Savvy moviegoers know most supposed historical movies that claim to be “based on real events” are rarely, if ever, accurate.
In fact, the idea for this list came to us after watching one of our favorite channels called History Buffs.
History Buffs is a show dedicated solely to reviewing historical movies. So if you’ve ever wondered how much a film is based on a true story?
Then This is the YouTube Channel to find out.
Top 10 Scenes From Historical Movies That Actually Happened
#10 William Wallace Really Was Executed As ‘Braveheart’ Depicted
Braveheart is so full of inaccuracies that calling it a “historical film” would be almost laughable.
So no one would have been wrong in believing Director Mel Gibson tweaked the facts over how William Wallace was executed for the audience’s sake.
In fact, you would be right, and wrong at the same time.
Mel Gibson did in fact tweaked the facts over how William Wallace was executed but it wasn’t to make it more gruesome, but LESS than what happened in real life.
In Braveheart, after William Wallace is sentenced to public execution the film doesn’t show his exact punishment. But nevertheless, the ending definitely gets the point across that Wallace met a terrible fate.
However, the real William Wallace was sentenced to be hanged, disemboweled, beheaded, and quartered, and that is indeed what happened.
#9 Tommy From ‘Goodfellas’ Really Did Whack Someone Over An Insult
Martin Scorsese based his 1990 classic Goodfellas on Nicholas Pileggi’s 1985 mobster tell-all Wiseguy.
Scorsese acknowledges that changed the names of the movie’s characters, events, and biographical details. But that doesn’t mean “Goodfellas” isn’t entirely fictional.
In one memorable sequence bartender Michael “Spider” Gianco (Michael Imperioli) forgets to bring Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), a drink.
After Tommy humiliates him by ordering him to dance he shoots Spider in the foot.
A few weeks later, Tommy makes fun of Spider’s heavily bandaged foot, but this time Spider stands up for himself. When the rest of the crew laughs, an enraged Tommy whacks Spider.
It might seem like this sequence was invented to show just how brutal and merciless someone like Tommy DeSimone was, but mobster Henry Hill – who’s the subject of Pileggi’s book and the inspiration for Ray Liotta’s character – told Howard Stern in a 2002 interview that the event pretty much happened like the movie said it did.
DeSimone really did antagonize and wound Spider over a forgotten drink, and really did take him out when Spider talked back.
According to Hill, it was the Spider incident that made him finally realize DeSimone was a true psychopath.
#8 Howard Hughes Actually Crash Landed In Beverly Hills Just As ‘The Aviator’ Depicts
It might seem ridiculous that Howard Hughes would have crashed an experimental military aircraft on its maiden flight over one of the most heavily populated cities in the world.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the crash scene in 2004’s The Aviator is pretty close to what happened.
On July 7, 1946, Hughes took the XF-11 on its first test flight. The flight was only supposed to last 20 minutes, but Hughes decided on a longer flight around the Los Angeles Basin to show off his new creation.
During the return to his company’s Culver City airfield, Hughes discovered an oil leak in the right engine. The engine quickly lost power and the plane began to plummet.
Hughes crash-landed in Beverly Hills, smashing into three homes and destroying one.
The incident left Hughes with a crushed collarbone, six broken ribs, third-degree burns on his hands, and lung damage from smoke inhalation.
#7 ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle Actually Did Shoot An Enemy From Over A Mile Away
Clint Eastwood’s ‘American Sniper‘ is based on Chris Kyle’s book and while he does take creative license with some real events.
The one thing Eastwood didn’t exaggerate was the decorated Navy SEAL sniper taking out an enemy from more than a mile away.
In the movie version, the enemy in question is a sniper and former Syrian Olympic sharpshooter named Mustafa, who menaces coalition troops and is responsible for killing one of Kyle’s friends, Ryan “Biggles” Job.
Toward the end of the movie, Kyle finally gets revenge by shooting Mustafa from a distance of 2,100 yards.
Instead of a legendary enemy sniper, Kyle in real life shot an enemy insurgent from 2,100-yards away who was aiming a rocket launcher at American troops.
The shot was Kyle’s longest confirmed kill, but not the longest ever recorded.
At the time, that would have been Rob Furlong’s March 2002 shot from 2,657 yards.
That record has since been broken by a Canadian sniper, who in 2017 took out an ISIS militant from 3,871 yards.
#6 Casino’s ‘Head In A Vise’ Scene Actually Happened
Here’s one scene that most people who saw Casino probably wished Hollywood just made up.
Unfortunately, the ‘head in the vise’ scene actually happened.
Martin Scorsese’s 1995 mobster classic Casino is based on a book by Nicholas Pileggi (Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas).
But while Scorsese did change the character’s names, they were nevertheless based on real people.
In the movie, Joe Pesci who plays Nicky Santoro, a violent mob enforcer is interrogating a hitman named Tony Dogs.
Santoro wants to know if Tony Dogs worked alone, and when Tony Dogs insults him, Santoro puts his head in a vise.
When Tony Dogs still refuses to confess, Santoro tightens the vise until finally…POP! Tony Dogs eyeball pops out.
Although the circumstances were different, a version of the infamous “head in a vise” scene really did happen in real life. Nicky Santoro is based on real-life mobster Anthony John “Ant” Spilotro.
