Historical Accuracy Need Not Apply: Top Five War Movies That Are Mostly Fabrications

Ah yes, the war hero, an essential component in the ethos of Western man since way back in the day. He is the archetype of masculinity, by which us more mortal beings feebly judge ourselves and aspire to.

Who doesn’t like a story about a badass, or a group of badasses, who either overcome daunting odds or die for the cause? We have come a long way in our depictions of war heroes since Homer and the Iliad, and in the past century, we have wonderful moving pictures with explosions, blood, and stuff to keep our attention.

While actual reality is always impossible to capture on a war film, a little embellishment of the facts surrounding the individuals, battles, and conflicts is often necessary to keep the viewer entertained. However, these five shameless offenders have dressed up the ugly and somewhat less attractive whore of truth with lipstick and a cheap dress in order to pull a fast one on you and stretch the truth for shameless entertainment.

5. Spartacus (1960, directed by Stanley Kubrick)


This academy award winning film staring Kirk Douglas was based on the life of an escaped slave in the Roman Republic who led a massive slave revolt in 73 BC. That’s about where historical accuracy ends.

We don’t really know much about the personal life of Spartacus, and what historical evidence we do have about the slave revolt is at times vague and contradictory. That didn’t stop both Kubrick the director and Dalton Trumbo the screenwriter from adapting Howard Fast’s bogus historical novel about Spartacus into an entertaining farce of reality.

4. The Green Berets (1968, directed by John Wayne, Ray Kellogg, John Gaddis [Uncredited])


One of the only films about the Vietnam War actually filmed during the conflict, the fiercely pro-war Wayne envisioned the film as homage to our American Special Forces heroes. Based off a “fictional” novel that actually described still classified operations in Vietnam, the film betrays reality.

Anti-communist, overly patriotic, paternalistic racism and a healthy dose of The Duke, this putrid glorification of war also contains numerous technical errors as well. Watching The Green Berets to get an accurate depiction of war is like playing NFL Blitz and expecting a realistic football game.

3. The Patriot (2000, directed by Roland Emmerich)


Mel Gibson’s frighteningly bad depiction of fictional patriot Benjamin Martin is a despicable conglomerate of real life figures Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion. Cheesy and lame character flaws and unrealistic battle scenes aside, where The Patriot really bombs is its depiction of the British and with race.

South Carolina in this period was a slaveholder’s paradise, and conveniently, a man of Martin’s stature didn’t have any. In addition, Francis Marion was a despicable slaveholder and racist in real life, and his force was multiracial.

2. Pearl Harbor (2001, directed by Michael Bay)


Michael Bay… Need I say more? This film is pockmarked with Bay’s “vision” in a bad way. Critic Roger Ebert wrote that, “There is no sense of history, strategy or context… and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialog, it will not be because you admire them.” Critics and the public alike universally panned the film.

1. Braveheart, (1995, directed by Mel Gibson)


Ah, one of Mel Gibson’s first forays into war heroes long departed, Braveheart suffered from many of the problems afflicting Spartacus. We know virtually nothing about the historical William Wallace. Historian Sharon Krossa laments that Braveheart, “almost totally sacrifices historical accuracy for epic adventure.”

Apparently, everything in the film from the shitty kilts to the Wallace and Princess love affair is complete fiction. Looking back, Braveheart was the beginning of Gibson’s artistic megalomania.

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