Horatio Jackson: I'm afraid, sir, that you have a rather weak grasp of reality. Baron Münchhausen: Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash, and I am delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever!
The first example is Usopp, Sharpshooter of the Straw Hat Crew and known liar. Also, the first part of his name is homophone with the japanese word for "lie" and his long and distinctive nose may be a reference to Pinocchio. Weird enough, some of his (fantastic and false) stories have appeared to be true by coincidence.
The second example is a subversion. His name is Montblanc Noland and appears in a children's book about a man who lied about having found a mountain of gold and being executed in turn. He was real, a great explorer, and nothing of what he said was a lie; a central theme to the Skypeia Arc is people endeavoring to prove he was telling the truth all along.
Ranma ½ has the minor anime-only character Toramasa Kobayashi, an old man with a tendency for such tall tales, making the good old days of Fūrinkan High School sounds like some Samurai movie. Ranma is skeptical, but Tatewaki is enthused by the stories.
This is the premise of Tim Wilson's "Uncle BS" skits, where the titular uncle is asked where he was on a certain day, and recounts an obviously fake story of it.
J. Jonah Jameson: Lousy interns! You call this publishable work!? Back in my day we had to write this stuff out by hand, we had to go to the primary sources to get our stories! And we got them in on time! And we didn't have interns!
X-Men has Jubilee, who expected her experience to give her more clout when she was transferred to Generation X. It didn't take long for her new companions to grow tired of it and refuse to hear anything starting with the words "When I was with the X-Men..."
Likewise, Monica Rambeau in Nextwave constantly regaled/browbeat her teammates with things that happened when she used to be the leader of The Avengers for about five minutes, until they grew heartily sick of it. This left such an impression on Machine Man that when he got an L.M.D. of her, he made sure it whined about leading the Avengers.
The Italian comic book Lupo Alberto has Enrico La Talpa, who, for a while, annoyed the protagonist with tales of his adventures in World War II on both sides. Depending on the occasion, he fought as a member of the SS, an Italian soldier detached with Rommell (who apparently stole his wallet) and an aviator of the US Army Air Force. Years later Alberto remarked that Enrico isn't trustworthy by evoking his tale of having fought the Punic Wars in the air force... And Enrico confirmed, inventing a tale of him fighting alongside Scipio the African and the Red Baron on the spot.
The British comic The Beano used to feature the tall tales of Uncle Windbag.
See also the classic American strip cartoon character Major Hoople.
Dilbert has a minor character called the Topper, who has to top everything that is said to him. An example:
Asok: I found a rock that's shaped like an egg. Topper: That's nothing! I have a rock that's shaped like Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson! Asok: My rock just hatched! It's a fully clothed alien from a distant galaxy! Topper: That's nothing!
Eddie is like this on Non Sequitur, often telling outlandish stories about his life at Flo's place, sometimes hoping to mooch a free lunch by telling them. The thing is a few of them are actually true, as Diane and others have found out, so it's very hard to tell which of his stories are true, which are exaggerations, and which are outright lies.
In the tales The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen and "Conall Yellowclaw", a lord captures four thieves: three brothers and an older man. The older man ransoms each of the brothers by telling a story of when he had been in more danger than they are, in the hands of a man about to execute them. The final story involves his helping a woman save a baby, and an old woman recognizes the tale and that the lord had been the baby, so the lord rewards the older thief for his rescue.
Film — Animation
Kup the "old-timer" Transformer from the original Transformers movie is constantly "reminded of the time that..." and so on. It was the apocalypse, or rather the giant planet-eating Unicron attacking Cybertron that had him remark he's "Never seen anything like this before."
The Ufa film company made a spectacular color Munchhausen in 1943 to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Starring Hans Albers in the title role as well as many other German film stars of the era. The screenplay was written by dissident author Erich Kästner, who got a special dispensation from his work-ban from Goebbels to write it, under the condition that he used the pseudonym Bürger (same as the author of the second and most well-known book of the Baron's adventures, 1786). In the film Münchhausen has an affair with Catherine the Great, fights a duel with Prince Potemkin and hobnobs with the likes of Cagliostro and an aging Casanova.
In The Three Musketeers (1993), Porthos does this constantly, his claims to fame including such arrant nonsense as his romance with "the Queen of America". However, during a battle on a ship, two of the Bad Guy's Goons recognize him as "Porthos the Pirate!", scream in terror, and jump into the ocean. Porthos's response: "I told you I was famous."
Used in Secondhand Lions, in which whether the story told by the two uncles is true or false plays an important role in the plot.
