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We don't ask a lot from our movies. A nice story, maybe with some sex, violence and Batman thrown in.

But sometimes a movie comes along and takes on special meaning because it's based on a true story, and so we watch with rapt attention knowing that some real dude lived through all the awesomeness on screen. But if you're going to go with the "Based On A True Story" tag, all we ask is that you make the stories sort of, you know, true. You can do that, right?

Not if these movies are any indication.

7
The Pursuit of Happyness

The Hollywood Version:
Chris Gardner is a hard-working man with a pain-in-the-ass wife and an adorable little son boasting one of the greatest afros we've ever seen on a child. All Gardner wants to do is make enough of a living to provide for his son.

Through what we assume is black magic, he solves a Rubik's Cube in record time, wowing an employee at Dean Witter and he apparently passes the only test needed to qualify a man to become a stock broker. He toils for months, sleeping in subways and churches with his son at his side, but in the end it all pays off when he claims the one and only opening at Dean Witter, crying tears of joy and getting jiggy wit it in the streets of San Francisco.

In reality ...
Gardner did get a chance to show his stuff in the Dean Witter training program (though we're sad to report his acceptance had nothing to do with solving a colorful puzzle game). But, as the more honest book version points out, he apparently wasn't quite the father the film made him out to be.

First, he was so focused on getting a job and earning his first million that, well, he actually didn't even know where the hell his son was for the first four months of the program.

Chris, Jr. was apparently living at this point in time with his mother, Jackie. Did we mention that the boy had been conceived when Gardner was still married to another woman?

In addition, instead of being arrested just before his big interview due to parking tickets ... well, it seems that Chris was actually arrested after Jackie accused him of domestic violence.


"That's right son, you gotta keep that pimp hand strong."

Don't get us wrong, Chris did indeed get his life turned around after landing the job as a broker. There were just some things in Gardner's past that they couldn't quite bring themselves to have Will Smith do on screen. Like selling drugs (as Gardner admits he did briefly), or doing cocaine with his mistress, with little doses of PCP and a hearty helping of Mary Jane tossed in for good measure.

Adulterous sex? Cocaine? Neglecting your child for months at a time? It says something about the man that he didn't drop the pursuit, despite having pretty much found happyness already.

6
21

The Hollywood Version:
Ben Campbell is a math genius excelling at MIT, home to some of the brightest young minds on the planet as well as a really smart custodian. He catches the eye of Kevin Spacey, appearing in all of his "phoning it in" glory, who recruits young Ben for the MIT Blackjack Team. At first, it all seems harmless enough, as they play just to learn the age-old art of card counting.

Once they get good enough, Spacey whisks the team off to swingin' Las Vegas to give their new talent a try in a real world setting. Of course, things don't go quite as planned (typical), and after a severe beating at the hands of Cowboy Curtis, Ben learns some harsh lessons about life and love before tromping off to Harvard Medical School.

In reality ...
If there's anything we can learn from 21, it's that Hollywood won't give an Asian man a starring role unless it calls for someone who can do karate while getting berated by Chris Tucker.

In fact, 21 gives us perhaps the greatest whitewash in recent Hollywood history--a broad, sweeping stroke of Caucasian across the majority of the cast.

The real MIT Blackjack Team was almost totally Asian, but you'd never know that from the film. Even Kevin Spacey's character was based in part on an Asian professor, who has been known to dress like a woman in order to sneak into casinos. Apparently, a transvestite Asian math genius isn't as interesting as Spacey in the "just make sure the check clears" stage of his career.

But hey, at least they did cast a pair of Asians as members of the Blackjack Team. Naturally, in sticking with current Hollywood trends, they were made into goofy loser sidekick types, while the white kids handled all of the heavy intellectual lifting. Not since Mickey Rooney's performance in Breakfast at Tiffany's has Hollywood treated Asians with such respect and dignity.

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5
Lean On Me

The Hollywood Version:
Joe Clark is a bad man. And we mean that in the best possible way, as in "don't fuck with him." When Paterson, New Jersey's Eastside High School found itself on the brink of being taken over by the state due to piss poor test scores, Clark was brought on board as principal to right the sinking ship.

