50 Biggest Lies In Biopic History
4201 7.6 8.41. Braveheart (1995)
The Untruth: Shouty blue-faced man called Wallace hate English. Shouty blue-faced man have affair with Isabella of France. Shouty blue-faced man inspire people of Scotland to fight for freedom. English hang, draw and quarter shouty blue-faced man. Scotland is sad.
The Truth: William Wallace never wore a kilt or painted his face blue. We're pretty certain he didn’t sleep with Isabella of France either because she was two years old at the time. Still, the hills are pretty.
1868 5.4 5.52. Alexander (2004)
The Untruth: Alexander The Great –The King of Macedon and conqueror of Persia. This is his remarkable story all squeezed into 167 minutes (approx)
The Truth: There's absolutely loads of inaccuracies in this one, but our favorite probably occurs during the river Beas mutinity scene.
Craterus mentions 'These elephant monsters,' implying the Macedonians have only heard of them.
But by this point in history they had fought two major battles involving elephants. They should have been pretty used to the concept of large grey horses with white swords protruding from their faces.
However, to be fair, there's a very real chance they were so freaked out by the big ears and trunks, they all believed they were encountering creatures that could only be wrought by nightmares.
410 7.4 7.73. Shine (1996)
The Untruth: A man everyone thought was a mad old tramp turns out to be piano playing wizard David Helfgott. (Geoffrey Rush) He is nursed back to health by Lynn Redgrave and embarks on a triumphant world tour. Everybody claps and cries at the end.
The Truth: Helfgott is not very good at playing the piano. OK, he’s better than you are, but New Zealand philosopher Dennis Dutton described his playing style as ‘flaccid and inaccurate.’
12 7.3 6.64. Devotion (1946)
The Untruth: Emily and Charlotte Bronte are two beautiful sisters in love with the same man, the Reverend Arthur Nicholls. The film’s poster reads, “Destiny brought him out of the storm and in to their hearts!”
The Truth: There wasn't ever any competition between Emily and Charlotte over any man. Devotion's plot takes artistic license to new levels.
720 6.7 7.15. Sid & Nancy (1986)
1181 8 8.46. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The Untruth: Peter O’Toole is the Great British hero and rebel T.E. Lawrence. He helps his Arab brothers defeat the Turks in a tall, blonde, romantic cinematography sort of way.
The Truth: The film mixes real and imagined characters so freely it’s not a film for fact fans. One fact that can be agreed upon is that Lawrence was a five foot five sadomasochist. “The trick is not minding that it hurts.”
1917 7.7 87. The Untouchables (1987)
The Untruth: Eliot Ness is going to bring down Al Capone if it’s the last thing he does, and if there’s one thing he can’t stand it’s tax avoidance.
Incorruptible cop Jim Malone (Sean Connery) and Ness (Kevin Costner) fight the good fight.
The Truth: We can barely bring ourselves to type these words. Jim Malone does not exist. Never did.
This is like that time we found out about Santa and true love.
131 5.9 68. W.E. (2011)
The Untruth: A simple, ordinary woman becomes obsessed with the simple, ordinary Wallis Simpson and her love for the simple, ordinary King Edward VIII. But oh no. Their love isn’t as simple and as ordinary as we thought.
The Truth: Wallis and Edward were famously pally with Nazis. Not that you'd know from watching the film. That sort of thing really puts a damper on frivolous romances with a pop song at the end.
161 7.3 7.89. Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)
The Untruth: Burt Lancaster plays prisoner Robert Stroud, a kindly double murderer who finds meaning and redemption through the medium of birds. Bless his feathery heart.
The Truth: Stroud was not a nice man. His guards described him as a psychopath who never washed. At one point he had over 400 birds in his cell. This fact was possibly left out because there wasn't a big enough special effects budget to cover the droppings.
623 5.7 6.310. Evita (1996)
The Untruth: Madonna found it surprisingly easy to relate to this tale of the much loved but highly controversial figure of Eva Peron.
