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The Most Accurate Movies Based on True Events
July 2017
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The Most Accurate Movies Based on True Events
These motion pictures favor portraying reality, rather than fiction

Often during trips to the cinema, audiences will catch a glimpse of the words “based on true events” flash across the silver screen. Unfortunately, those words are sometimes betrayed by the actual content of a movie, which can manipulate or even fabricate historical events.

When writers, directors and producers really do their history homework, they can often create historical pieces that accurately portray events from the past. If you want a story that is actually based on true events, then you’ll want to look toward these five films.

“12 Years a Slave”

Based upon the memoirs of Solomon Northup, “12 Years a Slave” is perhaps the most accurate portrayal of slavery in America yet put to film. The movie holds nothing back while portraying the hardships and struggles slaves faced during the early days of American history.

The film adaptation does a commendable job at portraying Northup’s quest for freedom after he is kidnapped and sold into slavery. While the characterizations of some of the historical figures from Northup’s memoirs are modified a bit, the film still painstakingly captures the accurate details of Northup’s accounts. 

“Lincoln”

When Steven Spielberg sets out to make a historical masterpiece, he does his fair share of research. Combine that with Daniel Day-Lewis and his incredible acting techniques, and you have the perfect recipe for the most accurate portrayal of our nation’s 16th president.

“Lincoln” documents Abraham Lincoln’s attempts to get the 13th Amendment ratified during one of America’s darkest hours. While an inch or two shorter than the actual Lincoln, Day-Lewis studied the mannerisms and descriptions of the president extensively. It ultimately paid off for him, as Day-Lewis won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of President Lincoln.

“127 Hours”

The story of Aron Ralston, who was forced to amputate his own arm after it became trapped by a boulder, is so dramatic that director Danny Boyle felt it would take away from its powerful narrative if anything about it was altered. Therefore, he set out to make “127 Hours” as accurate as possible.

Ralston himself said that the film was "so factually accurate, it is as close to a documentary as you can get and still be a drama." Ralston was also impressed by the acting techniques that James Franco used to portray him on screen.

“Apollo 13”

“Houston, we have a problem.” However, inaccuracy is not the problem. “Apollo 13,” directed by Ron Howard, is still considered to be one of the most accurate historical dramas in the cinematic world.

The retelling of the aborted Apollo 13 lunar mission and the mission team’s journey back to Earth is filled with intricate and accurate details of the account. Outside of dramatizing the tension near the end of the mission, “Apollo 13” is faithful to the events that actually happened during Apollo 13’s harrowing journey.

“Schindler’s List”

Another entry from director Steven Spielberg, “Schindler’s List” is not only considered to be one of the greatest historical movies, but one of the greatest movies of all time, period. Part of the reason why it is so respected is due to its authenticity.

Creating a film about the Holocaust is quite the arduous task. Nevertheless, Spielberg put all of his filmmaking abilities to use when accurately adapting the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who helped save the lives of more than a thousand Jewish refugees.

Finding a truly accurate historical motion picture can often be difficult. However, those movies that portray true events in a respectful and accurate way help make their storytelling that much stronger.


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