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Historical Hero Upgrade

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"The truth is I was violent, and with my good mate Matt King,
Robbed travellers at gunpoint; money, watches, anything!
My horse it wasn't called Black Bess, although that's what you've read,
Was no romantic hero, shot not one, but two men dead!
The legend that surrounds me misses out the crucial part,
I was a ruthless killer with a ruthless killer's heart!"

OK, let's say you're still writing that movie, which is Very Loosely Based on a True Story. You've chosen a period of history that involves a lot of exciting fight scenes and explosions so your audience won't fall asleep and now you need some main characters.

But there's a problem: many of the real-life figures had morally grey traits and were complex people. How are you going to make sure that your audience knows who the hero is?

Well, all you have to do is to pick someone who was on your side. If you're American, all you have to do is choose a heroic American. Or failing that, an Irishman or a Scotsman (just as long as they fought those dastardly Englishmen/Germans/Commies/Arabs). And if you're English, you'll want to support that brave and heroic King William the Conqueror against those treacherous English bas... Hey, wait a second...

But forget questions of ethnocultural allegiance. There's a bigger problem. Your new hero doesn't exactly fit our modern standards of goodness. Maybe he was a slave trader. Or a wife-beater. Or an openly admitted racial bigot. Or all three. What are you going to do now?

Well, all you have to do is give your newfound hero a few Pet the Dog moments, adjust his looks for modern tastes and cut out or ignore anything of his life that doesn't fit your artistic vision. That is the core of this trope: portraying a historical character as more heroic than they were in real life.

While we would prefer not to name specific examples, one common Real Life sequence of events that results in this is as follows: 1) A region is populated by numerous tiny tribes that are constantly at war. 2) Eventually one tribe gets a new warlord who is vastly better at their job and conquers all the others. 3) Said hyper-competent warlord gets remembered by future generations as "the hero who united our people."

Note that just because this trope happens to a person does NOT necessarily mean that he was evil in real life; he is simply being portrayed more positively in the work of fiction. Also note that this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is often done to make for a better if historically inaccurate story. This can be easier to accept if the story doesn't even attempt to present itself as the real version of what happened and thus cannot be blamed for twisting the real facts.

Note that this trope isn't always played seriously; sometimes, a character will be retroactively turned into something on par with a Memetic Badass purely due to Rule of Cool, upgraded in ways that are obviously intended to go far beyond any real-world heroism. The most extreme examples of this, of course, often overlap with Beethoven Was an Alien Spy.

This trope is the opposite of a Historical Villain Upgrade, although many figures often get one of those as well in works with a different viewpoint. They may also appear alongside each other when applied to different people, to make the Black-and-White Morality contrast even more obvious. May overlap with Historical Beauty Update, Historical Badass Upgrade, Values Dissonance, Politically Correct History, Broken Pedestal and Flanderization.

When Fan Fic writers do this to a canon character, it's Draco in Leather Pants. When it's done with original characters in an adaptation of the source work, it's Adaptational Heroism.

See Historical Relationship Overhaul for other changes a Historical Domain Character may receive.

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Examples using real people

    Anime & Manga 
  • Date Masamune is played like this in many works. In real life, he may as well be categorized with Oda Nobunaga; he killed his brother to rise to power (his nagging mother constantly opposed him and promoted his brother for clan leader) and betrayed the alliance with the other clans without much discussion (and conquering them). He also showed little respect to Hideyoshi when he was called to join the attack on Odawara (and late to come to boot!). But in Samurai Deeper Kyo, he ends up becoming Kyo's ally, though he may be rude and brash (aka Bontenmaru). And in Sengoku Basara, he becomes the Jerk with a Heart of Gold hero with a somewhat charming personality and several Pet the Dog moments (seen with Kojuurou and Itsuki, or in the Drama CD, Oichi) And in The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, she is a Boisterous Cute Bruiser and Large Ham who's an ally of the heroes. This one is averted in Koei's Warriors series. In Samurai Warriors, he comes off as a jerk, but hides a lot of ambitions that are beneficial for Japan. But in Warriors Orochi, he becomes Orochi's henchman and is pretty much loyal to him and has no qualms on bringing chaos into the world.
  • Doraemon: Nobita's Great Adventure in the South Seas is a pirate-themed adventure in the movie series, where the gang gets transported to The Golden Age of Piracy, and meets Captain William Kidd as a noble, seafaring hero, serving as one of their major allies. Kidd is even depicted as a Cool Uncle to his nephew and niece, characters made up just for the film.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa, Fritz Lang becomes one of Ed's allies in Weimar Berlin, and is depicted as an anti-fascist badass who opposes Nazism as early as 1923. His real-life political leanings are less well known and Lang actively obscured them with his creative retellings of his life in Germany. However, he was thrown out of at least a couple German exile parties in Hollywood for making anti-Semitic comments, and was known to be abusive to his cast and crew on set (Granted, it's hard to expect historical accuracy from a film that depicts the Beer Hall Putsch as part of a coordinated effort to take over Germany with the help of a group attempting to open a portal into Ed's alchemical universe.). Lang putting an entire film crew into mortal danger just to get a shot of a dragon for Die Nibelungen seems fairly like him, though.
  • The Laws of Eternity:
    • Thomas Edison is portrayed as a selfless inventor who sought to enrich humanity with his inventions. Moreover, he's also claimed to have invented the printing press and paper as Johannes Gutenberg and Cai Lun were two of his past lives.
    • While Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Panasonic, and Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota, certainly weren't evil people, saying they were both angels sent from Heaven to uplift Japan's economy is laying it on too thick.
  • Rurouni Kenshin turns Saitou Hajime into a badass Anti-Hero. In actual history, he did manage to survive the mess that was the Meiji revolution and became a member of Japan's secret police (pretty much their equivalent of the FBI), but Watsuki freely admits that he pretty much made up all of the other details about Saitou's personality (as a minor note, RuroKen Saitou claims to have given up drinking, while in real life he died of a stomach ulcer as a result of it).
    • Saito is sort of an odd example as he's initially introduced as a vicious Blood Knight and Watsuki comments on getting angry letters for giving him a Historical Villain Upgrade, which might explain why soon after his introduction, Kenshin describes him as a morally pure Worthy Opponent, and he becomes an Anti-Hero from that point onward.
    • The manga's treatment of Okubo is closer to this trope. He's historically seen as a Sleazy Politician, and that aspect is certainly part of his character, although he's presented as working for the best for his country and deserving of the respect he gets from Kenshin and Saito. Word of God comments on wanting to rehabilitate his image, noting that in terms of corruption, he wasn't much different than Japan's current politicians.
    • Then, there's also the fact of how Watsuki portrayed the infamous Hitokiri Kenshin Himura. Truth in Television, Kenshin is actually based on a real life assassin, Kawakami Gensai. Like Kenshin, Gensai was also noted for his slim build, effeminate appearance, ties with the Ishin Shishi, and ruthless pursuit of moral agendas. Unlike the red head however, Gensai did not say "oro" as a mannerism, he did not like Western "barbarians" entering his homeland, and he killed scholars who studied Western ideologies. He was also far from the pacifist that Kenshin was after the war; instead, he continued the fight for what he believed to be his rights as a samurai and was executed by the same government he dedicated his life to create and defend.
  • While this trope applies primarily to human beings and not machines, the eponymous Cool Starship of Space Battleship Yamato counts. The real life warship may have been a Cool Boat, but battleships were being eclipsed by aircraft carriers in World War II and the Yamato was no exception, with no kills during the war except possibly one small escort carrier, and being ignominiously sunk by aircraft while on a one-way suicide mission. Not the most appropriate ship to undertake a voyage to save the earth.
  • Fate Series:
    • Fate/Zero takes Alexander the Great, certainly an inspiring figure in his own right, but hardly a morally superior one, and turns him into what may be one of the most inspiring characters in anime and manga history by giving him a complex philosophy that guides him while staying relatively true to the original Alexander's historical actions and fiery, straightforward personality, occasionally even calling him out on some of the less heroic actions of his historical counterpart. His Noble Phantasm is the result of the loyalty and inspiration he evoked in his followers, ignoring that the real Alexander's erratic actions won him plenty of criticism, resulted in his killing at least a few of his followers/friends and ended his expansions when low morale resulted in his army rebelling against him and insisting that they return home.
    • Subverted in Fate/strange Fake. Richard the Lionheart at first appears to be a noble and chivalrous (if eccentric) Knight in Shining Armor, so much so that his Master, Ayaka, starts feeling guilty that he even bothers with her. However, it eventually becomes clear that Richard had a fairly disastrous, blood-soaked reign and isn't exactly proud of his actions in life.
    • Fate/EXTRA does this with its version of Saber, who turns out to be the Roman emperor Nero. Here, she wasn't The Caligula as the real Nero is known as, but rather a very kindhearted individual who loved everyone under her rule, but demanded they loved her in kind, thus causing her to commit suicide out of despair when the coup in 68 AD began and no one rose to defend her. Amusingly, in-universe she's a victim of the opposite trope, as she still has the same reputation the real Nero does, and in fact it seems to be even worse, as the appellation "the Whore of Babylon" from the Book of Revelation is applied to her specifically, rather than to the Roman Empire in general under Nero's rule as many real-world scholars argue.
    • Fate/Apocrypha shows that this sort of thing is an inherent part of the form a Servant is summoned in, depending in part how well-known they are and what kind of reputation they had in the place they're summoned. For instance, Vlad the Impaler is summoned as a Lancer-class Servant there for the second time, after his appearance in Fate/Extra. In Extra, set on the moon, he's a deranged killer highly reminiscent of a vampire (despite not really being one, and taking offense at such a suggestion), and any of the three playable Servants can defeat him in battle. In Apocrypha, since he was summoned in his native Romania (and pretty close to his actual home town at that), he's a more well-adjusted, charismatic, and extremely powerful being that, according to the producers, would be able to defeat Fate/stay night's Berserker and Saber (respectively Hercules and King Arthur, who are well-known around the world and have more agreeable reputations, but were summoned in Japan).
    • Fate/Grand Order, on top of quite a few more regular examples, shows it happening in-universe, when Napoléon Bonaparte is summoned as a large, jovial, deeply heroic man very reminiscent of the aforementioned portrayal of Alexander (it doesn't help that he's a big fan). Even he admits that this portrayal is anything but historically accurate, and that he's more of an embodiment of Napoleon's Cult of Personality than a proper incarnation of the man himself.
  • Kingdom paints the young Qin Shi Huangdi in a far more positive light than his reputation within contemporary Chinese sources and history. Set prior to his descent into tyranny (such as burning books and burying scholars alive) as The Emperor of a united China; it has him portrayed here as both The Good King and a Well-Intentioned Extremist. This is, however, a case of Tropes Are Tools - readers are unlikely to root for Qin Shi Huang if he were portrayed historically.
  • Magi: Labyrinth of Magic takes the usually villain-upgraded characters from Arabian Nights and give them their original proper roles (Ja'far, to name one).
  • In Record of Ragnarok, the setting really pushes for making all characters as badass as they can possibly be, with that historical and mythical figures, good and bad, have their commonly known backstories completely revised if they contained any shameful moment in them, such as loss, a moment of weakness, cowardice, etc. Case in point: a common record of Lu Bu's final moments was him throwing a fit upon being captured by Cao Cao's forces and being denied a chance to work with their army, as he was known as a serial betrayer; this series, however, changes that event into Lu Bu being completely calm in his final moment, going as far as to say the previous record is completely false, the "truth" being that Lu Bu actually allowed himself to be captured, the man was so bored of being unmatched in battle throughout his entire life that nothing mattered anymore, so he might as well free himself of such a meaningless life.
  • Ōoku: The Inner Chambers does this to Tokugawa Ienari, who in real life was a wildly unpopular shogun due to his lack of financial acumen and spending most of his time as shogun in his Royal Harem making far too many successors with far too many women and financially ruining the shogunate. Ooku's Ienari is thoughtful and considered, if a little weak-willed, and is the one responsible for eradicating the Red-Faced Pox by instituting a mandatory state-wide vaccination programme. On his deathbed, he reveals that he has ordered the scribes to cover up the extravagant expenses of running this vaccination programme by telling them Ienari spent it all on luxuries, leaving history to remember him only as the degenerate wastrel he was in real life.

    Comic Books 
  • 300 leaves out any mention of Spartan pederasty and slaveholding (of fellow Hellenes no less), which were major parts of their culture at the time, to keep them sympathetic to modern audiences. The film also leaves out their religious piety in an attempt to appeal to gung-ho masculine audiences, going as far as having the hero criticize the Athenians as "boy lovers" and call out their own clergy as "corrupt."
  • Charles Fort may be one of the most important figures in paranormal science, but he wasn't much of a hands-on investigator. The only weird event he claimed to be present for was a painting falling off a wall for no apparent reason. In a one-shot comic from Dark Horse Comics, he's not only depicted as being directly involved in the things he investigates, but is upgraded to a badass action hero who saves the world from aliens. A preteen H. P. Lovecraft gets to be his sidekick. At the end of the comic, Theodore Roosevelt puts him in charge of a secret organization.
  • In Necronauts, Fort, Lovecraft, Harry Houdini, and Arthur Conan Doyle team up to save the world from an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Impaler: In this Image Comics title, Vlad the Impaler is an immortal vampire slayer that defended humanity from vampires and demons summoned from hell by Sultan Mehmed in a desperate attempt to take over Europe.
  • Puerto Rico Strong: Invoked in Reality Check. A man tells his sons about how Christopher Columbus, known by his Spanish name Cristóbal Colón in the comic, came to Puerto Rico. Cristóbal thought the island was the most beautiful place in the world and, after meeting a Taino child, he allowed his men to stay on the island, where they blended in peacefully with the natives. His wife tells him, in Spanish so their kids don't understand, that he shouldn't lie to his children like that.
  • Superman story The Living Legends of Superman: In the very distant future President Woodrow Wilson is regarded by future generations as a renowned hero who made the world safer for democracy. As of the early 21st century, though, he is a pretty obscure President, being considered as a controversial figure with unsavory views at best, whose inability to ensure a fair peace treaty between the Allies and Germany created a breeding ground for the extremist movements which led to the WWII.
  • Atomic Robo:
    • Nikola Tesla in real life was a brilliant inventor, but also had some less-than-savoury views on topics like eugenics and certainly did not engage in lightning-powered vigilante adventures to prevent authoritarian takeovers or city-levelling mad science experiments.
    • "The Shadow from Beyond Time" begins with Charles Fort, Lovecraft, and Robo teaming up to defend the world from an Eldritch Abomination, with Fort mentioning that he's had other adventures already including one associated with The Tunguska Event.

    Fan Works 
  • The first season of Children of Time, in the spirit of Doctor Who (see the Live-Action TV folder below), contains more real-life people than it does characters original to the series, and nearly all in heroic or at least protagonist-supporting roles: William Shakespeare, Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, Bram Stoker and Jeremy Brett. (The only real-life figure not to take on a positive light is General Groves in "The Manhattan Conspiracy", the actual C.O. at Los Alamos during the development of the atomic bomb.)
  • In Worldwar: War of Equals, some of the more... antagonistic world leaders such as Kim Jong-un, Hosni Mubarak, and Muammar Gaddafi are shown in a somewhat more positive light. Of course, anyone is better than alien conquerors.

