Unbelievable Scenes From Historical Movies That Actually Happened
Most of us know that movies based on historical events are never completely accurate. However, it's easy for a film lover to become jaded and assume that every sensational moment in a historical movie was dreamt up by a screenwriter. Sometimes history is already shocking enough and so full of extreme human behavior that the filmmakers don't need to exaggerate. There are several filmmakers that go the extra mile to make sure everything is historically accurate.
Mess Attendant Doris Miller Really Did Take Down Several Japanese Planes At Pearl Harbor
Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Doris Miller in the film Pearl Harbor. When Miller joined the Navy, Black men were only allowed to serve in the Messman branch, which included beings bellhops, chambermaids, and dishwashers. On the day of the attacks, Miller was doing laundry, but upon hearing the chaos outside, he went above deck, and without orders or training, he commandeered a second gun and shot down multiple Japanese Zeros.
He then returned below deck and pulled the sailors out of the burning water. He was one of the last three sailors to abandon ship and was the first Black sailor to receive the Navy Cross. The film Pearl Harbor and Cuba Gooding Jr. depicted the event accurately.
Bruno Gaido Really Did Take Down A Bomber And Get Promoted
The scene from 2019's film Midway depicts the 1942 raid on the Marshall Islands by Japanese bombers. The scene shows Bruno Gaido taking down a bomber and getting promoted. Gaido did actually leave his duty station and take down the enemy place, which was something he wasn't even trained for.
Gaido's nephew, Mike Bortolotti, stated that the exaggerated way you see it in the movie is really the way it happened. Admiral William Halsey witnessed Gaido's heroism and summoned him to the bridge, and promoted him two ranks to Aviation Machinists' Mate First Class.
Abraham Lincoln's Letter Read In Saving Private Ryan Was Real
In the film Saving Private Ryan, many scenes were not based on a true story but were inspired by real events and real people. However, the Bixby Letter that General Marshall reads is the words that Lincoln wrote.
It reads: Dear Madam, I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. Yours, very sincerely and Respectfully.
Hugh Glass Really Did Survive A Bear Mauling, Like In The Revenant
The harrowing bear attack in the film The Revenant is riveting cinema, but many thought that an adult male managing to fend off a five-hundred-pound mother grizzly and then taking it out with a hunting knife seemed a little farfetched.
However, this actually happened to frontier woodsman Hugh Glass. In 1823, he went on an expedition, and while alone, he came across a mother grizzly and two cubs. The bear charged and mauled him, and he eventually defeated the bear by pulling out a hunting knife. He did end up severely injured, like DiCaprio's character in the movie.
The Elderly Couple That Chose To Go Down With The Titanic Together Were Real
The Titanic is based on the real-life sinking of the Titanic in 1912. They personalized the tragedy by using real-life stories from that day and night. Hundreds and thousands of people perished on the Titanic, including an elderly couple.
The couple gave up their seats on a lifeboat and were seen holding each other in bed while the ship went down. A version of that scene really did happen for the couple Isidor and Ida Straus. They were first-class passengers that refused a seat on the lifeboat so that a young woman and her child could have it.
The 'Head In A Vise" Scene From Casino Really Happened
In the film Casino, there is a scene where a violent mob enforcer is interrogating a hitman named Tony Diggs. Diggs had shot up a Vegas mob bar and killed three people, and the mob enforcer wanted to know if he worked alone.
However, Diggs insults him, so he puts Diggs' head in a vise. He refuses to talk even as the vice tightens. A version of the scene did happen in real life, with mobster Anthony John Spilotro interrogating Billy McCarthy in a similar brutal way.
Chris Kyle Actually Did Take Out An Enemy From Over A Mile Away Like In American Sniper
American Sniper is a film based on Chris Kyle and his story. Some events were exaggerated for storytelling purposes, but the Navy SEAL sniper really did manage to take out an enemy from more than a mile away.
