Historical fiction films have always been a hit at the box office, captivating audiences with their ability to transport us to different time periods. From the extravagant world of 18th century France to the thrilling battlefields of World War II, these films allow us to escape our reality and dive into a whole new world.
But what truly fascinates viewers is when these films are based on true events. It’s like getting a VIP pass to witness the untold stories of some of history’s most famous figures, whether it’s the enigmatic JFK or the majestic kings and queens of old. We get to experience firsthand how these individuals faced extraordinary circumstances and either triumphed or met their fate.
What sets historical films apart is their attention to detail. Every aspect, from the characters’ life stories to their hairstyles and the music they groove to, is meticulously researched. This commitment to accuracy adds depth and authenticity to the storytelling, making the experience all the more immersive.
That’s why we’ve handpicked a collection of our favorite films that not only offer an epic portrayal of history but also stay true to the facts. These movies provide the perfect blend of entertainment and education, allowing us to delve into the past while being thoroughly entertained. Get ready to embark on a thrilling journey through time!
1. A Night to Remember (1958)
When it comes to choosing the most historically accurate film about the Titanic, many people immediately think of James Cameron’s blockbuster. However, according to survivors of the Titanic, there is another film that deserves this title: A Night to Remember, a British film from 1958.
Unlike Cameron’s version, A Night to Remember didn’t have a huge budget or fancy special effects. Instead, it focused on portraying the tragedy through the eyes of the second officer. The film provides an accurate depiction of what actually happened during the sinking, without any unnecessary love story taking center stage.
So, if you’re looking for a film that closely captures the historical events of the Titanic, A Night to Remember might be the one for you.
2. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Many World War II films made by American moviemakers focus on the Allied side of the war, showcasing the intelligence work of the Brits or the valor of the incoming American troops. However, Clint Eastwood, a highly regarded director, took a different approach. He shot two movies consecutively: Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Both films revolve around the Battle of Iwo Jima, but the former presents the American perspective while the latter offers a glimpse into the Japanese viewpoint.
While both films received critical acclaim, Letters from Iwo Jima stood out due to its nuanced portrayal of a Japanese general torn between following orders and questioning the true worth of the battle. It also highlights the unwavering sense of duty among Japanese soldiers, exemplified by their willingness to sacrifice themselves, including a scene depicting group suicide.
3. Anthropoid (2016)
One standout feature of Anthropoid is its adherence to the true events of Operation Anthropoid, a mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking officer in Hitler’s army.
Certain elements in the film may appear far-fetched to viewers, seemingly included for added suspense. Take, for instance, Josef Gabčík (played by Cillian Murphy) injuring himself upon parachuting into enemy territory, or his machine gun malfunctioning at a critical moment during the assassination attempt.
However, it is worth noting that these incidents actually occurred during the operation, demonstrating that reality can sometimes mirror a script from a movie.
4. The Courier (2021)
The Courier initially flew under the radar mainly because of its delayed release. Originally set to hit theaters in August 2020, it was pushed back to August 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the delay, the film garnered critical acclaim for its well-paced exploration of the incredible true story of Greville Wynne. In 1960, this British businessman was recruited by the British Secret Service. Acting under the guise of a businessman, Wynne embarked on a mission to Moscow, secretly collecting Russian secrets and delivering them back to the British authorities.
The gripping nature of The Courier lies in its depiction of the very real risks involved in meddling with the Russians during the intense period of the Cold War. Brace yourself to be kept on the edge of your seat throughout the film.
5. Downfall (2004)
In a lot of World War II films, Adolf Hitler is usually portrayed as a crazy person or a downright evil dictator. But in Downfall, they present a different perspective on Hitler – the human side of him.
Now, don’t get me wrong, they don’t try to make Hitler seem sympathetic or anything like that. The filmmakers just strive to give us a more realistic portrayal of what it was like for the Nazi leader when he faced defeat.
The movie takes us through Hitler’s last days in his bunker, where he grapples with the idea of his own demise and reflects on his ultimate failure. It’s a glimpse into a side of Hitler that we don’t often see in other films.
6. Rush (2013)
If a movie is based on a living person, it’s quite simple to gauge its accuracy: just ask the subject. This was the case with the 2013 film Rush, which centered around the rivalry between Formula One racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Lauda had this to say after watching the film:
“When I first saw it, I was really impressed. They didn’t make any Hollywood changes or alter things to make it more dramatic. It’s very true to life, and that pleasantly surprised me.”
Director Ron Howard ensured that the film captured the essence of reality. For instance, when they shot the intense crash scene that nearly claimed Lauda’s life in 1976, they chose the exact location where the actual accident occurred.
7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford may not have been a hit at the box office, but critics have always praised its depiction of the intricate bond between Jesse James and Robert Ford.
Unlike other Western tales where Ford is often sidelined, this film sheds light on the fact that Ford was both infatuated and eventually terrified by the legendary figure that was Jesse James.
Experts in history also support this nuanced portrayal, believing that it offers a more accurate representation of the real relationship between these two individuals.
8. The Last Duel (2021)
When The Last Duel’s trailer came out, people couldn’t stop talking about one thing in particular: the haircuts. One of the main characters, Jean de Carrouges (played by Matt Damon), sports a bowl-cut mullet. Surprisingly, this hairstyle was actually popular in medieval France.
Although the film claims to be “75% historically accurate,” the filmmakers had more than just accuracy in mind. According to Ben Affleck, who is also in the movie, their goal was to shed light on the fact that our current patriarchal society still carries remnants of the sexism and misogyny that were deeply ingrained in Western civilization’s value system at the time.
The film takes an interesting approach by presenting the story from the perspectives of the three main characters. This allows the audience to witness how each person experienced the same events differently.
9. Barry Lyndon (1975)
When making a film for today’s viewers, filmmakers face a dilemma: should they make their characters conform to current values or stay faithful to the sentiments of the past? If they choose to represent characters as they truly were in their time, modern audiences might perceive them as unlikable, distant, or even prejudiced.
However, Stanley Kubrick took a different approach with his film Barry Lyndon. He didn’t attempt to gloss over or soften his characters. Instead, he portrayed how these upper-class individuals evolved over multiple decades, dealing with the effects of war, personal loss, and other hardships.
10. Jackie (2016)
Replicating live footage for a movie may seem like a straightforward task, but it’s not always that simple. Take the case of the 2016 film Jackie, where the costume and set designers faced the challenge of meticulously studying every tiny detail from Jackie Kennedy’s interviews.
For instance, in recreating the tour of the White House, they had to create two versions of her red wool suit. One in the exact original red shade and another in a pink shade that would appear as gray on the black-and-white TV screens, just like it did in real life.
This level of precision was upheld throughout the entire film, ensuring that every aspect of the setting was as true-to-life as possible.