Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 History Movies That Mostly Get It Right


8
"Gettysburg"
While "Gettysburg" won acclaim for its historical accuracy, not everyone was pleased with Martin Sheen's (left) portrayal of Robert E. Lee. New Line Cinema/Getty Images
While "Gettysburg" won acclaim for its historical accuracy, not everyone was pleased with Martin Sheen's (left) portrayal of Robert E. Lee. New Line Cinema/Getty Images

Depicting the most important battle in United States history, "Gettysburg" is an epic, four-and-a-half-hour film released in 1993. It was originally designed for television but appeared briefly in theaters thanks to the backing of media mogul Ted Turner. The movie was financially unsuccessful, but it accurately captured many aspects of the important battle.

The filmmakers got permission to shoot on the actual battlefield, employed several historical advisers and had no shortage of volunteer Civil War re-enactors willing to bring their own historically accurate costumes. The movie also featured spot-on performances by Jeff Daniels as J.L. Chamberlain and Sam Elliott as John Buford. Historians praised the scene depicting a Confederate artillery assault on Cemetery Ridge [source: Flagel]. The scenes leading up to and depicting Pickett's Charge also impressed historians with their accuracy [source: Wittenberg].

Director Robert Maxwell based this detailed film on Michael Shaara's novel "The Killer Angels." And Maxwell stayed fiercely faithful to the book, but unfortunately it contained some inaccuracies that Maxwell used in his film. In addition, historians didn't appreciate Martin Sheen's portrayal of Robert E. Lee. The film also lacks realistic violence, which is a common problem with historical war movies. But it's also a forgivable problem: Graphic violence drives away viewers who can't stomach it. This was a risk that filmmakers took with the next movie in our list.