He made a twenty-one hundred-yard shot, which was his longest confirmed kill. In real life, Kyle shot an enemy insurgent who was aiming a rocket launcher at American troops. In the film, he shoots the man that killed one of his friends.
Howard Hughes Actually Crash Landed In Beverly Hills As The Aviator Depicts
In the film The Aviator and in real life, the Hughes Aircraft Company received two contracts to design new planes for the war. However, the conflict ended before the planes were completed, and the contracts were canceled. Hughes still completed the development of his XF-11 spy plane and took it on its first test flight in 1946.
The flight was supposed to be twenty minutes long, but he changed his mind and took a longer flight around the LA Basin. He ran into issues, and the plane started to plummet. He tried to land on a golf course but crashed into three Beverly Hills homes. He was left with a crushed collarbone, six broken ribs, third-degree burns on his hands, and lung damage.
Johnny Cash Did Spontaneously Propose To June Carter Onstage
The film Walk the Line is based on the life and career of Johnny Cash. It also tells the love story of Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash. The moment when Johnny proposed to June onstage in the middle of their performance of "Jackson."
She, of course, said yes, and that whole scene actually happened while the two were onstage in London, Ontario, in 1968. The two married one week later in Kentucky.
Xanadu From Citizen Kane Is An Exaggerated Depiction Of William Randolph Hearst's Actual Estate
The main character, Charles Foster Kane, in the 1942 film Citizen Kane is fictional, but the film was inspired by real events. Kane was based on newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. In the film, Kane has a pleasure palace, Xanadu, where he lives in isolation after his political career failed.
Hearst also had his own pleasure palace that was just as luxurious, and people can even visit it today. He built the Hearst Castle on two hundred and fifty thousand acres of land in California and spared no expense on the estate.
Tommy From Goodfellas Really Did Whack A Fellow Crew Member Over An Insult
The film Goodfellas has a scene based on Tommy DeVito, who takes out an underling for basically no reason. In the film, the character takes out a man for forgetting to bring him a drink and then later stands up for himself.
In real life, mobster DeSimone antagonized the guy named Spider, shot him in the foot, and then whacked him. DeSimone was a real psychopath, and the film did a good job portraying him.
William Wallace Really Was Executed As Theatrically As Braveheart Portrays
Braveheart is known for a lot of inaccuracies, but the depiction of William Wallace's execution was very similar to what really happened. In the film, William is sentenced to public execution unless he admits to treason against the king.
The real William was sentenced to be hanged, disemboweled, beheaded, and quartered. That is indeed what actually happened and his death really was that theatrical.
Danny Porush Really Swallowed A Goldfish Just Like in The Wolf Of Wall Street
In the film The Wolf of Wall Street, actor Jonah Hill plays the character Donnie Azoff and eats a live goldfish. The character is based on Danny Porush, the co-founder and ex-president of Stratton Oakmont.
Porush actually swallowed a live goldfish, just like in the film. Porush ran a pump-and-dump stock fraud scheme in the 1990s and was convicted of securities fraud and money laundering at the Stratton Oakmont brokerage.
Mary Jackson Really Did Need To Get Special Permission To Attend Classes
The film Hidden Figures is about three African American mathematicians who worked at NASA and were a part of getting astronaut John Glenn into orbit. There is a scene in the movie where Mary Jackson petitions a judge in a segregated courtroom to allow her to attend an all-white school.
She wants to become an engineer. She is eventually granted permission, and the event actually happened, allowing Mary to take classes in a non-segregated school.
The Renault Type CB Coupe De Ville On The Titanic
In the film Titanic, the romantic storylines of Jack and Rose are fiction, but there are many parts of the movie that really happened. One of the scenes that are based on real events is when we see the 1912 Renault Type CB Coupe de Ville.
We see it at the beginning of the film and then again when Jack and Rose stumble upon the automobile in the ship's cargo hold. It is the only known automobile that was on the Titanic, and it belonged to William Carter. Carter bought the vehicle while traveling to Europe; he and his family survived the Titanic disaster.
