Oftentimes, historical movies and those based on true stories have exaggerated and dramatized their narratives to supposedly be more sellable to the masses. This has its own set of downsides, especially when certain historical events or people are misrepresented. That’s why films that manage to adhere to historical accuracy are doing a service to humanity.
These films shed a light on what actually happened without romanticizing it or cutting out some of the more important details. They also create a more honest perception and impression of history in a modern world where the truth is becoming more and more subjective. These films help greatly in anyone’s thirst for some objective and unabridged history, as much as they can.
Selma is a period piece that highlights one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s finest moments in the history of civil rights. The film follows King’s plight to improve the rights of all Black Americans in the United States right after he received his Nobel Peace Prize.
Based on an analysis by some film critics, Selma is pretty much the most faithful recreation of history in film that one could almost consider it a dramatic documentary. The film owes much of its accuracy to the well-documented part of Martin Luther King Jr.’s activity at the time, including recorded phone calls, footage, and handwritten letters.
9 Bridge Of Spies
Apart from a raging civil rights crisis in the 1960s, the United States was also enmeshed in the Cold War with the USSR. Bridge of Spies touches upon this subject with no less than Tom Hanks in the lead, whose character was called upon by the U.S. authorities to negotiate a prisoner exchange between the two secretly warring countries.
To make matters more complicated, the prisoner on American soil was a KGB officer and spy from the USSR whose innocence and intentions were subject to scrutiny. This espionage thriller will surely sate Cold War drama enthusiasts, even though it took some liberties near the climax of the story and in some smaller details throughout.
8 Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World
For a colonial-era maritime adventure that doesn’t involve drunk wacky Disney pirates, one can’t go wrong with Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. This Russell Crowe adventure didn’t exactly make the same kind of splash as the more bombastic Pirates of the Caribbean, but at least it can proudly claim to be historically accurate.
However, “historical accuracy” is a bit of a grey area here, as the characters and the plot of the film are all made up, but considering the time period and setting, which is the 18th-century Atlantic Ocean. However, the filmmakers did a grand job of staying true to the set pieces, costumes, and even the navy culture at the time.
Unfortunately, many WWII movies take way too many liberties with their source material, so only a handful of them can be considered a good representation of the event. The best in this category has to be Stalingrad (1993).
It’s a retelling of one of the bloodiest battles in history, which took two million lives and went on for several months. The film played it safe by putting viewers in the perspective of the Wehrmacht and how they gradually failed and lost at Stalingrad.
Onto more modern history, namely the 1980s. Back in that decade, one serial killer became grossly notorious for their weird pattern of killings involving Zodiac signs, still remaining uncaught to this day. Director David Fincher helms this movie, giving it a delirious dreamlike feel to it that complements the atmosphere and plot.
At the heart of the investigation lies Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist working for a media outlet whose obsession with the so-called Zodiac Killer has brought him close to solving the case. Of course, much like the real-life event, the Zodiac Killer was never arrested or uncovered.
Going back to the American Civil War, Glory is one of the most celebrated and historically fulfilling war movies ever made. It’s a war epic that chronicles the service of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment of the Union army. It was a milestone for the said army since the 54th consisted mostly of Black infantrymen.
For the most part, the 54th and their duty, as well as skirmishes during the Civil War, were portrayed as accurately as possible, including the struggle with internal racism and the regiment’s finest moment during the Battle of Fort Wagner, in which their heroic actions contributed much to the Union’s victory.
4 Tora! Tora! Tora!
Sick of Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor as the usual go-to for Pearl Harbor bombing depiction? Then try something different, like Tora! Tora! Tora! which is Japanese for “tiger, tiger, tiger” and was the code word at that time for indicating that a surprise attack was achieved.
Obviously, this pertains to the pre-meditated bombing of Pearl Harbor, which pretty much officially brought the United States into World War II. Tora! Tora! Tora! is so reliable, that it’s even sometimes used in history classes to teach about U.S. involvement in WWII.
3 Apollo 13
Another Tom Hanks epic, Apollo 13 was under a lot of pressure to be as much of a faithful recreation of the aeronautic disaster as possible. With Tom Hanks as the leading actor, though, it wasn’t too hard to feel the intensity of such an astronomical failure, as it decided to forego dramatic weight to focus on facts.
And focus it did. Apollo 13′s director, Ron Howard, even consulted with NASA technicians and engineers to nail down the finer details of the film. Luckily, the event is so heavily documented that there wasn’t much room for other interpretations.
2 The Wolf Of Wall Street
Moving forward to a stockbroker drama, The Wolf of Wall Street is quite possibly the most controversial among them all. Viewers will be pleased to know then that Martin Scorsese’s flick is quite a precise representation of stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s life and corporate criminal activity.
In fact, some might even be surprised that what took place in actual history was more lecherous and more amoral than what was portrayed in the film. It’s certainly accurate, but due to film constraints and in order to not make it seem like a porn parody of Wall Street, some parts of the real story had to be omitted.
1 12 Years A Slave
Another crucial lesson about the history of slavery in the U.S., 12 Years A Slave earned much praise from both critics and audiences alike due to how hauntingly real it is. The film is about the more than a decade-long struggle of Solomon Northup, who was kidnapped and sold to slavers.
Northup was a free man, but due to the complicated politics and split ideas about slavery back in his time, his status ended up being ignored just because of his skin color. 12 Years A Slave is not only a powerful tool for learning history, but also a masterful film with a stellar cast and award-winning acting.