How many times do we see that tagline on upcoming films? ‘Based on a true story’, ‘based on real events’ etc.
They’re all over the place, and while it may seem counter-intuitive, ‘true-life’ films are often nowhere near as true as they make out.
Below we’ve listed five films – all well worth a watch – that although loosely based on reality contain some incredibly fictitious segments, characters, and plot.
If you haven’t seen Captain Phillips then you should. It’s the incredible story of Richard Phillips, played by Tom Hanks, who is the leader of a merchant ship off the Somali coast.
When the ship is raided by pirates, instead of cowering away, Phillips controls the situation like an absolute Don – culminating when he negotiates his crews release and is took hostage by the pirates.
It’s the perfect film. Great plot, entirely captivating, and includes some class acting – but is it as true as you’d think? Not according to Phillips’ crew.
They claim that Phillips’ was selfish and uncaring and that it was his actions that got them raided in the first place (Phillips was supposed to keep the ship 600 miles away from Somalia, they were 235 when the pirates attacked).
The crew of the ship even sued their company for $50 million after the terrifying ordeal.
The Last King of Scotland
The central character in The Last King of Scotland is the young physician, Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, played by James McAvoy.
The films focusses on Garrigan’s relationship and friendship with the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin however in reality Garrigan didn’t exist.
Though based on the British soldier and friend of Amin, Bob Astles, McAvoy’s character escapes Amin in those terrifying final few moments of the film. Astles, however, spent time in a Ugandan prison cell.
Also it’s been 11 years. If the film just got spoilt for you you only have yourself to blame.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
In the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they claimed the story was ‘inspired by a true story’ which was a bit of a stretch to say the least.
The story was based on Ed Gein, a murderer who also inspired Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs.
Gein robbed graves and killed two women, creating keepsakes from their skin – but a chainsaw? From what records show he never used one.
The Social Network
If you’ve seen The Social Network you’ll remember the character Erica Albright, Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend, played by Rooney Mara.
Towards the start of the film, Erica breaks things off with Mark which inspires him to create the website that became Facebook.
Although Erica is almost definitely based on someone, the writer of the film, Aaron Sorkin, has openly revealed he made up her name and character to aid the film’s plot.
Dallas Buyers Club
In the fantastic tale of Ron Woodroof, the rodeo riding Aids contractor who starts dealing drugs to help fellow HIV sufferers, there are more than a few porky pies.
For one, the macho cowboy, Woodroof, was never a rodeo rider.
Secondly, the Oscar winning performance of transgender woman Rayon, played by Jared Leto, didn’t actually exist in real life. Neither did Dr Eve Saks, played by Jennifer Garner.
The truth was the two characters were actually a monopoly of different people interviewed by the writers behind Dallas Buyers Club, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack.
So there you have it folks. Don’t believe the ‘truth’. While all of the above are pretty damn good films they’re definitely not as entirely true as their marketers would have you believe.
But still – isn’t that the beauty of fiction?
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.