Madonna took the part very seriously and even wore brown contact lenses. After all, nothing ruins a biopic more than getting the subject’s eye colour wrong.
The Truth: The film is based on just one book about Peron and, according to her supporters, a very salacious one at that. So outraged were they that the Argentinean government made their own version but without Madonna. Several hundred dollars were saved when a naturally brown-eyed actress was cast.
38 4.3 3.311. The Conqueror (1956)
The Untruth: The mighty Genghis Khan lusts for glory and for the woman he loves.
The Truth: John Wayne is Genghis Khan. John Wayne is Genghis Khan! The worst piece of casting we’ve ever seen. And yes, we’ve heard of Keanu Reeves.
In fairness to The Duke he knew he was in no position to play a Mongolian warlord. Years later he said he had “made an ass” of himself.
4308 7.6 8.212. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The Untruth: Russell Crowe is maths genius and Nobel Economics Laureate John Nash. With his roommate Charles, (Paul Bettany) Nash has to juggle his gifted brain with crippling mental illness.
The Truth: Charles didn’t exist. No, we know, he was a figment of Nash's imagination. No, he really didn’t exist. No, he was in Nash’s mind. NO, the filmmakers made him up.
We see. But we were sure Paul Bettany was in the version we saw…
10 4 7.113. The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939)
The Untruth: Scottish inventor invents the telephone all by himself, entirely alone and with no help from anyone. Yes, definitely no one else involved. Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone. Thanks for inventing the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.
The Truth: Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone first so his estate’s lawyers can rest easy. We certainly won’t be mentioning any unfounded claims concerning someone called Elisha Gray (who allegedly invented it first). Definitely not.
1033 6.8 7.214. The Doors (1991)
The Untruth: You know that it would be untrue. You know that I would be a liar. If I was to say to you, girl, this film is an entirely accurate depiction of an iconic rock star.
The Truth: Surviving members of the band are said to hate the film's portrayal of Morrison as an "out of control sociopath."
"Jim with a bottle all the time. It was ridiculous... It was not about Jim Morrison. It was about Jimbo Morrison, the drunk. God, where was the sensitive poet and the funny guy? The guy I knew was not on that screen," keyboardist Ray Manzarek said following the film's release.
1841 6.5 6.515. Patch Adams (1998)
The Untruth: Robin Williams plays Patch Adams a sweet and funny medical student who believes laughter is the best medicine.
The Truth: Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams hated the film. Saying it made him look like nothing more than a funny doctor.
Williams’s fans were also disappointed and have been unhappy with his career ever since.
2 0 6.716. The Lady with the Lamp (1951)
The Untruth: A determined Florence Nightingale cleans up the medical profession during the Crimean war. She had a lamp. She was a lady.
The Truth: For once, this isn't a movie lie that exists to hide unpleasant facts - Nightingale wasn’t just a brilliant nurse, she was a mathematical genius who pioneered the use of pie charts.
This fact is ignored by The Lady With The Lamp. Sadly, The Lady With The Statistical Graphic is yet to be made.
1997 7.9 8.417. Amadeus (1984)
The Untruth: Young and annoyingly happy go-lucky genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is so young and annoying that his rival Antonio Salieri seeks to silence him forever.
The Truth: Salieri actually liked Mozart and even conducted some of his work.
However, the film’s success led to Rock Me Amadeus by Falco which more people can hum than The Marriage of Figaro so it could be argued Salieri got his revenge in the end.
479 7.5 7.718. Midnight Express (1978)
The Untruth: SPOILERS. Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) is incarcerated in a hellish Turkish prison. He makes his escape after killing the most brutal of the guards by ramming a coat hook through his skull.
The Truth: Hayes actually escaped by going for a bit of a swim. The script is by Oliver Stone. He's been known to exaggerate a bit.
