Movies that keep getting confused with true stories but really aren’t

Movies based on true stories tend to spark interest because audiences are drawn to the human experience, especially when it’s far more interesting than their own. Knowing this, Hollywood loosely throws around the phrase “based on a true story” even though most of the film is fictionalized. As long as there are elements of truth it can be marketed as such and most of the time people don’t even realize how embellished it really is. The following films are often considered “true stories”, but are actually almost entirely made up.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Although The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was marketed as “based on a true story”, the majority of the horror movie classic is actually fabricated. The antagonist Leatherface is inspired by “The Butcher of Plainfield”, who was the real serial killer Ed Gein. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a true story, the director was making a political statement about the government lies used to cover up shady events in the 1960s.


Brave heart

Fans of the period action drama Brave heart might be disappointed to learn that there is virtually nothing truthful behind this “true story”. It was Robert the Bruce, not William Wallace, who led the Scottish rebellion against England. Contrary to what the film alludes to, England only ruled Scotland for a year before the Dissent. However, the film won Oscars, so choosing fiction over fact has served it (and countless other films) well.

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In the animated Fox movie Anastasia, two scammers attempt to pass off orphaned Anya as the missing Russian princess Anastasia who she looks a lot like, so they can claim the reward. Unbeknownst to everyone, including Anya, it turns out that she really is Anastasia. The real princess was executed and buried in an unmarked grave, leading many to believe she was still alive. For years, impostors pretended to be Anastasia. However, DNA testing revealed that the bone fragments that had been discovered were in fact his, finally putting this rumor to rest.


The shooting of a fake film in Iran by the CIA is about the only event in Argo it’s true. He supported the telling of the true story by even having the throw the pose on the photos which were identical to those with the real people in them, making the events seem factual. The film left out the important role Canada played in the success of the rescue mission, instead giving all the credit to America. The tension mounts during the escape sequence as the audience watches Affleck and his team continually dodge obstacles that compromise the mission. However, it was not the art of imitating life, but rather the art of lying, as the operation was a complete success without any of those complicated conflicts.


disney made Pocahontas a household name, but the story they told was far from accurate. Not only was Pocahontas around 11 years old when John Smith arrived, but her name was actually a kid-only nickname. The real name of the famous heroine Powhatan was Matoaka. It is unclear if she and Smith were romantically linked.

Cool races

Not a Single Character in the Beloved Outsider Tale Cool races was real. The team was actually made up of army recruits as opposed to Jamaican sprinters. Similar to a boy band from the 90s, Americans George Finch and William Maloney handpicked the team of potential heroes. While the film showed them as targets of bullying, in real life the Jamaican bobsled team was accepted and liked by others.

Captain Phillips

Like many films “based on a true story”, there are conflicting versions of Captain Phillips, especially the real character of Captain Richard Phillips. The film portrays him as a selfless hero, but those involved say he was anything but. His seemingly reckless behavior was partly to blame for the attack and eventually sparked a lawsuit. According to first mate Shane Murphy, he had no qualms about how heroic he and Phillips were in the movie. Of course, would anyone have a problem with being portrayed in such a positive light?


While the start of Fargo asserts that the events of the film were real, the Coen brothers attest that the whole move is false. The story of a kidnapping plot that turns into a triple homicide actually stems from two different true stories. One story involved a General Motors employee who defrauded the company and the other crime inspired the wood chipper scene in which a body is dumped. The Coens fused these and other stories into their own original dissection of America for this funny masterpiece.

Related: Is The Coen Brothers Movie Fargo Based On A True Story?


Although 300 Spartans faced 300,000 Persians, the film 300 left out the additional 7,000 Greeks who aided the small force in the epic battle. Spartans are highly unlikely to enter battle wearing only leather straps and armor other than a shield. Another inaccuracy is that Leonidas uses the term “boy lovers” to emasculate Xerxes’ messengers. During this time, same-sex relationships were actually compulsory.

The pursuit of happiness

The pursuit of happiness tells a heartwarming and inspiring story about perseverance, but left out less than inspiring moments. Unlike the movie, Chris Gardner (Will Smith) didn’t invest his own money in handheld scanners but was employed by a company that sold them. The film’s narrative also puts Gardner in a positive light as a man of character, but did not mention that his arrest stemmed from domestic violence and not parking tickets. There was also a period when Gardner’s girlfriend, not Gardner, was granted custody of his son because he could not provide financial support. Gardner also didn’t solve a Rubik’s Cube, but Smith learned to do it for the movie. Essentially, the “true story” is reminiscent of most working-class people, struggling to stay alive and take care of their families, except this one locks into the rare happy story.

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