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mazingerz88's avatar

Which Hollywood movie do you think got its history wrong?

Asked by mazingerz88 (17839 points ) July 4th, 2012

I just saw 5 to 6 hours straight in the History Channel of how American patriots won the revolution against the British. It went into detail how Gen. Cornwallis fought, chasing Nathaniel Greene all over South Carolina while Gen. Morgan was being pursued by that ruthless British cavalry officer.

Nathaniel decided to split his much smaller army hoping Cornwallis would split his, making them a bit vulnerable. And Cornwallis did and it paved the way for the eventual defeat of the British.

Gen. Morgan utilized his militia effectively, ordering them to make it look like they’re running away. It was a trap and that ruthless British cavalry officer ended up defeated and running for his life.

There were two battle campaigns here. But in the Mel Gibson movie, The Patriot, they combined them into just one!

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14 Answers

Symbeline's avatar

Speaking of Gibson, I knew that Braveheart was historically inaccurate with the time periods…but the Wiki article has an entire section revolving around how so much stuff in this movie is inaccurate.

Historical accuracy, not so accurate.

ragingloli's avatar

Well, there is this recent documentary “abraham lincoln – vampire hunter”-

Brian1946's avatar

The Flintstones.

I’m sure that stone-age men didn’t wear ties.
How could there be Venetian blinds 100,000 years before Venice was invented? ;-p
Dinosaurs became extinct about 60 million years before the first humans evolved.

Alexander.

I’m sure that Alexander’s mom was more than a year older than him. ;-)

I like that half of the first six entries in this list of the most historically inaccurate movies, involve Melvin Gibsonofabitch.

ragingloli's avatar

@Brian1946
“There is also strong evidence that Francis Marion, the basis for Gibson’s character, was a slave-owning serial rapist who murdered Cherokee Indians for fun.”
I fucking LOL’d. Sound like the kind of bloke Gibson would identify with.

CWOTUS's avatar

What won the American Revolution was the same thing that wins most long insurrections fought far from the home base of the more powerful foe: logistics, political vacillation at home and the guerrilla tactics of the occupied / rebellious / insurrectionist foe on its home turf. I suspect that disease was also a major factor, as it is in every war (in most conflicts more soldiers die from drinking bad water than from being killed by an adversary).

The Viet Cong studied all of this very carefully and with great understanding – and effect – when they won a very similar campaign against far superior US forces nearly 200 years later. And that despite the incredible advances in battlefield hygiene and medicine, and logistics, and 100% air superiority by the Americans (a non-factor in the American Revolution, of course).

One can argue tactics and strategy all day long about “when” the American Revolution (or the Viet Nam War) would have ended, but there was never a doubt about how they would end, eventually. (EDIT: A lot of doubt in 1776, actually, and maybe in 1967, too. Maybe the better statement would be that “despite the doubts, the eventual endings were inevitable.”)

Empires can’t be held by force alone. Every conqueror in history has learned it… the hard way.

Those facts don’t lend themselves to snappy scripts and heroic portrayals, however, so don’t expect to see any thrilling Hollywood movies about how wars are really won.

ragingloli's avatar

do not forget the military and financial aid by France

filmfann's avatar

There are damned few Hollywood movies that get their history right, and this upsets me because I know movies are going to be the history books for the youth. Why read a biography on Custer when you can just watch an Errol Flynn movie?
The movies about John Kennedy seem to suffer history the most. It’s fine to romanticize the man, but so much of this is trash!

Aethelflaed's avatar

Different question: are there any historical movies that have actually gotten the history right? I mean, some get their history more wrong than others, but I actually can’t think of a single one that didn’t fudge even a little bit.

Nullo's avatar

@ragingloli Spain, too. It was a real country back then.

ragingloli's avatar

no one cares about spain

ucme's avatar

Valkyrie. Far from being mortal enemies, bent on one another’s destruction, Von Stauffenburg & Hitler were actually gay lovers. The latter “unpleasantness” being the result of Adolf’s illicit affair with Himmler, leaving Claus a broken, vengeful shell of a man.
Not a lot of people know that, as Mickey Caine might say.

Nullo's avatar

Well, no. The Armada is gone.

filmfann's avatar

I think one of the worst offenders is the movie Troy. Most people aren’t going to read the Iliad, and will think this movie is a correct representation of that story.
People who lived in the book, die in the movie. People who died in the book, lived in the movie. The time frame is way off as well. To watch the movie, you think the events of the siege of Troy took a week or two, not 10 years!

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

Just about all Hollywood movies have gotten the history wrong. You want the history right, read a textbook, an academic tome, or a good popular history written by a reputable historian. Some do take fewer liberties than others, but movies are about plot, and as such, facts are mutable or discarded in order to heighten the drama/excitement and drive the plot forward. However, a good movie can inspire people to research the reality behind the story, and that’s worthwhile in itself.

Many historians decry how Hollywood bowdlerizes history, but at the same time, they’re fascinated by film, because it brings the period alive. There’s a good book of essays on film by historians and historical writers: _Past Imperfect:History According To The Movies.. Worth checking out if you enjoy both subjects.

These days, a lot of filmmakers at least try to get the atmosphere as accurate as possible, so that one at least experiences the spirit of the times. That pulls me in, at least, and combined with my own historical knowledge, I can visualize and try to imagine what it was like.

Now, as for @Aethelflaed‘s excellent question, I’d say the closest I’ve seen in a commercial film (not a documentary!) would be John Sayles’ Matewan. One or two details were altered or omitted, but in general Sayles got it right.

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