The Biggest Inaccuracies in the Most Popular Film Biopics
There are always a few historical inaccuracies in biopics, but sometimes they push the line between harmless exaggeration and straight-out fiction. All life stories have to be condensed into a feature film's running time, but there is a vast difference between some harmless embellishments and absolute fabrication.
These biopics that pushed the boundaries of accuracy beyond just a little innocent enhancement to some of the least historically correct movies of all time.
Night and Day, True and False
Cole Porter was a witty songwriter/composer whose life inspired the movie Night and Day. The debonaire Cary Grant played Porter as a cheerful descendant of an affluent family whose love of music sabotaged his Yale law studies. Happily, however, Porter enjoyed much professional success and married Linda Lee Porter (Alexis Smith).
The Buddy Holly Story — With Some Nasty Surprises
Buddy Holly was played by Gary Busey, who won an Oscar nomination for his representation of the rock-and-roll trailblazer. He even sang some of Buddy Holly's songs in the movie. There weren’t many historical inaccuracies as far as Buddy Holly’s portrayal, but his band, the Crickets, was another story.
Lisztomania — The Twilight Zone Version
"Lisztomania" was a term coined by Heinrich Heine to describe the craziness that ensued when 19th century composer Franz Liszt performed his music on stage in a concert. His wildly enthusiastic fans adored the man and the music he composed.
Amadeus the Clown
Speaking of composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was, of course, a brilliant composer whose works will be treasured for all time. However, in the movie depicting his life, Amadeus, Mozart (played by Tom Hulce) was a bumbling clown with astonishing musical talent.
The Runaways Run Away From the Truth
The Runaways was adapted from singer Cherie Currie’s memoir, Neon Angel, about her time in an all-female rock band in the 70s. Bandmate Joan Jett was the executive producer of the movie. Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart play Currie and Jett, respectively.
Stoned — The Fake Murder Mystery
Brian Jones was a Rolling Stones guitarist who was unceremoniously kicked out of the band in 1969 when his drug and alcohol use turned so excessive that even the Rolling Stones couldn’t handle it anymore. Jones later drowned in a swimming pool after overdosing.
CBGB — The Club of a Boob?
CBGB is a 2013 movie based on Hilly Kristal’s epic music club, which was known for featuring famous acts like the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, Patti Smith and Blondie. In real life, Hilly was a generous man who gave of himself whenever he could while also being a brilliant businessman.
Bohemian Rhapsody — With Embellishments
In the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury divulged that he was HIV-positive to the band during rehearsals for Live Aid in 1985. The group wasn’t even speaking terms in the movie by that point and hadn’t performed together in years until then.
Beyond the Sea — Beyond the Teenage Years
Beyond the Sea was based on the life of actor and singer Bobby Darin. It was co-written, co-produced and directed by Kevin Spacey, who also played the lead role. Kate Bosworth played Darin’s wife, Sandra Dee.
The Doors — Jim Morrison the Toddler?
In the 1991 film The Doors, Val Kilmer played lead singer Jim Morrison of the eponymous band as they took America by storm in the 1960s. The film included Morrison’s use of recreational drugs, his hippie lifestyle and obsession with death.
A Beautiful Mind
In A Beautiful Mind, John Nash had a strong bond with his wife, Alicia Larde, and visual hallucinations brought on by schizophrenia. In reality, however, while Nash did suffer from schizophrenia and mental illnesses, he never experienced visual hallucinations, and he had a strained and abusive relationship with his wife.
Marie Antoinette's Reality Check
In the movie Marie Antoinette, there are many inaccuracies to choose from. For instance, while some of the clothing choices are historically accurate, while others are intentionally not. In one famous scene, a pair of converse sneakers can be seen.
Patch Adams vs. Robin Williams
As many of the movies the legendary Robin Williams starred in, the character he portrayed in Patch Adams was more like himself than anybody else. Remember Aladdin’s genie? Good Morning Vietnam’s DJ? All Robin Williams, all the time.
Pain & Gain — A Torturous Comedy?