Big Fish, a man's elaborate stories about his past alienate his son when he grows old enough to doubt their veracity. It turns out that the father's stories are based on fact.
In The Commitments, Joey 'The Lips' Fagan constantly talks about his many encounters with famous musicians. You name one, he's worked with/met him. Most of the characters in the movie think he's full of it, all though a few still believe in his unlikely stories. in the end, it's revealed that he was both telling the truth and lying: he does apparently know Wilson Picket well enough to get him to show up for a gig, albeit too late, but also tells his mother he's off playing with Joe Tex, who is actually dead
Monsieur Moustache in Irma la Douce blurs the line between this and Multiple Choice Past. Some of his claims about his past careers are clearly balderdash, but some might have a grain of truth.
The wartime movie musical Thank Your Lucky Stars has the comic song "That's What You Jolly Well Get," in which Errol Flynn boasts of his single-handed victories.
In Don Juan DeMarco, the title character is so good at spinning romantic fantasies he starts believing them himself, and is nearly committed to a mental hospital.
Played with in Unforgiven, when notorious gunslinger English Bob has a writer named Beauchamp trailing him around, to whom he is telling his life's story for publication. When English Bob arrives at Big Whiskey to pursue the bounty on the men who cut up Delilah, he gets his ass kicked and arrested by Little Bill, who tosses him in jail. Little Bill then spends the next few hours reading through the manuscript and utterly emasculating Bob, revealing everything he's been telling the writer has been fabricated and heavily embellished to make him look like a bigger Bad Ass than he really is. After Bob is ejected from town the next morning, Beauchamp stays on with Bill to write his story, whom Bill encourages. It seems that Bill is doing this as well, until the climax when Will Munny shows up to avenge Ned Morgan, who was tortured to death over killing the men who hurt Delilah. Little Bill stares down Munny's shotgun and tells his posse to take Munny down after he shoots, even though it likely means he'll have already been killed. Averted outright with Munny, who flat-out tells Beauchamp to take a hike when the kid tries to cozy up to him as well.
Lord Dunsany's character Jorkens fits the pattern exactly. Flying to Mars, encountering an almost legendary creature in Africa unique for one small trait, and being assaulted by trees are three typical adventures.
Mr. Mulliner, who would tell stories of his extended family and their adventures. Usually not so much focus on impossible feats as convoluted circumstances, and they'd always get the girl in the end, or the man for those instances the Mulliner or Mulliver cousin was a woman herself. Except for Roberta Wickham, whose various beaus were usually driven over the edge and emigrated to Australia, or married someone else completely.
His golfing books followed a similar theme, though the tales were told by an elderly member of the club, the protagonists were golfers, and it'd always focus on golf. Also, many tales would end with the guy NOT getting the girl, usually happily.
Star Trek novels by Peter David play with this trope a lot. In them, many folks in Starfleet Command express doubt at the fantastic scenarios that play out in the canon episodes. For many of them, they must take the Captain's word at it. Space amobea indeed.
The Agatha Christie novel A Caribbean Mystery includes an old soldier named Major Palgrave, who tells endless stories about his past that no-one cares about and a few people doubt. The key story, in which he (or someone else) met a murderer is an important plot point and is true.
Tall Tale America is mostly told from an omniscient point-of-view, but the section on Jim Bridger (a.k.a. Old Gabe) has him relating his adventures and experiences to a young tenderfoot, such as how he rode a horse across a petrified canyon, or the mountain he saw grow up from a hole in the ground, or the time a nine-foot-tall Indian killed him.
The character Ijon Tichy in The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem is Münchhausen... IN SPACE! An in-universe prefaces to the diaries even says that Ijon Tichy continues glorious traditions of baron Munchausennote as well as other Unreliable Narrators of satiric novels: Gulliver, Alcofribas from Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, and Masloboynikov from Saltykov-Shedrin's The History of a Town.
In David Drake's Starliner, Richard Wade sponges off a group of passengers, alleging that he always forgets to carry enough cash to pay for drinks and such. His tall tales are so entertaining, though, that his listeners end up feeling it was worth it. A subversion: the reader sees evidence that at least some of Wade's accounts are true ... and at the end, he arranges for the people he borrowed from to spend several days in the best suites of their destination planet's best hotel, so the part about him actually being wealthy and influential appears to be true as well.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The time-travelling protagonist discovers that all the Knights of the Round Table are like this — it being improper to question the truth of any tale of bravery, no matter how ridiculous.