Omaha Beach In Saving Private Ryan
Omaha Beach was a big part of the Normandy Invasion in 1944. The Omaha Beach Scene in the film Saving Private Ryan was so accurate that the Department of Veterans Affairs had to increase staffing on its telephone counseling line in response to a surge in support needed for WWII veterans.
Spielberg didn't want to portray war as something beautiful and instead wanted the scene to appear as gritty and real as possible. The realness of the scene caused WWII veterans to relive the trauma they experienced during the war.
Black Hawk Down - Why Do They Want To Go Back To War?
Black Hawk Down is a mix of exaggerated scenes and scenes that are very accurate to what happened in real life. The speech in the film about why a man would voluntarily return to war was one of the most memorable scenes in the film. Norm Hooten is a former Delta Force soldier and the real-life basis for Bana's character.
While filming, the actors visited Hooten's team during Military Operations in Urban Terrain. Hooten said, "They asked, 'hey, why do you do this job?' You know, a lot of people ask that, but the truth of the matter is you do it because you enjoy the people you do it with, and when you're in combat, it's about the guys who are next to you, to your right and left."
Lincoln - Abraham Lincoln's Last Moments
In the film Lincoln, they included something that was very important to Abraham Lincoln, his stovepipe hat. He actually did use his hat as a briefcase, carrying around notes, speeches, and scraps of paper. You couldn't miss him in the crowd, and the film captured it perfectly.
He wore his hat most of the time. "Hats were important to Lincoln. They protected him against inclement weather, served as storage bins for important papers he stuck inside their lining, and further accentuated his great height advantage over other men."----- Harold Holzer.
The Duelists - Captain Feraud Skewers The Son Of The Mayor Of Strasburg
The film The Duelists was based on the true story of two French officers, Pierre Dupont and Francois Louis Fournier. The two were involved in seventeen duels over two decades. In the film, the names are disguised as Feraud and d'Hubert.
The opening scene shows a sword duel in an open field when Captain Feraud skewers the son of the mayor of Strasbourg. Feraud is brought to his senior officers, and he decides to challenge d'Hubert to a duel. This is all mostly accurate and really happened in 1794.
12 Years A Slave - The Argument With Edwin Epps
The film 12 Years a Slave is based on many real events. The scene where a white man is instructing Black slaves on harvesting sugar cane actually happened. Epp hired out Platt, a Black slave, each year to work on sugar cane plantations.
He was put in charge of up to one hundred slaves. He was given a whip and made to lead slave crews in the cultivation of sugar cane, and he was good at it.
Son Of Saul - Transporting Bodies From The Showers To The Crematorium
The film Son of Saul is a 2015 Hungarian historical film set in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp during World War II. The story follows Saul Auslander, a worker at the camp. The scenes showing Saul transporting bodies from the showers really did happen.
His job was to move the bodies of men, women, and children from the 'showers' to the crematorium and clean up the mess left behind. He was only allowed to live because he was given the most gruesome of tasks.
Kids Were Really On The Ships Like In Master And Commander
In the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, there were scenes that showed children on the ship. This is accurate because Aristocratic children were often sent to serve on a ship at a young age to get a head start towards command.
The children were well educated enough to handle responsibility above their age. In the film, there are a couple of boys that stand out above the rest as being brave, intelligent, and talented leaders, while other scenes show the rest of the kids learning the basics.
Downfall - Crushing Cyanide In The Children's Mouths
In the film Downfall, Magda Goebbels crushes cyanide in her children's mouths is incredibly accurate. Before doing that, she writes to her son from a previous marriage: "The world that will come after the Fuhrer and National Socialism is not worth living in, and for that reason, I have brought the children here as well."
In real life, the children were injected with morphine, but the outcome was the same, and the quote from Magda Goebbels' letter in the film is accurate.
