Still from 'Gladiator'
IMDB | DreamWorks Pictures

Movies Based On True Stories That Won Oscars Even Though The Real Truth Didn't Match Up

Movie magic has a way of transforming real-world stories into big screen spectacles. There's just something about watching a movie that's based on a true story that gives it more oomph than a fictional story.

The only problem? A lot of the time, they're based loosely on a true story. Very loosely, in fact. These movies are, in fact, based on true stories — even if the real truth doesn't always line up.

'The Theory of Everything'

Still from 'The Theory of Everything'
IMDB | Working Title Films

In order to put a Hollywood shine on the film, The Theory of Everything shows Stephen Hawking maintaining a friendly relationship with his ex-wife, Jane. The real-life version was different, though: they went through a bitter divorce and Hawking's next marriage was marred by allegations of abuse.

'12 Years a Slave'

Still from '12 Years a Slave'
IMDB | Fox Searchlight Pictures

12 Years a Slave has a triumphant ending with slave Solomon Northup escaping and finding freedom. But the ugly truth of the story is that there's no record of him after he disappeared. The last time he'd disappeared, he was made a slave again, so it's possible that this happened once again.


Gif from 'Titanic'
Giphy |

William Murdoch, first officer on the ship, is shown as a cruel, incompetent bumbler in the film, killing passengers and sending off lifeboats well below their capacity. This portrayal was invented out of whole cloth, angering his family and prompting execs to issue an apology.

'Steve Jobs'

Still from 'Steve Jobs'
IMDB | Universal Pictures

In death, Steve Jobs is remembered as the savior of Apple. It's true that he oversaw the company during its rise, but he also nearly bankrupted the company before any of that happened, and was called a "petulant brat" by those who knew him.

'Bridge of Spies'

Still from 'Bridge of Spies'
IMDB | Walt Disney Studios

To increase the drama in Bridge of Spies, pilot Gary Powers is shown enduring torture at the hands of his Russian guards. The real-world version of the story is less compelling: Powers wasn't actually tortured, and spent most of his time in prison knitting rugs.

'The Sound of Music'

Gif from 'The Sound of Music'
Giphy |

It goes without saying that a musical based on a true story is going to take some liberties with the truth. The actual Von Trapp family has tried for years to set the record straight, saying that their father was a kind man, not the angry grump shown in the film.

'The Danish Girl'

Still from 'The Danish Girl'
IMDB | Focus Features

Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Einar Wegener and later Lili Elbe generated significant Oscar buzz. In the movie, Redmayne's wife is shown to leave him for another man. But in reality, she wasn't into men at all. Some sources say she lived "openly as a lesbian."

'The Blind Side'

Still from 'The Blind Side'
IMDB | Warner Bros. Pictures

The Blind Side is based on a true story, but it's been misrepresented in order to make for a more compelling film. The real-life Michael Oher was already attending the same school as the Tuohy children and he had no reluctance to tackle opponents on the football field.

'Erin Brockovich'

Gif from 'Erin Brockovich'
Giphy |

To provide that Hollywood catharsis, the end of Erin Brockovich shows all of the plaintiffs joyously celebrating the verdict. The real-life plaintiffs weren't so happy, however, particularly after Brockovich and her firm took more than their share of the compensation money.


Still from 'Argo'
IMDB | Warner Bros. Pictures

Like so many other Hollywood stories, in Argo, it's the U.S. government that ultimately saves the day. In reality, though, it was Canada that pulled off basically the whole operation. According to Jimmy Carter, the sitting president at the time, Canada was responsible for at least 90 percent of the rescue.

'The Last King of Scotland'

Still from 'The Last King of Scotland'
IMDB | Fox Searchlight Pictures

This film looks at at the dictatorship of Idi Amin and his relationship with Dr. Nicholas Garrigan. While Idi Amin most certainly existed, the doctor most definitely didn't, and even the scenes that were inspired by real-life events were often bogus.

'A Beautiful Mind'

Gif from 'A Beautiful Mind'
Giphy |

A climactic moment in A Beautiful Mind — the scene where John Nash accepts the Nobel Prize and thanks his wife — never actually happened because Nash wasn't allowed to speak at the ceremony because organizers were nervous about his mental condition.


Still from 'Amadeus'
IMDB | Orion Pictures

If you've seen Amadeus, you know how it goes: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has a rivalry with Salieri, who winds up (probably) killing him. However, there's no historical basis for this plotline, and most historians say that the real-life relationship between the two was probably more of a friendly rivalry.


Still from 'Hoosiers'
IMDB | Orion Pictures

Hoosiers is one of the best underdog stories out there...if you believe the movie's plot. It portrays the scrappy basketball team at Milan High School on their run to Indiana's state tournament. The team wasn't such an underdog in real life, though. Most of the players on the roster were there when Milan went to the state semifinals the previous year.

'Catch Me if You Can'

Gif from 'Catch Me if You Can'
Giphy |

Much of the charm of Catch Me if You Can revolves around the cat-and-mouse game between grifter Frank Abagnale and the FBI agent played by Tom Hanks. This was all movie fluff, though, as Abagnale had no such relationship with any federal agents. In fact, Hanks' character was completely made up.

'Hotel Rwanda'

Still from 'Hotel Rwanda'
IMDB | MGM Distribution Co.

Was Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, really the hero he's portrayed as in the movie? While he's shown to be a saint in the film, survivors who were there say that he was actually exploiting his hotel guests, leading more than one person to call the film "bunk."

'The Revenant'

A bearded, snow-frosted Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant'
IMDb | Twentieth Century Fox

Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of frontiersman Hugh Glass is incredible, but the movie made up a few details: the real-life version of Glass didn't have a son, which means that the plotline of Glass seeking revenge against the men who murdered his son was completely made up.

'Dallas Buyers Club'

Still from 'Dallas Buyers Club'
IMDB | Focus Features

Dallas Buyers Club takes place at a time when HIV and AIDS weren't as well understood, so it makes sense that Matthew McConaughey's Ron Woodroof would try different medications. In reality, not only did these drugs not fight AIDS, they could literally kill people.


Still from 'Sully'
IMDB | Warner Bros. Pictures

The true story of "Sully" Sullenberger landing a plane on the Hudson River is compelling, but short: the whole thing took place in the span of a few hours. To extend the runtime, the movie manufactured a conflict with the NTSB, when in reality the NTSB was on Sully's side the whole time.


Still from 'Gladiator'
IMDB | DreamWorks Pictures

We all remember how Gladiator goes: Maximus / Russell Crowe escapes death in the gladiatorial arena and eventually exacts his revenge on Emperor Commodus by killing him in the arena. In reality, Commodus was indeed killed — but he was murdered in the bathtub by a different man, and was honored in death.