10 Most Historically Inaccurate Movies

Tuesday, February 8 by William Gish

They won’t win accolades from historians, but the 10 most historically inaccurate movies are terribly fun. From the birth of modern Japan to the fall of Mesoamerican empires, these films desecrate the altar of truth in the name of lurid pleasure. Spoilers ahead.

  1. “Inglourious Basterds” – Tarantino is nobody’s fool, and “Inglourious Basterds” is woefully inaccurate on purpose. What better way to rewrite history through film than allowing cinema to take credit for the demise of one of history’s greatest tyrants? In the film’s bloody conclusion, WW2 ends as the Nazi high command goes up in flames in a burning movie theater.
  2. “Apocalypto” –What’s most heinously wrong with “Apocalypto” is the ending, during which a young Mayan man encounters Conquistadors. Given the state of the Mayan empire depicted in the film, the events of “Apocalypto” take place hundreds of years before Cortes showed up. He fought the Aztecs, not the Mayans, after all.
  3. “Pocahontas” – It’s a Disney movie. That's the only logical explanation for the wildly erroneous account presented in “Pocahontas,” one of the ten most historically inaccurate movies. Firstly, John Smith and Pocahontas were not romantically involved, as the latter was about ten years old when they met. Pocahontas then abandoned her tribe after a fight with her father, married Englishman John Rolfe, and died at 21 of at unknown disease.
  4. “The Last Samurai” – “The Last Samurai” got a number of facts wrong, but is even more offensive for its inaccurate perspective. The film portrays samurai as great, noble men, but they were a violent, drunken, pilfering rabble who had spent hundreds of years terrorizing Japanese commoners. The villain of the film is a national hero in Japan. Whoops.
  5. “Braveheart” – Mel, oh Mel. How you love to lie. William Wallace was not a poor man who became a great liberator, but a landowner and minor knight. His purported romance with Queen Isabella is licentious: she would have been less than three at the time. Furthermore, Scots weren’t wearing kilts until three centuries after the period depicted by the film.
  6. “Gladiator” – Where to begin. First, Emperor Commodus didn’t kill his father: the guy died of chicken pox. Secondly, he wasn’t an incest-prone creepezoid, but a highly respected statesman. Lastly, he wasn’t killed in an arena, he was strangled in the bathtub. All in all, one of the ten most historically inaccurate movies.
  7. “10,000 BC” – Prehistoric adventure “10,000 BC” is far and away one of the ten most historically inaccurate movies. Trained wooly mammoths? Globe trotting Cro-Magnon men? Sail boats in areas more or less devoid of large trees or other sources of wood? Um…no way.
  8. “The Patriot” – There are a lot of things wrong with “The Patriot,” one of the ten most historically inaccurate movies. British newspaper The Times put it better than we ever could: “There is evidence that Francis Marion, the basis for Gibson’s character, was a slave-owning serial rapist who murdered Cherokee Indians for fun.”
  9. “Jurassic Park” – The biggest problem with this film is that it makes assertions about things that are inherently inaccurate because the truth about them is impossible to ascertain. For instance, Tyrannosaurus Rex was only able to sense you if you move. Um, ok. You can tell this from a skeleton? That’s 65 million years old? Riiiight. 
  10. “Brotherhood of the Wolf” – Huh. A French movie about a giant wolf terrorizing a provincial population. Doesn’t sound like it’s going for historical accuracy. But actually, people were being mauled in a provincial region of France and at the time, a wolf-like beast was blamed. So what makes this one of the ten most historically inaccurate movies? How about the Native American guy doing kung fu? No, really.