See: The Doors, JFK, Alexander, Born On The Fourth Of July and EVERYTHING HE’S EVER DONE ABOUT AN ACTUAL PERSON. We're only joking Oliver, we love you really.
452 6.9 7.519. Quiz Show (1994)
The Untruth: American quiz show Twenty-One is rigged within an inch of its life to assure ratings until someone blows the whistle and everybody loses.
The Truth: The film is mostly true but what isn’t made clear is that this kind of deception was common practice in the 1950s. The sixty four thousand dollar question? Yes, it happened on that show too.
54 6.8 6.620. Lisztomania (1975)
The Untruth: Roger Daltrey is Franz Liszt, the German composer and, in terms of popularity, the Justin Bieber of his day. While not strictly speaking a documentary, the film goes someway towards explaining his success.
The Truth: Franz Liszt was a popular man but he probably didn't kill Hitler, ride a spaceship or dress as Superman.
1112 7.3 821. JFK (1991)
The Untruth: Kevin Costner is New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison with an impossible task: to prove who killed the President.
Garrison and his team talk to everyone. The mafia, local businessmen and the vice-president mop their brows in heat and panic.
The Truth: The plot presents an unproveable premise - the existence of second gunman - as statistical fact. It's so brilliantly directed that the grassy knoll theory has become a major part of pop culture.
But most controversial of all was the implication that President Lyndon B. Johnson was part of the plot to kill Kennedy. That didn't go down particularly well with the American media.
2323 6.7 7.222. Erin Brockovich (2000)
The Untruth: Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) is an unemployed single mum who takes on the lying liars at the big lying gas and electric company and wins. She does this through her tenacity and her cleavage.
The Truth: The real Brockovich has denied deliberately using her breasts as a distraction technique, as definitely depicted in the movie. That's like finding out the real Magic Mike was a bit shy.
487 7 7.423. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
The Untruth: Steve Coogan is Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records. The Manchester music scene of the '70s and '80s is filled with drugs, suicide and pigeon poisoning.
Wilson is present at every significant event of the decade.
The Truth: The film shows Wilson attending Ian Curtis' funeral. In real life, he was unable to attend as he had a more tragic duty that day - looking after Ian's lover, Annik Honore.
Wilson had the sad task of stopping Honore from attending, to save Ian's wife Deborah from upset.
Also, Curtis' first epileptic seizure didn't occur on-stage as depicted in the film. It happened in a car, on the way back from a gig.
623 7.3 7.324. The Young Victoria (2009)
The Untruth: Thank God for scriptwriter Julian Fellowes. Someone was finally brave enough to tackle the life of the youthful Queen Victoria. We are most amused Julian.
The Truth: Fellowes is a self-diagnosed expert on royalty so it’s something of a surprise to learn that Prince Albert was never shot.
16 7.5 7.325. Reach for the Sky (1956)
The Untruth: Kenneth More is Douglas Bader, the most British of British war heroes. Bader is a RAF fighter pilot who loses his legs in a crash but insists on winning the Battle Of Britain for us. More plays him as a stoic and cheerful man, just getting on with things like a stubborn old teddy bear.
The Truth: The fact that Bader was British and had no legs is not in question. He was however regularly accused of being a reactionary racist who thought he should be Prime Minister. Kenneth More is cuddlier.
138 6.3 6.726. The Hoax (2006)
The Untruth: Richard Gere is Clifford Irving, a journalist who claims to have helped reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes write his autobiography. But it’s all lies. Irving is a washed up hack. He would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for, well, being a liar.
The Truth: Irving objected to the film, particularly his portrayal as "Desperate and humorless, a washed-up hack writer who lives in a conservative New York suburb."
He said "The movie misses the point that the Howard Hughes hoax was a live-action adventure story concocted by two middle-aged hippie expat writers and a Swiss heiress.
Edith, my then-wife, a woman of great zest, is portrayed as a dull hausfrau; and Nina van Pallandt, my Danish mistress, as barely one level above a New York hotel hooker.