For example, "Big Game Hunting" concerns an invention that can control animals via brain interfacing. A wildlife photographer shanghais its creator into finding and controlling a giant squid. Both the photographer and the inventor die — when the brain controller blows a fuse, allowing the squid to run amok.
A subversion Played for Laughs: Miss Archer, the headmistress of Rob and Will's school in Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter, accuses the twins of this. Lori and Bill attend a meeting in her office, during which they confirm nearly all of their incredible sounding stories. The bad man who drags the boys from a castle during a thunderstorm and tries to throw them in the sea? True, and written up in The Times. An invisible man taught them to curse? Also true he was actually in a mine tunnel under the floor of their room. A mountain exploding in the dead of night? Again, true that cursing man set a bomb in said mine shaft. So when the boys claim to have seen a figure that looks like a vampire depicted in a classmate's comic book, Lori believes them. Despite the event being written off by the other adults (even their riding instructor Kit Smith, who looked over the place the boys claim to have seen the figure), Lori wants to check it out for herself.
Mrs. Pennypacker on the PBS show Today's Special, always happy to share exciting tales from her memoirs.
The "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch from At Last the 1948 Show (and later performed by Monty Python), which revolved around the four tile men sitting around and talking about their pasts, each trying to one-up the other in just how difficult and tragic their backgrounds were. After one of them finally won:
"I was one of thirty children, we had to get up in the morning at 10:00 at night, half an hour before we went to bed, work thirty hours, go back home to our shoebox, eat a lump of cold poison for dinner, and before bed, our father would kill us and do a dance on our graves." "And you try to tell young people today about that. They'll never believe you." (muttered assent)
Vic: My father paid the girl with a chicken. (at the end of a different story) Well the chicken lived, but the girl had to where an eye patch for the rest of her life. (and the end of yet another story)And it turns out it was that very same chicken.
Sophia: Picture it: Sicily, 1912. A beautiful young peasant girl with clear olive skin, meets an exciting but penniless Spanish artist. There's an instant attraction. They laugh, they sing, they slam down a few boilermakers. Shortly afterwards he's arrested for showing her how he can hold his palette without using his hands...But I digress. He paints her portrait and they make passionate love. She spends much of the next day in the shower with a loofah sponge scrubbing his fingerprints off her body. She sees the portrait and is insulted. It looks nothing like her, and she storms out of his life forever. That peasant girl was me. And that painter was... Pablo Picasso.
The Janitor routinely produces such stories. Among all the unbelievable facts, some of it might actually be true — in one episode, he claims to have been a famous hundred-meter hurdler in his youth, and then shows his talent at the end of the episode.
J.D.: Is any of that true? Janitor: I dunno, you'd have to read it back to me.
Dr. Kelso also has a few stories of his own from his Vietnam experiences, such as being able to jump 6 feet in the air.
Creed: I've been a member of several cults, both as a leader and a follower. You make more money as a leader, but have more fun as a follower.
Back in the 80s, the French-Canadian comedy show Samedi de Rire featured a recurring sketch of two coastal sailors sitting on a dock and smoking their pipes, while exchanging stories of ridiculous occurrences such as catching a huge fish or recovering from ridiculously crippling ailments. Each time one of the sailors would make his claim, the other would challenge him, prompting an exchange of "Well I'm telling ya..." and "Well I don't believe ya..." until the claimant finally said "Well I swear to ya!", upon which the other sailor would accept the claim. The sketch would always end with one of the sailor claiming to own a large object, before pulling out a ridiculously oversized prop, which would cause yet another "Well I don't believe ya/Well I'm telling ya" exchange into the sketch's fadeout.
Tom Baker's barking mad sea captain character from Blackadder II, who constantly insults Blackadder for being unmanly. When Blackadder finally decides to call him on it ("I bet those legs never got sheared clean off by a mast in a storm!" "Well, neither have yours!"), the captain reveals that he is indeed legless. The rest of it is BS, tho.
Ducky, the M.E. on NCIS. Defied often by Gibbs cutting him off before he can get out more than "This reminds me of..." and the beginning of a really weird-sounding Noodle Incident.
In the fourth season of Bones, the team is looking for an intern to replace Zack, and several of them appear throughout the season. One of them is an older guy who can help with cases based on the fact that he seemingly has held every possible job that exists.
Sergeant Arthur Dietrich of Barney Miller. His past jobs include lumberjack — and he possessed a number of improbable skills that made his calm announcement he'd been born "in a galaxy far, far away" quite believable.
