The majority of people do not directly take part in the wars going around the world. Therefore, it is very significant that people know the facts about wars and history since it shapes our perception of a particular country, people, and events.
Although most of the time, historians and academics pay a lot of attention to research and try to make sure that every detail that goes down the history books stays close to the fact, on the cinema screen it’s not always possible. Filmmakers and Producers pay attention to other aspects of the story and don’t seem to care if their facts don’t match.
Following is the list of ten horribly inaccurate war movies littered with false stories and wrong depictions of facts.
10. ENEMY AT THE GATES (2001)
The fact is that Eastern front of the Second World War has been criminally neglected for a variety of reasons by the European Media in particular and by the West in general. The reasons are very simple, the cold war and all that followed it. However, Enemy at the Gates is no less than a cinematic representation of Soviet propaganda and ‘uber-exaggeration’ of the facts that took place on the western front.
The movie is based on the exploits of the famous Russian Sniper Vasily Zaytsev, who is portrayed as a larger than life character, something more along the lines of a superhero. War movies are expected to be closer to the facts than to the fictitious bravery tales and legends.
The movie was aimed to portray the psychological trauma US marines had to endure during the first Gulf War. Despite some very good performances, Jarhead failed to acquire the acceptance from some war historians and ex-marines who fought in the war.
Nathaniel Fick, who is an ex-marine, describes the portrayal of US marines in the movie as preposterous and completely missing the context in many places.
He maintains that there is no doubt that soldiers are trained to be tough and rough, but the amount of psychological horrors Jarhead presents is extremely rare and highly unlikely. Fick also criticizes some of the ‘crazy’ actions that Marines are shown to be committing, citing that Marine Corps are very disciplined and train their soldiers to be disciplined all the time.
Overall, critics suggest that Jarhead gave a negative impression of the Gulf War in general and the US Marines in particular.
8. U-571 (2000)
Nowhere could one find such a fact-shift in a war movie than in U-571, a perfect example of how the U.S Army tries to downplay the role of its Allies all through the twentieth century.
In the movie, the U.S Navy is presented as the sole contributors towards the capture of infamous German code-making machine ‘Enigma.’ Enigma played a critical role in the early Nazi success due to the information was so effectively coded that no one was able to crack it.
In reality, British Navy had captured the first Enigma machine onboard a German warship in the early stages of the war in 1941, almost seven months before US claims of its capture. Or the fact that it completely disregards the Polish contribution to breaking the Enigma codes and sharing that with the British.
In fact, the only Enigma machine that US Navy could manage to get their hands on was captured in 1944 when Nazi empire was crumbling, mostly due to the Russians.
Upon the release of the movie, British Prime Minister at the time Tony Blair came out and called the distortion of the facts presented in the film as ‘an affront’ to the Bravery and contribution of British Sailors in the World War.
7. The Battle of The Bulge (1965)
This portrayal of an actual Battle that took place in the last months of the Second World War is inaccurate and far from facts, on so many levels.
The biggest discrepancy is the use of War machinery in the film. Most of the tanks and aircraft that are shown are totally out of place. US-built tanks are shown as German ‘Tiger Tanks’ while most of the jeeps and other vehicles were the models designed and built after the Second World War.
Apart from the obvious technical errors; The Battle of Bulge often failed to depict the reality of the actual battle. History books and footage are filled with the fact that bad weather and snowy conditions made things very difficult for the Allied air support and helped Germans gaining an initial crucial edge.
In the movie almost all of the fight is shown on a rather flat area with reasonably good weather conditions.
One could conclusively make a case that this 1965 attempt by Warner Bros to inform public about the Battle of Bulge utterly failed to do so on a factual and historically accurate level.
6. Red Tails (2012)
Red Tails was an average attempt to make a war movie against discrimination that ended up looking awkward and somewhat patronizing towards African Americans.
The movie was about the legacy of United States’ First all African American Fighting Squadron known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The writers and directors were so focused on the subject matter, that no one seemed to have bothered to make sure the events shown matched the facts or not.
According to Red Tail, the squadron had the best bomber score, whereas the records quietly suggest otherwise. It also shows that the Tuskegee Airmen suffered no bomber losses during their whole campaign while archives tell a different story; in fact, more than 25 bombers belonging to the Tuskegee Airmen were shot down by the enemy.
John Woo’s Windtalkers had no clear theme, but one could argue that it was loosely based around the Navajo code talkers. Despite the fact that these coders from the Navajo Native American tribes played a crucial role in winning a number of battles against Japanese, Windtalkers does not coincide with the correct account of events regarding Navajo code talkers.
It is a fact that every Navajo marine was assigned a bodyguard, but the bodyguards’ job wasn’t just to protect the coder at all cost. According to the Windtalkers, the guards were ordered to kill the Navajo Marine if necessary in the interest of securing the code.
John Woo’s Hong Kong cinema experience made this unusual story, more of a theatric portrayal rather than a cinematic depiction.
4. Flyboys (2006)
Had Dean Devlin spent more time making the World War 1 based Flyboys; then he would have had to invest less time on the justifications of various historical inaccuracies that his movie was littered with. Contrary to the film’s depiction of red Fokker Dry 1s as the standard aircraft for German pilots, this plane was not in widespread use during the First World War.
The director of the movie defended his apparent mistakes in the film by saying that facing an aesthetic challenge they had to change few “minor” historical details.
All these fallacies and inaccuracies made sense, when, not long after the movie was released, Flyboy’s military advisor was exposed as a fraudster who confessed to having fabricated some historical records.
3. Pearl Harbor
There is no shortage of historical inaccuracies and apparent editing flaws in the 2001 depiction of Pearl Harbor.
One of the most obvious mistakes was the incident shown in the movie when Rafe McCauley (played by Ben Affleck) is shot down while in the UK. This was impossible at the time because no American pilot was allowed to fly alongside RAF pilots since the US had not entered the war officially.
Another distinct set of inaccuracies surrounds the commander of Pearl Harbor who is shown playing golf on the day of the attack, and according to the movie plot, knew about the Japanese intention for their deadly attack. Both of these incidents never took place according to various war records and journals.
2. The Green Beret
Gaining a reputation as a ‘cowboys and Indians’ representation of Vietnam War, The Green Baret not only failed to present facts of the war; it ended up glorifying a rather messy and highly controversial war.
This becomes more understandable and apparent when one considers the fact that The Green Beret was a propaganda attempt to counter the widespread anti-Vietnam War campaign all over the country. Producers and Director of the movie invested all their efforts and energies towards glorifying the American side of this war.
However, no heed was paid to the facts. Patriotically uplifting and historically completely out of touch and utterly preposterous at times, The Green Beret proved to be another addition to an already long line of failed Vietnam movies.
1. The Hurt Locker (2008)
Though an excellent human drama, Hurt Locker failed to portray the reality of Iraq war and twisted some of the known facts about the US Army on the ground.
The movie is about an elite group of bomb disposal squad that leaves no stone unturned to dispose of IEDs aimed at the US Army. Some of the Iraq war veterans criticized the movie for being too melodramatic and fully out of touch when it comes to the discipline of US Army on the ground in Iraq.
The bomb disposal squad is shown in the movie risking the lives of many soldiers by haphazardly showing up on the location of the bomb without adequate security. This is far from reality since at the height of Iraq war an elaborate effort was made to make sure every convoy of American soldiers was properly secured, and that soldiers were never in high-risk areas in small numbers.
Another open criticism that comes from the soldiers is their portrayal in the movie as hot headed adrenaline junkies indiscipline most times immoral soldiers, which according to them is nowhere close to the reality.