In the realm of cinema, historical dramas hold a unique fascination, transporting audiences to bygone eras and pivotal moments in our shared past. While many films take creative liberties for the sake of entertainment, there are those rare gems that meticulously recreate historical events, characters, and settings with unwavering accuracy. Is your favorite on the list?
12 Years A Slave (2013)
12 Years a Slave stands as a powerful testament to historical accuracy, weaving a compelling narrative based on Solomon Northup’s harrowing memoir. The film delves deep into the grim realities of American slavery, depicting the era’s brutality and injustice. Its commitment to historical precision allows viewers to journey back in time and bear witness to a chapter of history that must never be forgotten.
A Night To Remember (1958)
Based on survivor accounts and meticulous research, this film recreates the Titanic’s final hours with remarkable detail. It puts emphasis on the ship’s design, crew’s actions, and passenger experiences, lending a vivid and haunting realism to the disaster. It’s an enduring cinematic portrayal of a maritime catastrophe.
Apollo 13 (1995)
Apollo 13 blasts off with a spectacular dose of historical accuracy. This space odyssey stars Tom Hanks, but the real star is the attention to detail. From the vintage spacecraft technology to the weightless hairdos, it’s like a time capsule in space. This film depicts NASA’s attempt to land on the moon. After several complications, the spaceship orbits the moon three times and lands safely.
Black Robe (1991)
Black Robe embarks on a wild adventure through the untamed Canadian wilderness in the 17th century. What makes it historically accurate is its dedication to portraying the hardships of the era, from authentic costumes to rugged landscapes. You’ll journey with the characters through uncharted territory, braving cultural clashes and harsh nature, all while experiencing a vivid and historically precise voyage into the past.
Come And See (1985)
This film does an excellent job of bringing the viewer to WWII. It depicts the horrors that people went through on The Eastern Front. It employs meticulous attention to detail, including period-accurate uniforms and settings. It captures the brutal and harrowing experiences of civilians caught in the conflict, reflecting the realities of the war and providing a haunting portrayal of that dark period in history.
Das Boot (1981)
This German war film is celebrated for its historical accuracy in portraying life aboard a German U-boat during World War II. The film possesses painstaking attention to detail, including the cramped living conditions, the tension-filled submarine missions, and the realistic depiction of naval warfare. It captures the claustrophobia and sheer danger faced by submariners, offering a gripping portrayal of this crucial chapter in history.
This film is highly regarded for its accuracy in depicting the final days of Adolf Hitler and the collapse of Nazi Germany. Its authenticity is rooted in research using historical records and firsthand accounts. It also features accurate costumes and portrays historical figures with a high degree of fidelity. It provides a compelling portrayal of a pivotal moment in history, ensuring a realistic look into the past.
If there’s a film that gives you almost every detail to know about the Battle of Gettysburg, this one is it. Gettysburg is 4 hours and 31 minutes long, but worth every second if you’re fascinated by the history-altering battle of the Civil War. The film’s unusual pacing means that the audience has a chance to witness both sides of the story unfold.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Not only is this film a highlight of Brad Pitt’s career, but it’s historically accurate in its portrayal of real events and figures. The film strives for authenticity in character depictions, period-appropriate settings, and historical details. While it employs some creative license for dramatic storytelling, it provides a visually compelling and faithful reflection of the era and the notorious figures it portrays.
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln captures what Abraham Lincoln is known for – a born leader, a virtuous speaker, and a man with a kind heart fighting for what he believes is right – but the director also manages to show the 16th president in less grandiose terms than most history books will lead you to believe.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
The plot of this film may not be all that historically accurate, however, the production values in this one are unmatched. The script, costumes and music in this film will have you transported right back to the 1800s, all from the comfort of your own front room. Can you smell the sea air?
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
This film isn’t just the saddest thing you’ll probably ever watch, but it’s historically accurate too. One of the most famous war scenes in cinema history is the recreation of the Omaha Beach landing, considered by many to be the “best battle scene of all time.”
