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10 History Movies That Mostly Get It Right


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"Apollo 13"
Very little drama had to be invented to depict the story of the Apollo 13 astronauts. Universal/Getty Images
Very little drama had to be invented to depict the story of the Apollo 13 astronauts. Universal/Getty Images

Praised by critics, audiences and historians alike, "Apollo 13" (1995) stands out as one of the most successful films that is also historically accurate. It recounts the harrowing journey of the Apollo 13 astronauts who never made it to their destination on the moon and were lucky to return to Earth alive.

Director Ron Howard studied the mission's footage and transcripts to ensure historical accuracy. The film's actors spent time with the people they were portraying and made sure to not only get the dialogue right but also the inflection [source: Middleton]. The launch scene recreates the spectacle accurately from NASA footage.

But beyond accurately recounting the mission itself, Howard also succeeds in the arguably more difficult tasks of setting the wider historical context and portraying personal emotions. In the scenes leading up to the failed mission, Howard sums up the mood of a nation now bored with moon landings and questioning the legitimacy of space exploration. And amid the uncertainty over the astronauts' fate, Howard artfully depicts the anguish their families are experiencing.

Howard did invent some drama on the spaceship that never happened, however, when he included a scene in which the astronauts argue and blame one another.

Despite this, Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott, who helped advise Howard on set, praised the film, saying, "t'll go into the records as being a source of accurate data in the future" [source: Middleton].