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When movies play dirty!

Our writer Mylene Furtado reveals the top 5 common historical misconceptions that movies have stealthily instilled in the minds of their audiences!

A movie based on a true story elicits an enormous amount of passion. Viewers believe and relate to what they see. Movies are even used as teaching fodder in schools and universities around the globe.

The problem is that many of these movies are not entirely accurate. Characters are added and removed, facts are exaggerated, events are romanticised or even entirely fabricated. And this may create a trap for gullible students. Instead of doing proper research and operating with facts, they fall for the drama “based on real facts” and construct their writing upon scripted characters. To ensure reliability of your essay, it is best to revert to professional writers from, who can edit out false claims and properly reference your assumptions. Cinema isn’t always the most reliable resource.

Watching these kinds of movies can be fun because they are mostly created in order to entertain. Most of the time, however, they distort history. Below are the top 5 such misconceptions that I have come across:


1. Shakespeare in Love (John Madden, 1998):

The story of how the young Shakespeare with a writer’s block meets the girl of his dreams and gets the motivation to write one of his most recognisable plays may be true. Although, the setting and the background draw attention to the inaccuracies. The actors are drinking from modern glasses, the queen attends a public play, etc. Watching this movie, many may misconnect that fact and think that it really happened. History reveals that if the queen wanted to see a play, then the play would have been performed in her court. And, of course, the modern setting didn’t exist at that time. Also, this movie misleads almost every viewer to think of Shakespeare as a run-off-the-mill starving artist before his success. He never faced such difficulties.


2. Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995):

Braveheart is an inspirational historical movie. The viewer wants to empathise with the characters and believe all that happens on the screen. Many students that only watched the movie and didn’t do enough research may not understand the history lessons in class or may write their assignments completely wrong. Because the award of Braveheart was never given to William Wallace, but instead to the real-life King of Scots, Robert the Bruce. Also, in reality, William was never betrayed by Robert the Bruce. To boot, tartan kilts (pictured at the top of this article) were invented hundreds of years later in the 16th century.


3. Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000):

The team that created Gladiator had many history consultations to make sure that the movie will be accurate. However, they still managed to get some relevant details wrong.

The roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, was never murdered by his son. In reality, he died of natural causes. Commodus’s death was also inaccurate. He wasn’t killed in the gladiator arena by Maximus. He actually died in the bath, murdered by a wrestler that went by the name Narcissus.


4. The Private Life of Henry VIII (Alexander Korda, 1993):

The portrayal of Henry VIII in this movie was completely different. In real life, he wasn’t a bluff, glutton with a glad eye for the women. Also, the part where Anne of Cleves wants a divorce so she can marry her lover is false. Actually, she never remarried to anyone and lived the rest of her life in honored retirement.


5. The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum, 2014):

In the biopic, Alan Turing had conspired with a spy named John Cairncross to protect the traitor’s identity. In return, Jon won’t tell the world that Alan was gay. The reality was rather different: the spy John existed, but he worked in a different section from Alan and not in the same hut as the movie shows. Also, planting Turing as a traitor in the movie was very disrespectful to his legacy.



Young people are smart enough to know that movies are fictionalised, but that doesn’t mean they will recognise the fabricated elements…

Most students know that historical movies aren’t always a bona fide source of information. Still, such movies can be fun, entertaining and also helpful in sharpening our historical lenses, recognising that we live in a multicultural society.

By Mylene Furtado - 20-04-2021

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