And right it he did, by fighting expelled students in the hall and throwing chains and padlocks on the doors. After all, if Joe Clark was going to go out in a blaze of glory, he was going to take as many students with him as possible. In the end, thanks to a hip new school song and the bullying ways of Principal Clark, Eastside saw a meteoric rise in its test scores and everyone celebrated by joining together in song, as inner city ruffians often do.

In reality ...
Apart from the fact that the test scores never really improved, or that state takeover had never actually been threatened, or the various ways they fudged facts just to make sure the audience was aware that Joe Clark enjoyed putting foot to ass, it's pretty close to the real story. That is to say, a man named Joe Clark did serve as principal at Eastside High for a short time at the end of the '80s.

The biggest goal of the filmmakers was apparently to make Clark as menacing as possible, giving him a bullhorn with which to more loudly crush the spirits of students and faculty alike, and having Morgan Freeman spend the entire film wearing such a fierce scowl that you'd swear someone just shit in his punchbowl.

Here's the punchline to the whole thing, though: One year after Clark resigned and less than two years after the film's release, the state came in and took control of the school. And since they weren't actually threatening to take over in the first place, we're forced to assume they got the idea from the movie.

4
Rudy

The Hollywood Version:
It seems that back in the '70s, there was a plucky little football player who dreamed of nothing other than playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Unfortunately for young Rudy, his support system consisted of people who went out of their way to point out his flaws, of which there were many, and let him know repeatedly that dreams are the main ingredient in the devil's pudding.


"Son, how many times I gotta tell you, goals are for chumps!"

Thankfully, Rudy's best friend from back home got blown right the fuck up in a freak accident, inspiring him to play football for some reason. And play he did, no thanks to the evil scheming of Notre Dame coach Dan Devine, who only allowed Rudy on the field after the entire team threatened to walk out otherwise.

In reality ...
The real life Dan Devine was actually the one who insisted on playing Rudy in his final game. Hell, even when the movie was being made, Devine gave the filmmakers permission to turn him into the film's villain in order to help Rudy, who he considered a good friend.

Devine sounds like one helluva guy, right? So naturally he was repaid for his kindnesses by being turned into the Snidely fucking Whiplash of college football (sans mustache), and forever being remembered as the crotchety coach to whom winning football games was more important than anything. Anything other than ensuring that Rudy's dream would die.


Devine was the father of the vaunted "tied to train tracks" defense

By the way, ever wonder who saw Rudy play that day and got so inspired he just had to make it into a movie? Nobody. It was Rudy himself who spent a full decade trying to convince studios that his life was so awesome it deserved a movie, before one of them finally relented. That's the spirit, little guy!

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3
Victory (AKA Escape to Victory)

The Hollywood Version:
During World War II, a group of Allied prisoners that included the unlikely trio of Pele, Michael Caine and Sly Stallone (who was between Rocky II and First Blood) spent their time in a Nazi prison camp playing soccer. The Nazis, being the clever bastards they were, came up with a can't-miss propaganda extravaganza in which a team of their best and brightest would take on this Allied side, clearly having never heard of Pele.

The Allied team accepts, hoping to use this match as a means of escape. However, once they get their perfect opportunity to escape during halftime, they choose instead to return to the pitch and try to beat the Nazis thus winning respect, rather than their freedom. It should be noted that they were relying on Stallone as their keeper. After a miraculous save by--you guessed it--Stallone, there was much rejoicing, and the Allies escape during the ensuing chaos.

In reality ...
Well, for one thing, there was no Allied team. That means no random Brazilian like Pele, that means no cheeky Brit like Caine, and that certainly means no out of place palooka like Stallone manning the net. Instead, this story is inspired by a group of Ukrainians who were forced into playing the Germans while their country was occupied during WWII.

The Nazis lost to the upstart club miserably and repeatedly, with the Ukrainians destroying them in the final match by a decisive and wholly embarrassing 8-0 score. So that's pretty inspiring, right?

Well, shortly thereafter, the Gestapo found various reasons to arrest and then torture several members of the Ukrainian team. After all, the Gestapo were assholes like that. One player died during the torture process, while the rest were shipped off to a work camp. And, well, executed.

