Biopics That Were Not Very Accurate (And Ones That Were Spot On)

Jordan Claes
A scene of Black men and women portestors on their knees, in defiance of police in 'Selma'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

They say that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Therefore, it is immensely important to understand where we've been in order to embrace where we're headed.

History books are a great means for doing just that, but sad as it is to say — nobody reads nowadays. Therefore, we rely heavily on biopics to tell the tale, some of which are not so accurate and others that are spot on.

Accurate: 'Rush'

Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl in 'Rush'.
Universal Pictures | Universal Pictures

The rivalry between Formula One racecar drivers Nikki Lauda and James Hunt is one of the greatest that the sports world has seen/will ever see again. Both Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl positively shine in this film, and even Lauda himself praised it for its accuracy.

Inaccurate: 'A Beautiful Mind'

Russell Crowe as John Nash in 'A Beautiful Mind'.
Universal Pictures | Universal Pictures

Mental health is a difficult thing to convey on screen, so in order to better illustrate the turmoil that existed in the mind of John Nash, filmmakers saw fit to give him visions of people who never actually existed. In real life, this wasn't the case.

Accurate: 'Downfall'

The German-language film Downfall boasts arguably the greatest portrayal of Adolf Hitler that has ever been seen on a big screen. If you want a chillingly accurate account of Hitler's last moments, this is the film to watch.

Inaccurate: 'Patch Adams'

Robin Williams with a rubber clown nose on his face in 'Patch Adams'.
Universal Pictures | Universal Pictures

In an interview with New Renaissance magazine, the real-life Patch Adams said, "After the movie, there wasn't a single positive article about our work or me. There were dumb, stupid, meaningless made my children cry."

Accurate: 'Malcolm X'

Denzel Washington slamming his hand on a desk in 'Malcolm X'.

Spike Lee's Malcolm X is a brilliant adaptation of Malcolm X's own autobiography. It stays true to the source material, although there has been some speculation about how accurate Malcolm himself was in his own writing.

Inaccurate: 'The Social Network'

According to Mark Zuckerberg, the only accurate thing about The Social Network is Jesse Eisenberg's wardrobe. "Every single shirt or fleece is actually a shirt or fleece that I own," the Facebook founder told Entertainment Weekly.

Accurate: '12 Years A Slave'

Scene from '12 Years A Slave'.
Fox Searchlight Pictures | Fox Searchlight Pictures

The film 12 Years A Slave is not only an accurate retelling of Samuel Bass' book, but it also succeeds in presenting slavery exactly how it was — as a black mark and an indelible stain on the integrity of America.

Inaccurate: 'The Untouchables'

Robert De Niro throwing a fit in 'The Untouchables'.

Although The Untouchables is based on true events, the film takes extreme creative liberties as far as what actually went down. The raid at the Canada/US border never happened, many of the shootouts were completely fabricated, and Ness and Capone only ever met one time — after his conviction.

Accurate: 'Goodfellas'

Ray Liotta in "Goodfellas'.
Warner Bros. | Warner Bros.

Martin Scorcese might just be the godfather of biopics. Not only is Goodfellas one of the greatest pictures the legendary director has ever made, but it depicts with pinpoint accuracy how the events of Henry Hill's mobbed-up life played out.

Inaccurate: 'Pocahontas'

Pocahontas with her hair blowing in the wind in Disney's 'Pocahontas'.

The true story of Pocahontas is the last thing that Disney would want to turn into a movie. The fact that they rewrote history and threw in a love story between a "savage" woman and her great white savior is beyond insulting.

Accurate: 'Raging Bull'

Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta in 'Raging Bull'.
United Artists | United Artists

What was I just saying about Martin Scorcese and his penchant for biopics? The rise/fall of Jake LaMotta is violent, destructive, and heartbreaking. This film may just be De Niro's magnum opus, more so than Taxi Driver.

Inaccurate: 'Braveheart'

William Wallace screaming "Freedom!" in 'Braveheart'.

William Wallace wasn't fighting to avenge a lost love. He didn't wear a kilt, nor did he paint his face blue. While there's no disputing the fact that Braveheart is an incredible film, it's almost purely fiction.

Accurate: 'The Big Short'

Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling in 'The Big Short'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

The Big Short is so accurate that it should be required viewing in every single high school/college finance course. The film is based on the book, written by Michael Lewis, and expertly details the events of the 2008 housing market crash.

Inaccurate: 'The Imitation Game'

Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'.
The Weinstein Company | The Weinstein Company

There are several things that The Imitation Game gets wrong. For one thing, Turing was no traitor, nor was he ever suspected of espionage. Even the matter of his suicide is up for debate, with many people believing it to be an accidental death.

Accurate: 'Selma'

Black protestors walking over the Edmund Pettus bridge in 'Selma'.
Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures

The data-based website Information Is Beautiful conducted a survey to determine the accuracy of historical events that play out in Selma. The film was found to be 100% accurate and one of the best-showcasing of Martin Luther King Jr.'s impact on the Civil Rights Movement.