Four Unlikely Movies And TV Shows Inspired By Real Wars

From HBO’s Band of Brothers to Ridley Scott’s, Kingdom of Heaven, many movies and TV shows are obviously based on historical facts. Some have used more creative license than others.

However, the wars of the past have been used as an inspiration in a wider variety of genres than people might assume. Everything from science fiction to high fantasy has drawn upon real world wars for inspiration. Here are four movies and TV shows that take their plots from history books.

Game Of Thrones

Potentially the biggest television drama in the world, HBO’s Game of Thrones has gripped audiences worldwide since its debut in 2011. The show has earned numerous awards and accolades. It bears all the hallmarks of high fantasy – dragons, magic and an entirely fictional setting.

However, it is the gritty realism of much of the series that makes the plot so compelling. This may be due to the inspiration behind some of the key story arcs. As in the books on which the show is based, real events such as England’s War of the Roses in the 1400’s are a key inspiration behind the political conflict of the Houses of Stark and Lannister. The name Lannister is lifted from the real-life Lancaster family.

The fantasy of the infamous Red Wedding – based on a similar event in Scotland, remembered as The Black Dinner – owes a considerable amount to true military history.


In this TV series, the central protagonists are fictional with the element of time travel adding an interesting twist. Outlander owes much of its success to its realistic approach to the military conflicts of Scotland in the mid-1700’s; primarily the Jacobite uprisings.

The story begins in 1945 before the main character is mysteriously transported back hundreds of years to 1743. The show examines the build-up towards the Battle of Culloden, the shifting allegiances on both sides and the violent reality of the Jacobite rebellion.

At the narrative’s core is a story of love and human emotion. However, it is the show’s dedication to a historically accurate representation of 18th Century warfare that makes the story it tells so compelling.

Star Wars

Few movie franchises can claim as well-established a place in popular culture as the Star Wars trilogies. The first title was released in 1977 and has gone on to become phenomenally popular.

Following speculation, George Lucas, the creator of this iconic space-opera, confirmed several of the historical sources behind his most famous work. Some major historical conflicts inspired key aspects of the plots in both the original trilogy and the prequel movies.

For example, the Second World War with the Empire being heavily based on the Nazi regime. Likewise, the Vietnam War was a source of much of the action in the Return of the Jedi. In this case, it was the Viet Cong that inspired the Ewoks and their ability to use their knowledge of the terrain to defeat a larger and more technologically advanced force.

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Many comparisons have been drawn between J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the events of both the First and Second World Wars. The author officially refuted those suggestions, insisting that his work was not intended to be allegorical.

However, the movie adaptation of the second installment, The Two Towers, is a different matter. Director Peter Jackson has stated WWII and the Nazi forces were a key inspiration for the ominous presence of the Uruk-hai armies. The threat of this terrifying army looms over most of the movie, with ranks of black-clad soldiers and scenes reminiscent of the Nuremberg Rallies. Although the film as a whole is a classic fantasy, the ominous presence of the Uruk-hai is made all the more powerful by the director’s willingness to tap into our collective associations with that war and the Nazis.

Malcolm Higgins

Malcolm Higgins is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE