How True Are Movies Based On A True Story?

I’m going to let you into a secret. A lot of movies are purely works of fiction. They’re made up. Who knew? Sir Ian McKellen isn’t a wizard who’s a dab hand at befriending hairy footed little people and fireworks. Tom Hanks isn’t a tiny plastic cowboy who basks in envy at a space-soaring Tim Allen. And what about when Joaquin Phoenix starred in Walk The Line? There’s no such person as Johnny Cash.

It’s all fiction.

The list of make-believe stories in Hollywood is endless. It also includes movies that claim to be true, and based on an actual story. Ah. Well, that’s awkward, isn’t it?

Designed by David McCandless – whose, worryingly, website crashes every time you try to access it – and researched by Dr Stephanie Tomasevic – whose, worryingly, Twitter account has been suspended recently – a report has surfaced breaking down some films which were “based on a true story”, to see how close to real-life they actually were.

The pair tested the truthfulness on some major Hollywood films – including Hacksaw Ridge, Spotlight and Bridge of Spies, to see how much dramatic license was taken.

I, being an avid film fan, am going to take this research, and… Plaster it on my website in the slim hope that it will pass off as my own and that I can pop up on the homepage of BuzzFeed. Fingers crossed, guys.

The Imitation Game – 42.3% real

Do you remember that breath-taking drama, set during World War II, which not only depicted an amazing story of attempting to crack the infamous Enigma Code, but also earned Benedict Cumberbatch his first Academy Award nomination?

It turns out it’s all bullshit, essentially.

According to reports, Alan Turing was actually recognised for his quick wit and tomfoolery, but the producers didn’t feel this character would sit well, and instead wrote him as a humourless, anti-social pleb. In fact, they even gave Turing OCD, but there’s no historic evidence of him having symptoms of the disorder. Christ, it really sounds like they were aiming to get Bendydick Cucumberpatch that Oscar.

(If R. Kelly is allowed to accuse Lady Gaga of exploiting the controversy surrounding his sexual misconduct to get an Oscar, I’m allowed to use historical facts to make a similar statement.)

American Sniper – 56.9% real

I once saw a Bradley Cooper film which seemed so real and lifelike, I actually believed I was there. Nope. I’m not talking about the so-called true American Sniper, but The Hangover. I’m one punch away from Mike Tyson from completing my morning-after-the-night-before bingo card.

In the film, Chris Kyle was urged to join the army after seeing footage of a bombing at the World Trade Centre. This, much like a lot of the film, was fabricated for dramatic purpose. According to the real sniper, Chris was always keen on joining the military after a bad set of rodeo injuries.

However, shockingly, the final scene where Chris is killed by the veteran he was trying to help is totally true.

(I should have maybe said “SPOILER ALERT” before blurting that out, shouldn’t I?)

Dallas Buyers Club – 61.4% real

Dallas Buyers Club was an exceptional movie. It was moving. It was dramatic. And – most importantly – it showed us that Matthew McConaughey wasn’t as useless at acting as a pinecone butt plug, like he appeared in most of his previous films.

About 30 minutes into the movie, we’re introduced to Jared Leto’s Rayon, a trans-woman. Well, prepare to feel lied to, because this Oscar-winning character was all a lie. In fact, she was apparently a composite of various patients, doctors and activists that writers had interviewed for research on the film.

At least TJ, Ron’s homophobic friend was totally true and real and… He wasn’t was he? He, just like Rayon, was included to represent a certain social group, wasn’t he? Good. Excellent. My whole life has been a lie.

The Wolf of Wall Street – 80% real

I know what you’re thinking – “were the drug stories all true?” It turns out they were, but that’s not me encouraging you to take class-A drugs in an attempt to become rich and famous.

I’ve been taking insulin for years, and it’s not done me any good in that way.

There are many inconsistencies between Scorsese’s film and Jordan Belfort’s memoirs. Opening with Leonardo DiCaprio throwing little people at a velcro-covered board was, apparently false. (Even though Belfort admits to hiring little people to attend his parties.)

And The Wolf of Wall Street closes on Leo looking scared as he is driven to prison, however, it turns out that Jordan actually surrendered and walked himself into the institution.

But – and I’ll only say this once more – the drugs were all real.

Selma – 100% real

According to Dr Stephanie, Selma is totally accurate.

There are several instances where scenes are to be taken with a pinch of salt and are labelled as “True-Ish”, as there are times where, for instance, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meets with Lyndon B. Johnson, and they cannot be totally sure of what the two spoke about. But, then again, were you there? Those two could have been speaking about how their Tamagotchis keep dying while they went to work, for all I know.

You can see the whole report, including a scene-by-scene breakdown of these films, here.

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