Historical dramas are often among the most popular films movie studios release in a given year. However, it’s important to keep in mind that, simply because a movie is advertised as being based on a true story, that doesn’t necessarily mean it actually represents history accurately. Films often take substantial liberties with historical facts.
That’s not to say all movies based on historical events are inaccurate. There are some films that actually depict events relatively similarly to how they actually occurred.
The following examples are some of the more noteworthy. If you’re looking for accurate historical films, consider watching:
Films Based on History That Are Actually Accurate
All the President’s Men
It’s worth noting that the original script for All the President’s Men didn’t initially please Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the real-life journalists depicted in this Watergate film. However, a subsequent draft that actually made it to the screen was far more accurate.
It’s likely All the President’s Men‘s accuracy is at least partially the result of it being produced and released not very long after the events it depicts occurred. Thus, the filmmakers had the option to coordinate with people who were involved in them, allowing them to create a movie that’s known (almost) just as much for its accuracy as it is for its dramatic appeal.
Director Ron Howard and the other filmmakers involved in Apollo 13 went to great lengths to ensure their movie depicted events as accurately as possible. In fact, they even shot some scenes in the so-called “Vomit Comet,” a plane that NASA uses to acclimate astronauts-in-training to the zero-gravity element of space travel.
The plane climbs to a high altitude, then steeply dives down, resulting in a zero-gravity effect that helped the filmmakers get key shots. This dedication to accuracy may have been expensive, but the results speak for themselves.
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor has a reputation for being one of the least accurate historical dramas ever made. That said, any film-lovers interested in a movie that depicts the day that will live in infamy with a relative degree of accuracy can still watch Tora! Tora! Tora!, which examines the bombing of Pearl Harbor from a range of angles. The result is an even-handed dramatization of one of recent history’s most significant events.
Director Steven Spielberg often explores history in his films. However, Lincoln very well may be his most accurate historical drama.
Relying on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals as the film’s primary source material, Spielberg and his team thoroughly crafted a picture that accurately depicts the steps and negotiations necessary to abolish slavery in the United States. That said, some have noted that the movie fails to sufficiently cover the contributions of African-Americans to the effort, although this is largely because it focuses specifically on Lincoln’s team.
Keep in mind that inaccuracies don’t necessarily prevent historical films from being enjoyable. You can still appreciate them as entertainment, if not education. However, if you want to watch historical movies that are genuinely accurate, these are some of your best options.