Dick Suskind, witty friend and co-conspirator, is offered to the public as a self-righteous, sweaty buffoon. The scenes that deal with Movie Clifford feuding with Movie Dick, getting him drunk and hiring a bargirl to seduce him, are totally fictional. The Hughes people mailing the package of files to me is also made up."
Irving originally helped the filmmakers but had his name taken off the credits when he saw the results. You can’t trust anyone these days.
822 7.4 7.827. Frost/Nixon (2008)
The Untruth: The story behind the greatest television interview of the twentieth century. Michael Sheen and Frank Langella fight to the death, only with words and no one dies. Includes a scene where Nixon makes a drunken phone call.
The Truth: Nixon's official biographer Jonathan Aitken says the late-night call never having happened, and says it is "From start to finish, an artistic invention by the scriptwriter Peter Morgan."
499 7 7.528. The Hurricane (1999)
The Untruth: Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter is wrongly convicted of a triple homicide but some plucky Canadian human rights campaigners find the truth.
The Truth: This is one story that is so complicated it had to be simplified for the sake of sanity, but the fact is, defence lawyers found the evidence that freed our hero, not some plucky Canadians.
The film would have been a week long if it were down to lawyers.
943 6.6 6.929. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
The Untruth: Cate Blanchett is the virgin queen who battles to save England from the Spanish Armada while reminding her cousin Mary Queen of Scots who's boss.
The Truth: Putting the ‘Michael Bay does historical romance’ feel to the piece aside for a moment the script completely ignores certain historical facts.
Mary Queen of Scots was French for a start. And Blanchett looks pretty hot for a 52 year-old.
429 5.8 6.430. W. (2008)
The Untruth: The life of the 43rd President of the United States of America.
The Truth: Considering how much potential there is for gags at the expense of the little President who could, this is a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of the most powerful cowboy in the world.
Bush’s brother Jeb wasn’t so happy. He described the film as “Unadulterated hooey.”
21 6.9 6.131. Valentino (1977)
The Untruth: Ken Russell directs Rudolf Nureyev as the sex symbol that begat all sex symbols, Rudolph Valentino. His early death - caused by an alcohol-related ulcer - caused riots and suicides. He was sex! He was a gigolo! A boxer! A dancer! A star!
The Truth: There is no evidence that Valentino was a gigalo. He was never in a boxing match. The perforated ulcer that killed him was likely caused by stress and his refusal to see a doctor, not booze.
450 6.4 6.832. Young Guns (1988)
The Untruth: Emilio Estevez is Billy the Kid. He and his gang of five outlaws - known as The Regulators - roam around the Old West being very naughty boys. Confronted by the law at the end of the film, they take part in a brave against the odds shoot-out.
The Truth: The Regulators existed, but the gang had 22 members at the time of its creation. The outlaws brought another 40 gunmen to take part in the final shootout. These details were possibly left out because there weren't enough Brat-pack actors to fill all the parts.
71 7.3 7.233. Gypsy (1962)
The Untruth: Gypsy Rose Lee’s domineering mother pushes the happy stripper into stardom with laughs and songs along the way. Among the hits was “You Gotta Get A Gimmick”
The Truth: Gypsy’s mother’s violent temper was left out of the story. Rose Hovick ran a lesbian boarding house and one night allegedly shot and killed her lover for making a pass at Gypsy. It was covered up as a suicide.
495 6.4 6.534. Ned Kelly (2003)
The Untruth: Australia’s first folk hero. The sprit of the rebellious outback takes the shape of Mick Jagger in a poorly glued on beard. Between wearing a tin helmet and shooting people Kelly sings for his love of wearing a tin helmet and shooting people.
The Truth: Kelly's descendents were said to be particularly unhappy that the film was shot in New South Wales and not in Victoria, where the events took place.
And, whilst it's not technically a lie, many Aussies were annoyed that their country's most popular bad-ass was portrayed by a Brit and not an Australian. It'd be a bit like Mel Gibson playing Churchill. Kind of.
