There are few feelings quite as unpleasant as walking out of a triumphant, life-affirming biopic… and then immediately discovering the entire supposedly true story was hokum.
Yes, a great many movies twist the truth in order to make the notoriously messy construct that is reality fit the neat pre-ordained plot beats of a tight one hundred page screenplay.
But outside of rare cases like Fargo and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, most films which claim to be based on a true story at least make some attempt to hew near reality.
As a result, viewers come to expect that biopics may avoid the harsher realities of their stories, but they wouldn’t just make things up wholesale—would they?
Come on, this is Hollywood. People don’t just make up lies in the movie industry. And yet this list is filled with proof that a great many biopics are as far from being true to life as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Some screwed with the truth to make their heroes more sympathetic, some needed to scrap inconvenient realities because they sapped narrative momentum, and some just let producers colour-correct their own flaws. In every case, though, here are ten biopics that flat out lied to you.
10. Walk The Line
This one is more than a little tragic, as Logan director James Mangold's 2005 Johnny Cash biopic is a moving, elegiac portrayal of a flawed artist which makes it clear why studios opted to give the filmmaker the reins to the Wolverine franchise numerous times.
Featuring a spectacular early leading turn from Joaquin Phoenix, the film follows the country music star's rise and fall, as well as his tumultuous romance with fellow musician June Carter. It's an effective and poignant biopic which delves deep into his troubled relationship with his father and the lifelong struggle with addiction that was prompted by the young Cash losing his brother in a tragic accident.
The film reduces Cash's first wife to a nagging, shrill nightmare who exists only to admonish him and question his talent and ambition. Despite an impressive performance from Ginnifer Goodwin there are no redeeming features to this character, who was apparently a deeply caring and loving mother and wife in reality.
Cash's children disowned the film as a result, feeling the movie was unnecessarily critical of their less-known mother.