Filmmakers love adapting true stories to the big screen, and studios will always use the “based on real events” angle to draw in audiences and generate interest. They say that truth can be stranger than fiction, and sometimes what happens in the real world can be more compelling than anything a screenwriter can come up with. At the same time, it’s important to remember that fact-based narrative movies are not documentaries and can stray from the truth. Even if a majority of the facts presented are right, there will always be some elements that are overly dramatized for the sake of making a more interesting film. Here are 10 true story movies that were completely inaccurate.
Clint Eastwood’s biopic of the late Navy Seal Chris Kyle was nominated for several prestigious awards – including Best Picture – and broke box office records during its theatrical run. Despite those accolades, not everyone was a fan of what was on-screen. Eastwood took several artistic liberties; the real Kyle was proud of having the most confirmed kills in U.S. military history, while in the film, the character is portrayed as being conflicted by all the violence. In addition, Kyle’s rival sniper Mustafa is mentioned only once in his book, but becomes the primary antagonist in the film. Even some of Kyle’s targets in the Middle East were made up. It didn’t hurt American Sniper’s prospects, but rubbed some the wrong way.
Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort became a commercial hit, won Best Picture at that year’s Oscars, and gave the zeitgeist a brand new catchphrase, but it didn’t win everyone over with its fudging of history. The film severely downplayed the involvement of the Canadian government, which in reality played a larger role than the CIA. Affleck also fabricated the climactic sequence where the hostages have trouble with the airport security while leaving Iran. In the movie, it’s a very tense encounter, but how it actually went down wasn’t very cinematic at all. They all passed through without any issues and got to go back home. Argo probably wouldn’t have won many awards if that’s how it ended too.
The Pursuit of Happiness
This feel-good story received positive reviews and earned Will Smith an Oscar nomination, but the facts paint a darker picture of Chris Gardner. The film’s heart comes from the bond between Gardner and his son. In actuality, Gardner’s son was from an extramarital affair he had, and he was absent for much of the boy’s life while Gardner looked for his dream job. He was also arrested on domestic violence charges, instead of parking tickets like the movie says. In order to land his job, Gardner received help from a stockbroker as opposed to solving a Rubik’s cube. His story is still incredible, but if the movie stuck to the truth, Gardner may not have been too sympathetic.
Braveheart is one of the most popular films of all-time, but it also has its fair share of detractors due to its numerous historical inaccuracies. The real William Wallace was a knight from a royal family, not a poor peasant whose life is full of hardships. Braveheart also plays loose with several of the character relationships, which given the timeline of the story simply could not have happened. This includes Wallace’s romance with Princess Isabelle, who was only a child when Wallace was fighting. Their child in the film, Edward III, was born seven years after Wallace’s death. The Academy didn’t seem to mind these aspects, and gave the film several Oscars.
The dream team of Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin, and Michael Fassbender brought the life of tech titan Steve Jobs to the big screen, and it was one of the more uniquely structured biopics in recent memory. With only three real sequences, the filmmakers had to play fast and loose with the rules. Many of the movie’s best scenes didn’t happen in real life. These include Lisa playing with Mac paint, Jobs reconciling with former Apple CEO John Sculley, and most of Jobs’ arguments with Steve Wozniak. This means that the moments before several major product launches weren’t nearly as hectic as they are in the movie, but the film still paints an interesting portrait of its subject.