While the movie industry is entitled to a little artistic licence (see: the pair of pink Converse in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette) their storytelling techniques often veer off in the direction of complete rewrites of human history. Due to Hollywood’s powers of persuasion, sometimes a blockbuster version of the past obliterates what really happened and moviegoers are left thinking that President Lyndon B. Johnson actually was in on the plot to kill President Kennedy (thanks, Oliver Stone).
Here are 11 more examples of when the film industry slyly tried to replace what the history books report with what their script writers thought made for a better plot—and succeeded (a bit too well).
11 movies that make history majors cringe
The RevenantAccording to DiCaprio and co., French-Canadian fur traders were the raping, murdering, kidnapping boogie men of the 19th-century Northern Plains. According to Canada's Research Chair in Colonial North America, Allan Greer, “American traders had a worse reputation."Fox
TitanicYou've probably faced facts that the love story between Jack and Rose was pure fiction but did you know that Jack was a liar? When he tells Rose they'll “ride the roller coaster until we throw up" at Santa Monica Pier, he's either feeding her a line or revealing his clairvoyance. The coaster didn't exist before 1916.Paramount
Shakespeare in LoveNo, Shakespeare's own love life did not inspire him to write Romeo and Juliet, and no, the first Queen Elizabeth did not attend public plays during outbreaks of the bubonic plague. Plays came to her.Miramax
PocahontasThis one doesn't make history majors cringe, it makes EVERYONE cringe. You know that thing where a Disneyfied John Smith arrives in America, meets an adult Pocahontas, and they embark on a consensual romantic relationship? The real Pocahontas was 10 at that time. Also, she died at 22. Not so happily ever after, huh?Disney
Michael CollinsNot only was Irish hero Elizabeth O'Farrell erased from a historical photo that showed her delivering the Easter Rising surrender to the British under a hail of bullets, her role in the event was recast by director Neil Jordan. In his movie, a man was credited with the deed.WB
Marie AntoinetteWe're okay with the Converse, but what's a bit more misleading are all those trips Antoinette took to the Paris Opera. We love a good mezzo-soprano as much as the next Dauphine but it's pretty hard to frequent an opera house that hasn't been built yet.Sony
GladiatorIn Ridley Scott's movie, Rome's Emperor Marcus Aurelius died tragically at the hands of his own power-crazed son, Commodus. In real life, he was felled by a foe many of us know for its stealth… and itchiness: chickenpox. Also, Commodus was a pretty cool dude—and it was he who was murdered.Dream Works
BraveheartA Scotland without kilts is like a Scotland without plaid, but guess what? In William Wallace's day, the country had neither. Not that it mattered to Mel Gibson. He portrayed Wallace and the Scots that fought alongside him as fashion-forward futurists who donned the style 300 years before it was trendy.Paramount
Black Hawk DownSometimes it's not the little things. The 1993 downing of two Black Hawk helicopters in militia-controlled Mogadishu was seen as a US military fiasco. According to a Black Hawk Down studio head, it was “America's brightest hour." Trust us, you're much better off reading journalist Mark Bowden's book.Sony
ArgoThree words: Canada got robbed. Jimmy Carter admits that the plan to get US diplomats out of Tehran was spearheaded by the Canadian embassy. Director Ben Affleck however, gives all credit to the CIA and Hollywood. Go figure.WB
300A lyrical shout out from Kanye doesn't erase a film's historical inaccuracies. Spartans may seem like ancient Greek superheroes to us today, but the 300 men relied on more than just their abs for armour and about 7,000 non-Spartan warriors had their backs.WB