Six blockbuster films that got history wrong
Nobody gets everything right all the time. However, if you want to show history on the big screen the errors can be hard to hide.
Here are some historical inaccuracies in films that we couldn’t ignore.
Bohemian Rhapsody was one of the most hotly anticipated films of 2018, and has been very successful at both the UK and American box office. However, rather than stick closely to the facts of Freddie Mercury’s life, it arguably took some ‘very, very frightening’ liberties.
Fat Bottomed Girls is one example. In the film, the song is performed on Queen’s first tour of America in 1974, but in reality it wasn’t released until October 1978, with Bicycle Race accompanying it.
Also, in the film the band break up just before Live Aid in 1985 - but this never really happened. They did however take a break in 1983, purely because they were all exhausted after touring for 10 years. Who can blame them?
The Sound of Music
How do you solve a problem like this film? It’s based on a real-life family (the von Trapps), a real-life Maria (played by Julie Andrews) and a real-life story, but the film doesn’t stay entirely true to reality.
The main issue is the family’s escape. In the film, the von Trapp family wants to escape Austria after Captain von Trapp is conscripted into the Nazi navy, but refuses. If the von Trapp family had indeed run away in the direction of the Alps, and travelled through them, they would have ended up in Nazi Germany - the last place they wanted to be. The famous family of singers actually escaped over some train tracks into Italy. In reality, they did it in the nick of time, too - the Austrian borders were closed the very next day.
This multi Oscar-winning epic isn’t free from errors, either.
In the film, Rose DeWitt Bukater’s mother looks up at the vessel and says: "So, this is the ship they say is unsinkable." But it’s unlikely she would have said this.
Historians have long disputed the claim that everyone thought The RMS Titanic was impossible to sink. It’s apparently been overstated by movie-makers to make it seem even more prophecy-like when it did eventually end up on the ocean floor.
The Imitation Game
The main cause of upset in The Imitation Game was that it implied that Alan Turing had reluctantly colluded with a Soviet spy to protect the traitor’s identity, in return for the said spy not telling the world that Turing was gay, at a time when homosexuality was illegal.
In reality, there was a spy called John Cairncross (the character in the film is also called this) working at Bletchley Park during World War Two. However, he was in a completely different section from Turing, whereas in the film they’re shown as working together in the same hut. Due to security being so tight at Bletchley, they almost certainly would never have met.
Lots of people were outraged by this aspect of the film, as Turing’s code-breaking machine helped win World War Two, and painting him as a potential traitor was felt to be disrespectful to his legacy.
Interestingly, the team behind Gladiator specifically hired a few history consultants to ensure accuracy in the film, but they still managed to get some quite important elements wrong.
Two significant deaths in the film deviated quite far from the truth. Firstly, the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, is shown being murdered by his son, Commodus. In fact, he died of natural causes.
Speaking of Commodus, he’s portrayed as being killed in the gladiator arena by Maximus, but he was actually murdered in the bath by a professional wrestler called Narcissus. Arguably, that’s a much more dramatic demise.
No article about historical inaccuracies in movies would be complete if it didn’t mention Braveheart. To start with, William Wallace, who led the Scottish rebellion against Edward I, was never awarded the title of ‘Braveheart’. It was actually given to Robert the Bruce, who in real life became the King of Scots. Also, in reality Robert didn’t betray William. We could just leave it there.
There’s more though: William’s kilt wouldn’t have existed when he was alive. Braveheart is set in the 13th century, and kilts weren’t invented until the 16th century. Oops. Clansmen would have actually worn yellow tunics called ‘leine croich’ in battle, dyed with either saffron if they were wealthy, or urine if they weren’t.
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