Using fictional main characters, "Pearl Harbor" (2001) depicts the dramatic Japanese attack on the United States that triggered the nation's entry into World War II. Although the film used realistic explosions, Pearl Harbor historians were underwhelmed with the historical accuracy.
The story follows U.S. military pilot Rafe McCawley, who leaves behind his country to fight Hitler with the British. After returning to his best friend, Danny, and girlfriend, who are stationed in Hawaii's Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese attack. Rafe and Danny quickly jump in their planes to shoot down the enemy. The boys survive to fight another day as they are soon sent to bomb Tokyo.
Historian Lawrence Suid has said that the film's action bears little more than a "remote resemblance" to the real event [source: McCrisken]. In addition, Rafe and Danny shoot down dozens of planes during the attack, while the real U.S. pilots hit much fewer [source: Flynn]. What's more, no fighter pilots would've been sent to Tokyo to serve as bomber pilots [source: LaSalle].
Some even more ridiculous inaccuracies amuse historians. For instance, the film lifts a fictional line from the Japanese admiral directly from "Tora! Tora! Tora!" -- a 1970 movie about the attack. Also, the idea that a crippled Franklin Delano Roosevelt would get up from his wheelchair doesn't seem to have any basis in reality [source: LaSalle].
If we've learned anything after perusing this list, it's probably that we should watch even seemingly realistic historical movies with a skeptical eye. For more interesting lists, look over the links on the next page.