Schindler’s List (1993)
While some characters and moments were altered for dramatic effect, director Steven Spielberg stayed true to much of author Thomas Keneally’s novel, Schindler’s Ark. The film doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the Holocaust, capturing in heartbreaking detail the pain, fear, and devastation of one of humanity’s darkest periods.
This was the first German film to depict the Eastern Front, relying on extensive research and survivors’ testimonies. The movie’s dedication to authenticity extends to its use of real military equipment and the creation of a life-sized replica of Stalingrad. It offers a visceral and compelling window into the historical reality of the battle.
The Last Emperor (1987)
This film recounts the life of Puyi, the last emperor of China, who went from an imperial ruler to a common citizen. The film recreates the Forbidden City and relies on Puyi’s own memoirs, offering an immersive and visually stunning portrayal of China’s last emperor and the tumultuous changes in the country during his reign.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Out of all the film’s about Pearl Harbor, this one is definitely the most accurate. Sorry to break the news, Michael Bay. The film is remarkably accurate. There are minor problems with some ship models, post-war aircraft carrier designs and aircraft markings. These are so minor that only the most picayune hyper-specialist would notice or complain.
The Lion In Winter (1968)
The Lion in Winter Land is on this list due to the historical accuracy of the time’s political climate. Director James Goldman was able to portray the complications and intricacies of King Henry II’s life, as he faces many real life problems with his estranged and imprisoned wife, his sons, and a decision to name an heir to the throne.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
Fruitvale Station is historically accurate through its gripping portrayal of the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a real-life victim of a tragic shooting by a BART police officer in 2009. The film closely reconstructs the events using eyewitness accounts, security camera footage, and public records.
All The President’s Men (1976)
This film depicts the way in which reporters from The Washington Post exposed a scandal that eventually brought down President Nixon. Not only did actors Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman go to great lengths learning what things were like in The Post‘s newsroom, but the production crew even bought the exact same desks that the newspaper used in their newsroom for the film’s set.
Zodiac’s director David Fincher and the production team meticulously recreated the events, settings, and investigative procedures for this film based on extensive research and primary sources. It adheres closely to the documented facts and unresolved nature of the case, capturing the complexity and intrigue surrounding one of the most famous unsolved serial killer mysteries in American history.
Flags Of Our Fathers (2006)
This film depicts the story of the five Marines and one Navy corpsman who famously raised the American flag on Iwo Jima, an image captured by war journalist Joe Rosenthal. The film was a box office disappointment, however critics gave it mostly positive reviews, many of which lauded the movie for director Clint Eastwood’s attention to historical accuracy.
The Pianist (2002)
In this emotionally charged symphony, historical authenticity takes center stage, bringing the main character’s remarkable survival story to life. Szpilman was a Jewish pianist during World War II and the film features a beautiful portrayal by Adrien Brody of the protagonist. This film will break your heart in a good way and is extremely culturally significant.
Moneyball is a sports drama starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. This film depicts the story of the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s 2002 season, where general manager Billy Beane and his assistant use an unconventional “sabermetric” approach to scouting and analyzing players on a limited team budget. The film is considered mostly true to history, but does take some liberties in the chronology of certain events.
The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)
Although this film seems too far-fetched to have been an accurate biography of Jordan Belfort’s life, he has confirmed that all of the stuff in this film really happened. Well, most of it, he didn’t actually marry Margot Robbie. The book is true to the account that is told in his book, but authorities say that he lies about a lot of his crimes.
This film is based on the story of The Boston Globe’s investigative “Spotlight” team’s efforts to uncover the widespread sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. The series of reports the film is based on led to the Globe‘s 2003 Pulitzer Prize. Looking into the historical accuracy of the movie, many people view it as one of the best film portrayals of real-life events.
City Of Gods (2002)
The movie is based off the semi-autobiographical book of the same name, written by Paulo Lins. It depicts the real events that saw the growth of organized crime in the “Cidade de Deus” (City of God) suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The novel gained critical acclaim around the globe and is said to be one of the best pieces of Brazilian literature.