Captain Hap Shaughnessy from The Red Green Show would make the baron pale in comparison and seem downright believable. No matter what mundane a task or hum drum a story you have, he always "remembers" how he used to be involved in it "back in the (decade)", and his stories will inevitably involve dozens of famous political or sports figures who he shamed with his masterful skill, usually scoring twelve touchdowns at once in the Super Bowl where he saved the whole universe from invasions from time traveling vikings, or so his massive sacks of lies go.
On Strangers with Candy, this is an integral part of Jerri's characterization. The stories are usually drug- and/or sex-related. The character was based partly on a real woman named Florrie Fisher, who did a Scare 'Em Straight PSA for high-school students that consisted of her chain-smoking and yelling similarly implausible claims about her life, like that she'd known six different people who were executed by electric chair for "crimes of passion" committed while under the influence of pot.
Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness is a fount of improbable sexual adventures — all of which seem to be true.
Top Gear: "...some say, during a driving test, he failed his examiner for screaming. And that he knows precisely two facts about ducks, and both are wrong." Enter, The Stig. Note that the Stig himself never provides the boasts. (As The Stig is The Voiceless, he never provides ANY dialogue.)
The One-Upper on Saturday Night Live. In one sketch she claimed to be best friends with Liza Minelli and a tomato. After the rest of the cast storms off in disgust, guess who enters?
On The Mighty Boosh, this is occasionally the case with Howard Moon, like when he explained away how he could be a great musician when no one's ever seen him pick up an instrument, or his claim that Walt Disney offered him the job of sorting out his felt pens.
On Season 12, one of the racers was Don, a 68-year-old man who had, apparently, done everything before. Masonry, mining, fish-gutting, everything. It got to the point where other racers were cautioning each other to hurry up, "because God knows Don's probably done this before and will be done in five seconds." Nearly invariably, he had and he was.
Brook, Season 17, according to her teammate Claire, as stated when they were choosing between two Detour choices in Seoul. Apparently, in addition to marathon running, rock climbing, and boxing, Brook was also an accomplished ice skater.
In Cheers Woody tells a lot of strange stories about his early life in Hanover, Indiana (a real town, actually), such as how he was voted the smartest kid in school (which is strange, given his reputation as The Ditz on the show) and how he and his childhood sweetheart Beth Curtis were also voted "Both Likely to Explode" (both were fat kids). The other characters are torn between disbelief and puzzlement:
Ira Gershwin's "I Can't Get Started (with You)" laments the fact that despite supposedly accomplishing feats such as charting the North Pole and being a consultant for FDR the singer's love interest refuses to pay him any attention.
In the 1930s radio comedian Jack Pearl played a version of the Baron. When his Straight Man sidekick would express skepticism in response to whatever grand adventure he was relating, the Baron would respond with a sarcastic, "Vass you dere, Sharlie?"
Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition, a board game from Cheapass Games. You play members of a Victorian gentleman's club, all of whom are trying to one-up each other with heroic tales of adventure. In fact, all your exploits are entirely fictitious. You've just spent the last few months hiding in a hotel and sneaking out in disguise to scavenge in junk shops for "artifacts" from your "expeditions". The aim of the game is to collect convincing sets of photographs, anecdotes, and artifacts, without being spotted and exposed as a fraud.
In the Old World of Darkness, the Ratkin have an entire caste called the Munchmausen. They specialize in exploring the Deep Umbra (the most remote parts of the spirit world), where things can get very strange, and they have the inherent ability to tell one elaborate, improbable lie each day that their audience automatically believes.
In The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, players take the roles of debauched European noblemen regaling other players with ridiculously exaggerated tales of derring-do. The game was written in the style of Baron Munchausen himself, and accompanied by illustrations by Gustave Doré.
Keeper's Annotations: As with many such stories attributed to Mintiper, the hero of this tale bears the name Lunargent, an obvious alias for "Moonsilver." However, it is never clear in such tales whether or not the events recounted actually happened and, in cases where there is some kernel of truth to the tale, whether or not the hero is Mintiper himself or someone else whose tale he is retelling.
Chronicler's Footnotes Although Lunargent has become so popular a character that he appears in many tales that did not originate with Mintiper, most, if not all, of those authored by the Lonely Harpist are actually first-hand accounts. It is simply beyond the imagination of most individuals that even the legendary Lonely Harpist could have had so many adventures, accounting for the skepticism in the Keeper’s annotations and similar commentary by other sages.