Apollo 13 - "Houston, We Have A Problem"
The film Apollo 13 is based on the actual events of the space shuttle Apollo 13. In the film and in real life, the shuttle experiences an explosion that ruptures a line or damages a valve in the oxygen tank. Jim Lovell called mission control and said, "Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt."
The scene in the movie is very accurate, and the phrase, "Houston, we have a problem!" is a well-known phrase. The crew and NASA had to overcome many obstacles, but they all returned home.
Chapter 27 - Chapman's Interaction With Other Beatle Fans
In the film Chapter 27, John Lennon is killed by Mark David Chapman right outside of his home. Chapman waited outside of Lennon's residence for him to come out and shoot him.
There was a scene where Chapman was walking through Central Park, interacting with other Beatles fans. The scene where Chapman waits outside of the residence is depicted accurately.
Schindler's List - Goeth's Gun Jams While He Tries To Shoot Levertov Really Happened
In the film Schindler's List, there is a scene where Amon Goeth attempts to shoot Rabbi Rav Levertov after deciding he is unsuitable to continue making hinges in the factory. His pile of completed hinges was too small. He tries different pistols to execute Levertov but both misfire, and he finally gives up.
This scene actually happened where the Rabbi was thrown to the steps and had a barrel put to his head. However, the revolver got stuck and didn't fire, and after several times pulling the trigger, the gun still wouldn't fire. He pulled another gun out, and that one wouldn't fire either.
Soldiers Sing "Silent Night" In Joyeux Noel
In the film Joyeux Noel, there is a scene where soldiers from both sides of the war climb out of the trenches and begin singing "Silent Night." The British and German soldiers shook hands and played football during a short truce.
The scene really happened in 1914, but it wasn't just around Christmas; it wasn't all that often for soldiers to wave the white flag to exchange food or drink. In the early part of the war, short truces weren't uncommon so that each side could recover dead soldiers for burial.
A Priest Really Did Admit Assaulting Children Like What Was Portrayed In Spotlight
The film Spotlight follows The Boston Globe's 'Spotlight' team, which is the oldest operating newspaper investigative journalist unit. The film sees the team investigating child sexual abuse in the Boston area by several Roman Catholic priests.
In the film, there is a scene where the priest admitted to the crime. In real life, the priest did admit to being guilty, and his crimes spanned fifteen years across two different parishes.
Japanese Attacked The US Fleet In Pearl Harbor Just Like In Tora! Tora! Tora!
Tora! Tora! Tora! is a war film about the Pearl Harbor attacks. The Japanese attack involved several aircraft carriers escorted by battleships that all maintained radio silence as they sailed through the central Pacific.
The film accurately portrayed Japan's Zero fighter planes and torpedo bombers attacking the unsuspecting Pearl Harbor. The Americans are shown as being taken completely by surprise, which was absolutely correct.
Boot Camp Scene In Full Metal Jacket
Full Metal Jacket's representation of Marines in the first act of the film is mostly accurate. R. Lee Ermey is actually in the movie and was a former Marine Corps drill instructor and Vietnam veteran. The veteran repeated the things he learned during his time in the military. The Bootcamp scene was more accurate than you would think.
Ermey stated, "My main objective was basically to just play the drill instructor the way the drill instructor was and let the chips fall where they may. You can ask any drill instructor who was down there in 1965 or 1966; that's exactly how the drill instructor's demeanor was. There were no punches pulled."
Rudy Reyes In Generation Kill Was A Real Marine
Generation Kill was a miniseries movie about the US Marine Corps' 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The film actually has three former 1st Reconnaissance Marines who participated in the invasion of Iraq in it.
One of the Marines was Rudy Reyes, also affectionately referred to as Fruity Rudy. He plays himself, and his scenes are all accurate, as are the other Marines in the film.
Spartacus' Time At Gladiator School
The Spartacus film is about Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator who led a slave revolt with an army numbering in the tens of thousands. He defeated Roman forces numerous times until he was killed in battle in April 71 B.C.
