The public’s fascination with human history is never-ending. This is only natural, given that it is by looking at the past that one can get a well-rounded notion of who we are, where we came from, and what we did. The past shaped our present and will inevitably shape our future, which is why directors and writers everywhere look to emulate it as best they can.
Bringing complete historical accuracy to the screen isn’t an easy task, and many movies and television shows that attempt to do so can easily fail. However, there are some great examples out there of films that went above and beyond in order to portray as accurately as possible the historical events at play. Let’s take a look at ten of the best!
10 12 Years A Slave (2013)
The portrayal of slavery in the United States is amongst one of the time periods that undergoes the most rewriting once a project tackling the subject reaches Hollywood. Perhaps out of fear people won’t flock to theatres to witness the depiction of atrocities that not far in the past, movies about slavery fail to do the period justice.
But then 12 Years A Slave hit the screens, won three Academy Awards, and proved audiences everywhere that a crude and accurate portrayal of humanity’s past, down to the most infinitesimal details, is very much necessary.
9 Spotlight (2015)
Spotlight premiered in 2015, a little over half a decade after the events it portrays took place in real life. And even though that might seem little to consider historical accuracy, it must be acknowledged that the world in 2015 was very different from the world in 2001, mostly due to technological advancements.
The movie clearly paid attention to the small details it had to put in place in order to convey to the audience the time period in which it occurred. And from giant and clumsy computers to the characters’ fashion choices, Spotlight delivered on this front.
8 All The President’s Men (1976)
If you’re undergoing the task of portraying on screen one of the biggest scandals to ever occur in American politics, you want to make sure you do it right, and nailing the specifics is an absolute must.
That’s probably what everyone involved in the making of All The President’s Men thought, going as far as having the executive editor of The Washington Post at the time of the Watergate Scandal consult for the movie. This ensured the offices and the two main characters were the spitting image of the actual journalists on the case.
7 Zodiac (2007)
David Fincher has taken on some ambitious and unique projects throughout his career, and the 2007 movie Zodiac might just be one of the best projects the director was involved in.
Extremely influenced by All The President’s Men and nailing each and every necessary detail, Zodiac doesn’t make up a satisfying conclusion to the movie in order to appease audiences. Instead, it embraces the real-life implications of the story, which further imprints a lot of character into the film and gives it an A+ in historical accuracy.
6 Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
The attack on Pearl Harbor is arguably one of the most impactful events in American and Japanese history. And what sets this film apart from other movies that took many liberties with their historical portrayals was the team of people involved.
Tora! Tora! Tora! made the groundbreaking decision to involve both sides of the story in the making of the film, making it a joint production between the two countries discussed in the movie. Research that gathers material from several sources and not just one side is bound to result in a much more accurate portrayal than a biased view.
5 A Night To Remember (1958)
Before Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were Rose and Jack in the epic Titanic, helmed by director James Cameron, the public got to witness the history of the famous ship all the way back in 1958.
And while Cameron did have an enormous budget and technology to work with, his take on the sinking Titanic was widely romanticized by focusing at large in the love story. On the other hand, A Night To Remember went to great lengths to accurately portray the several people involved, the class dissonance, what lead to the sinking in the first place, among many other details.
4 Apollo 13 (1995)
Apollo 13 had everything to be great and, simultaneously, everything to flop. The fact that this milestone in human history was so ingrained into people’s minds and heavily documented meant the production team had plenty of information to draw from. But it also meant everyone would heavily criticize it if something was off.
Ron Howard didn’t want to take the chance that the latter would happen and made sure to surround himself with Nasa consultants and special permissions to film in given places.
3 Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The disastrous results of the Vietnam war on every party involved have been heavily explored by Hollywood throughout the years, often giving birth to some of the rawest and most incredible pieces of cinema out there.
Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket is one such movie, with its portrayal of the time and the environment reaching near perfection thanks to the extensive research carried out by the director.
2 The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Incredibly long title aside, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford gives a completely different take on what audiences were used to from a western movie.
Less guns and exaggerated violence, more attention paid to the details surrounding the characters, their outfits, their dialogues, and their motivations. The movie starring Brad Pitt might have failed to make a name for itself as a groundbreaking project, but as far as historical accuracy goes, it’s a winner.
1 The Lion In Winter (1968)
The Lion In Winter might be guilty of investing too much on the heavy romanticization studios enjoy imprinting upon medieval-era movies. However, that doesn’t result in its downfall but can be largely ignored in favor of what it does get right.
This 1968 movie actually hits the nail on the head where political intrigue is concerned and went to great lengths in order to correctly portray just how tense and complex the political situation was at the time.
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