In an extremely bad judgment call, Michael Bay created a comedy out of the horrific true story of two deplorable criminals viciously torturing a man for an entire month before attempting to murder him. Sounds funny, right? Pain & Gain has been described, at best, as cruel and inaccurate.
The Elephant Man
While The Elephant Man is faithful to the memoirs of Frederick Treves, it turns out that the memoir itself isn’t historically correct. The main character, Joseph Merrick, is even given the wrong name in the movie, being referred to as "John."
The Social Network Fail
The Social Network was a movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook, which did not happen because Mark wanted to get back with an ex-girlfriend like the movie depicts. By the time Zuckerberg was making Facebook, he was already dating the woman he would later marry.
The movie 300 is about the Battle of Thermopylae during the Persian invasion of Ancient Greece. According to director Zack Snyder, "The events are 90 percent accurate. It's just in the visualization that it's crazy." That’s a bit of an understatement.
Straight Outta Compton — Straight-Up Lies?
Like many biopics on still-living celebrities, rose-colored glasses were steadfastly locked on for Straight Outta Compton. While Ice Cube nonchalantly penned Friday and Snoop and Dre dreamt up "Nuthin’ But a G Thang" on the fly, the relationships in it were whitewashed.
From the opening scene depicting two soldiers reciting the Gettysburg Address from memory, Lincoln embellished for dramatic effect. The lines they read weren’t even popularized until years down the road. However, the largest inaccuracy was something that was left out completely.
The Untouchables Doesn't Touch the Truth
The Untouchables was a film about a team of law enforcement officials that brought down Al Capone. While it's fun film, it’s not terribly accurate. For starters, protagonist Elliot Ness’ so-called Untouchables didn’t actually capture Al Capone.
Were Bonnie and Clyde Even Together?
The 1967 film Bonny and Clyde depicts its criminal protagonists as romantically linked, but in reality, there’s no evidence that the two were a couple. However, even more inaccurate than their relationship status is the film’s portrayal of the two as modern Robin Hoods who only stole from large, corporate-owned banks.
Alexander the Inaccurate
While Oliver Stone’s film about the life of Alexander the Great is certainly long, it failed to tell most of the Macedonian conqueror’s story. For instance, the Persian army Alexander faced was portrayed as full of unhygienic, disorganized dullards that were defeated without a hitch, when in reality, the Persians were one of the most advanced civilizations in the world at the time.
Birdman of Alcatraz — A Birdbrained Idea For A Movie
In the movie Birdman of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud was portrayed as an animal lover who has a way with birds. In reality, however, Stroud was anything but the gentle soul depicted in the film.
The Iron Lady
The Iron Lady is about the life and legacy of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but it’s debatable whether the movie did her any justice. There are several events in the movie that Ms. Thatcher simply wasn’t around for, like when one of her advisers was killed in a car bombing.
The Steve Jobs Movies
At one point, Hollywood seemingly had an informal competition for who could make a better Steve Jobs biopic. First came Jobs with Ashton Kutcher, which was critically panned, and then Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs, which was marginally better but still inaccurate.
Braveheart portrays the life of William Wallace, a Scottish rebel against the King of England whose real-life nickname wasn’t "Braveheart" at all. While the kilts and war paint on the faces of battling men were both about 300 years off, almost the entire timeline is wrong.
The Blind Side Is the Color White
The Blind Side tells the story of Michael Oher, a black child who grew up in poverty before being adopted by white parents who encourage him to pursue his dreams of professional success in football.
The King's Speech (Impediment)
The King’s Speech is the story of King George VI and his struggle to overcome his stutter, which seemingly kept him from fulfilling his royal duties. In reality, however, the king’s stutter was of little importance or concern to anyone, as he could already deliver an entire speech with no stutter at all if he concentrated.
Cobb Misses the Mark
The movie Cobb centers on the story of the sportswriter Al Stump meeting with Ty Cobb in order to author his biography. It sounds innocent enough, but Stump is then unwittingly cast into a hellish ordeal filled with murder, alcoholism and racism.
Perhaps the number one historically inaccurate movie on this list is Disney’s Pocohantas. The actual Pocahontas was seized and held for ransom by English colonists in 1613, but Disney decided that she and John Smith should have a consensual love affair instead.