What These So-Called "True Stories" Get Wrong

Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Biopics rarely feature "just the facts." But audiences often consider such films to be 100% nonfiction. Whether the movie covers a little-known historical figure or a major celeb, it's likely viewers are being introduced to the subject through the Oscar-bait film they inspired.

A "based on true events" caveat, it turns out, grants you a lot of leeway. Directors can mess around with timelines. They can make their star seem more or less likable than the IRL person they're portraying, and even invent characters to move the plot along.

Here are some recent biopics that didn't stick to the whole truth. Choices were often made to create dramatic tension. And if the awards these flicks racked up are any indication, those decisions paid off.
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The Social Network (2010)
Aaron Sorkin definitely took some poetic license when he chronicled Mark Zuckerberg's college days and the start of Facebook. Zuckerberg himself said during a 2014 Q&A that Sorkin "made up a bunch of stuff that I found kind of hurtful." The founder also pointed out one specific detail that the film got wrong — he wasn't smarting from a breakup when he created the site; he was in a relationship with the woman who would become his wife, Priscilla Chan.
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Steve Jobs (2015)
The emotional arc of this film depends on Jobs' relationship with his daughter Lisa, who appears to be his only child. But Jobs married in the early-'90s, and had three more children. Though Lisa didn't comment on the film, she did grant an interview to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who called her "the heroine of the movie."
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The Imitation Game (2014)
The biggest alteration from the truth, according to Andrew Hodges’ biography of Alan Turing, is in the portrayal of Turning's personality. While in the film Turning is painfully socially awkward, the real-life mathematician was well liked and had no trouble making friends or showing emotion.
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The King's Speach (2010)
The drama in this movie, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, is fueled by the king's intense stutter and animosity among members of the royal family. According to historian Andrew Roberts, the monarch's stutter wasn't that pronounced, and his family life was way more harmonious than is portrayed in the film.
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Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Frank's lonely check-ins with the FBI agent desperate to catch him? Pure fiction. "Why would I do that?" the real Frank Abagnale asked USA Today. "I didn't want the FBI to know where I was."
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The Iron Lady (2011)
The powerful opening scene that shows an elderly, addled Thatcher alone in a British shop would be impossible. Like former presidents, Thatcher had a security detail, even years after she left office, that would have accompanied her everywhere she went.
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Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Though the movie seems to end with Walt Disney and Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers as reluctant besties, there was still tension even after the film's big premiere in 1964. Travers wasn't completely satisfied with the way Mary Poppins turned out, but when she asked for changes to be made before the movie got a wide release, she was dismissed.
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