    Films — Animation 
  • Like 1492: Conquest of Paradise, The Adventures of Christopher Columbus depicts Christopher Columbus as a calm, kindly, and even heroic Bold Explorer. Long story short, it's the direct opposite of his aggressive, greedy and overzealous historical counterpart, who massacred or enslaved native populations.
  • Anastasia: Nicholas II (from what little we see of him) is characterized as a good man who lost his throne and life largely due to a curse. While the real Nicholas certainly wasn't without his positive qualities, his rule was hardly free of oppression and saw some of the worst pogroms in Russian history. His mismanagement of the Russian war effort in the Russo-Japanese War and later World War I go completely unmentioned, as do his various bloody crackdowns against political dissidents. While many to this day question whether he really deserved his ultimate fate, especially considering his innocent relatives and servants suffered and died along with him in the most gruesome way possible, no supernatural influence was necessary to turn his people against him.
  • El Cid: The Legend: Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar is portrayed as a young brave, romantic knight who rallies both Muslims and Christians to fight against a tyrant who seeks to crush both and is ultimately loyal to the king who exiled him. The real Rodrigo was largely self-serving and fought for both sides and against each other, which included sacking Christian cities for Muslims and vice-versa. He also famously murdered his wife's father for insulting and slapping Rodrigo's own father, while in the movie, Rodrigo accidentally kills Jimena's father in self-defense after he attempted to kill Rodrigo so he wouldn't interfere in her Arranged Marriage with someone else.
  • Disney's Pocahontas movie, being a rather loose take on actual historical events, has some examples of this.
    • John Smith is given this treatment to the point where critics agree this is the version of John Smith the actual Smith would have wanted history to see him as. The real Smith wrote boastful accounts of his adventures, in which he spun fact into legend and portrayed himself as a James Bond-like figure (at least by early-17th century standards). One of the reasons historians doubt the story about Pocahontas saving his life is that that's one of three times he claimed to have been rescued by a native woman. Either native women really had a thing for him or he was a rather uncreative writer. Also, John Smith was much more of a Jerkass, with one of his well-documented actions being taking a Native leader captive so that the leader's tribe would provide him with plentiful resources.
    • While the Powhatan are portrayed as flawed but fundamentally decent people rather than incorruptible noble savages — probably at least partly for the benefit of the movie's themes — the film glosses over some of their more questionable actions (such as inviting starving colonists to a banquet, only to murder them). Chief Wahunsenacah in particular gets this, becoming a wise and noble (if imperfect) leader. The real Wahunsenacah, on the other hand, often behaved like a massive douche - one of the most notable examples is him not lifting a finger to save Pocahontas when she got kidnapped by some Englishmen (in fact, Pocahontas rebuked her father for this the last time she saw him).
    • In the sequel, John Rolfe is portrayed as a generally positive character who hesitates to get involved with Pocahontas due to thinking she was still in love with John Smith. In reality he married her at least in part for political reasons shortly after her aforementioned kidnapping, and agonized over the repercussions of marrying a "heathen" (even though by this point Pocahontas had converted to Anglicanism). He's also thought by some historians to have been involved in introducing slavery to England's New World colonies.
  • The Road to El Dorado greatly whitewashes Human Sacrifice in Mesoamerica. It's treated as something the people of El Dorado don't like, but are led to believe is a necessary evil. The one person pushing human sacrifice in the city, Tzekel-Kan, is evil and also uses it secondarily as a form of Blood Magic. In reality, human sacrifice was simply a fact of life for many Mesoamerican cultures, as accepted as any other aspect of their religion. While El Dorado is a fictitious civilization, its people having such radically different ideas about the practice compared to the actual cultures of the region nevertheless qualifies it for this trope.

    Films — Live-Action 

Multi-example cases

  • Earlier in the USA's history, General Custer was often depicted as a Messianic Archetype, a brave hero who fought against the Indians and died alongside his men. This myth extended to both literature and eventually, film. This is most notable in 1941's They Died with Their Boots On. More modern sympathies with the Indians have caused him to no longer be portrayed this way, however, often to the point of overcorrection (though eventually this second view would soften, so that Custer now comes off as more of a Punch-Clock Villain than an Indian-hating sadist). Custer's heroic myths are due to his wife, who outlived him (she died in 1933, a little under 60 years after him). She wrote three books depicting her late husband as a folk hero. She was afraid he would be blamed for the humiliating defeat and slaughter his troops suffered, and thus spent the rest of her life lobbying extensively to make her husband look a hero.
  • Fletcher Christian of the HMS Bounty mutiny is generally portrayed in movie adaptations of the events (such as the ones in 1935 and 1962) as a heroic, honorable man who stood up against Captain Bligh on behalf of the oppressed crew and ultimately led them to salvation and paradise on Pitcairn Island. This is notwithstanding the fact that many historians believe that Bligh's tyrannical behavior has been greatly exaggerated (in fact, some accounts indicate that Bligh was less prone to using the severe physical punishments of the era than most Royal Navy captains, preferring to simply ridicule subordinates with abusive language if they displeased him), and it mostly emerged after the ship had spent several months docked at Tahiti, the sailors had grown used to an easy life ashore with plenty of food and enthusiastic female company, and deeply resented having to return to a much less pleasant life at sea. It's hard for anyone who takes an objective reading of the accounts to regard Christian's actions as anything but purely selfish; he even admitted as such after the mutiny, since by his own claim he simply could not handle being yelled at by Bligh any longer. Portrayals of the story conveniently gloss over several important facts. Regardless of Christian's personal feelings towards Bligh, he also set eighteen loyal crew members adrift with him — albeit they did volunteer to go rather than remain on the ship with the mutineers, and their number would have been greater if there had more room in the launch. One of the men perished during the arduous journey to reach Timor, the nearest European settlement, three others succumbed to illness soon after they reached safety thanks to being severely weakened by their horrendous ordeal, and two more died on their way back to England; responsibility for their deaths has to rest at least partly on Christian's shoulders. On the other hand, he also forced some men to remain on the ship against their will, intent on never allowing them to return home. Christian's command of the ship after taking control was also strict and somewhat abusive like Bligh's before him, resulting in over half of his band losing faith in his leadership and deserting him once they returned to Tahiti. Adaptations also leave out how Christian and his mutineers were responsible for the massacre of scores of indigenous people on Tubuai Island while trying to clear space for a settlement and forcing local women to be their 'wives', and that most of the Tahitians who 'accompanied' them to Pitcairn Island were actually abducted after they were deceived into attending a party on the ship. Once they reached the island, Christian and his mutineers soon starting treating most of the Tahitian men like slaves, forcing them to do hard labour while the British men lazed about and "passed [the women] around from one 'husband' to the other", growing ever more tyrannical. Within a few years all of the Tahitian men and eight of the nine mutineers were dead, murdered by each other or by revenge-seeking widows, including Christian himself.