Fans of sports films should absolutely add Miracle to their list of “must-see” films, if they haven’t seen it already. The film chronicles the United States men’s hockey team during the 1980 Winter Olympics, and how the team was able to overcome and defeat the heavily favored Soviet Union in the semifinal match, the match now known as the “Miracle on Ice.”
84C MoPic (1989)
You’ve probably never heard of this film, but if you’re a historical buff, you should give it a watch. The film doesn’t actually depict a real mission, but does bring together several accounts from people who fought in the Vietnam War. Many veterans have heralded this as being one of the most accurate portrays of a dark past.
127 Hours (2010)
The claustrophobia portrayed in this film is enough to land it on this list. The film, directed by Danny Boyle and starring James Franco, depicts the lengths that a mountaineer goes to to survive when he gets stuck in a cave for, spoiler alert, 127 hours. You’ve probably heard of this film, but if you haven’t watched it, you definitely should.
Goodfellas is in most top-10 lists across the board. The cinematography, acting and plot are all excellent, and on top of this, it’s a very accurate depiction of mafia culture. After reading the book Wiseguy, the non-fiction book by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi about the life of mafia mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill, film director Martin Scorsese knew he wanted to make another mobster movie.
The Martian (2015)
You’re probably asking how this could make it onto this list if it takes place in the future. But, if it did happen, it would probably happen the exactly the way that Ridley Scott has portrayed it. Much of the science used in the film is from actual NASA engineers and experts, effectively revealing exactly how NASA would handle the Mars mission in real life.
There have been some great science-based movies over the years. But there have also been some real stinkers. Thankfully, Oppenheimer falls into the former camp. The film doesn’t add much to the story artistically, but is largely historically accurate. Although a few factual distortions creep in, they aren’t huge.
In this film, director Ron Howard brings the intense 1970s rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda vividly to life. With authentic race scenes, costumes, and a focus on the real events, it’s like a turbo-charged time machine to an era of high-speed drama, giving viewers a front-row seat to a remarkable chapter in motorsports history.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Black Hawk Down offers a gritty and authentic portrayal of the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. Director Ridley Scott’s commitment to historical accuracy is evident in its military equipment, tactics, and the chaotic urban combat setting. It pays tribute to the real-life events and the soldiers involved, capturing the intensity and challenges faced during this harrowing mission.
Bloody Sunday (2002)
This powerful and historically accurate depiction of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland is an important watch. Director Paul Greengrass uses documentary-style techniques, eyewitness accounts, and extensive research to faithfully recreate the events. The film captures the tension and tragedy of that day, providing a visceral and realistic look at The Troubles conflict.
Chapter 27 (2007)
This film delves into the life of Mark David Chapman and his obsession with John Lennon. The film is notable for Jared Leto’s method acting, including significant weight gain to resemble Chapman. While the movie takes creative liberties, it strives for historical accuracy in depicting Chapman’s mindset and motivations leading up to the assassination of the iconic Beatles legend.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
This movie is often heralded as one of the best war films ever made. Directed by Hollywood great, Stanley Kubrick, this film is very culturally significant. Kubrick’s commitment to authenticity, the use of military advisors, and the portrayal of real combat situations contribute to its historical accuracy in depicting the grim realities of war.
Austin Butler spent months working at Graceland with Elvis’s surviving family in preparation for this role. He worked so hard at his method acting that he still sounds a bit like Elvis in his interviews today! Although some people criticized Butler’s portrayal of The King, he had very large shoes to fill and most critics agree that he did a wonderful job.
Joyeux Noël (2005)
This film portrays a compelling depiction of the Christmas Truce of 1914 during World War I. Director Christian Carion pays meticulous attention to historical detail, using letters, diaries, and historical records to recreate the events. The film portrays the ceasefire and camaraderie among soldiers from different nations, bringing to life this remarkable moment of humanity amidst the brutality of war.
Okay, we know Jack and Rose weren’t real people. With that being said, other elements of Cameron’s Titanic are very accurate. The costumes, characters and production bring to light the exact events of that night in painstaking detail. Cameron worked hard to get the timeline of that fatal night exactly right, and he ended up with one of the most famous films ever made.