As far as we know, Spilotro didn’t torture anyone named Tony Dogs in Vegas in the 1970s, but he did use a vise on a mobster a decade earlier in Chicago.
#5 Hugh Glass Really Did Survive A Bear Mauling, As Seen In ‘The Revenant’
The harrowing bear attack in The Revenant is riveting cinema for sure. But the idea of an adult male managing to fend off a 500 lb mother grizzly and then taking it out with a hunting knife seems a wee bit farfetched.
Yet a version of the scene really did happen to frontier woodsman Hugh Glass.
In 1823, Glass was alone searching for game when he came upon a mother grizzly and two cubs. And just like in the movie, the bear charged Glass and mauled him.
The movie version of the attack didn’t play out exactly how it did in real life. In reality, accounts differ on whether Glass took out the bear himself, or whether he was saved by other members of his party who had heard his screams and came to his aid.
Nevertheless, Glass did end up severely injured, sustaining a broken leg, a ripped scalp, a punctured throat, and many gashes.
After his fellow trappers abandoned him, Glass crawled between 200 and 300 miles to safety.
#4 Elderly Couple Chooses To Go Down With The ‘Titanic’ Together.
Audiences wept during Titanic when they saw the elderly couple holding each other in bed while the ship sank, having given up their seats on a lifeboat so others could live.
It feels like a scene Directed by James Cameron created hoping to pull on the heartstrings of movie audiences.
But a version of this scene really did happen. The elderly couple weren’t invented characters but based on real-life couple Isidor and Ida Straus.
Isidor, 67, was the co-owner of Macy’s department store and a former US Congressman, and he and Ida, age 63, were first-class passengers on the fateful voyage.
According to their great-grandson Paul A. Kurtzman, Ida boarded a lifeboat and a ship’s officer offered Isidor the chance to join her. Seeing that some women and children wouldn’t get a seat on a lifeboat, Isidor declined.
Instead of abandoning her husband of 40 years, Ida stepped off the lifeboat to remain with him as the ship went down.
The only real unknown of the scene is if Ida and Isidor returned to their bed as the movie suggests, but everything else is accurate.
#3 Abraham Lincoln’s Letter Read In ‘Saving Private Ryan’ Was Real
The 1998 WWII film Saving Private Ryan wasn’t based on a true story. However, it was definitely inspired by real events and real people.
At the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, General George Marshall (a real person) and his staff are debating whether they should, risk the lives of other soldiers too, like the title suggests, save Private Ryan.
But the debate suddenly came to a conclusion when General Marshall stars reading “the Bixby Letter.”
According to the movie, this is a letter President Lincoln wrote to grieving mother Lydia Bixby, who supposedly lost five sons in the Civil War.
Determined not to allow Mrs. Ryan to share the same fate as Lydia Bixby, General Marshall orders that Private Ryan found and sent home.
While it might sound like Hollywood hogwash that General Marshall conveniently had a letter from the 1860s that addressed his “sole survivor” problem, but it’s not.
Many of the details about the letter to this day remain a mystery. The one undeniable fact is The Bixby Letter is very much real.
#2 Bruno Gaido Really Did Shoot Down A Bomber And Get Promoted As Saw In ‘Midway’
One scene from 2019’s Midway, seems totally unbelievable. In the film, a Japanese plane attempts a kamikaze attack on the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier. Nick Jonas, playing real sailor Bruno Gaido, seeing the plane divebombing toward the Enterprise’
Gaido runs across the deck, jumps into a parked bomber, and starts fires its machine gun at the enemy aircraft.
He hits the Japanese bomber and as a result, barely misses the Enterprise, but does clip Gaido’s bomber.
Even more unbelievable, Admiral William Halsey, who witnessed Gaido’s heroism, summoned him to the bridge and promoted him two ranks to Aviation Machinists’ Mate First Class.
You wouldn’t be wrong to think that maybe Hollywood took a little creative license, but the fact is that scene in 2019’s ‘Midway’ was nearly identical to what happened in 1942.
#1 Mess Attendant Did Shoot Down Several Japanese Planes At Pearl Harbor
Michael Bay is one director who infamously takes creative liberties with the truth.
And there is no finer example of this than in his 2001 film “Pearl Harbor“.
Pearl Harbor has been lambasted for sanitizing 1940s US Military racism, to just being a bad movie.
But to Michael Bay’s credit, the film does accurately depict one of its biggest moments, when Cuba Gooding Jr.’s who portrays mess attendant Doris Miller commandeers an unattended machine gun to shoot down several enemy planes.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Miller was doing laundry for one of the ship’s officers when the Japanese surprise attack occurred.
After Miller carried his mortally wounded captain to safety. He helped an officer load and fire one of the ship’s unattended anti-aircraft guns.
Then, without orders and having never even been trained, Miller commandeered a second gun and shot down multiple Japanese Zeros.
Miller became the first Black sailor to receive the Navy Cross. However, his actions weren’t deemed worthy of a Medal of Honor, unlike 16 white servicemen who received one for their actions that day.
Today, Miller is remembered as both a war hero and a trailblazer, and in 2020 the Navy named an aircraft carrier after him.
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