Specific movies

  • 12 Strong depicts Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum as a brave, heroic sort, albeit a bit gruff and crude, and Fire-Forged Friends with the main character, and fondly mentions that he became Vice President after the events of the film. His involvement in the Dasht-i-Leili massacre, which happened only a few months after, doesn't warrant a mention, nor does the fact that, at the time the film came out, Dostum was in exile after being accused of kidnapping a political rival and raping him with an assault rifle.
  • 55 Days at Peking: The Eight-Nation Alliance gets portrayed in a significantly better light in this film. The movie tries oh so hard to pretend putting down the Boxer Rebellion had absolutely nothing to do with imperialism. Instead, it was all about honor or... maintaining peace or... something. Whatever, it sounds credible when you say it in a Rousing Speech with David Niven's accent. In addition, the relationship between the various powers wasn't nearly as harmonious as depicted in the film, and the film also omits the widespread destruction, looting and murder carried out by the alliance's forces after the siege was lifted.
  • The Spartans in 300. In the movie, Sparta is portrayed as a secular utopia of egalitarianism and freedom. In reality:
    • Sparta was almost entirely supported by their slave helots, which allowed Spartan men to spend all their time fighting. Some estimates suggest that 85% of Sparta's population at one point was slaves. On the other hand, Spartan women were given more rights than other Greek women. On the other other hand, the treatment of female helots was abysmal; bastard offspring of Spartan men and helot women were so common as to be a distinct social class (the mothakes), and it is hard to imagine that many of these couplings were consensual.
    • The state was the ultimate owner of everything, with citizens being granted assets as deemed appropriate.
    • While the film portrays Spartan citizens as secularists who are disgusted by their corrupt clergy, real Spartans were even more devout than citizens of other Greek city-states.
    • In real life, the Spartans practiced pederasty, sexual relationships between grown men and teenage boys. In the film, Leonidas chides Athenians as "boy-lovers," implying that Spartans were above such behavior.
    • The portrayal of the 300 Spartans as fighting and holding the Persians alone, with a small amount of help from a few Acadians, who are portrayed as being made up of amateur, poor soldiers. In reality, the 300 Spartans formed only part (albeit a crucial part) of a coalition of forces from several Greek cities probably numbering 5,000-7,000, the bulk of whom would have by this point been professional, well-trained soldiers, though perhaps not quite as elite as the Spartans.
    • The film portrays Sparta as the greatest bulwark against Persia. In reality, Sparta would go on to ally with Persia against Athens in the Peloponnesian War, sold out the Ionian Greeks to Persia in the Corinthian War, and refused to participate in the League of Corinth which ultimately defeated Persia until Alexander the Great forced them at swordpoint after an ill-fated attack in Persia's name.
  • Christopher Columbus in Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise is depicted as a calm, kindly explorer who is fascinated by the native peoples he encounters when he reaches San Salvador. In reality, as deduced from both Columbus' own writings and legal proceedings against him, the man was not quite so nice. In fact, he could be very brutal towards both the natives and his own subordinates — to the point that Queen Isabella, who helped establish the Spanish Inquisition, thought he took things too far and had him hauled back to Spain to answer for what he did.
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood, like other versions of Robin Hood written after Sir Walter Scott tied him to the Plantagenet period, lionizes Richard I of England by portraying him as The Good King who openly regrets abandoning his responsibilities in England to go on Crusade. In reality, Richard snapped and plotted as much as any Plantagenet with the addition of being an enthusiastic Blood Knight. As the Duke of Aquitaine he was so unpopular he had to suppress multiple rebellions, which he did quite brutally. He also never repented his absence from England's throne and may have spent as little as six months actually on it—instead he used the realm as a cashbox to fund even more crusading and logically, he would not have spent the majority of his reign in England even if his reign had not mostly consisted of military activity, due to factors such as the court of the Angevin Empire being held in Angers and Chinon and Richard viewing Aquitaine as his home, all of which were located in France. (He did, however, enjoy more popularity as king than John ever did.)
  • Agora depicts Hypatia, an ardent pagan in Real Life, as something of an agnostic or atheist. This was presumably done to underscore the film's (historically inaccurate) faith vs. reason conflict, as well as allow her to use empirical reasoning. In reality, empiricism was contrary to her school of thought and religion. She is also shown making astronomical advances which rely on these methods (despite there being no contemporary evidence tying her to these advances in Real Life).
  • Ali gives Muhammad Ali a pretty big upgrade by glossing over or reducing some of his less likable aspects. His extreme views on race and religion are toned down significantly, views which, in real life, caused a great deal of controversy even amongst people who otherwise held him out as a hero. Notably, his denunciations of integrationist policies and the Civil Rights Act are absent, as are the episodes of him preaching of America's imminent destruction (per Nation of Islam theology). The movie also downplays Ali's mean streak when it came to his opponents. In addition to openly taking delight in humiliating opponents he personally disliked (Floyd Patterson and Ernie Terrell being the most infamous examples), his pre-fight insults often degenerated into cheap shots and racial stereotyping (such as calling George Foreman "a white, flag-waving bitch" and Joe Frazier "an ugly, dumb gorilla" and an "Uncle Tom").
  • In Apache, Massai and Al Sieber are portrayed as worthy opponents who happen to be fighting on opposites of the conflict. Neither is as purely heroic as the film portrays them. Massai was more outlaw than freedom fighter and, unlike the film version, did not restrict his attacks to the US Army. He robbed, murdered and (according to some accounts) raped civilians. Sieber, meanwhile, is known to have perjured himself to ensure Massai received a heavier sentence.
  • Taken to ludicrous extremes with The Babe Ruth Story, which depicts its subject in such a ridiculously positive light it almost comes off as a parody. In addition to the movie (not unexpectedly) glossing over most of Ruth's vices, it also portrays him as a literal miracle worker, with moments like him curing a paralyzed boy by saying "hi" to him.
  • The Battle of Algiers: The movie certainly doesn't whitewash the FLN, but some of their more unsavory actions (whether mutilating French corpses or fighting with other Algerian nationalist groups) go unmentioned. In addition they also fail to mention part of the reason French occupation got more brutal upon the end of WWII was because local Algerian rowdies were going on rampages and plundering local French villages and residencies after the Germans left but before the French could stabilize the region. Some of the FLN members participated in these acts for nearly a decade before the revolution started in 1954. Also downplayed is how not just the FLN but the Algerian side as a whole were pretty bigoted Muslims who wanted to impose restrictions on non-Muslims and more liberal Agerians upon gaining independence (and actually attempted to do so in the war within Arab quarters). The most shown is their death penalty for drug possession and ban on prostitution. In real life, pogroms and actual violence occurred in FLN-occupied locations simply because the target was not a Muslim (or not seen as "devout enough"), including the massacre or expulsion of nearly the entire European population of Algiers and Oran within a few months of independence.
  • The 2021 Chinese war movie The Battle At Lake Changjin, based on the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, depicted that the Chinese came to North Korea's aid to stop American aggression and the Chinese fought bravely to stop an American attack during the battle, which forced the Americans to retreat and brought peace to the Korean peninsula. However, the movie was heavily criticized in South Korea, especially by Korean nationalists and veterans of the Korean War, as Chinese propaganda and rewriting history. For one, North Korea invaded South Korea only to be repelled by a joint US and UN task force and the Chinese only helped the losing North Korea as they didn't want an US allied country near their border and feared being the next target, although the fact that General Douglas MacArthur did promote a controversial push into North Korea and threatened nuclear retaliation didn't help matters. Furthermore, it was the Chinese who initialized the attack that started the battle and the UN forces were forced to retreat due to the Chinese sending overwhelming number of troops. Finally the battle didn't end the war but prolonged it to another three years.
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915): One of the main reasons this movie is so infamous is its glorification of the First Klan, treating it as a morally justified insurrectionist group responding to abuses from carpetbaggers, scalawags, Union troops and especially free blacks.
  • The Birth of a Nation (2016): Unlike in this movie, Nat Turner and his followers were known to have murdered white children, including a baby in its crib. The movie also depicts Nat turning himself in so that a spate of reprisal killings against black people will end; in reality, Nat spent six weeks hiding out in the wilderness before a local farmer discovered him squatting in Native American territory.
  • Braveheart upgraded William Wallace into the architect of Scottish Independence and downgraded Robert Bruce to little more than a background character.
    • Robert Bruce is one of the great heroes of Scottish history, and his guerrilla campaign against the forces of Kings Edward I and II was much larger, went on for much longer and was far more successful than Wallace's. Plus, it shows Bruce betraying Wallace, when in reality he never once betrayed Wallace - everyone else, sure, but never Wallace. Wallace also never met Princess Isabella, and certainly wasn't the father of King Edward III - for one, the Real Life Isabella was only nine or ten years old at the time and still living in France.
    • The film depicted the future Edward II as being effeminate and obviously gay. While questions of Edward's homosexuality have long been debatednote  contemporary accounts tend to note that Edward was quite athletic being fond of hunting and other activities. He also fathered numerous bastards, meaning he was at least attracted to women, if not solely to them.
    • Likewise, contrary to the kind of anachronistic Pictish barbarian highlander that Wallace comes across as in the movie, the real one was a feudal lord. Not a wealthy or prestigious one, but definitely part of that society's elite. He owned serfs, and lorded over peasants, and likewise, when he invaded England pre-emptively, he and his army sacked and burnt villages, attacking English peasants and serfs.
  • Bonnie and Clyde: The film's portrayal of the titular Outlaw Couple changes a number of events to make them more likable, mainly by showing their victims as deserving of robbery and murder. The real pair's robberies were not usually against banks as per the film, but small stores and gas stations, and their constant killings of both lawmen and civilians caused the contemporary public to turn against them - a perception that only started to flip due to the circumstances of their deaths. The film also depicts them as Affably Evil, while the real duo were at best Faux Affably Evil.
  • In Bridge of Spies, Frederic Pryor, an American student in Berlin who was taken prisoner by the East German authorities because he was in East Berlin on the day the Berlin Wall went up, is depicted as being captured in a heroic attempt to help a non-existent German girlfriend escape to the West. In reality, he was trying to return his library books.
  • Cleopatra does this with both the title character and Mark Antony, with a corresponding Historical Villain Upgrade for Octavian. Antony is portrayed as a dashing romantic hero and an able leader, and it's fully implied that Rome would've been far better off under him than Octavian, who is depicted as a Psychopathic Manchild. In real life, Antony was the more violent of the two. The historical Cleopatra was well-known for backstabbing and murder-for-hire, as well, though this is justified as many of the people she murdered tried to kill her.
  • Istvan Szabo's Colonel Redl (1985) does this for Alfred Redl, infamous Austrian spymaster-turned-traitor. Most historical accounts claim that Redl betrayed military secrets to Russia after being blackmailed for homosexuality, though a few accounts suggest he merely did it for the money. By contrast, Szabo's Redl is essentially scapegoated by officials in the Austro-Hungarian government to distract from a coup d'état plotted by Archduke Franz Ferdinand - who conversely gets a major Historical Villain Upgrade as a bloodthirsty warmonger.
  • The Conqueror: Jamuga is characterized as Temujin's loyal friend and second-in-command who refuses to ever betray him. In reality, Jamuga did betray Temujin, becoming his sworn enemy and main rival for the title of Mongol Khan.
  • Culloden: Lord George Murray is depicted as the Only Sane Man among the Jacobite commanders, who could have won the day for them had Bonnie Prince Charlie put more stock in him. In reality, Murray contributed to the Jacobite defeat with a failed attempt at a night attack on the Duke of Cumberland's forces that left the Jacobite forces tired and caused as many as several hundred of their men to miss the battle.
  • Dances with Wolves gives this treatment to the Sioux, portraying them as simply defending themselves from the Pawnee. In reality, the Sioux were the aggressors in that conflict. During the late 18th Century, they began pushing the Pawnee and other native peoples out of their ancestral lands, and were still committing atrocities against them decades later. One of the most infamous of these atrocities was a massacre committed in 1873 where a large Sioux war party attacked a band of Pawnee out hunting, engaging in extremely brutal behavior and even setting Pawnee children on fire. These abuses were actually a big part of why the Pawnee and other tribes allied with the United States.
  • Dangerous Beauty gives this to both Veronica Franco and Marco Venier. The film portrays Franco as bravely standing up to the Inquisition (which receives a major Historical Villain Upgrade) at her trial for witchcraft, and portrays Venier as being desperately in love with her, and defending her from the Inquisition, and persuading the rest of the Venetian Senate to do so as well. In reality, Veronica Franco was never in any real danger from the Inquisition. They tried her twice for witchcraft and let her go without punishment after she testified to performing rituals solely as entertainment. In fact, the Inquisition regarded accusations of witchcraft as silly superstition, and acquitted accused witches as a matter of course. The film also, in an earlier scene, depicts Franco as a heroine of the Venetian republic for persuading the king of France, by being just that good in bed, to ally with Venice against the Turks. In real life, King Henry III of France did sleep with Franco when he visited Venice to negotiate the alliance, but that had nothing to do with why he allied with Venice.
  • Death Hunt: Albert Johnson was a real person who was the subject of a months-long manhunt in the Yukon Territory in 1931-1932. While he kept to himself in a cabin in the wilderness, reportedly he kept messing with the locals' hunting traps. The mounties tried to question him two separate times, bringing a search warrant the second time around, but he ignored them. This eventually resulted in a shoot-out between Johnson and the mounties after they forced his door, wounding several lawmen. The film makes him a lot more sympathetic by turning him into a Great War veteran who is really just a kind-hearted hermit, having him nurse a maltreated dog back to health, and only becoming a fugitive after a group of vengeful locals force him into a shoot-out by attacking him.
  • Defiance: Though the Bielski Partisans did protect and save thousands of Belarusian Jews, there were some far less heroic things they did too. In contrast to the film, the Partisan leaders held more resources than the rest, and took first pick of the women as sexual partners. Also, there are controversial allegations that they participated in NKVD-ordered atrocities against Poles who resisted giving supplies to the Soviet Partisans.
  • Downfall:
    • When Eva Braun's brother-in-law Hermann Fegelein is ordered executed by Hitler for desertion (and to vent his anger at Himmler for betraying him), she pleads with him to spare his life. The real Eva made no such attempts. On the contrary, her reaction was to bemoan the fact that so many people were backstabbing Hitler to save their own skins.
    • The Red Army's conduct during the Battle of Berlin is given a good deal of sanitization. Only one instance of pillage is shown, as a bit of comic relief where some female Soviet soldiers rummage through Magda Goebbels' clothing. Constanze Manziarly, a cook and dietitian who worked for Hitler, is merely stated to have "disappeared" after leaving the Führerbunker, when in real life she was last seen being taken into an underground station by two Soviet soldiers and was never heard from again — it's commonly believed that she was raped and murdered by them.
    • Ernst-Günther Schenck is depicted as one of the more conventionally heroic figures of the movie, wanting to risk his own life help civilians even when it's against orders and trying to keep people from throwing their lives away for Hitler. This conveniently glosses over the fact that he was involved in human experimentation on concentration camp victims and was barred from practicing medicine and nearly stripped of his medical license by West Germany as a result. note  The director has justified his portrayal of Schenck by claiming he doesn't believe the accusations against him.
    • Downplayed with Wilhelm Mohnke. While calling him a "good guy" would be a bit of a stretch, he's characterized as one of the few German generals with more or less clean hands and is shown to have morals the higher ups wouldn't understand, as demonstrated when he asks Hitler to consider the millions of civilians inside Berlin (a request Hitler predictably dismisses) and is horrified at an uncaring Goebbels using the Volkstrum volunteers as Cannon Fodder. The real Mohnke was investigated for alleged war crimes, including claims that he was responsible for the murder of civilians and POWs (admittedly, not enough evidence was found to prosecute him and there's skepticism over whether the accusations hold any truth). One history by Howard Margolian paints a picture of him as a drug-addicted following combat injuries, with a hair-trigger temper and a sadistic streak which led him to kill surrendered British soldiers in cold blood in 1940, and again in Normandy in 1944 where dozens of Canadians were massacred. Like with Schenck, the director has gone on record saying he's skeptical of the allegations against Mohnke.
    • Zig-zagged with Helmuth Weidling, who is portrayed as an honourable general with moral reservations about many of Hitler's actions in the final days of the war. While in Real Life he was morally outraged at the use of Child Soldiers, he was also responsible for war crimes on the Eastern Front, including mass executions of civilians and gathering sick people in "typhus" camps were most of them died.
    • Albert Speer's portrayal in the film is largely based on his memoirs made after his release from prison. In these memoirs, he portrayed himself in a heroic light, being the Only Sane Man in the inner circle and having a close friendship with the Führer that allowed him to get away with disobeying the Salt the Earth policies without retaliation. However, many historians believe that Speer distorted the narrative to make himself look better, though much of the evidence validating that stance came out after this film was released.
  • Vlad the Impaler gets this in Dracula Untold, his vampirism being a quasi-superhero origin tale. The fact the movie is closer to actual history regarding Dracula than most (not that this is saying much) also helps this trope. Namely, Vlad doesn't make a habit of impaling his own people, and he's known as the Impaler because of his deeds in the past, not his deeds as ruler.
  • Eight Men Out: Along with the film Field of Dreams, this movie and the book that inspired it have been instrumental in sparking attempts to rehabilitate the reputation of Shoeless Joe Jackson. The film presents Jackson as a misunderstood and tortured soul with regard to the 1919 Black Sox scandal. This whitewashing ignores several facts, which get conveniently ignored. First, Jackson admitted via grand jury testimony (dated September 29, 1920) under oath that he accepted money to throw the Series, something court transcripts delineate plainly; he also changed his story regarding level of involvement with some frequency. Some observers point to Jackson's glowingly good stats in that World Series as proof that he wasn't actually participating in throwing games — but this ignores that he only played well in games that were "on the level" (not every game in the 1919 Series was fixed) or in fixed games after a loss was assured. Inning-by-inning analysis of thrown games and perusal of "clean" games shows this clearly. See this link for details.
  • El Presidente is a Pinoy film which portrays General Emilio Aguinaldo, the First Philippine President, as a heroic revolutionary leader who boldly led his people against Spanish, American, and Japanese conquerors. In reality, Aguinaldo was a harsh dictator who executed his rivals and whose leadership arguably caused the Philippine Revolution to fail. In addition, he was a willing collaborator with both the United States and Japan, and many Filipinos today do not consider him as one of the founders of the country.
  • Erin Brockovich:
    • Brockovich herself gets this treatment. The movie portrays her as a tireless activist purely because it's The Right Thing To Do. It leaves out the fact that she was after a very sizable cut of the settlement as well and made millions of dollars that way... or at the least, it portrays this as a "happy side effect".
    • Her boyfriend George also. In the movie, he's just an all-around Nice Guy. In Real Life, shortly after the movie was released, he tried to blackmail her by threatening to tell the media that she was an unfit mother and that she and Ed had had an affair.
  • Fist of Legend: Fumio Funakochi is a fictional character, but he is depicted as a senior member of the real-life Black Dragon Society who is unusually tolerant and respectful of Chinese people, particularly Chen Zhen, and apologizes for the racism and bigotry of his students. The actual Black Dragon Society was a hardline ultranationalist paramilitary organization involved in crime, espionage and murder, and had several high-ranking members in the Japanese government who were the prime movers of Japan's aggressive foreign policy. Funokochi should really be the most racist and bigoted character in the movie, and worst still, had he been a real person, might even have been involved in masterminding the invasion of Shanghai itself! The film touches on this by having Funokochi argue that the Black Dragon has become corrupt and lost its way, but in reality they were always involved in political extremism and pan-Asianism. Funokochi himself is likely based on its founder Ryōhei Uchida, who was also a famous martial arts master.
  • The Founder: Contrary to what's implied in the movie, the McDonald brothers didn't invent the idea of a fast food restaurant. While the Speedee System was indeed theirs, White Castle was using a similar system as far back as 1921. One could also argue the automats of the time used the same principles for on-demand quick food preparation.
  • Gettysburg:
