Rewriting History in Film

Movies offer an extension of reality, which is why sometimes the same stories have different interpretations. There are some films that change major historical events deliberately, turning history into a more compelling story that lets people think.

Many times, these films explore ideas that create a totally different atmosphere than what people know, making its audience question what they learned from history.

These films are fictional but contain real events and settings that are familiar to many, due to their impact on real-life events. This mix of fact and fiction blurs the line between fantasy and reality, which creates a sense of both magic and realism.

Following a different approach, these mind-blowing films provide fascinating insights on how we view history—as well as its impact on our culture.

Check them out.

The Confederate States of America, 2004

Kevin Willmott’s documentary shows what could have happened if the Confederates won the civil war and if slavery hadn’t been abolished. The film itself follows events chronologically, starting with the Union’s loss in the Civil War, which was then renamed as the “War of Northern Aggression” and where Abraham Lincoln was banished to Canada while other abolitionists were executed.

The United States then changed the flag from the stars and stripes that we know today to the Confederate flag of the victors. America is highly imperialistic, claiming most of the western hemisphere and enslaving other races as well.

Japan is still USA’s main enemy in the Second World War but is friendly with the Nazis as they engage a Cold War with Canada, the pop culture center of the world.

While meant as a satire, The Confederate States of America is nonetheless disturbing—the exaggerated racism and white male supremacy are a joke, yet it is still a present condition of racial tensions in America.

Despite the fact that many found the film to be offensive, it is only through its dark comedy that it can be told very entertainingly and cleverly.

Forrest Gump, 1994

This film by Robert Zemeckis centers around the slow and unassuming character of Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks. His life in the 20th century intertwines mostly with events of the times, tying him up in national crazes, even so far as influencing Elvis’s dance moves.

More than that, however, this story provides a personal yet comprehensive portrait of the different mind-sets in America. By showing the conservative side of the country through the traditional mind of the main character, and the liberal of the 1960s through his love for his childhood friend, there is an unbiased and varied ride throughout history, with Tom Hanks effectively soaking different moods of the different eras through his simple mind-set.

The film’s integration of archive footage made the film into one of the acclaimed works of the 1990s, making Forrest Gump a powerful tale that captures quite perfectly the flow of the times and the changes in America’s identity.

Inglorious Basterds, 2009

The World War II epic by Quentin Tarantino follows a group of Jewish-American soldiers on a rampage in Nazi Germany. Their aim—to kill Hitler.

Leading the team as Lt. Aldo Raine is Brad Pitt, along with his band of ragtag soldiers that included Michael Fassbender, BJ Novak, and Eli Roth. As the soldiers get closer to their goal, another assassination plot is also falling into place—set by the owner of a cinema who is hosting the premiere of a propaganda film that Hitler himself is attending. Yet even as both factions continue to plan, they are being hunted by Christoph Waltz’s Colonel Hans Landa.

Most of the film looked like a typical war story, but unlike multiple, real attempts at Hitler’s life, Tarantino’s characters succeeded in their quest. This drastic change not only kept viewers on their toes, it also developed a somewhat vengeful fantasy—the bold departure is a refreshing look on the genre, at the same time, it challenged boundaries as far as restrictions in Hollywood filmmaking was concerned.

Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011

Steve Roger’s origin story began in World War II, when a weak but ambitious young man is transformed into a special soldier, thanks to a special branch of the military.

Steve and his friend Bucky Barnes are assigned on a special task force to retrieve the “tesseract,” a mystical object that the Nazis are utilizing as part of their weaponry against the Allied Forces.

There is no alien tech surrounding the Second World War; however, the Nazis are actually famous for their controversial and advanced research, although the tech they do have is not as innovative as what is presented in the film.

Dwelling on the Captain’s origins was done especially to create a sense of national pride surrounding the hero himself, something that was made important due to the shift in times when he went into a coma and woke up in the 21st century to fight evil with the rest of the Avengers. Besides, who would Captain America be if he couldn’t promote a sense of patriotism in Americans during these modern times?

Captain America is not the only superhero to have  his origins change history, though, as X-Men’s Wolverine also altered history from the Civil War as well as the Second World War to place mutants at the center of history—even going as far as offering connections between them and reality.

Midnight in Paris, 2011

Many people believe that they should have lived at a different time, or at the very least, live their peak years in a different decade. Woody Allen’s film takes that form of nostalgia and tells the story of Gil, a writer who was transported back in time to his favorite decade: the 20s, where he met many icons, including Cole Porter, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein, and even Pablo Picasso.

As it is with films that have time-travel, places that are visited frequently and heavily don’t stay the same. The film focuses on Gil’s realization of the importance of nostalgia and the modern life, but going back and forth between present time and the 20s impacted history somehow, even influencing their work.

The interactions between Gil and the icons from the past gave a powerful feeling of how nostalgia and idealism play out in this modern society. The film may not be as poignant as others, but as it is with Woody Allen’s brand of storytelling, Midnight in Paris showed an enchanting piece of work that could stay with anyone who ever wanted to stay in a time and place that they’ve never been before.