'Rooster' Johnny Byron of Jerusalem has met a ninety-foot giant who claimed to have built Stonehenge, and was conceived when a bullet that passed through his father's scrotum ricocheted into the womb of a sixteen-year-old girl in a tram car. Which stories, if any, are true, is up for interpretation.
The old man in The Time of Your Life identified in the Dramatis Personae as "Kit Carson" (which may or may not be his name). Among his many stories is one about herding cattle on a bicycle in Toledo, Ohio in the year 1918, when a hurricane struck the town and left him floating northwest sitting on the roof of a house.
The Donald Margulies play Shipwrecked! is all about this. It follows the adventures of Louis de Rougemont, who winds up getting shipwrecked on an island and proceeds to have crazy adventures— learning to survive on his own, finding natives, falling in love, etc. He returns home and eventually becomes famous for his adventure. During the second act, it is revealed that he made most of it up, his story is publicly debunked, and he becomes infamous.
Jan Jansen. To the point where, when he doesn't comment on an situation with a tale of his own:
Haer'Dalis: I shouldn't wish to alarm anyone, but I just wanted to point out that Jan has failed to produce a story. Can the apocalypse be far?
Although most of the others either suspect or know that his tales are made up. Imoen will submit one tale to him for approval and criticism, and when Viconia asks the main character why you keep the pest around, you can cheerfully explain it with the start of a tall tale of your own.
Jan: Aye, Plooty had a way of attracting golems. Brilliant, really. You start with a saucer of milk — golems are suckers for milk...
Sir Daniel Fortesque in Medievil was this sort of character in the backstory; it didn't matter, since he was doing so in a peaceful country. This led to his death when he was pressed into leading the army when Zarok attacked with his army of the dead: Fortesque was killed by the first arrow of the first charge. Fortunately, when Zarok rises from the grave to kick off the plot of the game, so does Sir Daniel, who gets the chance to be a real hero.
Kieran of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance takes any opportunity to mention one of his grand (and most definitely false or at least grossly exaggerated) exploits, such as the time he fought the Giant Whippoorwill of Southern Crimea (a Running Gag has the listener interrupting him before he can even say the location). He persistently believes these stories are well known even though his reputation never precedes him.
Ellis in Left 4 Dead 2 is an interesting example in that he is not one of these about himself, but rather about his friend Keith, who according to Ellis has at least drowned on several occasions, lost several fingers to frostbite, broken both his fingers in a driving accident, and survived getting burn damages on top of other burn damages among a lot of other things that are even more insane than these. Considering Ellis' personality, one would expect Keith not even to be real, but Gabe Newell himself has confirmed that Keith is, in fact, real. Whether all these things actually happened to him, however, is up for debate. Fans of the franchise have been clamoring for Keith to be playable in a hypothetical Left 4 Dead 3, where he would presumably tell Ellis stories.
"I ever tell you about the time me and Keith made a homemade bumper car ride with ridin' mowers in his backyard? Mower blade wounds over 90% of his body. I didn't run him over, either; he somehow managed to fall under his own."
Zevran in Dragon Age: Origins is fond of telling wildly improbable tales of his life as an assassin, either to you in camp or to other party members in random conversation. There's never any indication that he's lying, but there's never any indication that he's not, either.
In Look to the West, the original Baron Munchausen has a son, Ulrich, who has many unlikely adventures; however, he pales in comparison to the man he works for, Moritz Benyovsky (who also had some pretty unlikely adventures even in our own history, such as being crowned King of Madagascar).
SCP Foundation: SCP-1867, AKA Lord Theodore Thomas Blackwood. He will always try to turn any conversation into one about his adventures, which are largely impossible. However, he also provided evidence, in the form of a collection of undiscovered life and technology being kept at a property belonging to one "Lord Blackwood". It's still questionable if he really did any of it, or even if he is the real Lord Blackwood, because SCP-1867 is a telepathic sea slug.
Frothy Pint Of Metal has Happy Viking, an internet reviewer who claims that he's really a 1000-year old viking who has done all kinds of stuff.
Grandpa Abraham Simpson in The Simpsons does this a lot. Most of this is just waffle and the other characters tune him out, except in the episode "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'" where it is all true. He claims to have enlisted for World War I as a small child.
Sort of inverted with Phoebe on The Magic School Bus, who never stops referencing her experiences — or, more accurately, her lack thereof — "at my old school." Subverted when they actually do go to her old school and end up shrunken and trapped in her science-project plants.