    • Buford, Chamberlain, and Hancock in the sense that, though their actions aren't really upgraded in any significant way, they are brought to the forefront of the audience's attention in a manner that plays up their importance to the detriment of dozens of equally heroic and important actions elsewhere on the field. Ironic given that the book and film are what pulled them out of historical obscurity.note 
    • This film and its source material played a major role in rehabilitating James Longstreet's reputation in both professional and popular history, which before had mostly followed the ex-Confederate narrative that badmouthed Longstreet as a scapegoat for the defeat at Gettysburg (and therefore the entire war) because he became a Republican and publicly criticized Lee after the war. However, Shaara's narrative takes the opposite extreme of portraying him as the blameless Only Sane Man, effectively arguing that Lee lost the battle (and therefore the war) because he didn't listen to Longstreet, downplaying Longstreet's own command flaws, particularly his somewhat desultory performance on 2 July (which might've affected the overall resultnote ), and especially by painting him as fundamentally against bloody frontal assaults (which his brilliant successes at Gaines's Mill, Second Bull Run, Chickamauga, and his self-determined Epic Fail at Fort Sanders all contradict).
    • Pickett generally receives the Tragic Hero treatment, noticeably downplaying the fact that historically he was at best a mediocre commander and wasn't really tragic in any sense beyond the bare fact of leading one third of the charge. The Where Are They Now epilogue also doesn't include the fact that he executed twenty-two North Carolinans who took up arms for the Union under the spurious claim that they were deserters (when, in fact, they had previously served in a home guard instead of the Confederate army because they didn't want to betray the United States).
  • Lucilla, sister of the Roman Emperor Commodus has been given a Historical Hero Upgrade in both Gladiator and the 1964 epic The Fall of the Roman Empire (where she was played by Sophia Loren). The real life Lucilla was indeed involved in a plot to assassinate her brother... but according to contemporary historian Herodian it was because of her own jealousy and desire for power (in fact he even blames her attempt to have Commodus killed as what made him so paranoid in the first place).
  • Glory: Zig-zagged with Robert Gould Shaw. On the one hand, the real Shaw was significantly more reluctant to lead a black regimentnote ; on the other, the pay boycott was his idea, not the black soldiers'.
  • Gods and Generals: The movie characterizes Stonewall Jackson as favoring an eventual abolition of slavery in the South. Historical evidence suggests he was more ambivalent about the "peculiar institution" - he figured that if God wanted it to end then it would end in God's time, and if God didn't want it to end then it wouldn't. He did get in trouble for teaching slave children how to read and write during Sunday School lessons, with his defense that "The Lord intended all his children to be able to read his word", but he still believed they could read it fine while remaining in slavery. Unlike in the movie, there's no evidence he ever floated the idea of granting slaves their freedom in exchange for them joining the Confederate Army; the first Confederate general to suggest freeing slaves in order to have them fight against the Yankees was Patrick Cleburne, "the Stonewall of the West", in early 1864, which was a year after Jackson died. On top of all this, Jackson's personal cook is a paid employee in the movie, while he was a slave in real life.
  • The Great Warrior Skanderbeg is pretty accurate to the title character's reputation, since he was regarded as a hero by the Europeans and a Worthy Opponent by the Ottomans during his lifetime. With that said, the movie glosses over his more brutal acts like forcing Muslims to convert to Christianity or face impalement. All in all, the story focuses on the nationalistic aspects like defending their homeland from invaders rather than the religious aspects.
  • The Greatest Showman depicts P.T. Barnum as a noble man who accepts outcasts and "freaks" shunned by society and treats them like family. In reality, he was a ruthlessly ambitious businessman who used hoaxes, like a fake mermaid, to attract crowds to his museum and exploited the workers in his "freak shows" including a blind and paralyzed slave woman who he worked until she died - whereupon he sold tickets to her live autopsy.
  • The 1940 German film Das Herz der Königin ("The Heart of the Queen"), viewed by many critics as an anti-British propaganda movie, portrays the troubled Mary, Queen of the Scots (Zarah Leander) as a beautiful saintly martyr whose heart is full of love for her people and who wishes above all to give them freedom and happiness. She spends the majority of the film frolicking around Scottish castles in glamorous anachronistic gowns while singing pretty songs about her tragic life.
  • Hero (2002) does this for Qin Shi Huangdi: though he's not portrayed as a saint and the brutality of his conquests is acknowledged (as the entire point of the story is that the main characters plot to assassinate him for what he's done to get the throne), the film portrays his iron-fisted rule as a Necessarily Evil thing that is needed to unite China and stop the various states from constantly going to war. This was a point of criticism for American critics, who accused the movie of endorsing fascism (though director Zhang Yimou insisted he was not trying to make any political points and merely intended to make a compelling story).
  • The Hurricane (1999) depicts Rubin Carter as an unambiguously innocent man who was wrongly convicted largely thanks to a racist cop with a longstanding grudge, and exonerated thanks to the efforts of three Canadian activists and a young African-American who wrote to him in prison. This is not what happened: the real Carter was never exonerated, or even acquitted. In reality, no evidence proving he was innocent was found, just some that had not been presented by the prosecution. He was ordered released or retried — the state of New Jersey appealed this ruling, lost, and chose to not retry him again (he had already been retried before in 1976, with another guilty verdict resulting). The real Carter's guilt or innocence is still debated today. Other elements of Carter's criminal history also get whitewashed by the movie. For example, it depicts him being arrested and sent to a juvenile facility in his youth for defending himself against a pedophile. The real Carter was locked up for assaulting and robbing a man, a fact that nobody disputes.
  • Imperium Augustus did this heavily with the eponymous Emperor Augustus and his rise to power. The movie presented him as an idealist whose goal was for the good of Rome. He also never wanted to do all the ugly things he did but was forced to because of the actions of his enemies. This was also done to a lesser extent with Julius Caesar who was presented as a Wide-Eyed Idealist.
  • The Owen Chase of In the Heart of the Sea can do no wrong. He is shown to have opposed every questionable decision made by his incompetent captain, heroically dives down into the flaming, sinking Essex to retrieve navigational equipment (a feat actually committed by the ship's steward in real life) and ultimately has a epiphany wherein he realizes whale hunting is immoral, and decides to give up a career as a whaler to settle down into a family life. The latter detail cannot be further from the truth. In reality, Chase went on to have a long and successful career as a whaling captain, at the expense of his family life suffering: he went through 4 marriages in his lifetime. Chase was said by some who served under him to have carried a personal vendetta against the whale which sunk the Essex, and this may well have driven him insane, for he spent some of his later years in a mental institution. While his heroic command of the open boat is commendable, he also made some questionable decisions before, during and after the sinking that may have put his crew in danger.
  • Inchon, set during the The Korean War, gives one to the US and South Korean forces. In a case of Artistic License – History, the Hangang Bridge bombing is depicted in the film as an heroic final stand against North Korean forces trying to rush over, but in real life, the North Korean forces were not anywhere near the bridge when it was blown up, killing hundreds of unaware, fleeing refugees. The general in charge gave the order as soon as he crossed over, while a subordinate who followed his orders was scapegoated and executed. It also gives one to Douglas MacArthur, depicts him as a deeply spiritual man and overlooks his quarrels with President Harry S. Truman which led to his dismissal. This is no surpurise as the film was a pet project of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who leads the controversial Unification Church.
  • The Iron Lady certainly isn't uncritical of Margaret Thatcher (depicting her as a bit too stubborn and contrarian for her own good), but the damage her administration did to industrial communities is glossed over. This is justified, however, by the fact that much of the movie essentially takes place in the senile Thatcher's mind.
  • Jim Garrison is depicted in Oliver Stone's JFK as a fearless crusader for the truth, driven by a deep sense of devotion to the slain president and a desire to bring justice to his assassins. The real life Garrison is considered by just about every objective historian to have been either a completely delusional paranoid or a shallow opportunist. He intimidated witnesses, suborned perjury and based his case against Clay Shaw on homophobia.
  • Khartoum: Charles George Gordon is given a Custer-like hagiography, emphasizing his interest in ending slavery throughout Africa and his enmity with Muhammad Ahmad. The real Gordon wasn't as saintly as the movie claims. He spent most of his military career as a mercenary and if it hadn't been for the crisis in Sudan, he would've served in the Belgian Congo. Moreover, Gordon was considered a very mercurial officer prone to exceeding his command, and he owed his Sudanese command largely to his skillful self-promotion. Part of why his actions in Sudan provoked such a mixed response in Britain is because he backpedaled on his abolitionism, expressing a willingness to concede to some forms of slavery persisting, which alienated many of his former supporters and upset William Gladstone and his government. This was the main reason for his alliance with Zobeir. Far from being Ahmad's archenemy as the film paints it, the latter largely saw Gordon as an Unknown Rival; while Gordon's letters projected a mutual fixation between them, Ahmad's own messages to Gordon largely consisted of asking him to surrender and avert further bloodshed.
  • Kingdom of Heaven:
    • Balian in the movie is elevated from a knight who made a courageous, humanitarian decision to negotiate with Saladin into an archetypal heroic everyman knight embodying the best of the chivalric ethos. Balian wasn't as nice as the film made him out to be. Not only was he raised a noble, not a blacksmith as he is in the film, but he betrayed his oath not to fight Saladin on more than one occasion, sold many of the peasants in the siege into slavery and threatened to massacre his Muslim prisoners if Saladin wouldn't accept a surrender.
    • Saladin gets a bit of a Heroic Upgrade too in the film. He's been receiving Historical Hero Upgrades from both Muslims and Christian Europeans (to whom he was a Worthy Opponent) for so long that it's probably harder to represent him badly. Ironically, the modern lionization of Saladin flows from the European depiction of him - until the late 19th century he was mostly forgotten in the Muslim world, in large part because the empire he created barely outlived him.
  • Knute Rockne, All American
    • Knute Rockne is shown throwing a gambler out of his office in one scene. The real Rockne wrote a column in which he gave advice to football gamblers, and is known to have tolerated his players gambling on his own team. In the movie, Rockne angrily denies not making players go to class, while in fact the real Rockne never bothered mandating that his players attend their classes. The movie is quite vague about why Rockne took his fatal plane trip, saying only that he was going to "help" some people; the real Rockne was on his way to LA to sign a movie deal when his plane crashed.
    • George Gipp was a pool hustler. He drank copious amounts of alcohol; his death from strep throat came not long after he spent a whole night passed out drunk in the winter snow. Gipp was one of the players who regularly bet on Notre Dame games. His attendance record was so poor that he twice received no academic credits for an entire year, and he was briefly kicked out of school for skipping classes, only to be re admitted because he was such a great football player. Ronald Reagan, however, portrayed Gipp as a fresh-faced paragon of virtuous youth.
  • Kundun by Martin Scorsese is one for the 14th Dalai Lama. From the view of the PRC (who are not shown as entirely without sympathy) in the film, this was essentially hagiographic. The film portrays the Dalai Lama as an Internal Reformist who hopes to transform Tibet.
  • Lord Guilford Dudley in Lady Jane. In the film, despite his bad boy persona, he's actually a virgin with a passion for social justice. While Guilford has a well-established historical reputation for being a jerkass, actual evidence indicates he was as much a helpless pawn as Jane herself. The film has him falling in love with Jane (and she with him). In reality they seem to have been willing to tolerate each other, Jane's real problem was with her new father-in-law. The story goes that Guildford requested a final interview with Jane before their executions which she refused on the grounds it would only upset them both.
  • The Last Emperor: While Puyi is shown to be a flawed figure and his Character Development involves him becoming a better person, the real Puyi was significantly more abrasive and volatile than how he's characterized in the movie. During his time as Emperor of Manchukuo, he underwent a period of Sanity Slippage where he randomly beat his servants for minor or even imaginary offenses. Also, even though it's true that he wasn't directly involved in the murder of his wife's love child, he knew what was being planned... but couldn't bring himself to do anything to prevent it. By contrast, his movie counterpart wasn't aware until it was too late for him to intervene.
  • Nicholas Garrigan in The Last King of Scotland is based on Bob Astles (he wasn't Scottish), who was imprisoned twice for his association with Ugandan dictators Milton Obote and Idi Amin. Astles in real life was a Minion with an F in Evil; Garrigan on the other hand is a Loveable Rogue/Jerkass Woobie who, it is implied, helps bring down the Amin regime.
  • The Lost City of Z is an adaptation of a sensationalized non-fiction book by David Grann, which portrays its hero Percy Fawcett as a Bold Explorer and unheralded genius who, despite being an officer of The British Empire, comes across as a benevolent and compassionate man with enlightened views about tribes in the Amazon jungle. According to John Hemming and other historians, Fawcett was a racist who believed that the architecture of Ancient South American natives were built by "white tribespeople" who came in from the Atlantic, was an incompetent explorer who never accomplished anything, and who more or less got himself and his son killed in an expedition that flouted basic rules of professional conduct in Amazonia. Likewise, there's been no mystery about Fawcett's death for experts in South America. A local chieftain admitted to have killed him and his son in the forties, but most people rejected that account because they liked the idea of a mysterious disappearance.
  • Luther: Some of the more unsavory things Martin Luther said are never brought up. For example, the movie never shows that during the German Peasants' War, Luther exhorted authorities to put down the rebels like mad dogs. Granted, this was a response to abuses committed by some of the rebels, but his calls for indiscriminate slaughter were still questionable at best. Also not brought up are some of the writings Luther produced in later life, where he viciously attacked Jews, Anabaptists and nontrinitarian Christians.
  • The Indian film Mangal Pandey: The Rising rather blatantly does this to Mangal Pandey, an Indian sepoy during British rule whose attack on British officers at the Barrackpore garrison is credited with helping to spark the unsuccessful rebellion of 1857. In Real Life, all Pandey did was attack and wound two officers and one fellow sepoy who tried to stop him while rambling incoherently (he may or may not have been on drugs at the time). Whilst he does seem to have been at least partly motivated by British mistreatment, the film portrays Pandey as having much more involvement in the rebellion than he actually did: not only is he now leading an outright mutiny against the British (likely because the real incident, essentially a glorified brawl between Pandey and two British soldiers, wouldn't have made for a very exciting climax), but he's shown as having direct knowledge that a rebellion is about to start, with his attack being intended to inspire sepoys all over India to rise up. In reality there's no evidence Pandey knew about the upcoming rebellion or that he was intending to inspire freedom fighters all over the Raj: whilst this did end up happening, he almost certainly wasn't expecting it. The filmmakers also invent incidents where he stops one of the officers he later attacks from raping women and abusing servants, none of which happened in reality, to make him seem more like a dyed-in-the-wool freedom fighter than he really was.
  • Mank: Herman Mankiewicz's primary motivation for going after William Randolph Hearst was the fact that he saw how Hearst screwed with Upton Sinclair's attempts at bettering California firsthand. It's not clear how much of this actually had an influence on Mank's script and hatred of Hearst.
  • Mary of Scotland: While this movie characterizes the Earl of Bothwell as a good-natured Boisterous Bruiser, the real Bothwell is agreed by most historians to have been little more than an opportunistic pirate and brigand who ditched his fiancée for a chance at Mary.
  • The Mask of Zorro: Three-Finger Jack and Joaquin Murieta were historical outlaws operating in California during the Gold Rush, and their gang was believed responsible for most of the murders in the Mother Lode area of the Sierra Nevadas. In the film they form a cheery band of outlaws with Joaquin's brother Alejandro (who was invented for the film), who use guile to steal from the corrupt soldiers serving the government of California and seem content with humiliating their victims. note 
  • Mission to Moscow: The Soviet government in general and Josef Stalin in particular are portrayed in a far more positive light than they deserved. Protagonist Joseph E. Davies discovers that his view of the USSR as backwards and tyrannical was based on ignorance and prejudice. Stalin's infamous purges are whitewashed and justified as entirely legitimate investigations designed to root out traitors and fifth columnists working for Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, with the Moscow Trials being condensed into one trial and portrayed as fair, while his acts of ethnic cleansing are never touched upon. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the Soviet invasion of Finland are rationalized, and the USSR is depicted as moving towards a democratic model. The movie even goes so far as to define the morality of Western characters by their opinion of the Soviet Union: good ones support it or are at least willing to be open-minded about it and Agree to Disagree on communism, while bad ones are opposed to it and either Axis sympathizers or isolationist to an irrational degree. Needless to say, a movie like this could only have been made by Hollywood during the brief time when America and the Soviet Union were allies.
  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1962): In addition to the typical whitewashing given to Fletcher Christian, mutineer Matthew Quintal is also given this treatment. In this movie, Quintal is a decent enough fellow who apologizes to Mills before flogging him on Bligh's orders. The real Matthew Quintal was by all accounts a monstrous brute. He was one of the last three men surviving on Pitcairn, but mutineers Adams and Young felt compelled to murder him because he was a danger to the community.
  • My Friend Dahmer: There are several examples of people being portrayed in a more positive light than how they were in reality. Overlaps with Adaptational Heroism since they were characterized more accurately in the graphic novel. Future serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer thankfully averts this, but:
    • The real Joyce Annette was irresponsible and self-absorbed, effectively abandoning her son and guilt-tripping him into not telling her ex-husband where she was. In the movie, she's a quirky and troubled but loving mother and her relationship with Jeff is more pleasant and healthy.
    • Neil is the super-nice one who shows genuine sympathy for Jeffrey and questions the "Fan Club's" treatment of him (even apologizing to Jeff at the prom). John Backderf, who made the graphic novel the movie is based on, has expressed bemusement over this, recalling Neil in Real Life as actually being one of the biggest jerks concerning Dahmer. Also, the whole "crank-calling Mr. Burlman" bit was Neil & Kent's idea. To quote Backderf on the matter:
      Unfortunately, Marc’s screenplay makes me even more of an asshole than in the book, and elevates me to the evil mastermind of the Burlman pranks. In reality, it was Neil behind virtually all of it. Neil, in the screenplay, is described as the “most empathetic” of the group and a reluctant participant in the gags. Both Mike and I shook our heads and laughed at that. It was Neil who, at Jeff’s urging, came to the Dahmer house when Burlman was due for a visit, and hid in the coat closet to hear Stan in action. As I write in the footnotes, adult Neil carries around a great deal of regret and shame over his teenage antics. The fourth primary member of the fan club, Kent, has been written out of the script altogether, a great relief to me since the real Kent, who I also still count as a close friend, is aghast at any link at all to the Dahmer story. Kent was also a primary force in the Burlman pranks. I really didn’t participate much in those, although I certainly parroted the cerebral palsy schtick. Like I said, not our finest hour. I’m sure this is going to be quite uncomfortable for me to watch on the screen.
  • Nicholas and Alexandra lauds Pyotr Stolypin as The Good Chancellor and a talented Internal Reformist who could have saved Tsarist Russia had he not been shot. Needless to say, this glosses over some of his more... questionable acts. For example, in reality, he responded to the 1905 revolution by setting up a series of kangaroo courts so notorious for hanging people that the noose became known as "Stolypin's necktie".
  • Night of the Templar: The Crusaders are treated like heroic defenders of Christendom, with no mention made of how brutal they could be.
  • While Charles Lightoller was a certifiable hero, the famous RMS Titanic movie A Night to Remember takes it a bit too far. It depicts him launching lifeboats he had nothing to do with and in places he couldn't possibly have been.
  • The North Star:
    • This being a wartime film, it goes without saying that Josef Stalin's Soviet Union is glorified. The movie is set in Soviet Ukraine in 1941, a.k.a. the very place that was devastated by The Holodomor less than ten years earlier. Not only is there no mention of this, the film makes Soviet Ukraine look like some kind of perfect Arcadia, creating the false impression that Stalin's collectivization totally worked. At one point, Marina, who would clearly be old enough to remember the Holodomor, mentions that she has never really experienced hunger until now. There is also no mention of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, making it look like the Soviet Union was a neutral bystander before the Nazis attacked.
    • On another note, many Ukrainians sided with the Nazis in Real Life, even helping them to round up Jews for The Holocaust. In the film, there are no Ukrainian collaborators. Of course, you could say the film just happens to be focused on a group of Ukrainians who stayed loyal, but even if all the collaborators are safely off-screen, their existence still undercuts the whole theme of the unbreakable solidarity of the Soviet people.