370 6.6 6.935. Rob Roy (1995)
The Untruth: Liam Neeson is Rob Roy, Scotland’s Robin Hood. His nemesis is Tim Roth’s Archibald Cunningham and all the other posh English fops. The baddies are very bad indeed and enjoy talking like Lord Humphrey MacMoney-Bags while laughing at orphans on fire.
The Truth: Surprisingly Rob Roy was real. Archibald Cunningham was not. If you've seen the film, that's a pretty significant innacuracy. If you haven't, it's probably best you don't bother.
684 6.3 6.636. J. Edgar (2011)
The Untruth: J Edgar Hoover creates the FBI and struggles with his hidden sexuality. He becomes a terrifyingly powerful figure and is accused of deception and hypocrisy. He wears a dress.
The Truth: As soon as the film was announced everyone’s first thought was, “Do you see him in a dress? Do you see him in a dress, do you see him in a dress?”
Well, you do. Briefly. Only trouble is, it didn't happen in real life. Rumours that Hoover liked to dress up as a pretty lady came from homophobic gossipmongers.
5 8 5.537. Daydream Believers: The Monkees' Story (2000)
The Untruth: The Monkees were the American Beatles. A manufactured pop band designed to make money but almost by accident they were actually rather good. So good the The Beatles threw them a party and everyone had a lovely time.
The Truth: The Beatles really did throw a 'welcome' party for the Monkees when they visited the UK. But sadly, neither Mike nor Davy bothered to show up.
556 6.3 6.438. The Iron Lady (2011)
The Untruth: Can you help us with our crossword? Four down: ‘highly regarded Prime Minister of 1980s Britain. Hard but fair.’ Sixteen letters? We're drawing a blank. Let’s watch this film about Margaret Thatcher while we think about it.
The Truth: The film was not made solely for British audiences. Thatcher is seen as an iconic figure around the world, especially in the States. While Meryl Streep’s performance is excellent the former Prime Minister’s reputation in the UK is still that of a milk-snatching goblin. This is yet to catch on internationally.
2914 7.4 7.839. The Social Network (2010)
The Untruth: A geeky, unpopular boy called Mark Zuckerberg invents Facebook and is sued by everyone who says they invented it. He goes on to become an incredibly rich, geeky, unpopular boy called Mark Zuckerberg. The Oscars ‘Like’ this.
The Truth: While it’s true that the Winklevoss brothers sued Zuckerberg everyone involved was surprised it was included in the film. The real story of Facebook would be lots of men in a room writing computer code. Lol, sadface etc.
Mark Zuckerberg had a different problem with it. "The thing that I think is actually most thematically interesting that they got wrong is - the whole framing of the movie, kind of the way that it starts is, I’m with this girl who doesn’t exist in real life, who dumps me, which has happened to me in real life, a lot - and basically to frame it as if the whole reason for making Facebook and building something was because I wanted to get girls or wanted to get into some sort of social institution.
And the reality for people who know me is that I’ve actually been dating the same girl since before I started Facebook, so obviously that’s not a part of it.
But I think it’s such a big disconnect from the way people who make movies think about what we do in Silicon Valley - building stuff. They just can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things."
44 7.4 7.140. Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
The Untruth: Billy Holiday sings the blues, and the jazz and the gospel when she isn’t being beaten up or having an awful time. Diana Ross gives a born-to-play-this-role performance by singing a lot like Diana Ross.
The Truth: Holiday undoubtedly had a hard life and this film is hardly a chuckle fest. But even grimmer details were left out. After a cursory look into her real life you may need a hug
644 6.7 6.741. Coco Before Chanel (2009)
The Untruth: Audrey Tautou is French fashion’s Godmother Coco Chanel who has to deal with poverty and tragedy to become the woman she is. She doesn't have an affair with a Nazi officer.
