I discovered an article today in TIME magazine in which they made a list of 10 historically misleading movies. As was to be expected quite a few of the movies are war movies. The whole article was spurred by the movie The King’s Speech which is also among the 10.
I will only concentrate on the war movies they name and give a brief summary why they chose to include them.
The Patriot (2000)
They critizied that The Patriot portrays British soldiers as evil. Another point was the fact that Benjamin Martin whose character was a mix of different real charcters, was shown as a family man while Swamp Fox who was one of the real characters was no family man and actively persecuted Cherokee Indians. Further more the movie showed a total ignorance of slavery and whitewashing of history. They consider it to be pure American propaganda.
Robin Hood (2010)
Robin Hood tried to transform myth into history. Although it was correct to transform Richard Lionheart into a bloodthirsty monarch, the accuracy ended there.
This movie has, according to the TIME Magazine, too many inaccuracies to be named. How about the kilts? Scotsmen in the 13th century didn’t wear belted plaid. Gibson’s Wallace is born poor, the real Wallace was a nobleman. And why is he wielding a Chinese weapon? Wallace never met Princess Isabella and certainly did not impregnate her. At the time the movie took place she was only 9 years old anyway.
Sparta was not a free city-state at all but on the contrary known for mistreatment and exploitation of its slaves. The Persians were not as debauched as they are shown and their monarch wasn’t a circus freak.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
Pearl Harbor was mostly criticized for the rearranging of chronological events and its sappy simplistic nationalism.
Yeah well, not so surprising after all. At least I didn’t have the feeling any of the ones mentioned were very accurate or at least not in every element.
What strikes me is the title of the post and its explanation. They actually imply that people learn their history through the watching of movies.
For those of you who are curious about the other movies, here are the non-war movie ones: The Far Horizon, 10 000 BC, JFK, The King’s Speech, Shakespeare in Love.
I read an article some time ago that mentioned an American high school teacher who showed his students Schindler’s List. Apparently an alarming number of the students had never heard of the holocaust. This, of course, says that perhaps film is one of the FEW ways people learn about history–hence the need for accuracy. You’d think.
BTW the real Braveheart story is A LOT MORE INTERESTING than the tepid Hollywood version.
Maybe it is a bit mean but I was writing from a European perspective when I argued that I find it alarming people would learn their history from movies and I was mostly talking about details. I’m sure about Braveheart. I had a huge problem with the movie that was alos linked to the cast.
Excellent post. As a high school teacher in America, I can assure you Hollywood has a negative impact on history because many people believe what they see on the screen and certainly are not going to read the truth because that involves reading. “Braveheart” is the best example of how screenwriters take advantage of historical ignorance. They knew moviegoers would not question the numerous historical howlers packed into the movie. Heck, they staged the Battle of Stirling Bridge with no bridge!
The most common atrocity with history in war movies is to overly demonize the bad guys so the audience really, really hates them. That way the catharsis at the end is more fulfilling. “The Patriot” is a classic example of this. The real Banastre Tarleton (Tavington in the film) was a very tough and brutal adversary, but he never packed civilians in a church and then set it on fire! If that was not provocative enough, the movie has Tavington killing Heath Ledger! Grrrrr
It’s not a war movie, but “JFK” is by far the worst offender on the list. This atrocity perpetuated the myth that Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. The ignorant American public already believed this with no real support for its belief, so Stone tapped into this. The only good thing that came out of this fiasco was the intelligentsia came out to debunk the movie, but how many yahoos read Time and Newsweek magazine? And that was back then. Today, movies have an even better chance to “modify” history with little repercussion. This is why your and my blogs are important. Don’t let them get away with this!
Maybe I always overestimate people. I often have doubts when I watch historical movies and wonder if this and that was really true and the look it up. On the other hand sme movies do not feel right and I still like them, like Robin Hood. I didn’t think for a second that this was a history lesson. But you and Guy a certainly right, many people wouldn’t get that…
“Robin Hood” is based on a legendary character so I have no problems with fictionalizing the plot. It would be like someone complaining about the historical accuracy of a movie about Santa Claus. My complaint is when you have historical anachronisms like Higgins boats in the Middle Ages. That just makes the movie look silly to anyone with half a brain. Here in America, most intelligent people also know that corn was a New World crop and thus would not have existed in England at that time. Do you really want people laughing at your drama? I do not like being insulted by a screenwriter that is too lazy to get it right or simply doesn’t give a damn.
What if they never meant to be historical? Since Robin Hood is a fiction why shouldn’t the boats be? I get your point but is it important in a movie like that? For me that was fantasy with a history flavour, nothing more.
I still think it is silly to have a WWII type landing craft in the Middle Ages. If you are going to refer to the Crusades and have Richard the Lionheart in your story, you have then made a decision to stick to what is possible for that time period. Otherwise, invent a new character and set it in the future and let your imagination take flight. You could argue that “Star Wars” was a retelling of a Robin Hood-type story. No one complained about the inaccuracy of “the force”, did they?
Part of the problem is that Hollywood is too lazy or risk-averse to bank on something new. Instead we get the tenth retelling of the Robin Hood tale and for originality the screenwriter has to go over the top with ridiculous plot elements. Maid Marian dressed as a knight and battling in the surf – come on! That is a laughable attempt to top the last Robin Hood. Plain and simple.
Great post. As a movie lover I never seen movie as 100% accurate when it comes to history and real event.
Take example of Pearl Harbour…the US Army are shouting something like Kamikaze where it is Japanese trademark instead of them.
And Kingdom of Heaven should be on that list too. Salahudin DID NOT have thousands of armies when he surrounded Yerusalem…I was so disturbed with how wrong that movie is. The thing that make Salahudin famous was because he took over Yerusalem in small amount of people.
For me, movie is good for entertainment and moral (for certain movies). I wonder about TKS misleading part…a friend gave me a link of the documentary but I couldn’t see it 😦
Thanks. They could have included quite a lot of other movies. I think these were the ones they thought were the worst. I can’t remember now what they said about The King’s Speech. Here is the TIME article.
It seems as if the American public really believes everything they see in a movie is authentic.
I can’t remember the Kamikaze bit from Pearl Harbor… That’s ridiculous.
I’m wondering if you’ve seen the Russian film Admiral? I’m not going to comment overall on the film but I just wanted to say that there’s one scene that depicts the slaughter of the officers at Sebastopol. There’s a 1918 account of a diver who was sent to retrieve a body, and he detailed seeing a field of dead weighted by stones, “standing”, floating and swaying in the sea. This scene is recreated for the film and it is chillingly unforgettable.
I did even review it (my blog needs an A-Z list) and personally liked it but I found it was closer to Anna Karenina than to a war movie. I feel a bit bad… I can’t remember that scene. It is certainly an example of being historically accurate.