Is your favorite "historical" film for real?
Something of great debate in classrooms and professional critical analysis alike is the issue of historical accuracy in films that are marketed as being “based on a true story.” The general assumption has long been that most movie-going audiences are reasonable enough to identify that a story being based in truth does not mean that everything that they see on screen happened, rather it’s one person’s imagined version of what likely happened.
Unfortunately, this isn’t really the case. The fact of the matter is that your average movie-goer often mistakes “true story” movies for reenactments of transcripts from the events depicted or, even more troubling, documentaries. In a political climate where the “truth” is fast becoming impossible to pin down, the good people over at Information Is Beautiful are here to help you out—at least when your in the movie theater.
True, true story?
Information is Beautiful is an effort by author David McCandless to distil data and statistics (from cocktail recipes to medical facts to political information) into beautifully designed infographics. His most recent piece, “Based on a *True* True Story?” aims to identify and quantify just how true different historical films are.
Winners and Losers
According to his analysis, which breaks down some of the most popular films from the past few years into scenes which he then tries to verify, only one (Selma, 2015) earned a score of 100% truthfulness. The lowest score? The heavily lauded Imitation Game (2015) with a score of only 41.4% true.
Why it’s wrong!
“Alan Turing did work as a cryptographer at Bletchley Park during the war and was arrested for homosexuality after the war. That much is true,” McCandless explains of his assessment. He does add a caveat, though, saying that the topic was admittedly complex and would have been hard to capture entirely truthfully, but asserts that the end result is much more fictitious that it needed to be.