A movie that is based on a true story normally draws a huge crowd and makes big money because we as a society, are all so eager to get the juicy “behind the scenes” dirt on a story that possibly made big headlines. Not only do these films give you something to talk about (AKA brag about how much you know about the subject), but it also makes for a great movie experience. Even though we are smart enough to know that the “this is based on true story” disclaimer at the beginning of a movie is one to be skeptical of, we naturally want to throw that disclaimer out the door and believe every word we hear and every action we see. However, this disclaimer is something to be taken lightly sometimes in more cases than others. In the movie industry, a true story can mean that someone stabbed someone else in a parking lot and it is turned into a movie with a huge conspiracy and enticing plot, and the real act never even went down like that; in fact, the real person involved (if there actually is one) was not even clever enough to think of anything near what happens in the film. You have to give it up to writers and directors though, as they know how to play the game and get you so involved that you feel like you were there and part of this “true story”.
Hollywood is obviously a business built on entertaining society and truthfully, we need that imagination and excitement in films because sometimes the original story just is not cutting it (or is so sad that it would ruin the upbeat feel of the film). Here are 10 films that stretched the truth.
10. Erin Brockovich
Tainted water forced a clerk in a small law office to look into a case of townspeople becoming sick. The film plays out like a heroic story; an average woman/single mom who takes on more than she bargained for but yet somehow manages to overcome the odds. The plaintiffs on the case have banned together to let us know that the movie grossly misrepresents their case and even though they were each supposed to get at least $300,000 each from the $333 million settlement, they got short changed settling for $60,000 or less, and this was not depicted in the movie. In fact, some of the 650 plaintiffs tried to sue the lawyers for their excessive fees that took away from their original settlement.
9. Pursuit of Happyness
A single father who would do anything and has done everything possible to take care of his son was the basis for the film about a man on his way to making his first million. Unfortunately for the sake of Hollywood, the original story was not good enough or light-hearted enough. While Chris Gardner was depicted as a humble, non-violent man in the film, this was not the case in real life; Gardner allegedly was abusive towards his ex-wife and even kept their son from her as a form of punishment. He sold and used illegal drugs and was reportedly not a single father, nor was he homeless. These are all allegations of course, but their plan of cutting out the negative parts sure made for a great film.
8. A Beautiful Mind
Russell Crowe starred in this film about mathematician John Nash and his struggle with schizophrenia and how he overcame the challenges that arose from his diagnosis. The Ron Howard directed film was nominated for an Academy Award and took much of its “facts” from a biography; the only problem is these “facts” were so exaggerated that the story basically became untrue. The film shows that Nash based most of his fight to battle schizophrenia on his devotion to his loving wife and in the end, they lived happily ever after. What actually happened was Nash’s wife divorced him, he spiraled out of control and went off of his medication and even ended up having an illegitimate child. There was even a rumor that he was struggling with homosexuality.
7. Saving Mr. Banks
A Disney film about how another Disney film was made, how can you not love it and in addition, how can you screw it up? The film focused on how Mary Poppins was made and what really went on behind the scenes. It plays out like a regular happy go lucky Disney film, but it was really a hot mess. The “original” Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers, barely wanted to hand over the rights to her story, but Walt Disney could have not cared less about Travers and had no intention on begging her to let them make the film, she also hated the songs and instead of giving a standing ovation during the Hollywood premiere of the film, she decided to show her absolute hate for it by storming out and crying. But of course, all of this negativity could not be shown in a film coming out of Disney.
6. The Strangers
Here goes another writer with an awesome overactive imagination. Writer/director Bryan Bertino, stated that the story of a couple who are vacationing in a remote cottage far from prying eyes that end up being tortured and murdered by a group of people that show up to their house in masks, is based on a childhood memory. Bertino stated that the torture, murder and everything in between did not happen; what actually happened was while on vacation as a child, someone came knocking on his door (and others in the neighborhood) asking for someone who did not live there. What they were really doing was seeing who was home and if no one answered they would ransack the place. It is a far stretch from torture and murder, but a very believable story.
5. Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips was a huge Hollywood hit; it focused on a family man and crew captain whose ship is taken over by Somali pirates and he must save himself and his crew; to do this, he sacrifices himself and is taken hostage. Unfortunately, for Richard Phillips his story was one huge lie; he was not lovable nor heroic, according to a crew member, he was self-righteous and he actually put the crew in danger basically on purpose by repeatedly sailing way too close to enemy lines believing that they would not dare come aboard his ship. Apparently the beginning of the film where it shows him following all the rules and safety protocols has aggravated a lot of his co-workers, he was never one to follow safety protocol, and to them what took place that day was not heroic.
This film was so well written that it does not need to fall back on a true story; however, the Coen brothers did want it to be known that this story was based on an actual event and it looks like it has now come back to bite them in the butt. So what is fake about our beloved Fargo? Apparently everything; the opening disclaimer states, “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota, in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred”. After a lot of research, it was determined that no such murder had taken place in Minnesota, in fact, nothing resembling the entire film’s events had occurred.
3. The Sapphires
This film about the first aboriginal girl group that was a hit at Cannes, follows three sisters and their cousin who win a competition to perform in Vietnam for American Troops in the 60s. The film has a lot of exaggerations including the number of girls in the group; it was a duo (two sisters) that went to Vietnam, their “stolen cousin” was non-existent and they did not have a bumbling, alcoholic “loser” as a manger (they had no manager, in fact). The film still received a 10 minute standing ovation during its Cannes debut and although a lot of the stuff that happened in the film did not happen to the main characters, it does not mean it did not happen in real life.
2. American Hustle
If anyone has seen this film they know the story is so crazy that some of it has to be fictionalized. Surprisingly, not that much of it is fiction but there are a few questions about who did what and how big of a role they played in Abscam. For instance, Amy Adams’ character Sydney Prosser, while based off of a real person, did not play as big a role in the real Abscam as Adams did in the film (in fact, she was barely there), and instead of pretending to be British she really was British. Luckily for director David O. Russell, he stated that only some of this stuff happened.
1. The Blind Side
This Academy Award winning film was apparently so untruthful that the movie subject Michael Oher, has gone on a crusade to expose the real story. The film which was based off of Oher’s 2006 biography, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game has been accused of being highly fictional and Oher has stated publicly that the film has “hurt his career”. Some of the non-truths in film include that Leigh Anne Tuohy taught Oher to play football (this one seems pretty obvious), there was no tension when Oher moved in with them, in fact Tuohy stated that within 48 hours they felt like a complete family. Even daughter Collins Tuohy was happy with Oher and considers him a best friend.