  • Oppenheimer: The film tones down Robert Oppenheimer's casual cruelty to underlings he saw as less gifted than himself. He is portrayed as arrogant in the film but less vindictive than he was in real life. The film also doesn't depict Latino and Native American communities being uprooted at the Los Alamos site he selects, and the detail of him suggesting to Harry S. Truman to give the land back to those people after Japan surrenders does not have historical evidence backing it.
  • Outlaw King: Robert the Bruce's murder of John Comyn III is presented as him saving his own skin, but most historians believe that, in reality, it was simply due to the two having rival claims on the Scottish throne.
  • In The Phenix City Story, John Patterson is portrayed as supportive of Zeke and his family, the only non-white people in the entire film.note  In Real Life, he ran for Governor of Alabama in 1958 on a segregationist platform that earned him the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. Patterson was so racist that even George Wallace (of "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" infamy) complained that Patterson had "out-niggered" him after being defeated by Patterson in the nomination for Governor of Alabama.
  • The controversial 1998 Japanese historical drama film Pride: The Fateful Moment does this for Hideki Tojo, portraying him as someone who sought to liberate Asia from western colonialism but was subject to an unfair trial by the United States, while downplaying or even outright omitting the many atrocities which Tojo presided over.
  • Princess of Thieves upgrades Richard the Lionheart's illegitimate son Philip of Cognac, a historic figure about whom almost nothing is known, into a full-blown Action Hero who prevents his Evil Uncle Prince John from claiming the throne and wins the girl, who happens to be Robin Hood's daughter.
  • Puerta De Hierro: The movie takes a number of artistic liberties to show Juan Domingo Perón in a more positive light. Some of the things the movie glosses over include his incentivization of violence against opposing political parties after the Plaza de Mayo was bombed by anti-Peronists in the Argentine military (even though said parties had nothing to do with the bombing) and him supporting far-left militants (the infamous Montoneros) for political reasons.
  • Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness. Although somewhat true, he was somewhat more of a jerkass than he was in the film, as Cracked notes here (quote: "he actually didn't even know where the hell his son was for the first four months of the program.")
  • Quills:
    • The Marquis de Sade had already written and published Justine long before he went to Charenton (in fact, it was one of the books — the other being Juliette — that got him locked up; also, despite what the film implies, much of his infamous work was published before the Revolution, and wasn't inspired by it). He had been in and out of prison for years less for his writings than for a string of sexual offences, including abduction and rape. Most of the stuff he published in Charenton was both rather tame and not particularly good, being rejected by the publishers who saw it. He was kept under regular police surveillance (which the film does not show) and for good reason, and the only reason he was in Charleton in the first place was because he abused the hell out of the Insanity Defence to get a cushy sentence. He was a colossal Jerkass, morbidly obese at the time of the movie, and deeply unpopular with many of the other inmates for his special treatment. Kate Winslet's character was only 13-15 in Real Life when de Sade began his lengthy affair with her, and he had paranoid delusions that she was a spy. He paid her 3 francs for each liason and, in real life, she was not murdered by anyone.
    • The Abbé Courmier also gets this treatment. The real Abbé was pretty corrupt and in a relationship with de Sade (he needed little seducing), who got special privileges while the rest of the inmates lived in squalid conditions and were treated pretty poorly (when it came to the plays, they were given minor roles-the big ones were given to professional actors). The Abbé basically ran Charenton like it was his own personal palace, and unlike the film was actually a committed Bonapartist-it was not the government that complained about how he ran the institute, but the French medical establishment, largely because he was grossly unqualified. And the terror baths were his idea, along with a lot of other cruel and outdated techniques. While he did encourage patients to express themselves, he wasn't really all that interested in curing them.
  • Reach for the Sky: This film was a highly romanticized portrayal of aviator Douglas Bader, who admitted he found it amusing that people thought he was the dashing romantic figure played by Kenneth More. For one example, he was a major supporter of Apartheid in South Africa and white minority rule in Rhodesia. He was also accused of having pro-Nazi leanings, especially due to his friendship with Hans-Ulrich Rudel, a lifelong Nazi. Naturally, none of this is in the movie. For that matter, neither is the fact that he was strongly disliked by many of the pilots under his command. It was widely believed that he was shot down by a British pilot in August 1941, although this claim was never officially investigated.
  • Few would call Manfred von Richthofen a bad person (there are good reasons Allied air officers generally considered him a Worthy Opponent) but The Red Baron depicts him as something of a pacifist who refuses to kill an enemy pilot if he can settle for crippling the plane. The real von Richthofen generally did aim for the pilots, since it was the easiest way to bring a plane down, and had 80 kills.
  • While not much is known about the actual personalities of any of the well-known military leaders in the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, they are depicted in Red Cliff as having considerably modern views on things despite living in third century CE China.
  • Among other liberties taken, Remember the Titans has Herman Boone portrayed by Denzel Washington as a heroic figure, whose coaching leads the eponymous team to success and whose family faces animosity from the rest of the town. There are a number of things wrong with this:
    • In real life, Boone's only egalitarian quality was that he treated all of his players equally terribly, the team's success had little if anything to do with his coaching note , and the animosity portrayed in the film was nonexistent. The real life Boone, whose actions eventually lead to the team mutinying against him (and who died in 2019), more-or-less took advantage of the movie whitewashing his terrible behavior and mimicked Washington's portrayal of him for his public persona, which he used for "inspirational" speaking engagements that often paid him between 10-15K per visit (including one by Barack Obama in 2008!).
    • Boone was also widely hated by both his players and assistant coaches alike. He was eventually fired in 1979 after numerous allegations of verbal and physical abuse.
  • The Revenant:
    • In the film, Hugh Glass is the Sole Survivor of a half-Pawnee family and his main motivation is avenging his son's murder. The real Glass really lived among different Native American tribes, but he didn't have any known Native wife or children, and his main motivation to go after Fitzgerald was to recover his stolen gun.
    • There's also no mention that Glass served in a pirate ship in Texas before living among Native Americans. Unlike in real life, his companions' onscreen hostility comes entirely from the latter. The former likely was the inspiration for movie version of Fitzgerald being the son of a villainous (and anachronistic) Texas ranger.
    • The Arikaras in the film are motivated exclusively by The Chief's Daughter being kidnapped and enslaved by French trappers, ceasing their attacks on whites when they get her back. In real life, the Arikaras had been hostile to whites for decades and would remain so, to the point of Glass being killed by Arikaras some ten years later.
  • The Robe: Emperor Tiberius is shown as a Reasonable Authority Figure with a wry sense of humor. The real Tiberius was a gloomy man who effectively abandoned governing Rome to indulge himself on the island of Capri.
  • The real Rob Roy was both a murderer and a cattle thief. The movie Rob Roy turns him into a heroic man of impeccable honor, though strangely it still does make passing mention to cattle-thieving, which was a common practice in those days.
  • No less a luminary than Joe Montana has criticized Rudy for far overstating Rudy's role on the team and understating how much work everyone else was putting in too. In addition, the climactic shirt-throwing scene was made up for the film, as were most of coach Dan Devine's mean-spirited actions in the first place; all to make his story seem that much more unlikely. It bears mentioning Rudy himself was the one who shopped his story to Hollywood rather than any particular screenwriter.
  • Cecil B. DeMille's Samson & Delilah does this to the latter, whether she existed or not. Delilah never felt remorse for chopping off Samson's hair and removing his strength and her part in the story ends after that. His version has her truly fall in love with Samson and feel bad when he goes blind.
  • Sakay, a pinoy film from 1993, depicts Philippine revolutionary and bandit Macario Sakay as a heroic Rebel Leader who continued to fight for the Philippines' independence long after the end of the Philippine American War. In reality, by the time he was fighting the Americans, Sakay had become a Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist who planned to kidnap and hold for ransom the daughter of president Theodore Roosevelt. In the Philippines, his name is commonly used as a way of telling people that they need a haircut.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934): The Prince Regent (later King George IV) is depicted in this film as a universally beloved if not particularly intellectual figure; the real George was a highly controversial figure who was considered an unprincipled liar, cad, and scoundrel by many Englishmen.
  • Seven Years in Tibet downplays Heinrich Harrer's involvement in the Nazi Party. To be fair, he later described it as a youthful mistake and he never actually fought for the Nazis, having left Europe before the start of the war. Still, the image of him insisting that he's Austrian and only reluctantly taking the Nazi flag is a false one.
  • Shattered Glass:
    • In this movie, Michael Kelly is portrayed as a rather soft-spoken, gentle and fatherly individual who sticks up for his reporters, including Stephen Glass. While the "sticks up for his reporters and Glass" part is certainly true to life, as the article the movie is based on notes the real Kelly could be a lot more aggressive. It's stated that he responded to at least two individuals who challenged the veracity of articles that Glass wrote with very combative letters full of personal attacks. This may be the result of a certain amount of Never Speak Ill of the Dead, as Kelly was killed in action while reporting on the Iraq War months before the movie was released.
    • To an extent, Martin Peretz. In the movie he's a hands on type of boss who can be petty to the staff and has a vicious temper but genuinely wants what's best for the magazine and applauds with everyone over Chuck Lane discovering the truth about Glass. In real life Martin Peretz blamed Lane and Kelley for failing to catch Glass and held both of them responsible. Even worse, Lane was immediately fired after TNR published their apology and Lane actually found out about his being fired by a reporter who was interviewing him in regards to the Glass scandal. Then there's the claim that Glass helped pass off some of his confabulations by designing them to appeal to Peretz's bigotry.
  • The Social Network:
    • The Winklevoss twins. Some suggest the real twins were not quite like the ones the film put in a sympathetic light. However, the film does show some of their subtle Jerkass tendencies.
    • Eduardo Saverin is on record saying that he was indifferent to being part of Facebook's company operations. His lawsuit was just because he wanted to keep his agreed upon financial stake. Additionally, the film leaves out the incident where Saverin went behind Zuckerberg's back and began running ads for another startup he was involved in on the Facebook site.
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final Days:
    • Else Gebel, the political prisoner who is depicted as a firm anti-Nazi and as sympathetic to Sophie's plight, was in reality most likely a Gestapo mole.
    • Communism itself also gets this by virtue of being opposed to fascism and Nazism. This despite the fact that commmunists frequently engaged in the same terror tactics that the White Rose denounced and deplored, a point never brought up in the movie.
  • Maria Von Trapp appears in The Sound of Music to fulfill a Manic Pixie Dream Girl role. In reality, she was the stricter parent.
  • Stalin: The movie glosses over Nikolai Bukharin's poltical alliance with Stalin against Trotsky, and later against Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev. Rather, he's portrayed as "the good communist", a revisionist narrative pushed by Gorbachev's regime as a way to envision a Soviet communism without Stalin.
  • Straight Outta Compton: Being produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube themselves, this movie has been accused of glossing over some of the N.W.A's negative aspects.
    • The film makes no mention of several high profile cases of Dr. Dre beating women (his beating of Dee Barnes was in the original script, but had to be cut for time).
    • The members of NWA are depicted as reconciling with Eazy-E shortly before his death from AIDS and planning a reunion of NWA. In real life, this never happened, and DJ Yella was the only member of the group present at E's funeral.
  • Thirteen Days was criticized by historians and then still-living members of Kennedy's administration because the movie intensely exaggerates the role that Kenny O'Donnell (the main point of view character played by Kevin Costner) played in preventing the Cuban Missile Crisis from escalating. The chief agent in the American government who pulled the administration together during the crisis was in fact Ted Sorensen, who's instead relegated to such a minor role that he's barely noticeable.
  • Togo: In Real Life, Balto belonged to Leonhard Seppala as well, but was seen as a mediocre work dog by him (to the point that Balto was neutered). Gunner Kassan, the driver of the final team who naturally bonded to Balto during the run, wanted to buy Balto, but Seppala was so vexed by all the attention Balto was getting, instead sold the dog to be paraded around in various circuits. It was quite a cruel and spiteful move, especially towards a dog who was just doing his job and didn't know any better. None of this is mentioned in the film and, indeed, in most adaptations of the Nome Serum Run because it makes Seppala look like a total asshole.
  • Tombstone takes several liberties to whitewash the Earp faction, even though the film doesn't take it quite as far as some earlier films surrounding the O.K. Corral shootout and the Vendetta Ride.
    • The Earps are portrayed as heading west to strike it rich, but get drawn into conflict with the Cowboys for largely idealistic reasons. In real life, the Earps came to Tombstone in part to strike it rich, but also to avoid arrest warrants in Colorado, and the conflict was largely motivated by money and politics. The Cowboys were intimately linked with agricultural businesses in the area (mostly ranchers who bought the cattle the Cowboys rustled in Mexico) and were by and large conservative Southern Democrats, while the Earps and their backers were mostly liberal Midwestern Republicans with interests in mining and manufacturing.
    • Wyatt himself started out his career in law enforcement as a pimp, and Mattie was, as far as can be determined, one of his working girls. His return to law enforcement was enthusiastic, rather than reluctant, and purely financially motivated note  The Earps' hostility with Behan began when Behan offered to throw the election for County Sheriff in exchange for a cut of the sheriff's share of taxes raised, and then went back on his word.
  • Trumbo: Dalton Trumbo was a far more complicated person in real life than the version seen in the movie. While the movie characterizes him as a supporter of free speech, the real Trumbo was involved in the expulsion of a CPUSA member who advocated for it. Also glossed over is the fact that Trumbo had authoritarian leanings: he supported both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during the time when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was active, cheered their invasion of Poland, and called FDR sending material aid to Britain "treason".
  • United Passions infamously went full hagiography with FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who is portrayed as a valiantly unimpeachable crusader against institutional corruption. On the very same week the film was released, Blatter was forced to step down for charges of money-laundering and bribery, which didn't exactly come out of the blue.
  • The Untouchables (1987) portrays Elliot Ness and his Untouchables skillfully battling Al Capone and ultimately bringing him down on tax evasion charges. In reality, while the Untouchables put pressure on Capone's organization, and Ness weeded out the corruption in Chicago's law enforcement, it was an unrelated IRS operation that ultimately brought down Capone. Ness's self-promotion at the time helped popularize the impression that Ness was responsible. The film also portrays Ness as an Action Dad who gains resolve when Capone targets his family, but Ness had no children when taking on Capone. His later life was marked with business failures and alcoholism.
  • Valkyrie:
    • The German officers involved with the plot are implied to be exclusively (or at least primarily) against Hitler for moral reasons. The fact that many of them harbored racist, anti-Semitic and classist views is glossed over. Their motives for participating in the plot varied greatly from person to person, and their objections against Hitler ranged from him being far too murderous towards the "gutter races", to empowering the lower and middle classes, to simply losing the war. There was also wide variation among the plotters in terms of ideas of what to do afterwards, from reactionaries who wanted to restore Germany's pre-World War I governing structure, to democrats who still wanted to keep at least some of the territorial gains made in the Second World War, to those who didn't care what happened next as long as they were doing something to stop Hitler's madness.
    • The film leaves out Carl Friedrich Goerdeler selling out the conspirators who were not initially caught to the Gestapo in a (failed) bid for clemency, which led to the executions of hundreds of anti-Hitler partisans. Made even worse by the fact that he was responsible for convincing a great number of them to join the resistance in the first place. To be fair to him, the confessions were elicited by a prolonged, intense bout of psychological torture, and may have been motivated by a misguided belief that The Gestapo would not have enough time to act on the information before Berlin was captured.
    • Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorff, Berlin's Chief of Police, receives this treatment. Although a minor character, he's portrayed heroically for siding with Stauffenberg and receives a postscript notifying viewers about his fate alongside the other, more prominent conspirators. Unmentioned in the film is that von Helldorff was a member of the Nazi Party and a close ally of Joseph Goebbels, and had earlier masterminded round-ups and pogroms of Jews in Berlin, including a key role in organizing Kristallnacht in 1938, which was enabled in part by his forced disarmament of Berlin's Jewish population. Goebbels also noted in his diary that von Helldorff suggested building a Jewish ghetto in Berlin and forcing wealthy Jews to pay for its construction, something that also goes unmentioned in the film. Even the degree to which von Helldorff was involved with the Resistance is unclear; some claim he was one of its leaders, others that he played a peripheral role, others that (like many military and political officials) he was aware of the plot, and broadly sympathetic to its aims, but didn't actively participate. In any case, von Helldorff was ultimately executed for his alleged involvement.
  • The film version of V for Vendetta paints Guy Fawkes as a Doomed Moral Victor and Tragic Hero who died to strike a blow for freedom. It fails to mention that he and the other members of the Gunpowder Plot were essentially Western Terrorists mainly interested in replacing the Protestant monarchy with a Catholic one by murdering the whole government. This is more true in the film than in the original graphic novel, as the adaptation severely downplays the moral ambiguity of V, the self-styled modern-day Guy Fawkes.
  • In The Viking, a Russian 2016 movie about Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavich (canonized in the Orthodox Church), the worst deeds of Prince Vladimir's early life are shown to be either committed by other people (the killing of his brother, the sacrifice of Fyodor and little Ioann) or done when he is drugged (the rape of Princess Rogneda). As Fr. Georgy Maksimov points out in his review, this ironically results in Offending the Creator's Own — instead of a terrible man who repented and made a complete Heel–Face Turn thanks to his conversion to Christianity, St. Vladimir is depicted as a Born Unlucky man who apparently will just cease to be unlucky after converting.
  • Wilson: The movie depicts Woodrow Wilson as an anti-racist who treats blacks as equals, waxes poetic about the American melting pot, and lectures a German ambassador about the evils of racism. In reality, Wilson believed blacks were inherently inferior and expanded on segregationist policies. Wilson is also whitewashed in other ways, with the movie glossing over some fairly controversial aspects of his life. His support for the eugenics movement and his crackdowns on civil liberties during World War I go unmentioned.
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley: While the IRA — and later, the Anti-Treaty IRA — are shown doing some morally questionable things, the movie still sanitizes them somewhat and interprets several incidents in very controversial ways.
  • The Wind and the Lion depicts Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli as a virtuous man who fights for the autonomy of his people. Most historical accounts show the real Raisuli as being a rather vicious mixture of feudal bandit and political power player. For instance, Walter Harris recounts that when Raisuli's brother-in-law planned to take a second wife, Raisuli stormed the wedding party and hacked the bride and her mother to death. Shortly after the film's events, Raisuli became the Governor of Tangier and was soon removed from office by the Sultan due to allegations of corruption and imprisoning and torturing his personal enemies. To top it all off, during the Rif War of the 1920s, the real Raisuli allied with the Spanish and French to fight against Morocco's pro-independence hero, Abd el-Krim. Thus, depicting him as a roguish, romantic hero who just wants his people to have self-determination is a pretty major stretch. However, he was reportedly well-read, religiously devout and very polite to his ransomable captives.
  • The Woman King follows the Dahomey kingdom led by Ghezo in their attempts to resist the oppression of the Oyo Empire, who colludes with European slavers to sell Dahomey captives into slavery. However, the film glosses over the fact that the Dahomey were brutal and prolific slavers themselves and were infamous for practicing human sacrifice, even during the time they were under Oyo rule. Dahomey would continue to practice slavery until European intervention forced them to abolish the practice. King Ghezo himself also instigated the war with the Oyo Empire when he knowingly raided several villages under the Oyo Empire's protection. And furthermore, the Agojie were never abolitionists, but actual slavers.
  • Young Bess: Tom Seymour becomes a dashing, heroic champion of both Elizabeth I and Edward VI. This ignores the fact that he essentially molested her in real life, and likewise Catherine took part in a couple of the incidents.

