Even if movies label their credits “based on a true story,” film experts say that this is also not accurate, at least, historically. When you read historical accounts, you won’t see them exactly as you watched in the movie. They say that the real stories are filled with scandal, drama, and intrigues.
Yet despite these facts, there are still films that are historically accurate. Dig into this top 20 list and prepare to be surprised. A few of the movies you’ll get to know will have trailers and clips attached, read further.
1. The Wolf Of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio and the movie he starred in, “Titanic” may not have wooed the audience in terms of historical accuracy, but his other work “The Wolf Of Wall Street” was something the critics loved for precise telling.
This film features the real-life experiences of Jordan Belfort and how his Wall Street company became involved in corruption and fraud, and until the time they were convicted for securities fraud. Most of the movie, nevertheless, was based on Belfort’s book which many critics also claimed that some parts aren’t true.
2. 12 Years a Slave
Movies inspired by the history of slavery in America are magnanimous, but only a few such as “12 Years A Slave” is considered 100 percent accurate. This movie is the adaptation of the 1950s memoir following the same title created by Solomon Northup. He was a freeman residing in upstate New York but brought to slavery in 1841. This is the story of his experiences in slavery for 12 years. Award-winning director Steve McQueen was able to capture the brutal treatment of slaves, as well as the experiences of people who became part of his life.
There are relatively few movies told about the Civil War, and you are looking for accuracy. After all, this is the best part of watching movies of the non-fiction genre: they have to be accurate. “Gettysburg” spans four hours and 31 minutes long, and does it give this duration justice? Absolutely.
It is a hybrid of a full-length film and a documentary, especially that it tells about the three-day Battle of Gettysburg. It’s also very objective because it presents two sides in detail, something that filmmakers still take as a challenge even in today’s film history.
4. Apollo 13
There is also a significant number of movies made about space missions. But nothing was quite like the “Apollo 13” film by director Ron Howard. Screened in 1995, it brought viewers back to the 1970s during the mission. Critics note how the details were crisp, capturing the raw emotions of the astronauts and performed by the actors.
5. Come and See
Films about the World Wars, especially the recent ones, have been so dramatized they lose the historical accuracy. Why are viewers looking for historical accuracy? For them, it means value for their money. The movie “Come And See” vividly depicts the brutal realism about the Second World War, and what makes it challenging? It’s presented from the perspective of the Russians. Elem Klimov directed the movie and successfully portrayed the victims and death camps.
6. All the President's Men
Intriguing, funny, and dramatic, “All The President’s Men” is a must-watch for every journalist out there. It depicts the Watergate scandal that then-president Richard M. Nixon found himself into, in the eavesdropping of journalists who worked for The Washington Post.
It started as a small fire in the areas around Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein, who later were able to weave a story, including their investigation of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex, and exposed the findings to the public. The National Film Registry keeps the movie and recognizes it for its aesthetic, historical, and cultural significance.
7. A Night To Remember
“A Night To Remember” is probably the lesser-known movie that talks about the happenings in the sinking of RMS Titanic, the other being the romantic film featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. You never guessed from the title, right?
This movie from Roy Ward Baker plays focus on more characters from each class strata in the ship and the struggles for survival. Baker had fewer budget than “Titanic,” but historians love this movie simply because of being very accurate, perfect as teaching materials in class.
“Downfall” is one of the remarkable films that depict Adolf Hilter and his biography. However, it plays a focus on Hilter’s last days as the Nazi party leader. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel did the research in this phase of his life, his final 10 days, which was hazy for historians to picture since there were fewer mainstream resources. Hirschbiegel took the leap and did what many directors may miss, conversing with historians like Joachim Fest who wrote the book “Inside Hilter’s Bunker,” and taking reference to Hilter’s former secretary’s book “Until The Final Hour.” The result was a rather emotional film.
9. Das Boot
Have you ever watched a movie that showcased the events in a submarine? Well, not the likes of the lost city of Atlantis. Perhaps one of the most iconic of them is “Das Boot.” And, it was also during wartimes.
“Das Boot” was shown in the 1980s, featuring how it was like to fight the war inside a submarine. You would think you’d be protected throughout, but death was also a common sight. Winners of these historically-accurate movies are those that are directed with raw emotions. Wolfgang Peterson delivered it right and even beyond expectations.
