to life through the eyes of Buddy, a nine-year-old child. Buddy comes from a Protestant working-class family who struggles and ends up making a faith-changing decision.
Kenneth Branagh, who wrote and directed the movie was brought up in Belfast in the same period of time and brings into the script his own childhood memories.
The Woman in Gold
The iconic painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer is the centerpiece of "The Woman in Gold". It tells the story of Maria Altmann who bends over backward to recover the painting that was stolen from her family during WWII.
The movie jumps between two periods of time, presenting Maria (played by Helen Mirren) both in her struggling days during WWII, and the days when she was fighting her battle against Austria (the country). Did she win? Watch the movie to find out (she did).
"The Irishman" is one of the longest movies made in the 2000s, however, it is also one of the greatest. With Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, how wouldn't it be? It goes back to the 1950s and brings the story of the Bufalino family.
The Netflix production is completed to perfection. The unsolved mysteries that are left hanging over the cliff (even today) are what turn this movie into a masterpiece. A must-watch in our opinion.
On the Basis of Sex
This biographical legal drama is based on the true life events of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg was the second woman to serve as an Associate Justice in the United States Supreme Court. The movie was written by Ginsburg's real-life nephew, Daniel Stiepleman.
The critics were divided as some saw Felicity Jones's performance absolutely fantastic, and some focused on the script which seemed predictable and hagiographic.
The thriller focuses on Brian Bowen-Easley's story, who finds himself in financial trouble and sees robbing a bank as his only way out. He holds several people hostage and brings a tragic end to this episode in his life.
The movie revealed how desperate and to what extremes people can go when they find themselves in times of trouble. The movie could have been someone's wild imagination, however, it is all accurate and sadly, all true.
"Rain Man" is one of Tom Cruise's earliest hits, and one of the few movies he played in that are based on true events. It tells the story of Charlie Babbitt (Cruise) who discovers his father has left $3 million and that he has a brother (Dustin Hoffman) in an institution.
The money motivates Babbitt, and unplanned, he goes on a life-changing journey to bond and reconnect with his brother. The movie didn't need the Acadamy Award (but won anyway). It was an inspiring and heartwarming story without it.