  • Older Than Print: The Arabian Nights gave Harun al-Rashid a Historical Hero Upgrade. The most memorable event in his real reign was his execution of a powerful aristocratic family, therefore making his empire weaker. Is it ever mentioned in the stories? Sometimes, but they don't go too far in the opposite direction to Harun himself. In most stories, he's a lovable eccentric going on fantastic adventures-except in stories featuring Ja'far ("The Three Apples" especially), in which he comes off as a bit unstable.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms: The author wanted to appease to the Confucianism-attuned crowds and people dissatisfied with the Jin Dynasty and the Cao clan in the aftermath of the Three Kingdoms era, therefore, they modified the more morally-grey Shu-Han into a squad of Tragic Hero Doomed Moral Victor so they sound much more heroic than they actually was in history:
    • Liu Bei in the novel was the epitome of an emotional hero who catered for the needs of the people and placed high values in honor and benevolence, trying to restore the beloved Han Dynasty, which would resonance with the values of Confucianism. In history, Liu Bei was actually a stoic man who had the ambition of creating his own kingdom, and would do anything to reach that goal. Acting more like a mercenary and leaving/betraying the warlords who took him in wouldn't make him a hero material, but it's simply something he had to do to survive the war-torn landscape he's in.
    • Liu Bei's sworn brothers certainly weren't as squeaky clean either. Zhang Fei's violent outburst was much more prominent in history, and there was an incident that during the time he was forced into banditry (like Liu Bei, just to survive), he kidnapped Xiahou Yuan's niece. The novel managed to tone this down while giving him more Boisterous Bruiser elements. Guan Yu was known to be rather arrogant, looking down whoever he saw beneath his standards. This would come to bite him back in the ass when he rejected Wu kingdom's proposal to marry his daughter to their prince, and then the strategists of Wu took advantage of his lack of tact to eventually defeat him. The novel toned this arrogance down, but still made it an element to facilitate his downfall. The excerpt on the historical anecdote by San Guo Zhi also made sure to put emphasis on both Zhang Fei and Guan Yu's historical flaws which led to their downfalls.
    • And then there's Ma Chao. As a fellow Tiger General, even if he's the least moral, he was mostly portrayed as an Anti-Hero. He's actually more of a Nominal Hero (if he could even be called as a 'hero' in a traditional sense) in history, being brutal and sometimes made things worse for his own men. He used to serve Dong Zhuo, abandoned his family a lot of times, launched many failed rebellions against Cao Cao which also ended in accidental massacre of the innocents that he usually didn't bother to ponder too much. The only reason Liu Bei recruited and promoted him was because he needed to appease to the prestige of the Ma clan to enhance his own kingdom's prestige.
  • The Shahnameh: The second third of the book mostly concerns semi historical characters or characters based on historical people performing greatly exaggerated or outright fantastic feats, i.e., a strong and patriotic warrior named Rostam probably did live and rule in Sistan, but he sure as hell never killed a WHALE or beheaded a demon!!!
  • Gore Vidal's historical books often give us alternative perspectives on despised and misunderstood figures. His Burr provides a more complex portrayal of the winner of the Burr-Hamilton duel. His Creation (1981) likewise shows the Ancient World from the perspective of the Persian hegemony, an abolitionist, multicultural empire as opposed to the slave-owning back-stabbing Greek city-states.
  • 20 Years After stops just short of making Charles I The Messiah mk. II, both because it fits the ideals of the protagonists (such as seeing themselves as the last bastions of chivalry, defending royalty against a commoner uprising) and because it makes Mordaunt that much more of an Asshole Victim (not only did he give Cromwell the idea of bribing the last of the king's loyal soldiers, he volunteered to be his executioner, all because the king had denied him his inheritance and title).
  • Mary Boleyn was characterized by The Other Boleyn Girl as a blushing virgin who loved Henry VIII and only wanted a quiet life in the country (as opposed to her sister, who was evil by virtue of being ambitious). The real Mary was known as "The Great Prostitute" because of her promiscuity. Her family went so far as to recall her from the French court because her behavior there was scandalizing them. Anne, on the other hand, only ever slept with one guy, and look how she's remembered.
  • In Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the South, Nathan Bedford Forrest is portrayed as being fiery, devoted, and honorable, though his racist ideals aren't shied away from. In the first and third Acts, he is shown to be a hero for the South, and he is a Graceful Loser at the end of the Second, after having run for President of the Confederate States and lost to General Lee, who (much to the rage of Forrest) has a plan to gradually end slavery in the South. The real Nathan Bedford Forrest is best known for being the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (which notably doesn't even exist in the book's altered timeline, because the CSA wins the war), and for various war crimes, including an infamous massacre of hundreds of African-American soldiers after they had surrendered.
  • In The Hooded Riders, author J.T. Edson portrays the outlaw and gunfighter John Wesley Hardin as a wrongly accused hero, and his killing of a black man under questionable circumstances is presented as self-defense.
  • The Pyrates reinvents Captain Henry Avery/Long Ben Bridgeman, mutineer and pirate, as Royal Navy hero Captain Benjamin Avery. But it's not claiming to be remotely historically accurate.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh may have originally been propaganda for the real King Gilgamesh of Uruk, although it likely mutated over hundreds of years, as the story as we know it paints him as very flawed (but still incredibly badass).
  • There is a bit of this in the Belisarius Series. While even heroic medieval warlords behave on occasion like, well, medieval warlords, there is more religious tolerance than is credible and Antonina's loyalty to Belisarius is raised above what some sources would indicate. Although the explanation is used by the book that much of that is malicious court gossip, and that explanation is not totally rejected by real historians.
  • Subverted in the fictional story "Operation Chickenhawk" in Al Franken's Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, where Newt Gingrich, Dan Quayle, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Phil Gramm, Clarence Thomas and George Will serve in the Vietnam War (which they all avoided in Real Life), but prove to be either Dirty Cowards or dead meat. In the same story, their leader, Oliver North (who actually is a decorated Vietnam vet in real life), gets a massive Historical Badass Upgrade when he's forced to kick the enemies' asses singlehandedly due to the other characters' incompetence.
  • The G. K. Chesterton poem "Lepanto" pumps up Don John of Austria ("The Last Knight of Europe") from Christian military hero to saviour of the western world from the hordes of darkness and its own political corruption... until the last verses where Chesterton talks about the other famous guy who was at the battle and the kind of book he wrote seem to subvert the trope. You can also visit Battle of Lepanto and see the entry under Dude, Where's My Reward?:
    Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
    (Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
    And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
    And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
    (But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)
  • Wolf Hall does a lot to rehabilitate Thomas Cromwell's image as a man of principles who nonetheless does pragmatic and ruthless things in the service of his masters to raise his station. Most other stories give him a Historical Villain Upgrade, particularly A Man for All Seasons, in which he's a sneering asshole.
  • The poet Stratius historically loved The Aeneid, but The Divine Comedy makes up a conversion story where Stratius love of the The Aeneid leads him to love Christianity and be baptized in secret. Saved from damnation, Stratius repents of his ill-spending in the afterlife and begins his journey to join the Ultimate Good in Heaven.
  • The Sunne in Splendour: Sharon Kay Penman's novel about Richard III is well-researched and mostly accurate to the historical record of when she wrote it, but she interprets the facts from a strongly Ricardian POV. The novel heavily romanticizes Richard, portraying him as a dashing victim of circumstances who only did ruthless things when necessary and most certainly did not kill his nephews. J.P. Reedman's series of five first-person novels, I, Richard Plantagenet Series does much the same thing, with the benefit of more recent information, such as the fact that Richard had scoliosis.
  • Sweet Diamond Dust: In-universe: Don Hermenegildo is attempting to do this with the biography he is writing of Don Ubaldino De la Valle.
  • The Lion Of Flanders Or The Battle Of The Golden Spurs: Robrecht van Béthume, the titular Lion of Flanders, was not present at the Battle of the Golden Spurs, and remained in a French prison until after the battle was over. In the novel, he secretly escapes to take part in the battle.
  • Within the context of Gone with the Wind, the Ku Klux Klan is presented as a harmless "social club"—which Scarlett genuinely believes is what her husband Frank belongs to—only formed to protect innocent white women from the "bad" freed slaves because the local military refuses to do anything. Indeed, the scene where we learn that nearly all of the townsmen are members is when they go out to avenge the attack on Scarlett. India outright tells her that she should have been proud of Frank for being involved. There's conveniently no mention of how the Klan really acted—terrorizing and murdering freed slaves and their supporters for little to no reason.
  • Happens in-universe in the Heralds of Valdemar novel Brightly Burning. Herald Lavan Firestorm is known in history as a man who made a great Heroic Sacrifice to stop the Karsite army from invading Valdemar by burning them — and himself — alive. When we see the moment through his own perspective, we see that he never truly had control over his Firestarting power, and that the death of his Companion Kalira had snapped the last of his sanity — all he wanted was to burn the world and himself with it. His surviving friends, knowing this must be what happened, chose to tell the world it was an act of heroism.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Becoming Elizabeth:
    • Mary Tudor has some straight up heroic moments, even though the show does not shy away from her religious extremism. Her storyline might be a Start of Darkness, but in the series she loves both her half brother the king and her headstrong half sister Elizabeth and tries to do right by them.
    • Edward Seymour comes off as a noble man who only wants to do right by England and who is executed because he backed the Catholic Mary's right to the succession. The historical truth is far muddier. He was a fine solider, but he wasn't a competent administrator and his downfall had far more to do with that than any support of Princess Mary.
  • Doctor Who regularly gives Big Damn Hero moments to admirable historical figures met by the Doctor during his various trips through time, particularly if the writers like the figure. Examples include Vincent van Gogh, William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, and Charles Dickens.
  • Al Swearengen of Deadwood. Both the real and fictional Al Swearengen did terrible things. In the show, Al is a frontier mob boss who regularly orders murders, while in reality he was a sex slaver who forced unwitting women into prostitution. Al's hero upgrade gets more pronounced as the show continues, allowing him more and more Pet the Dog moments until he eventually makes a Heel–Face Turn in the fight to save the camp against Hearst's interests. Al's role as resident villain in the camp is slowly transferred over to Cy Tolliver, a fictional character replacing a harmless real guy.
  • In Ravna Gora, a Serbian series about the World War II Chetnik movement made by Radoš Bajić, Chetnik leader Draža Mihajlović is shown to be rather humble and nice, unlike the true historian picture of him and his movement, which says that they were murderous and chauvinist... The author explained how he wanted to show the truth, but he also made the movie as artistic expression (even if artistic expression and true history don't go together)... This can be explained due to growing Serbian nationalism after the breakup of Yugoslavia. That said, while they weren't saints the Chetniks probably get more sympathy nowadays due to being opposed to the communist Yugoslav Partisans led by Tito, who visited horrible fates on them after taking control of the country.
  • I, Claudius single-handedly rehabilitated the reputation of the Emperor Claudius, who-long thought of as just another cruel despot among the Roman Emperors-is now rather positively viewed in the popular imagination. The series highlighted Claudius as an intellectual and historian, and the public works projects he pursued as Emperor (such as relieving the city's annual winter grain shortage with a new Ostian harbor). However, the idea that he wished to restore the Republic is pure fabrication. In their eyes, the Republic never collapsed, with Augustus and his successors simply being princeps, or "first among equals", with the remaining senators, at least superficially, sharing power with him. It wouldn't be until Commodus' reign that the senate began its true slide into irrelevance.
  • Reign depicts Lord Henry Bothwell, Mary, Queen of Scots' third husband, as a handsome, charming Action Hero and Mary's Second Love. In reality, historians widely believe that Bothwell abducted and forced Mary to marry him, and very likely raped her, to gain power as King-Consort.
    • Mary's half-brother James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, is depicted as Mary's ever-loyal right hand who is willing to make any personal sacrifice for her or Scotland. In reality Moray not only betrayed Mary, he actually fought a war against her.
    • Downplayed by Francis II of France. By all accounts, Francis was not a bad person and he and Mary truly loved each other, but he was also a fairly weak and ineffective king, although to be fair he didn't get much chance to prove himself. In the show, Francis is depicted as The Wise Prince and a brave and noble leader who would have been a great king if he hadn't died young. Also a case of Historical Badass Upgrade and Historical Beauty Upgrade, the real Francis was short, sickly, and often described as looking like a frog; while in the show he's tall, strong, handsome and a capable fighter.
  • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey:
    • In general, the show takes scientists who have been largely forgotten or overshadowed (such as Cecilia Payne or Ibn Al-Haytham) and showcases their achievements and discoveries. By necessity these tend to be simplified, covering decades in the animated segments of a 43-minute show.
    • One example that attracted particular criticism was Giordano Bruno from the first episode. He was burned at the stake in part for his belief in a plurality of worlds, but his views on other doctrinal beliefs are only mentioned briefly in the reading of the charges. He's also portrayed as being pelted with fruit by the monks of Oxford, who in reality simply listened to and rejected his ideas, and being a homeless beggar for most of his life even though he was sponsored by kings for his memory techniques. The writer of that episode had his own response to the critics.
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil: Ernst Hanfstaengl is portrayed as having fled Germany in 1934 for moral reasons because he realized where Hitler's leadership was taking Germany. He actually continued to clamor for Hitler's approval for several more years and defected to the United States only after falling out of favor with the Nazis.
  • One Hundred Greatest Britons: Several of the candidates who ended up in the list were not free of controversy:
    • Winston Churchill took the #1 spot despite his racist and eugenicist views.
    • Oliver Cromwell: Ended up at #10, which was controversial because Cromwell was widely disliked by his own people at the time, both Royalists for his war crimes but also Republicans who considered him a traitor to their cause. To this day he's viewed in Ireland as a monster, making his relative whitewashing in significant portions of British popular history something of a culture shock. Clarendon, a prominent Royalist who regarded Cromwell as the most wicked of all men neatly summed up the contradictory nature of Cromwell, noting that 'as he had all the wickedness against which damnation is denounced and for which hell fire is prepared, so he had virtues which have caused men in all ages to be celebrated' even praising his industriousness and wisdom even if they were put to what he saw as evil use.
    • Nr. 16, Margaret Thatcher was considered another one of the more polarizing choices. Her politics and economics weren't exactly considered beneficial to the working class population, especially not Oop North.
    • Nr. 30, Guy Fawkes, a man who tried blowing up King James I and the English Parliament.
    • Nr. 55, Enoch Powell, a British politician, most infamous for his "Rivers of Blood" speech, which was considered to be racist and xenophobic by many.
    • Nr. 64, James Connolly, an Irish nationalist and socialist, executed by the British Crown in 1916 for playing a leading role in the Easter Rising.
    • Nr. 73, Aleister Crowley was a controversial choice for being an occultist, nicknamed "The Wickedest Man In The World".
    • Nr. 82, Richard III, a king suspected of murdering his nephews.
  • In Band of Brothers and the book it was based on, Pfc. David Kenyon Webster gets a pretty sympathetic portrayal, largely because author Steven Ambrose thought of him as a Warrior Poet. According to other Easy veterans, Webster was a lazy and ineffective soldier who only ever did the bare minimum, as well as a Jerkass who thought his Harvard education made him better than everyone else and wasn't shy about it either. He had few, if any, friends. Webster's own war memoir doesn't help his case, as it's mostly filled with his complaints about the army and just about every officer in the company (generally that he's smarter than they are, according to him at least) except Major Dick Winters, who gets only a single brief mention. Bill Guarnere, Babe Heffron, and Don Malarkey, who all wrote their own memoirs, disliked him and felt that the book and miniseries gave him far too much credit.
  • Subverted in Highlander. Duncan and another immortal Scots friend of his fought in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. His friend idolised Bonnie Prince Charlie and resented Duncan forcing him to stay out of the final battle to keep up The Masquerade. Many years later he tried to start another rebellion and took Duncan to meet Charlie in Italy. We initially see the meeting from the friend's perspective, showing Charlie in his pop culture persona as charismatic and noble. Then we see the true events from Duncan's viewpoint, showing Charlie as the broken alcoholic he really was at that point in his life.
  • The Tudors is notable and controversial for its sympathetic portrayal of Mary Tudor (yes, the same "Bloody Mary" who burned 280 Protestants at the stake). While the show doesn't shy away from her religious extremism, a greater focus is put on her tragic circumstances... Turns out that having a megalomaniacal, tyrannical father wasn't all that easy.
  • The White Queen: This is quite possibly the most sympathetic live-action portrayal of King Richard III ever made. Richard was not the invokedComplete Monster of Shakespeare's play, but in Real Life, he maneuvered from the start to push Edward IV's sons and the Woodvilles aside in order to grab power for himself, and he probably had the Princes in the Tower murdered. Here, he is sincere about intending to crown Edward V, he had absolutely nothing to do with his nephews' disappearance (in fact, he freaks out when he realizes that they're missing), and he makes peace with his sister-in-law Elizabeth Woodville. It's Margaret Beaufort The Chessmaster who schemes her way into pitting Richard and Elizabeth against each other, and it's she and her husband Thomas Stanley who basically trick Richard into seizing the throne.
  • The Iranian miniseries Passion of Flight, focuses on the Iran-Iraq War F-14 pilot Abbas Babaei, which the show portrays as an intelligent officer and skilled pilot who was loved by both his superiors and comrades and was very forgiving. In reality, Abbas wasn't a nice guy and was hated by his colleagues since he mistreated anyone he suspected who wasn't loyal to the new Iranian regime. Furthermore, those officers who dislike him even claim he wasn't even qualified to fly an F-14.
  • Parodied in Blackadder, where it states that Richard III's reputation was a result of Henry VIII's changing of history, and that instead of being a wicked king, Richard was a loving uncle to his two nephews, one of whom would eventually become king.
  • When They See Us: The miniseries largely glosses over the 5's actual crimes against other people in the park, which included assault and robbery. Perhaps ironically, these helped exonerate them in addition to Reyes' confession, since it was shown they had been elsewhere committing them at the time of the rape. Naturally, this alibi wasn't used at trial, since saying "I was assaulting somebody else" is not really helpful. They were also convicted of these crimes along with the rape, but the film omits this (they got thrown out as well due to their questionable confessions).
  • Magnificent Century: Suleiman the Magnificent is shown as The Good King who Hürrem manipulates into killing Mustafa. In real life, there is no proof Hürrem persuaded Suleiman to do it. More obviously, Selim kills Bayezid and his sons instead of Suleiman.
  • Barbarians Rising: This docudrama miniseries has multiple cases of this trope, both on a national and individual level.
    • The barbarian peoples covered are depicted as freedom fighters against the evil, pro-slavery empire of Ancient Rome. Of course, the show glosses over the fact that slavery was common virtually everywhere at the time, that all barbarian tribes presented in this show practiced it, and that Roman slavery was arguably Fair for Its Day. Some of the barbarians are known to have indulged in human sacrifices, ritual mutilations and other horrifying things that the Romans were horrified by.
    • Ancient Carthage gets portrayed as a kind of "good counterpart" to Rome whose victory would have been preferable. In reality, Carthage was also an imperialistic, slaveholding power prone to seriously brutal acts, and it was actually a harsher master than Rome to its client states and subject peoples in some ways. The Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage were far more grey-shaded than the show claims, with both sides being pretty questionable by modern standards and neither one holding a decisive moral edge.
    • Hannibal Barca was not a freedom fighter as stated in the show, but just a military man motivated by a family feud against another nation. Strangely, the show itself doesn't shy away from showing that Hannibal's oath against Rome was directly based on revenge, which turns it into a sort of inner contradiction.
    • Ditalcus here receives sympathetic motivation for his treachery that does not appear in any historical chronicle, namely that he blames Viriathus and his rebellion for the suffering of his tribe and the massacre of his friends. It's implied this was the main factor in his betrayal of Viriathus, aside from his lack of trust in the man's campaign from the start. Meanwhile, the historical Ditalcus apparently betrayed Viriathus out of sheer opportunism and greed, and judging by the chroniclers' condemnations of him and his cronies, it is clear he didn't have any other reason that is worthy to know.
  • The Plot Against America:
    • In this reality, Walter Winchell graduates from firebrand newscaster to political candidate who personally faces down fascist thugs and racist cops to oppose Lindbergh's Nazi-friendly policies. He doesn't live long enough to become a villain in the 1950s, when his full-throated support of McCarthyism put him very much on the wrong side of history.
    • Ann Morrow Lindbergh heroically stands up to stop the US from going fascist with a radio address, and is wholly respectful of Jews. The real woman held fascism to be the wave of the future, and praised Hitler in a letter. It's impossible to say how she'd have reacted to such an event for sure of course, but these views are left entirely unmentioned in the series, though they had become infamous by then (particularly among Jews).
  • Time After Time: H. G. Wells in the show is a charming man who wishes to be single after going through a divorce. In real life, H. G. Wells had multiple affairs. He left his first wife to marry his second wife Amy Robbins, who allowed him to continue to see other women. He also had children from two separate affairs. The writers seem to not want to show this historical fact, doubtless thinking a cheating womanizer would be less sympathetic. Wells is also portrayed as enthusiastic at seeing more racial equality in the future, saying he'd predicted it as a part of his posited utopia. In fact, his actual stated views on that (admittedly, years after when Wells is portrayed here) were far less savory-he said people of color would "have to go", i.e. become extinct if they didn't evolve enough. It's true his views were more progressive later, praising African-American endurance despite racism, criticizing xenophobia, all "racial purity" ideas and denouncing racism. However, Wells in 1893 may well have still had less pleasant views. Thus, he might not have adapted so easily to learning that his descendant Vanessa is mixed race.

