10 Movies That Ruined Real Life People's Reputations

Titanic's fictional portrayal of First Officer Murdoch got James Cameron in hot water.

titanic hero

Movies that depict the lives of real people have a certain responsibility to those figures, to portray them in a way that's mostly factual - at least in theory.

But "artistic license" is a funny thing, allowing screenwriters and filmmakers to play fast and loose with the facts, in turn leaving a real person - often someone no longer with us - with their reputation in tatters.

Though it's absolutely true that nobody should take all of their history lessons from movies, it's also fair to say that people are far more likely to remember the "true" stories told in films than in books, often brought to unforgettable life by recognisable actors as they are.

And if audiences don't apply any critical thought to what they're watching - as they usually don't - it's possible for a film to turn the tide on a person's entire legacy.

These 10 films, whether intentionally or not, ruined the public standing of famous figures both alive and dead, ensuring that either the subjects or their surviving family members spoke out in anger, perhaps even taking to the courts to set the record straight...

10. Richard Jewell - Kathy Scruggs

titanic hero
Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood's recent Oscar-nominated drama Richard Jewell came under fire for its depiction of Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), a journalist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who first ran the story that the FBI considered Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) a person of interest in planting the bomb that he actually discovered.

The film shows Scruggs as obtaining the information by flirting with FBI Agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) - a composite character of several real-life FBI agents - at a bar, with the implication being that she frequently traded sex for stories.

Scruggs' former newspaper called the characterisation, of which there's no evidence whatsoever, "entirely false and malicious," while others condemned Eastwood's film for reinforcing the cliche that hotshot female reporters would use their sexuality to obtain breaking information.

The issue was further complicated by the fact that Scruggs herself died of a drug overdose back in 2001.

Given that she's no longer around to defend herself, some accused the film of assassinating her character, which for a project attempting to rehabilitate Jewell's own image came off as rather hypocritical.

Though a mighty stink was kicked up about Scruggs' portrayal online, it's still fair to say that the overwhelming majority of the people watching the film will simply accept the "facts" as Eastwood presents them.

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Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.