It’s not easy to make history movies based on historical events. Filmmakers must strike a delicate balance between engrossing storytelling and historical accuracy. Cram in so many historical details that the story suffers and everyone but the people who love history the most will ignore or bash you and your movie won’t make any money. But with so much history sacrificed to make the story work, no one is going to praise your movie without explaining what went wrong. Plus, know-it-alls on the Internet will denigrate you for losing even one epaulettes on an officer’s uniform.
In general, the advice is to be as accurate as possible without compromising the story. After all, this is not a documentary. Most people are willing to forgive minor mistakes if the film is made well and sincerely. In the end, no one (well, almost no one) really expects historical accuracy beyond what the story demands.
But every once in a while, you get a movie that goes all out to capture the vaguest, most overlooked details of history. While history movies don’t always need that kind of attention to detail, you have to respect that kind of dedication and appreciation of history. So which history movies are the most authentic? We’ve taken the liberty of gathering 11 of the best; Those that hit the sweet spot of realism and viewability. Note: This isn’t an exhaustive list, so don’t worry if you don’t see your favorite history movies based on real events here (notable runners-up include Boots, Waterloo, and Jesse James Assassinated by coward Robert Ford).