Films have always taken cinematic liberties while representing history on screen. Films need to change certain things in the narrative in order to get a mass appeal to the storyline. There are many scenes or even characters in films based on history or historical events and figures that are purely dramatised or just put in to express the writer-director’s vision better onscreen. Just to get the dramatic appeal a lot of historical accuracies are overlooked. While people end up enjoying the popular appeal of the movie, the problem arises when people watching the films start believing what’s being shown is cent per cent true.
Here are 10 Hollywood films that tried to show alternate realities or took cinematic liberties in the representation of history:
The 1991 film ‘JFK’ shows the portrayal of who killed John F Kennedy and how. The film by Oliver Stone is riddled with alleged historical mistakes and reports suggested that it attempted to rewrite history. Certain meetings and confessions are staged for dramatic effect, and entirely fictional characters had been created to keep the cast big. For rearranging the facts of the presidential assassination case, the film garnered harsh criticism from journalists all over the world. The film took numerous creative liberties with the source material, which may have gone too far in rewriting history to uncover some truth. Despite all this, the film turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the year.
‘White Man’s Burden’ (1995)
The 1995 film ‘White Man’s Burden’ tried to reverse the status of black people in America. The story is set in a way where black people are the wealthy elite and white people live in poverty with fewer rights. ‘White Man's Burden’ flipped the script on race. Though it was never stated directly how this phenomenon occurred, it can be speculated that blacks rose in status in the past that placed white people at the opposite end of the class spectrum, implying that the civil rights movements of the 1960s most likely did not occur for black people as obviously, they did not require it. Actor Harry Belafonte portrays a prominent CEO who believes whites are genetically inferior people. Actor John Travolta, on the other hand, plays a poor manufacturing worker.
The 2000 film ‘Gladiator’ has had its fair share of controversies. The film went on to earn a lot of accolades for its brilliant performances, especially by actor Russell Crowe. Several characters in the film were actually based on real people, who have been mentioned in history books. However, there is hardly ever a mention of the lead character, Maximus, played by Russell Crowe.
The 2004 film ‘Alexander’ rode in on the success of films like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Troy’. Lots of historians criticised the depiction of the ancient Greek conquer in ‘Alexander’. It was said that the movie’s storyline had myriad inaccuracies. There had been alleged attempts at compressing the chronology of major events. Not just that, certain actions by certain characters in the movie barely find any reference in actual history books.
The 2006 film ‘300’, directed by Zack Snyder, takes considerable liberties with the history of the Spartans facing the Persians at war. The film portrays the Spartans as an unbeatable force of strong warriors who took on the whole Persian army without reinforcements or armour. However, in reality, the fact is that the Spartans were not alone, nor did they flaunt their abs like they do in the movie. Athens had helped the Spartans in naval conflicts, while the Spartans fought on land. The Spartans even used to have heavy protective body armours and didn’t go into battle showing off their well-toned abs at all times.
'Inglorious Basterds' (2009)
The 2009 film ‘Inglorious Basterds’ showed the end of World War II very differently from what actually occurred. In Quentin Tarantino's World War II action film, allied Nazi hunters parade across France doing little more than hunting and scalping Third Reich members. By the third act, in which Adolf Hitler is ruthlessly murdered in an exploding cinema theatre, the picture has thrown aside all historical components.
The 2009 film ‘Watchmen’, based on Alan Moore's acclaimed graphic novel, reimagines 1985 in more ways than just the addition of superheroes. The uncaring Dr Manhattan's destructive powers appear to have won the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was able to change term policies and served as the President of the United States into the 1980s. The end also focuses on how the heroes bring the Cold War to an end with an energy bomb going off in New York.
'Captain America: The First Avenger' (2011)
The 2011 film ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ chronicles Steve Rogers' origin tale during WWII. He and his friend Bucky Barnes are dispatched to a special task group to recover a mysterious device known as the tesseract from Nazi scientists led by Johann Schmidt (AKA Red Skull) who intends to use its abilities against the Allied troops. Aside from the advent of superheroes and powers, the other major change comes in the form of the fictitious Nazi group Hydra, who create new technology. Although the Nazis were well-known for their superior scientific explorations, nothing came near to the heights of fiction that have been depicted in the first Captain America movie.
'X Men First Class' (2011)
The 2011 film ‘X Men First Class’ combines superheroes and notable historical events to create a relatable universe in which an alternate history takes place. By incorporating World War II and Cold War events, the film places mutants in the core of American history and provides brilliant parallels between fiction and fact. The frantic conclusion in Cuba amid the missile crisis is an excellent illustration of how the film transforms known visuals into fascinating fantasy fiction.
‘The Birth Of A Nation’ (2016)
The 2016 film ‘The Birth Of A Nation’ is slightly deviant from what real-life history suggests. Nat Turner's slave insurrection against white owners was not as heroic as the movie portrays. The film depicts the last stand of a massive collection of rebels against a bevy of whites in a horrific fight to the death. However, in reality, Turner's uprising ended slowly, as a series of attacks depleted his forces and made it impossible to recruit fresh slaves.