  • The Neil Young song "Cortez the Killer" depicts the Aztec Empire as an idyllic paradise where "Hate was just a legend/And war was never known". In reality, the Aztecs were notorious warmongers who performed Human Sacrifice on an industrial scale (though the exact numbers are disputed). They were so widely hated in the region that most of Hernán Cortés's army against them was composed of their neighbors.

  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto can be said to do this for the main character Cesare Borgia, though truly it has no Designated Hero, and the Borgias' archenemy Giuliano della Rovere is portrayed as sympathetically as they are, as are the treacherous Florentine students who side with Savonarola. The in-universe example of Cesare's reading Dante Alighieri's view of Heinrich VII is also interesting (see below).
  • Henry V ignores several inconvenient aspects of the historical king, probably because he was a badass warrior King of England at a time when English nationalism was on the rise after hundreds of years of domination by French overlords. Still, he could easily have been seen as a villain, even by the Elizabethans. He executed captured enemy knights, presided over some horrible bloodbaths, doomed both sides to keep fighting a protracted brutal war, and burned "Protestant" heretics* alive—including Sir John Oldcastle, the original of Shakespeare's Falstaff.
  • Henry VIII ends with Henry and Anne eagerly expecting his heir, the future Queen Elizabeth—ignoring the fact that the entire point of the exercise had been for Henry to get a male heir, and indeed that Catherine had already borne a female heir (who would grow up to be Bloody Mary)...not to mention the infamous mess that would come a few years later, with Catherine dead and Anne convicted of capital crimes, both under very suspicious circumstances.
  • Julius Caesar: Marcus Junius Brutus is characterized as a Republican hero and Internal Reformist torn by Conflicting Loyalty between Julius Caesar and the Republic's ideals and institutions, which has since become iconic. This characterization is entirely Shakespeare's invention. While it's very compelling as an artistic achievement, the real Brutus was hardly so idealistic or conflicted. Brutus was an optimate, a defender of the entrenched elitism and an opponent of the more populist and egalitarian ideas Caesar and other populares championed. According to Cicero's letters, he was a corrupt Loan Shark who extorted interest from the poor by sending goon squads to make them pay up. There's also much debate among historians, such as Mary Beard, if Brutus was really going to restore the Republic or merely angling to be another warlord dictator out for his own powernote .
  • Macbeth:
    • In reality, Malcolm did not become king after slaying Macbeth; rather, Macbeth's stepson Lulach was crowned, only for Malcolm to murder and usurp him, ironically the exact crime that the play (falsely, see below) portrays Macbeth committing.
    • Duncan is portrayed as a good king who ends up dishonorably slain by someone he trusted while in bed. While he was killed by Macbeth in real life, it was in combat in which he was the aggressor.
  • Marie Antoinette (Musical): As is not uncommon with adaptations of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette comes off quite well (though she does ask the other crowned heads of Europe to invade France, in keeping with history) and Fersen's endorsement of the Brunswick Manifesto is notably not included.
  • Richard III with its Historical Villain Upgrade for Richard, makes other characters look more heroic. Lord Stanley is portrayed as a loyal and noble vassal, who heroically acts to put Henry VII on the throne. In real life the Stanleys were notoriously treacherous and double-dealing, switching between sides, and at Bosworth Lord Stanley didn't do anything with his troops, it was his brother Sir William Stanley who basically stabbed Richard in the back when he attacked his forces. And William was later executed by Henry for supporting a Pretender. Infamously, Lord Stanley mocked Richard III's threats to execute his son with the reply, "Sire, I have more sons." However Lord Stanley's descendants ended up funding Shakespeare's plays, hence his glowing portrayal. Another character who gets an upgrade is George, duke of Clarence, who is portrayed as, at worse, a bit naïve and foolish, though his joining the Lancastrians is portrayed it is glossed over. In reality George was a massive Smug Snake, who spent a lot of his time plotting against his brother Edward IV, trying to have him declared illegitimate, joining the Lancastrians so he could gain more influence, and finally getting executed after he bullied a court into executing someone, then left court without permission, which was basically the precursor to rebellion. However he is probably portrayed as more heroic to contrast him with his youngest brother Richard. Lastly is Henry VII himself, who Shakespeare portrays as a holy liberator from a horrid tyrant. Even the most charitable of Tudor supporters have to concede that Henry VII was hardly a saint. Also some historians conclude that his actions only prolonged the Wars of the Roses as his usurpation led to more instability as Henry's entire reign was mostly spent securing his hold on the throne. Also, Henry VII was noted for being cold, paranoid and stingy as king.
  • Thomas More's portrayal in A Man for All Seasons tends to focus on his bravery in maintaining his principles even when he knew this would result in his gruesome death, presenting him as a champion of the freedom of the individual conscience. Even apart, however, from the Values Dissonance that led him (like nearly everyone in his own time) to approve the burning of heretics, More was fully convinced that the state had a perfect right to suppress any open dissent; his entire defense was based upon the plea that he had not made his personal opinions known. He was definitely no advocate of free speech, as the play seems to suggest he was. While More was chancellor, he had six people were burned at the stake for heresy; they were Thomas Hitton, Thomas Bilney, Richard Bayfield, John Tewkesbury, Thomas Dusgate, and James Bainham. Their heresy was possessing and/or trading Bibles!
  • Sir Thomas More is another example of More being portrayed as a more sympathetic person than he really was, making sure to hide away his bad sides and show only the flattering parts.
  • The Cirque du Soleil shows based on Michael Jackson's work, Michael Jackson THEIMMORTAL World Tour and Michael Jackson: ONE portray him as a transcendentally gifted performer and humanitarian. In the latter show, his iconic costume items magically grant people his core attributes — playfulness, agility, courage, and love — and the primary antagonists represent a Strawman News Media out to tear him down. As one might imagine, his myriad personal failings — egotism, drug abuse, plastic surgery to the point of Body Horror, the lingering question of whether he was a pedophile or not, etc. — are swept under the rug; even before ONE opened, Steve Bornfeld questioned this portrayal (which is the standard one amongst the more rabid Jackson fans, keep in mind): "[Cirque's] predecessor shows honored the brilliant music of The Beatles and Presley without suggesting that its subjects wrapped their arms around the globe and cradled it in its loving embrace." He also points out that the image of Michael as a champion of goodness and the world's greatest entertainer was one he cultivated to begin with (as in the Forced Meme "The King of Pop").
  • Not a person, but a country. The Sound of Music creates the impression of Austria being a free country trampled by Nazi jackboots. In fact, Austria became a fascist state in 1934, four years before the Anschluss. Also, most Austrians saw themselves as Germans at the time and welcomed the Anschluss. While the musical does include some Austrian characters who support the Anschluss, it portrays them as Les Collaborateurs. It is true that some Austrians opposed the Anschluss, including the real Captain von Trapp, but they were in the minority and most were monarchists hoping for a Habsburg restoration.
  • Evita, much like The Sound of Music, implies that Argentina was a democracy before the 1943 military coup that ultimately brought Juan Peron to power two years later. The country had actually been a dictatorship for over a decade, and in fact many Argentines supported the coup.
  • Hamilton gives out these all around.
    • Hamilton himself:
      • His anti-slavery stance is greatly increased in order to make him more sympathetic. While the real Hamilton was more antislavery than some people of the time, he did not see slavery as nearly as important an issue as other things were, and tolerated slaveholders among his associates (his friend John Laurens, however, really was that much of an abolitionist). There’s conflicting evidence on if he ever owned slaves but his wife’s family definitively did. There is also some evidence indicating that he bought and sold them for his various in-laws.
      • His feud with John Adams was incredibly nasty and is only given a song. Adams himself never shows up. While there’s blame to be laid at both men’s feet, Hamilton did everything in his power to actively undermine Adams’s negotiations with France for a peace treaty. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ron Chernow, the biographer of the book it’s based on, freely admit that it was toned down to make Hamilton more sympathetic.
      • The play also tones down Hamilton's elitism. Real life Hamilton was accused of being a monarchist due to wanting to re-establish a blue blood elite in the Colonies, and at the Constitutional Convention argued that the President should serve for life, though historians debate if he really believed these things or if the whole thing was an elaborate feint planned with James Madison to make the latter's plan look better by comparison.
      • The show skirts the pretty abhorrent Questionable Consent aspects of his affair with Maria Reynolds. Reynolds was a barely literate young mother stuck in an abusive marriage, and given that this takes place in the late 18th century, had no legal recourse or social safety net to fall back on. She went to him for help as an older, more established man who was a cabinet secretary at that point. He also gleefully ruined her life a few years later by publishing the blackmail letters her husband had sent him to get himself out of a tough spot. Though with how everyone in the play calls him out for his disgusting actions, it's very likely that this "sympathetic framing" was Hamilton justifying his own actions and shifting the blame onto Maria.
    • George Washington, as ever, is presented as fairly saintly in the finished play, though this may simply be how Hamilton sees him. In earlier drafts, there were hints that him stepping down from the role of President was due to his realization that Power Corrupts, with King George's theme slipping into his song.
    • Jefferson, while an antagonist in the play's second act, is a lot less cutthroat towards Hamilton than he was in real life.
  • 1776 portrays John Adams as having more modern views of social issues (such as slavery) than the real man possessed. This is not due to any attempt to lionize Adams, but rather because this version of Adams is a Composite Character of John and his more radical cousin Samuel, who really did hold the more progressive positions John espouses in the play.

