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Films that rewrite history to fit their plot

photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Movies have the the ability to take a viewer to another realm, one that is sometimes far away from the struggles and worries of day-to-day life. For roughly 120 minutes, these fictional events of action, comedy, horror, romance, and even drama can whisk the imagination into a frenzy.

Sometimes a filmmaker or writer will go even further in creating their world. These filmmakers will take real life historical events and, in order to move the plot forward in their fictional world, will re-write the events surrounding a real life, historical occurrence.

I’m not speaking of movies such as Argo, Selma or Schindler’s List. These are dramatized, fairly accurate depictions of historical events. While some liberties might be taken in films such as these, history, for the most part, is on their side. Even Titanic, for all the flak it’s taken over the years for mixing history and fiction and for making Billy Zane’s character “evil for the sake of evil”, still keeps in tact the main historical situation it’s depicting.

In this instance, I’m looking at four films that have taken fairly huge historical events and changed them to meet the needs of the fictional story being told. These movies are not bad. In fact, three of the movies on this list are entertaining and well-made. The other one, well, is Michael Bay.

Grab your popcorn, your soda and your movie tie-in candy and settle in for a look at four movies in which history was rewritten to fit the plot of the film.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Inglorious Basterds


The set up is done perfectly. A group of mostly American men, terrorizing the Nazis towards the end of WWII, are on a path to kill Hitler. Bombs and bullets should do the trick, but no, it is a fire inside a movie theater that will ultimately contribute to his Hitler’s death.

Yep. Hitler died in a cinema fire. He didn’t die in a bunker, as history tells you, or of Syphilis, as some people are led to believe. If you’re going to write into your plot the death of man, of whom we already know how he died, you might as well tailor the plot to at least have said man die in the same spot. Yes, Tarantino creates fictitious characters and drops them in a historical world. If you are going as far as to include actual people from history, though, at least you can make the setting accurate.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a film if this group tracked Hitler down to find out that he had committed suicide. And in having the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels die in the cinema fire with Hitler is pretty close to the truth, as Goebbels became Chancellor for a day after Hitler’s death and promptly committed suicide in the very same bunker one day after Hitler.


Transformers: Dark of the Moon


The moon landing. One of the greatest achievements of man. Seeing how this achievement is often argued to be all an elaborate Hollywood hoax, why not throw some Transformers in there and call it a day.

Sending a man to land on the moon, as it turns out, was not simply to explore space, but to instead find a mysterious craft that crashed (the Ark--so aptly named) on the moon in 1961. Finally, the truth comes out. The real reason JFK had an overwhelming desire to put a man on the moon: to discover a spacecraft belonging to the Transformers.

The crew of Apollo 11 played golf, planted a flag and casually explored the dark side of the moon. And not in a Pink Floyd kind of way. The only thing missing was the crew of Apollo 11 anchoring down some cardboard cutouts of Autobots to keep the Decepticons away from the Ark.

Almost makes me buy that oil drillers can be trained to be astronauts and sent to space to save the world. (One must admit, though, that Harry Stamper was the best damn oil man in the business.)

X-Men: First Class

History books won’t teach you this, but it was actually the work of the legendary Charles Xavier that helped prevent the Cold War from exploding during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And it was also the work of a mutant (as portrayed by Mr. Kevin Bacon) who orchestrated and escalated the entire situation.

I suppose since you’ve already embraced the plausibility of mutants, it’s okay to look at them as the very cause of and finisher of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

JFK transcended reality in real life so it makes logical sense to transcend historical events by throwing some fiction in there. All for the greater good of man, right Charles?

Forrest Gump

You can take your pick of any number of historical events with this movie: Forrest speaks at a Vietnam protest rally. Forrest sits next to John Lennon in a television interview. Forrest plays football for the legendary Alabama football coach Bear Bryant.

Forrest Gump is an extraordinary (fictional) man. In only some of these instances does Forrest influence the actual historical event. In fact, many of his adventures simply place him at the event, a simple observer on the wall instead of an instigator.

It’s hard to even fault the filmmakers, as the movie was based on the book Forrest Gump by Winston Groom. In the course of the book, Forrest even becomes a chess master, turns pro at wrestling, and goes on a Space Mission. In a way, then, perhaps the filmmakers should be given credit for lessening the impact on history.

There you have it. Fiction. Truth. Truth. Fiction. I supposed in storytelling, there’s always going to be both. It’s always best to get your facts straight, though, before you find yourself on the losing side of the “Jack Dawson was really on the Titanic” argument. And my friends, that’s one argument you don’t want to lose.

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