The Truth: Didn’t she have an affair with a Nazi officer? The film stops just before that actually so... oh just look at all the pretty clothes! Look at them!
1250 7.7 842. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
The Untruth: The coolest couple to ever pull a pistol. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway play Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, shooting and robbing their way across the depression era south.
The Truth: The filmmakers were accused of over-simplifying the crimes but boy-meets-girl-meets-guns sounds like the only plot you’ll ever need.
433 5.3 5.243. Caligula (1979)
The Untruth: In the history of the western world no screaming oddball has endured like Caligula. Malcolm McDowell is the lunatic Emperor who at one point forces his army to attack the sea.
The Truth: The sea attack did happen, but historians have argued that Caligula was being satirical. No one’s that mad. It was a statement about war. Or something.
1460 7 7.544. Man on the Moon (1999)
The Untruth: Comedian and prankster Andy Kaufman’s life made flesh by Jim Carrey. He faked his own death just like Elvis didn’t. Or did he?
The Truth: No, seriously, did he? The film deliberately gives more weight to the myth that Kaufman is still alive than it does to the truth - that Andy died at a tragically young age.
But then we prefer the idea that he's still out there somewhere too, so we'll go easy on this one.
2433 7.6 7.945. Ed Wood (1994)
The Untruth: Tim Burton’s warm tribute to cinema’s greatest awful director. Wallowing in self-doubt Wood meets his idol, Orson Welles, and is inspired to impose more unconvincing monsters on the world.
The Truth: Sadly, Wood never met Welles. If only they had worked together. They would have been the best terrible, terrible films ever made.
2042 8.1 8.346. The Elephant Man (1980)
The Untruth: Abused as a circus freak because to his severe deformities John Merrick proves himself to be a polite and gentle man who is human and needs to be loved, just like everybody else does. “You’ve all been so kind” – John Merrick.
The Truth: Joseph (not John) Merrick was making money from his freak show work, and his deformity was such that he found it extremely difficult to talk. “Yooveallbensokind” – Joseph Merrick.
100 7.4 7.347. Calamity Jane (1953)
The Untruth: Doris Day plays Calamity Jane, a no-nonsense, hard-nosed frontierswoman with a sideline in singing and dancing with a whip. She falls in love with Howard Keel’s Wild Bill Hickok, a no-nonsense, hard-nosed frontiersman with a sideline in being rude to Doris Day.
The Truth: Marta ‘Calamity’ Jane Canary was born in 1852. She was a no-nonsense, hard-nosed frontierswoman with a sideline in lying.
Despite her protests there is no evidence that she was ever married to or had a child with Wild Bill Hickok. The real Hickok died in a poker game in 1876. He is yet to have his own musical.
1732 8.1 8.348. Raging Bull (1980)
The Untruth: One of the most memorable scenes in this film, and in all films, is when boxer Jake LaMotta (De Niro) accuses his brother Joey (Joe Pesci) of sleeping with his wife. “Did you ____ my wife?”
The Truth: Joey is an amalgamation of several people in LaMotta’s life but really who gives a ____ who ______ his wife when it’s this good. It’s a _______ masterpiece for _____ sake.
2326 7.9 8.149. The King's Speech (2010)
The Untruth: The king has to talk to the nation but he can’t speak without stammering. Luckily Geoffrey Rush is at hand as maverick speech therapist Lionel Logue. Will he do it? I hope there’s a montage.
The Truth: The idea that a commoner like Logue would call His Majesty ‘Bertie’ has caused outrage among royal historians. It’s still a good film however. Replace stammering with dancing and it’s the same plot as Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo.
500 6.8 7.250. We Bought a Zoo (2011)
The Untruth: America! We bought a zoo! We know! You didn’t think we could do it, but build it and they will come - to the zoo! This is America! Literally anything is possible. This is a true, inspiring story of hope and the all American - buying a zoo - dream. Yee haw!
The Truth: The zoo is in England.
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