As I was writing up the latest Robin Hood casting news, it occurred to me that Ridley Scott's film will undoubtedly play fast and loose with the Plantagenets. (A historical film that alters the facts? No!) I decided I didn't care -- for now, anyway.

When it comes to historical films, I'm maddeningly hot and cold. There are films I forgive even the most glaring errors because the story (real and cinematically whitewashed) is good, or because it spurred me into research I never recovered from. Braveheartand 300both fall into that category, as does Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra.

Then there are films that leave me furious, such as Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth, which is just so inaccurate as to be bizarre. Actually, films dealing with the Tudors in general tend to infuriate me (I'm looking at you, The Other Boleyn Girl), possibly because it's so well documented and because the real story is far more interesting than any soapy fiction they throw in. But even here I'm not to be trusted -- Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age is full of fiction and clunky symbolism, but it's the very definition of "guilty pleasure" for me because of the ruffs, the Armada, and oh-my-God-Clive-Owen-in-a-doublet. The same goes for Showtime's The Tudors, which has really impressed me by continuing past poor Anne Boleyn, and into Henry's really terrifying years.
On the other hand, Kingdom of Heaven is one I couldn't forgive even in its director's cut. Everyone has a factual sticking point with this one, and for me it was a medieval character openly doubting his faith in the heart of Jerusalem. I'm not sure why I can't excuse that anachronism when I overlook so many others, but I think it's because it's trying so hard to make a modern parallel instead of letting them happen naturally. There's a reason why "history repeats itself" is a catchphrase, after all, and even the thickest audience member is probably going to catch on.

As someone who nearly went all the way in the field of history, I should have a firmer stance on this topic, tossing out Gladiator as easily as I snub The Other Boleyn Girl. But I can't -- and that's where I'll hand the topic off to you -- which are the historical films you can forgive, and which are the ones you can't? Which ones are perfect? And when it comes to inaccuracies, where do you draw the line?
categories Cinematical