A man named Vatia owned a gladiator school in Capua near Rome, and at the school, Spartacus helped organize a breakout that led to gladiators escaping armed with weapons. The scenes at the school actually happened based on historical records.
Saving Private Ryan Pays Homage To Carlos Hathcock
Saving Private Ryan has another part that is completely true, and it is where it pays homage to American sniper Carlos Hathcock. The character Daniel Jackson is based on Carlos, and he kills a German sniper by firing a shot into the German soldier's eye.
The scene actually happened during the Vietnam War, when Hathcock was being shot at by a concealed North Vietnamese Army. He caught a glimpse of the man's sniper scope and shot a round through it, killing the soldier. He is remembered as one of America's top snipers.
Captain Henrich In Das Boot Was A Real Person
The film Das Boot stars Jurgen Prochnow, whose character is based on Captain Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock. In 1941, Henrich was thirty years old and he joined the Navy in 1931, then part of the Weimar Republic.
He rose through the ranks and held the position of captain for two U-boats. The scenes depicting Captain Henrich were done accurately according to historical records.
Stalingrad - The Duel Between Soviet Sniper And His German Counterpart
Stalingrad has a scene where there is a duel between Soviet sniper Vasiliy Zaitsev and his German counterpart, Major Erwin Konig. This duel really did take place during the Stalingrad battle.
It is history's bloodiest confrontation and drastically changed the course of World War II. The Red Army launched a counteroffensive, encircling hundreds of thousands of German troops.
General Hancock Is Seen Riding Up To The Irish Brigade As Father Corby Is Giving The Men Absolution In Gettysburg
The scene in Gettysburg where General Hancock is seen riding up to the Irish Brigade as Father Corby is giving the men absolution. This scene is accurately depicting what really happened. It was the first time that general absolution was granted to soldiers going into battle.
Just like in the scene, Father Corby called for attention and granted absolution. All of the men knelt on the grass. Colonel St. Clair Mulholland stated, "there was a profound silence, yet over to the left, out by the Peach Orchard and Little Round Top, the roar of battle rose and swelled and re-echoed through the woods."
My Best Friend Anne Frank - Pick-Goslar Risked Both Of Their Lives To Help Her Friend
The film My Best Friend Anne Frank is the recollection of events by Pick-Goslar. Pick was great friends with Anne, and after being arrested and sent to Bergen-Belsen, she learned Anne was on the other side of the fence and was desperately frail.
She risked her life to try and help her friend. The movie is very accurate about the events between Pick and Anne. Sadly, Anne died just weeks before they were liberated, and Pick survived.
Hidden Figures - John Glenn Really Did Ask For The Numbers To Be Checked Again
Hidden Figures has a scene where astronaut John Glenn personally requests that Katherine Johnson double-check the numbers generated by the IBM computer for his launch. Chief NASA historian Bill Barry said that the real Glenn actually did that.
Barry stated, “Johnson matched the computer’s results exactly. He called in well before the launch. The fact that Johnson and the computer generated matching results both reassured those involved and proved that the critical computer software was reliable.”
In Argo And Real Life, The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Hire Carpet Weavers To Piece Together Shredded Documents From The American Embassy
The film Argo has scenes where the Iranian Revolutionary Guards hire carpet weavers to piece together shredded documents from the American Embassy. In order to hide the identities of the Americans inside the U.S. Embassy, the workers shredded documents so they couldn't be tracked down.
In the film, student Islamic militants pieced the documents back together, and it was portrayed in the film almost exactly like it happened in real life.
The King's Speech - King George Really Did Have An Abusive Nanny
In the film The King's Speech, King George VI tells his speech therapist about an abusive nanny. Charles Carlton, a history professor, stated that the king's tale about the anonymous nanny was based on his real childhood experiences.