Jade from Jackie Chan Adventures loves to tell her classmate Drew about all the adventures she's been on with Jackie. Naturally, he doesn't believe any of her stories. In the third season however, he comes into direct contact with the talisman animals, proving to him that Jade's stories indeed were true. The next day he starts telling the whole class about what he had saw, but the entire class, including Jade, turn on him and he is the one seen as crazy.
Izzy from Total Drama Island is full of insane stories about where she learned her survival skills. Most of the cast dismiss everything she says (unless she's talking about how crazy she is, which is totally true), however, it turns out she really is on the run from the RCMP, as discovered when they come for her during one of the marshmallow ceremonies. All the other campers are left staring in wide-eyed shock as she runs off into the woods, laughing madly and followed by the helicopter.
Mater's Tall Tales, a series of short films spun off the movie Cars, has the tow truck Mater relate his former experiences as a bullfighter, fire engine, stuntcar, etc. Lightning McQueen doesn't buy any of it, especially the parts where Mater adds him to the proceedings (usually in a humiliating role), but at the end there's usually a gag implying that it's all true.
On Ben 10, Captain Nemesis is a deconstruction of this. He takes a Face-Heel Turn to the point of releasing aliens just so he can beat them up and take the glory.
King Gregor and Sir Tuxford were like this in one episode of Gummi Bears, teaming up to tell tall-tales about their past exploits. Partially subverted because they knew no-one believed them.
Baron Münchhausen (that's the correct German spelling!), or to give his full name, Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen (1720-1797), himself was a real man who came back from fighting the Turks in in the Russian Army (1740-1741) full of impossible stories. The short stories combining the plots and style of Münchausen's original boasts with plots from older folk tall tales were first published in early 1780s in a Berlin journal under a pen name M-C-H-N. They were collected in a book by Rudolf Erich Raspe and published anonymously in 1785 (in English!). Most famous are probably the story how he rode a cannonball, or how he pulled himself and his horse from a swamp — by his own hairs.
When a German edition of the book appeared, the real baron wasn't happy and even tried to sue the translator.
The "canon" portrait of Münchausen (with a large nose and a goatee) appeared only in the middle of the 19th century, and it was Gustave Doré's caricature on Napoleon III, who also wasn't very honest.
MythBuster Jamie Hyneman has been everywhere and done everything. The Other Wiki lists a few of his past careers as "scuba diver, wilderness survival expert, boat captain, linguist, pet shop owner, animal wrangler, machinist, concrete inspector, and chef." Of course that still doesn't stop Adam from constantly making up more, crazier and funnier backstory jobs for Jamie.
Adam: Does this remind you of when you used to count money for the mob? Jamie: I was a hitman. I wasn't a money counter.
Slavomir Rawicz, the Polish cavalry officer who was captured by the Soviets during World War II and sent to a labor camp in Siberia, only to escape with six others and make his way on foot from Lake Baikal to India across the Himalayas, a trek of over 6500 kilometers. In real life, he was pardoned in 1942, and made up everything beforehand as to not disappoint his biographer, who was looking for someone who had traveled through the Himalayas.
Frank Retz fits this description. He was a German officer during WWII who moved to the US after the war. Among his many claims, he supposedly had been the stunt rider in Zorro and had gotten in a fight with Charles Manson, taking a knife away from Manson in the process.
Marco Polo, nicknamed "Il Milione" ("The Million") at his time. People are still debating how much of his travelogue was personal experience, and how much was hearsay.
Just about every well-known figure of the Wild West. If he (or she) didn't Münchausen, some penny dreadful writer did it for them.
In the seventeenth century, Fernão Mendes Pinto, a Portuguese traveler and adventurer who spent many years in the Far East, was viewed as an outrageous liar, and the narrative of his travels was dismissed as pure fiction. Later research showed that, despite being heavily fictionalized, Mendes Pinto's book is a unique source on Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Japanese history, with lots of very acute observations and important information. And a jolly good read, to boot.
George Washington may have never told a lie, but he seemed to be fond of tall tales. His favorite song was said to be "The Derby Ram", an English folk song about a ram of titanic proportions and the problems involved in killing and butchering it. The famous tree story, cutting down a cherry tree and admitting it to a grateful father, a lie made up by Washington's biographer (Mason Weems) after his death.
The story about him throwing a silver dollar across the Potomic was untrue too; such coins did not even exist during his lifetime. This was acually an exaggeration of an earlier story told by Martha Washington's grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, to illustrate Washington's well-known strength. The true story claims that he threw a piece of slate across the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Historians assert that he could possibly have done this, but it was never verified.