'Based on a True Story'? 10 Hugely Embellished Films
Some pretty big changes were made in these movies
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2014 8:30 AM CST
This film image released by Sony - Columbia Pictures shows Tom Hanks, center, in a scene from "Captain Phillips."   (AP Photo/Sony - Columbia Pictures)

(Newser) – So how close to "true" are movies that claim to be "based on a true story"? Radar reveals the pretty major embellishments made to 20 such films. A sampling:

  • American Hustle: While the film tracks pretty closely to the Abscam scandal, Amy Adams' character never got involved in the operation in real life. Also, she was British ... and she never really flirted with Bradley Cooper's character.
  • Rush: The two main characters really were racing rivals, as they are in the movie, but in real life they were friends outside of the sport and even lived together. Plus, one of the big races they compete in in the movie? In real life, one of them crashed out and the other didn't even attend.
  • The Conjuring: In reality, the ghost hunters depicted in the movie lived in the supposedly haunted house for nine years, not the brief period of time the movie depicts. And they've admitted they never really performed an exorcism.
  • 12 Years a Slave: In the movie, Solomon Northup's attempt to take over a ship ends with a slave defending another slave from getting raped by a sailor, and the sailor stabs him. In reality, that slave actually died of smallpox. A graphic sex scene in the film is also fictional.
  • Captain Phillips: Many of Phillips' real-life crew members say the captain was actually irresponsible, and sailed too close to the Somali coast despite being warned about pirates, and even "laughed" at one warning that a pirate boat was headed toward them.

  • Saving Mr. Banks: The film leaves out quite a bit about Mary Poppins author PL Travers, such as the fact that she was allegedly bisexual and had a child. Oh, and the big scene where Travers and Walt Disney go to Disneyland together? Never happened.
  • 42: In real life, Jackie Robinson was not the only black baseball player at spring training with the Montreal Royals in 1946. And his manager Clay Hopper ultimately accepted Robinson, unlike the movie version of Hopper. Plus, in real life, Robinson and his wife were bumped from a flight for "military priorities," not because his wife used a "Whites Only" bathroom.
  • The Butler: The movie portrays Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon as borderline racist, but in real life, black butler Eugene Allen voted for them and had fond recollections of them. Much of Allen's pre-White House life was also fictionalized in the movie.
  • Argo: The film has been criticized for many discrepancies, the biggest being that huge airplane chase scene at the end—which never actually happened. The film also downplayed the role of the Canadian government in facilitating the diplomats' rescue, and claimed the British and New Zealand embassies had turned the refugees away—when in reality both embassies actually helped them.
  • The King's Speech: In real life, King George VI actually started speech therapy a full decade before the abdication crisis, and was basically cured of the stammer in months, not years.
Click for 10 more fascinating stories.

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Showing 3 of 28 comments
Jan 23, 2014 2:54 PM CST
A lot of times a film would claim to be base on a true story, yet a of times it's hard to find the true story that the film was base on. One movie that comes to mind that was suppose to be base on a true story was the movie " Haven" , which starred Orlando Bloom (as Shy) and Zoe Saldana (as Andrea) and Bill Paxton as a corrupt and greedy businessman, Carl Ridley. They claim it was the story/scandal that rock the nation. Yet I never heard the story prior to the movie. Does anyone know what story the film "Haven" is base on?
TheSpasticAvenger .
Jan 21, 2014 2:01 AM CST
Two of my favorite movies are based on the same true story "Psycho" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Though nothing like the true events linked to Ed Gein, there were elements of the truth in both movies.
Jan 19, 2014 9:52 PM CST
Why the heck is Fargo not on here? The Cohen brothers totally admitted the "based on a true story" claim at the beginning of the movie was an out and out lie.