The young prince was forced to write with his right hand rather than his dominant left and to wear painful leg braces to "strengthen his knocked knees."
The Titanic Scene Where A Wealthy Passenger Turns Down The Life Jacket Really Happened
Another part that they got right in the film Titanic is the scene in which a wealthy passenger and his valet turn down life jackets in favor of dying "as gentlemen."
The older man was Mr. Benjamin Guggenheim, and the younger man was Victor Giglio. The two men got dressed in their finest suits, and Guggenheim really did say they wanted to die as gentlemen.
In The Film Harriet, Harriet Threatens A Group Of Escaped Slaves With A Gun, Which Happened In Real Life
In the film Harriet, Harriet Tubman threatens a group of escaped slaves who are too scared to cross a river with a gun. That scene did really happen as Tubman did actually carry guns while operating as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
She carried for "both protection and intimidation for slaves who dangerously got cold feet mid-run. The 'you be free or die' line can also be traced back to the real-life Tubman." ----- Historian.
The Neighborhood Kids Really Did Serenade Mr. Rogers
In the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, there is a scene where the kids on the subway serenade Mr. Rogers with the theme song from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
The scene was based on a real event, and the kids really did sing for Mister Rogers. Most of the schoolchildren were Black and Latino, and they made Mister Rogers very happy. Mister Rogers was loved by kids all over the world.
The Jalebi Scene In Lion Really Happened
There is a scene in the film Lion where Saroo flashes back to his childhood while he was eating jalebi, which is an Indian sweet. The scene is based on the real Saroo Brierley's experiences. Saroo stated, "What happens in the jalebi scene; that's actually what happened. They're expensive and were a delicacy for us to have."
The film is a true story about how Brierley was separated from his family and how twenty-five years later, he sets out to find them.
Belfort Actually Demanded The Captain Sail His Yacht Through The Storm Just Like In The Wolf Of Wall Street
Another scene in The Wolf of Wall Street that is based on real life is when Jordan Belfort demands that the captain of his yacht sail through a storm. His request ultimately led to the boat sinking.
This scene really happened; the yacht was originally owned by Coco Chanel, and it sunk off the coast of Italy after Belfort insisted on sailing through very unsafe conditions.
A Plane Really Did Fly Over The Rugby Stadium Bearing The Message "Good Luck Bokke" As Was Portrayed In Invictus
The film Invictus is about a South African rugby union team. In a scene, a plane bearing the message "Good Luck Bokke" flies low over the stadium before the climactic final rugby match.
The stunt did really happen with a Boeing 747, piloted by Laurie Kay and a small crew. She was joined by Mandela and said she was "charmed by Mandela's gracious manner." The stunt was said to have electrified tens of thousands of fans.
Alan Really Did Purpose To Joan Just Like In The Imitation Game
In the film The Imitation Game, Alan Turing proposed to Joan Clarke and then ended their engagement not long after. In real life, Clarke did have a nonchalant response when he told her about his homosexuality.
In a 1992 BBC documentary, Clarke said, "Naturally, that worried me a bit because I did know that was something which was almost certainly permanent, but we carried on."
Walt Disney Really Did Make A Promise To Adapt Marry Poppins Into A Movie Just As He Did In Saving Mr. Banks
In the film Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney tells P.L. Travers that he will adapt her Mary Poppins book into a movie because of a promise he made to his two young daughters twenty years prior.
This really happened when in the early 1940s, Disney promised his daughter Diane that he would make the movie Mary Poppins into a big-screen masterpiece. However, it took him much longer than he expected.
The Burning Of Darien, Georgia In The Film Glory, Really Happened
The film Glory has a lot of scenes that aren't historically accurate, but one of the most accurate scenes is the burning of Darien, Georgia, on June 11, 1863. Shaw and his men, along with Colonel James Montgomery, did set fire to the town.
However, Shaw's relationship with Montgomery was much more complex than that written. The burning of the city was very accurate in the movie.