300: The movie based on the graphic novel loosely based on the Battle of Thermopylae, the most unfair fight in the history of history.
The main point in the movie (obviously) is that there were 300 Spartan soldiers, which is true because there were 300 (Spartan) soldiers. The part the movie neglected to mention however was that they formed an alliance with other Greek City States and their side actually numbered closer to 7000. They turn down an alliance with the Arcadians in the movie because they weren't badass enough warriors to fight amongst Spartans. Some historians alleged that there were around 200 000 Persians. They were insanely outnumbered.
The battle began because Persia wanted to own the entire world because Asia Minor, Lydia, Judah, Mesopotamia, and freaking Egypt was not enough for them. The Spartans, knowing that they stood no chance against such a massive army had to come up with a plan to delay Xerxes while Athenians desperately built up their navy. Relying on their brilliant war tactics, they came up with a plan to send a force to fight the Persian's at hopeless odds, to sacrifice themselves, one by one, until they were all dead. For the greater good. Their little army did well for itself, they blocked off the only road the Persian army could pass, forcing them to enter through a narrow passage where their huge numbers meant nothing.
Although the Persians were the ones trying to conquer Greece, the Spartans weren't as admirable as the movie portrayed them to be. They were always conquering neighbouring areas to build their slave labor, many of the soldiers who fought with them in the Battle of Thermopylae were actually slaves who were forced against their will. In fact a boys 'right of passage' was not to kill a wolf as seen in the movie, but to murder a slave because this was training in the art of evasion. Those caught before they were able to murder their unfortunate slave were severely punished for.. well, being caught.
The training in the movie was accurate, it began at birth when the baby would be thoroughly inspected to ensure it was correct size and had no deformities. If any faults were found, they would be discarded of (thrown off a freakin cliff). Their formal training began at age seven, when they were clearly too old to be coddled and ready for military training. They were taken to live in a group with other boys who were being trained and spent every day, for years enduring rigorous strength training and track events, wrestling and martial arts. They were fed the maximum amount of food needed to not die because this would teach them to steal if they didn't want to starve. If they were caught however they were punished severely. They were also punished if they failed to answer questions briefly and wittily. This explains why they were able to shut up their enemies with badass lines all the time. Many of the most memorable lines from the movie are direct quotes from historian's accounts of the events; such as:
Messenger:What makes this woman think she can speak among men?
Queen of Sparta: Because only Spartan women give birth to real men.
Persian: Spartans, lay down your weapons.
*Persian gets a spear to the chest*
King Leonidas: Persians! Come and get them!
Persian: A thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!
Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade.
Sadly the "This Is Sparta" followed by a kick into the giant pit of death probably didn't happen because they didn't really have holes in the ground for no reason. Health and safety issue.
The 'starving-constant-training-every-day' routine continued until age 12 where the boys were given one garment and no shoes to last them a year. They were then sent to live with nature, exposed to wild animals and weather to teach them survival skills. From age 13 until age 20 the boys participated in 'war games' which left many 'contestants' either dead or injured. The training would end at age 20 but they continued to live in the barracks until age 30 and were then allowed to marry, reproduce and live as a citizen. They remained in the army until age 60 when they retired. But mostly, they died.
Another strong theme in the movie is magic and freaks. Ancient Greeks and Persian's didn't know magic. Persian's probably didn't have giant freaks in chains ready to fight. They also didn't train rhinoceroses to do their bidding, as badass as that would have been, rhinos don't take kindly to that kind of thing. The only animals involved in the war were tons of horses but they were ridden, they didn't actually partake in the offense.
After a couple days of battles where the Spartans had their scantily clad asses handed to them, 'Ephialtes' (not really a hunchback who wasn't allowed to fight in the army. He probably never even met Leonidas. History tells us he was really just a jerk) informed the Persian's that there was a small path that would take them to the behind the Greek lines. Leonidas found out they were going to be outflanked and dismissed the majority of the army and remained with 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans and perhaps a few others. The battle ended with the remaining Spartans, Thespians, Thebans and slaves fighting until they were all dead.
Unfortunately the movie didn't show the real ending. The delay worked and when the Persian's attempted to conquer Athens they found that the Athenians had shipped off to the city of Salamis. Delicious. During the battle of Salamis, Xerxes took his Persians and bitched off to Asia. The following year, they Persian army and navy were beaten by the Greeks. The Persians made no more attempts to conquer Greece. Historians believe that if the Persian army had succeeded in conquering Greece and stopped their development, western civilization may not be as it is today.
So we have the brave Spartans to thank who always defeated their enemies by using their brutal military training and war tactics. Except when they didn't.