Note: By the way, I am in no way saying that these are bad films. In fact, I love them all, but just pointing out some interesting inaccuracies.
Pocahontas (1995), Disney
The story in the film: Pocahontas is the feisty daughter of a Native American Chief and is the female protagonist. At the time when ‘White Men’ search for the ‘New World’, she is put face-to-face with the dashing explorer John Smith, and they fall in love. What ensues is a war between the ‘pale faces’ and the Red Indians, but the love of Pocahontas and John Smith makes both sides realise that war is not the answer. In the end, John Smith goes back to England and Pocahontas remains with her people and retains her cultural identity.
What the real story is: Pocahontas surely was the daughter of a Native American Chief. She met John Smith when she was ten (according to Smith’s accounts). However, recorded history never suggests that they were lovers. John Smith had mentioned that she had saved him during an instance when the natives were trying to kill him, but there are various interpretations in regard to this account of his. Pocahontas later married John Rolfe (not John Smith) and went to England with him and converted to Christianity.
P.S. I know they made Pocahontas II, which had the story of John Rolfe (but hey, they don’t live in England after they fall in love but go back to her homeland in the film). Also, I don’t know why Disney made that sequel after they had shown Pocahontas and John Smith fall so deeply in love.
Mulan (1998), Disney
Unlike Pocahontas, the story of Hua Mulan is actually a legend from The Ballad of Mulan. However, considering that the story is deeply embedded in Chinese folklore, I decided to include it.
The story in the film: Fa Mulan is the daughter of a retired Chinese warrior. Huns invade China and a male member from each family is required to go to fight for China. Seeing that her aged father is barely able to walk and lift a sword, Mulan leaves her family behind, grabs her father’s sword, steals his armour and dresses up as a boy to join the army. There she fights the Huns, defeats them and falls in love with her Commander Li Shang. Eventually, her gender is revealed but her services win her the Emperor’s respect as well as the Emperor’s Crescent and the Sword of Shan Yu (the Hun leader). She returns home with these presents and Shang joins her soon after to return her father’s sword.
What the real story is: Hua Mulan took up her father’s place in the Chinese army. After fighting for 12 years as a warrior, she gained great respect. She was given gifts as gratitude, but she rejected them. Her gender was never discovered. After her army career, she returned to her hometown (alone, not with Shang).
P.S. They made a Mulan II as well, but it is even further from the truth.
Anastasia (1997), 20th Century Fox
The story in the film: Rasputin is a sorcerer who swears to the Romanovs that he will see them all dead. He sparks the Revolution which results in the overthrow of the Tsar. It is presumed that all die in the events, all except the Grand Duchess Anastasia, who is separated from her grandmother the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna as they are trying to escape. Years later, Anastasia (now called Anya) emerges from an orphanage, with no recollection of her past. All she knows is that she has some relative in Paris (her grandmother). Rasputin, who is still alive, seeks to kill her. Anastasia meets Dimitri and Vladimir who plan to present her to the Dowager Empress and earn a reward. They do not know she’s the real Anastasia but take her to Paris to show to the Dowager Empress. Along the way, Dimitri falls in love with Anastasia, it is revealed that she is the real Romanov survivor, Rasputin is killed by Anastasia and Dimitri and Anastasia return to Russia.
What the real story is: Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna was the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. She came into contact with Grigori Rasputin, a ‘holy man’ when he became a close advisor of the Romanov family after he was able to stop Anastasia’s younger brother Alexei from bleeding due to his haemophilia. The Romanovs trusted Rasputin and believed his words, though the rest of Russia saw him as a threat. In 1916, Rasputin was killed by some political activists. Rasputin had allegedly told the Romanovs that their rule would come to an end if he died. In 1917, the Russian Revolution overthrew the Tsar from power. He and his family had to leave the palace and lived in poor conditions in a cottage. In July 1918, the execution of the Romanovs was ordered. There was a great deal of speculation for many years about the fate of Anastasia, as her remains were not found. This led to stories that she had escaped and had survived execution. One such story is of Anna Anderson who claimed to be Anastasia. There were other impostors as well but she is the most famous one. In 2009, Anastasia’s remains were found and this theory was put to rest. So Anastasia had indeed been murdered with her family in 1918. There was no chance of survival, there was no Dimitri, and Rasputin never came back from the dead.