Let’s face it: as much as I love watching historical TV and movies, it’s rare to find ones that are actually accurate to history. Whether the creators changed a little bit or a lot (I’m looking at you, Reign!), it’s almost impossible to find a show that is really close to reality.
So today I wanted to count down my favorite historically accurate shows, whether on TV or in movies.
Growing up, this series was one of my favorites, starring Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen, Jeff Daniels, Sam Elliot, and a whole bunch of other amazing actors. As the name suggests, it tells the story of the bloodiest battle during the Civil War in America, and possibly the bloodiest one in history up until World War I.
Sitting at over four hours in length, it is quite long. But the creators did a great job researching the costumes, accurate battle scenes, etc. In fact, the scenes were shot on the same battlefields as in real life and many of the extra soldiers were Civil War re-enactors. This miniseries is my personal favorite Civil War film.
A Night to Remember (1958)—Movie
As much as a lot of people love James Cameron’s Titanic from 1997, it takes a lot of liberties with history. If you want a more accurate portrayal of the infamous sinking of the Titanic, you’ve got to check out 1958’s A Night to Remember, starring Kenneth More, Ronald Allan, and Honor Blackman.
Not only did the director try to make the movie as accurate as possible, some of the survivors were consulted to help with the project. Though the movie isn’t perfect, they certainly tried their best to make it as close as possible with the knowledge they had at the time. For example, in the movie the ship sinks in one piece, not two as what really happened. However, at that time no one knew the ship sunk in two pieces.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)—Movie
This pretty accurate portrayal of Pearl Harbor from both the American and Japanese sides is really long for a movie (about two and a half hours), but well worth sitting through. What I find most interesting about this movie is that it is two movies spliced into one—one filmed in Japan by an entirely Japanese cast and crew, and another one filmed in America by an entirely American cast and crew. Not only that, but the film studios actually picked actors who were unknown to put more emphasis on the story instead of the celebrities.
While it’s not perfectly accurate (for example, some ships looked different in real life, and stuff like that), it’s probably the best Pearl Harbor movie out there.
Hatfields and McCoys (2012)—Miniseries
This History channel mini-drama follows a feud between the real life Hatfield and McCoy families during the late 1800s. While perhaps it does stray from accuracies in the details, the majority of the story is pretty well-researched. One of the producers, Darrel Fetty, said that the story was “as accurate as possible” while still fitting everything into a six-hour miniseries. So not perfect, but close.
It’s probably my least favorite mention on this list, just because I’m not a huge fan of westerns, but it’s still a pretty accurate portrayal of life during that time and place, so it you enjoy old-west type shows, you’ll probably love this one.
John Adams (2008)—Miniseries
Starring Paul Giamatti brilliantly playing the show’s namesake, this seven episode series tells the life of John Adams, a Founding Father America and the second president of the United States. It is a little slow-moving at times, and there are some historical inaccuracies (you can find a lot of these on Wikipedia if you search the series), but it’s still one of the most accurate depictions of this era in American history.
It’s the longest entry on my list, so be prepared for hours of endless talks and historical scenes. I struggled to get through it because it is quite boring in places, but if you like slower dramas, you’ll love this.
What are some of your favorite historical movies/shows? Are they particularly accurate? And how important is historical accuracy to you in film? Let me know down in the comment, follow my blog for more posts like this, and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,