Many of us assume that when we watch a movie “based on a true story” that Hollywood punches it up a little bit. Events are made to be more exciting, the dialogue is written to be witty and moving, and details are omitted for running time. But some films go far past a little “creative reinterpretation” into “we made most of it up” territory.
My Week With Marilyn
This bittersweet film is the supposedly true story of a brief friendship turned romance between the legendary Marilyn Monroe and a young film assistant named Colin Clark. While Monroe was in England shooting The Prince and the Showgirl she found solace from her many troubles in the sympathetic Clark.
So what did they get wrong? The inaccurate part seems to be everything; Colin Clark appears to have made the whole thing up. No one else around at the time ever saw them together, and everyone remembers Marilyn being infatuated with her new husband, Arthur Miller. The entire film is a lie, just the wishful thinking of a guy who kinda sorta met Marilyn Monroe this one time.
A Beautiful Mind
The only movie about a mathematician to make more than $300 million dollars A Beautiful Mind tells the story of how John Nash—through the love of his wife Alicia Nash—overcomes schizophrenia to win the Nobel Prize. In real life they divorced, partly due to the pressures of his mental illness. Plus, in a “this feels racist” move they changed Alicia’s nationality from Salvadorian to lily white American. They also omit John Nash’s homosexual liaisons and the fact that before meeting his wife he had fathered a son with a nurse…who he abandoned when he found out about the pregnancy.
We could just do a whole article on Braveheart. The basic plot is right—there was a Scottish hero named William Wallace who helped lead a rebellion against the English. Everything else is phooey. Wallace wasn’t an oppressed man-of-the-people, he was a noble from a ruling family. His father wasn’t killed by English soldiers; his pops actually fought for the English for most of his life. Wallace didn’t have a romantic night with Princess Isabella of France since she was three years old and living in France the year he was executed.
As one historian put it: “The events aren’t accurate, the dates aren’t accurate, the characters aren’t accurate, the names aren’t accurate, the clothes aren’t accurate—in short, just about nothing is accurate.”
The Amityville Horror
Spoiler alert! There’s no such thing as ghosts and haunted houses. With that in mind we already know that the claims that the scary movie The Amityville Horror is a true story are…rather suspect. It’s all a hoax concocted by a couple who bought a house in Amityville that had a bad reputation thanks to a gruesome murder that happened there years previous. They came up with the tale of ghosts, demons, and an Indian Burial Ground, to make money. And it worked. There’s now 13 Amityville movies with a new one on the way.
The Sound of Music
We’re not here to ruin everything for you, the core of The Sound of Music is basically true. There really was a singing Von Trapp family and a plucky nun named Maria and an exit from Austria to escape the Nazis. But Georg the patriarch of the family, wasn’t a cold, fun-hating man who was won over by Maria and her zest for life. He was a gentle, warmhearted parent who had already taught the kids to sing.
And Maria didn’t come to tutor the family because she was too lighthearted for the nunnery ,but because she was recovering from scarlet fever. And she initially wasn’t jazzed about marrying Georg but grew to love him after their marriage. Finally the dramatic escape by foot over the Alps in the flick was a boring train ride to Italy in reality.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The opening lines of this gory splatter film, and it’s sensationalist marketing campaign, claim that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre happened. Don’t worry, there isn’t an inbred family of cannibals who wear human skin and hunt down teenagers. The filmmakers took a few minor aspects from a the case of a real serial killer—Ed Gein—who killed two women in the 1950s, and worked them into the movie. But the rest is just from the twisted imagination of a screenwriter.
This monumental film about the rivalry between the composers Mozart and Antonio Salieri will teach you plenty about art, jealousy, passion, and madness. But don’t watch it to find out about Mozart’s life. The central conceit is fiction. He and Salieri were friends and Salieri didn’t spend his life plotting out schemes to destroy Mozart and make his life difficult. Amadeus is a stunning movie, but the best parts are all fiction.