Titanic and 9 Other Movies Some Folks Don't Know Are Based on Real Events
James Cameron’s Titanic is a stunningly realistic portrayal of a sinking ship, but apparently it just got more real for at least a handful of people. According to some tweets that are making the rounds, some younger Americans had no idea until now that the “unsinkable” cruise liner existed and did in fact hit an iceberg and sink in the Atlantic 100 years ago. What? They didn’t watch Downton Abbey and put two and two together either? (Note: Just like the deceased would-be heirs of Downton, Jack and Rose are fictional. Though something tells us many of the Titanic’s passengers probably had acting abilities comparable to Billy Zane’s.)
Instead of ridiculing these youths for being ignorant of a fairly remarkable historic event and complaining about Idiocracy becoming more factual each day, let’s turn this into a teaching moment. Here are nine other films that depict a very real thing that happened in human history:
In case the reference didn’t register at the time, there was a real Day of Infamy behind those insipid comments on Twitter a year ago about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami being payback for Pearl Harbor. Those jerks weren’t talking about the Ben Affleck movie, but a real military strike that happened. The movie that tells the sobering story of the naval base attack in 1941, in which 2,402 Americans were killed, was directed by Michael Bay (which seems like a joke but is true).
The three-man crew on the Apollo 13 mission really did spend four bleak days in their spacecraft after an oxygen tank exploded on the service module. What had been planned as the third manned moon landing instead became a harrowing effort to make it back to Earth safely. The drama captivated the nation on television in 1970, a time before the Internet.
The Perfect Storm
Before George Clooney and his perfectly disheveled beard hairs set sail in 2000, the dangerous storm that swept away the Andrea Gail fishing vessel really occurred, serving as the basis for the ill-fated film of the same name. Some of the facts in the movie have been disputed, but the 1991 nor’easter/hurricane did in fact collide in what many referred to as “the perfect storm.”
The Killing Fields
The mass killings by the Khmer Rouge in the mid- to late 1970s might be difficult for even Cambodian youths to fathom, but the story of journalists Dith Pran and Sydney Schanberg was very real. The two were covering the fall of the capital to the regime, and at the time, many journalists managed to flee. Pran was stranded but ended up escaping the death camps. He coined the phrase “killing fields,” the mass grave sites of which there are a mind-boggling 20,000.
A chartered flight really did crash in the Andes in 1972, and survivors stayed alive by eating the flesh of dead passengers. Sixteen of them were rescued two months later when Uruguayans Nando Parrado (played in the film by Ethan Hawke) and Roberto Canessa climbed through the mountains for 10 days to seek help.
All the President's Men
Wondering where the “-gate” suffix originated? Decades before Weinergate, a little scandal called Watergate happened, and journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were there to reveal the truth behind the wrongdoing and President Nixon’s involvement in it. The film is an adaptation of the reporters’ book, which was based on their investigative reporting in an era before “truthiness.”
Another pop culture reference is about to make sense to many: A “Silkwood shower” isn’t just something germophobes want to take after they get off the subway. It’s a term derived from a scene in which plutonium plant worker Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep) is, horrifically, contaminated with radiation. Silkwood really did die mysteriously as she planned to reveal wrongdoing at the plant in the mid-'70s.
Based on the book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, GoodFellas recounts the dirty deeds of Henry Hill and Co. Hill, who became an FBI informant, was a member of the Lucchese crime family and was involved in the also-real Lufthansa heist, among other crimes. Hill’s still out there somewhere, being forced to eat “egg noodles and ketchup” instead of spaghetti with marinara.
After terrorists hijacked United Flight 93 on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, passengers and crew learned of the strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Those aboard refused to let the plane hit its intended target, likely a government building in Washington, D.C., and planned to storm the cockpit. Some liberties were taken regarding whether they successfully entered the cockpit, but unless you believe conspiracy theorists, the plane did crash in a field in Pennsylvania.