God, that's depressing. And that's precisely why Hollywood chose to Stallone the shit out of it.

2
Good Morning, Vietnam

The Hollywood Version:
Vietnam, it would seem, was not a good time. What with all the crazy flashbacks, Forrest Gump getting shot in the ass while Willem Dafoe strikes a Jesus pose, and the ridiculous amount of protests that it inspired. How could a regular man or woman make it through without blowing their fucking brains out?

Adrian Cronauer, that's how. A radio disc jockey from Detroit, Cronauer basically told authority to stick a pickle up its ass while ranting and raving with the funniest damn shit you've ever heard, accompanied by a fantastic '60s rock and roll soundtrack, while also teaching impressionable Vietnamese citizens to curse angrily and play baseball along the way.

Cronauer, as portrayed in the movie, is a staunch anti-war liberal. Half of his rantings have to do with how ridiculous the establishment is, or why Army fashion is really awful. He told the Army to stick it repeatedly and with great emphasis, and for his troubles he was sent off to (hopefully) be killed by a commanding officer and then had his ass booted out of the Army.

In reality ...
Well, Army fashion sense notwithstanding, everything else we've mentioned is pretty much fabricated. We hate to break it to you, but it turns out that, shockingly, Adrian Cronauer's story was completely re-tooled in order to fit the manic (and pre-family friendly) comedy stylings of Robin Williams.

In reality, while Cronauer did indeed play some sweet tunes, he rarely resorted to flat out comedy bits, and in fact stated that pretty much everything Williams did in the film would have gotten his ass court-martialed. He was never booted from the military, either. No, he had a far more controversial exit: he went home when his tour was over.

As far as being a staunch anti-war liberal, all we can tell you is this: Cronauer, now a lawyer, is “lifelong card-carrying Republican” and was a vice-chairman for the 2004 Bush/Cheney re-election campaign.

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1
The Hurricane

The Hollywood Version:
The Hurricane is the story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer boasting great talent, a really sweet nickname, and a badass Bob Dylan song he inspired. The movie tells us the story of how Hurricane was a promising middleweight who was falsely accused and convicted of a triple homicide, derailing his boxing career but making him prime to be the subject of a great protest song.

Luckily, after 20 years in prison as an innocent man convicted by a bitterly racist system, three young white people from a magical land called "Canada" took up his cause and, after discovering a key piece of evidence, proved Hurricane's innocence and set him free.

In reality ...
First, there is a scene in the film where Carter beats the shit out of an inferior white boxer (Joey Giardello) only to lose when blatantly racist judges award the fight to the white man. In real life, Carter lost the fight so badly that the real Giardello sued the filmmakers over the scene and got a nice settlement out of it.

But far more disturbing is the whole murder thing. We're not saying Carter committed the crime, we'll just casually point out that by the age of 14, the Hurricane had already been arrested for assault and armed robbery. By 22, he had been imprisoned twice for "brutal street muggings." He was booted from the military after being court-martialed a whopping four times, being described as "unfit to serve." But, hey, nobody expects boxers to be model citizens. It doesn't mean he killed anyone, right?

Well, when it came to the murders, there was enough evidence to convict him twice (both times set aside due to procedural errors by the prosecution). Carter failed a lie detector test--miserably--and then was given a chance to re-take it after he'd been imprisoned for awhile. He refused. At his second trial, several witnesses who had provided Carter's alibi admitted they had been asked to lie for him.

But what about that evidence that proved his innocence? Well, there was in fact none. The judge was forced to throw out the conviction because the prosecution had failed to turn over some evidence and thus didn't give Carter a fair trial. The prosecution could have chosen to re-try the case from scratch to convict Carter a third time, but they decided it wasn't worth doing since 22 years had passed and all of the people involved were either dead or ridiculously old.

Of course the law is the law and the law said Carter could go free. But it's probably not quite accurate to use Carter's story as proof that the criminal justice system is run by the Klan. The whole thing has really made us question Bob Dylan's research skills.



For an article in which we call bullshit on more of your favorite flicks, check out 11 Movies Saved by Historical Inaccuracy or our look at 5 Things Hollywood Thinks Computers Can Do.
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