For reasons unbeknownst to most logical human beings, moviegoers will soon be “treated” to Pompeii, a historical epic from Paul W.S. Anderson, the man who delivered such modern masterpieces as Resident Evil and The Three Musketeers. For fans of Kit Harington’s chiseled abs, the film may prove to be well-worth shelling out a extra few dollars for 3D, but for the rest of us, Pompeii will likely hold little more than a few eye-catching explosions and a heaping of laughable moments instantly questionable by any of us who can point Italy out on a map. Even die-hard Anderson fans may be turned off once they realize that Milla Jovovich is nowhere to be found and, even if she was, it would be really, really hard for her to punch, kick and shoot her way through millions of tons of volcanic ash.
And so, there’s no better time to remind ourselves that Anderson is just the latest director serving up a cinematic tribute to historical inaccuracy. Hollywood has a bad habit of pillaging history textbooks in search of exciting, blockbuster-ready tales, but whenever the truth is dry enough to conjure up soporific high school memories, moviemakers are also more than happy to adjust/tweak/flagrantly disregard the events they’re ostensibly meant to be transcribing in celluloid.
Every one of the movies on this list took some serious liberties with their source material, some more successfully than others, but this is not the place to critique quality. I’m completely aware that historical accuracy was not the intended target of most of these movies, but their inability to get seemingly simple historical facts right is also damnably frustrating. For this list, we’ll be adhering to the Joe Friday school of thought: namely, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” Or, as is the case with many of our picks, the lack thereof.