10. The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Award-winning actors, good enough. But to think about historical accuracy, you will have to start the study from scratch. Movies about the old West are prolific. The award-winning “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford,” believe it or not, is accurate. It narrates the story of outlaw Jesse James in the eyes of the young Robert Ford.
11. Black Robe
Films about indigenous people and their culture may be too general, a reason for inaccuracies. One of these movies is “Black Robe,” which features the lives of the Algonquin people, as well as the Cree and the Mohawk. The movie received high accolades for accurate representation.
Steven Spielberg and the story of Abraham Lincoln? Seemingly an epic movie, right? But there’s one more category to beat, historical accuracy. Lincoln himself was a born leader, an influential speaker, and a fighter for what he believed right. If he were to live today, he would influence several people, especially that politics is also now around the Internet. What’s so special about “Lincoln?” The movie is accurate to portray how he became a powerful leader, in the background of the intensifying political climate of his years.
13. The Pianist
For the sake of business, many filmmakers would alter scenes from a film based on a person’s biography to add drama. But not for the biopic “The Pianist.” This movie is based on the autobiography of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist who was also one of the survivors of the Holocaust. Actor Adrien Brody who portrayed the titular role received the Academy Award Best Actor for the role.
14. The Last Emperor
“The Last Emperor” is one of the few films in Hollywood wherein the film’s team decides to focus on Asian history. Critics are still separate on whether “The Last Emperor” transcends the boundaries of what’s accurate and not, but with the expertise of writer Mark Peploe and director Bernardo Bertolucci, the verdict seems to be crystal clear. They were able to re-create the political upheavals of ancient China in an Academy Award-winning movie that won the categories it was nominated for. It made history in entertainment as a historical movie.
15. City Of God
No one would forget about “City Of God,” among the greatest contributions of Latin American film to the world. Locally titled “Cidade De Deus,” it takes viewers to the suburbs of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil, and the story behind one of the hottest summer destinations, the magnificent beaches, and the tourism ads of Brazil. It features Brazil in the late 1960s to the early 1980s, and its participation in the worldwide drug business. It’s based on a book written by Paulo Lins who grew up at Cidade de Deus.
16. Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World
“Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World” is a movie based on the events of the 19th century. Directed by Peter Weir, he made sure the music, the costumes, and the sounds would be as accurate as possible from the novel series “Aubrey-Maturin” by Patrick O’Brian. The film, though, produced two sides in the critic’s panel, and there are still some who say it may not be totally accurate.
Walt Disney Pictures’ “Miracle” is another important part of our list. Wait, Walt Disney Pictures did a historical movie? You got that right. And if you are a fan of those dramatic, inspirational ice sports movies, this film is part of the bunch. It features the U.S. men’s hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics and their stories of downfall and success against the heavy-favored Soviet Union team, particularly in the semi-finals match. Today, this match is called the “Miracle on Ice.” With the team of director Gavin O’Connor and actor Kurt Russell, it wasn’t difficult to portray it in the most accurate manner.
18. Flags of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood directed, scored, and co-produced “Flags Of Our Fathers,” a 2006 war movie based on the New York Times bestselling boon of the same title. It depicts the happenings in the lives of five Marines and one Navy corpsman who triumphantly raised the American flag on Iwo Jima. The photo by war journalist Joe Rosenthal captured it vividly. Movies of historical accuracy do not equate landing onto box-office greatness, and this film was one of those which geared toward accuracy more than acclaim.
19. Saving Private Ryan
“Saving Private Ryan” is one of the films about wartime, but this one is more resounding. It was well-known for how it portrayed the Omaha Beach landing, which history considers as the “best battle scene of all-time.” Plus, it made the opening sequence less than 30 minutes very enticing, setting the viewers’ mindset to the journey of a squad of men searching for Private Ryan. It precisely captured both emotions and accuracy without gearing toward becoming a documentary.
20. Schindler's List
Then who would forget about “Schindler’s List?” The movie tells the story of businessman Oskar Schindler and how he found opportunities for fortune in the happenings of World War II. In the story, Schindler’s ventures found him witnessing the massacre of Jews in the Kraków ghetto. Despite the modifications, director Steven Spielberg is praised by many viewers for the bravery and courage to feature what’s real during the Holocaust, capturing the fear and the pain in one of human history’s darkest hours. And there you have it, some of the best films based on stories that actually occurred in history. History Code loves to hear from our audience. Do you think we missed a movie that should be on the list? Do you have a story to share? Tell us in the comments section!