    Video Games 
  • Oda Nobunaga is typically portrayed as villainous in most Japanese Historical Fiction, but from Samurai Warriors 2 onwards he gets treated as a pragmatic Anti-Hero. Historically, he was much closer to the game's portrayal of Hashiba Hideyoshi as an eccentric yet highly effective general and administrator. He was not only a ruthless commander, but embraced Western culture and technology before most other Daimyos and implemented several important policies that are still used or directly influence current policy today. Embracing the use of guns (and introducing volley fire using three staggered lines of gunners, so that some gunners would be firing while the others reloaded; this was 20 years before William Louis of Nassau-Dillenburg revolutionized European armies by independently developing the same tactic) allowed him to rout his opponents in battle.
    • Toyotomi Hideyoshi. His character in Samurai Warriors depict him as, while prone to silly antics at times, an ultimately good guy who wishes for everyone to be happy and inspired loyalty from great warriors like Yukimura Sanada. The game failed to mention his brutal persecution of Christianity, crucifixion of the 26 missionaries sent to Japan, invasion of Korea (and his attempt to do the same to China), lethal Hair-Trigger Temper, and imposition of rigid social classes that halted the social mobility from which he himself had benefitted. The Korean invasion being omitted may be because KOEI wouldn't dare piss on the Korean due to the bad blood between them and Japanese (which was Hideyoshi's fault, and even Capcom makes no mention of that despite giving Hideyoshi a Historical Villain Upgrade.) Hideyoshi even has some bonds with some Chinese warriors in Warriors Orochi (although these Chinese people were in a time before Hideyoshi was born or could even invade.) It also has a very mild take on his notorious sexual rapacity, which saw him go after his vassals' wives and daughters regardless of their age or consent.
    • In the 2nd 3DS game, they introduced Yagyu Munenori, badass swordsman of the Yagyu clan who usually is portrayed as villainous or an utter bastard. In this game, he's said to be possessing none of those overexaggerated bastardizations and is an all around just and honorable swordsman.
    • Nobunaga is also pretty badass in Pokémon Conquest (A Pokemon-Nobunaga's Ambition crossover) as in this continuity he not only a Master Pokemon trainer, but is the trainer of a shiny Rayquaza. For those not known in Pokemon lore, Rayquaza is a massive dragon Pokemon, practically a god among Pokemon, and "shiny" is when a Pokemon gets a rare note  alternate colour scheme. The only legit way to get one in the main series games, is to Save Scum about 8000 times.
    • Also, while not that glaring, there's the portrayal of Katou Kiyomasa in Samurai Warriors. In real life, while he's a model general, he's also a brutal pro-Buddhist man, extremely ruthless against Christianity and willingly ordered his men to butcher Christians, cutting the bellies of Christian women then have their infant babies killed. Koei decided to not even touch the Christianity issues for their game, and so Kiyomasa becomes a merely snarky, loyal general to the Toyotomi army with no comments about religion. Funnily enough, in the spin-off Hyakuman-Nin Sengoku Musou, this ends up giving a Jerkass upgrade to one of Kiyomasa's historical Christian opposition, Konishi Yukinaga, who's instead portrayed as a money-grubbing jerk.
  • Pretty much everyone in the Sengoku Basara series that wasn't instead made into an outright villain gets some degree or another of this, but Tokugawa Ieyasu is the biggest — by Sengoku Basara 3 he's basically a Messianic Archetype, compassionate and honest, and his Power Fist combat style is symbolic of his desire to keep war from ever again severing the Bonds between people, rather than power-hungry and manipulative. Not to mention, he's a young Bishōnen rather his usual portrayal of being a fat old man.
  • Taking a leaf from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dynasty Warriors promotes Liu Bei to a man concerned primarily with virtue and honourable behaviour, and one more thing: He's much more of a caring father and is capable of being proud of his son. It helps that the infamous scene where he threw his son to the ground was omitted for the game.
    • To a lesser degree, his son Liu Shan is also portrayed as, while far from the warrior his father was, a man of virtue. As stated above, it helps that he's not thrown to the ground as a baby...
    • Sima Zhao also gets this, as he was much worse in real life. Zhuge Dan's bio in the game even suggests that Zhao's rule was Tyrannical.
      • A prime example of this is during Zhuge Dan's rebellion after Dan killed Wen Qin. Zhao states that any soldiers who willing surrenders would be unharmed while Zhong Hui suggests that they should just kill them, when historically it was the other way around.
    • Ma Chao is generally portrayed as a man who upholds justice above all else and is loyal to Shu, even in death. While the loyalty part is true...well, let's just say Wang Yi isn't the only person pissed at him for killing a family. He was rather brutal in real life, and certainly didn't care about whether he was doing the right thing or not.
    • Lu Bu in the games has increasingly been portrayed as being a sort of Noble Demon, going from being obsessed with strength for its own sake in earlier games to wanting strength to protect those he cares for. Historically, Lu Bu allowed his soldiers to pillage, rape and plunder which contributed greatly to his ultimate failure and death.
    • Gan Ning is shown as being a pretty cool dude, and his initial bad blood with Ling Tong eventually gives way to a friendly rivalry. The real Gan Ning was a murderous bastard that most of his fellow generals would've happily killed if not for Sun Quan's protection. He even murdered a young serving boy who'd fled to Lu Meng for protection, despite promising to spare him if Lu returned the boy. Ling Tong hated him till the day he died, and Lu Meng very nearly killed him for the murder of the serving boy.
  • Assassin's Creed has this and its counterpart as its entire plot. The series's main draw is how the developers use the Rule of Cool to combine exquisite research with Historical Upgrades. Everybody of note in the past belonged to one of two Ancient Conspiracies; the Templars and the Assassins. The Templars work to eradicate free will in the name of peace. The Assassins hunt and kill Evil Aristocrats wherever and whenever possible "to safeguard Mankind's evolution"(and peace). If somebody in the past was awesome, he's in the series somewhere with his life examined in detail - with Hidden Depths because history was Written By The Templars.
    • For starters, The Hashshashin themselves. In real life they were Hassan-I-Sabah's private army not unlike modern terrorists. They built a reputation at the time as his enemies were Asshole Victims who they eliminated with a minimum of collateral damage.
    • King Richard I of England, however, got a fairly realistic representation: he went by the title "Lionhearted" even in his own day, and it did not refer to heroism but a love of combat. So, though he's driven to conquer Jerusalem, he keeps his promise to listen to Altaïr finally after he beats Robert De Sable in single combat, and lets Altair go free afterwards. He's undeniably a jerkass, but he's still portrayed in a relatively positive manner - basically a Noble Demon.
    • Lorenzo de'Medici is portrayed as being a devout republican and a benevolent ruler. In reality, like all the noble families in the Italian city-states, the Medicis were Machiavellian schemers who committed all sorts of immoral acts to maintain their power.note  At least it's shown in the Lineage short how Lorenzo brutally tortures an agent of his enemies for information, and in Brotherhood Lucrezia Borgia claims, probably truthfully, that he quashes the families of his rivals utterly, even those who had nothing to do with the plots against him.
    • And who can forget how Leonardo da Vinci got an upgrade in heroism, despite only being the sort-of deuteragonist? Notable changes include that his inventions work, are completely functional and can be used at nearly any time. Plus he's the main character's BFF.
    • Valhalla focuses on Eivor and their band of Vikings settling in England and fighting off hostile Saxons trying to remove them while at the same time combating the Order of the Ancients. Eivor's group is portrayed as a group of exiles forced out of their traditional home and looking for their fortunes elsewhere. Historically, the Vikings had ruthlessly raided England for centuries, and even staged a massive invasion in order to colonize the island, killing or subjugating many Saxons in the process.
    • According to some fan-theories, the events of the games are filtered through main character's impressions of them. Such as the way beggars in the first game would bother Altair and only Altair.
    • Not to mention that with their advantage in information control, the Templars would obviously try to slander any historical figure who allied themselves with the Assassins.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II gives one to Angolan Rebel Leader Jonas Savimbi. In the game, he's a gregarious and enthusiastic player ally who rides into battle at the head of his army and even pulls off a spectacular Gunship Rescue at the end of the mission he's featured in. He's also the only foreign contact of the Cold War-era missions to not betray the protagonists. In real life, while he was known for his charisma and his courage (having a reputation for leading from the front lines as he does in the game), he was also a war criminal who massacred civilians, funded his army by selling conflict diamonds, accepted military aid from apartheid South Africa, ran the territories he controlled like his own personal kingdom, ordered the torture and execution of his own men if he had even the slightest suspicion of betrayal, and re-started the civil war twice after previously agreeing to ceasefires because he didn't win the post-war elections - it took his death in battle with government troops in February 2002, a full sixteen years after the in-game level he's featured in, to finally bring the war to an end. The characters in the game do comment that Savimbi was insane but don't elaborate over.
  • Discussed and ultimately discouraged in Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego? When you meet William the Conqueror, who casually mentions one time that he razed a Saxon village to the ground, your Good Guide will chime in to remind you that just because you're meeting and working with figures from history doesn't mean that they're all necessarily nice people. Your job as a time traveller isn't to pick sides, but to get history as we know it back on track.
  • The Legend of Tian-ding turns the titular hero, based on a real-life Taiwanese revolutionary, into a Just Like Robin Hood master thief who steals from Japanese governors and corrupt local businessmen, redistributing their wealth to the poor, and even uncovering and stopping a highly potent doomsday device coveted by the ruthless Japanese Big Bad. He even fights the villain who turns into a shadow demon at the end!

    Web Animation 
  • This trope is examined in the video "Bar Kochba: The Worst Jewish Hero Ever". Simon bar Kochba spent decades as an Israeli national hero... even though he committed severe war crimes, persecuted non-Jews, and punished any Jews who refused to support his rebellion. The consequences of his revolt included severe harm to the Jewish people, and Jewish scholars and religious leaders would bemoan the revolt for nearly two thousand years.
  • Extra Credits: Their Extra History series has done this a few times.
    • The series on Justinian gives his reign and overall campaign to reconquer and restore The Roman Empire a significant whitewashing. In truth, these conquests were devastating to Italy, and left Rome a shell of its former self to the point where many historians consider them a principal reason for its decay and depopulation until The Renaissance. The creators admit that they "like" Justinian and they do insist that he was a dreamer and too overly ambitious to properly sustain his goals, but this still means that the show sentimentalizes his conquest of Italy and demonizes the Ostrogoths (whose opinions, views, and side of the story are left untold).
    • Their take on The Great Northern War largely focuses on Charles XII of Sweden and paints him as a romantic Young Conqueror who overreached himself, and saw his defeat as the end of the Sweden's status as a great power and decline in prominence. Many modern people see Charles XII as a reckless Blood Knight who refused to make peace, whose endless wars brought huge amounts of unnecessary suffering and hardships on the Swedish people, and whose defeat in battle actually started the process of Sweden going from absolute monarchy to a parliamentary system. Globally and culturally speaking, Sweden actually became more prominent after Charles XII's death, on account of its significant economic innovations and for its contributions to theatre and film, whereas outside of Scandinavia and parts of Central and Eastern Europe, Charles XII is a fairly obscure figure except among history buffs, metalheads, and white supremacists.
    • Genghis Khan's life and conquests are entirely shown from his point of view, with his positive reforms to Mongolian society being presented at length, and his good intentions extrapolated, but the fate of the people he took over and those he killed in his ambition are barely alluded to, with only the very last segment taking the time to consider the human toll of his campaigns.
  • Overly Sarcastic Productions: This trope is discussed by Blue in his video "Rulers Who Were Actually Good". One of the problems he has with the "great man" theory of history is that it often leads to the glorification of figures who were flawed or even outright terrible people (at least by modern-day standards). He also takes time to note that while the rulers he discusses in the video were remarkably benevolent and magnanimous, they still did some morally dubious things and shouldn't be considered perfect human beings.
  • Unbiased History: As you can guess from the title, this trope and its counterpart are done on purpose and Played for Laughs.
    • Cato the Elder's burning hatred of Carthage, which helps to lay the groundwork for the destruction of Carthage, is portrayed as entirely reasonable and even justified. In reality, Carthage posed no real threat to Rome after the Second Punic War. Cato's involvement in an attempt to have Scipio Africanus and his younger brother convicted on questionable charges of corruption is also glossed over.
    • Sulla is depicted as a Cincinnatus figure who saved the Roman Republic from its enemies, both internal and external. In truth, however, Sulla's march on Rome and many of his subsequent actions would play a major role in the erosion of the republic's political norms and the bitter conflict between the optimates and the populares, setting the stage for some very brutal rebellions and civil wars that ultimately resulted in the end of the republic.
    • Mark Antony's acts of treachery and extreme violence that he committed after Julius Caesar's assassination are said to be the result of him being mind-controlled by Cleopatra VII, who sought to use him to either subjugate or destroy Rome.
    • While the pre-illness months of Caligula's rule were consistent with his portrayals by contemporary historians, the post-illness rule was portrayed as him having an epiphany as being a god. His infamous moment of declaring war on Neptune and collecting seashells as bounty was portrayed as conquering the elements to make crossing the English Channel easier, only stopping short of invading Britain (ergo leaving the task to Claudius) because of other matters to attend to.
    • The Roman administration in Britannia engaged in some extreme abuses, perhaps most infamously having Boudica flogged and her daughters raped. Here, the flogging is omitted and the rape is changed to consensual sex.
    • Hadrian's brutal crushing of the Bar Kokhba revolt is outright glorified. While Simon bar Kokhba and his forces were hardly saints themselves, Hadrian took severe punitive measures against the Jews in general, not just those who took part in the rebellion. Not to mention the fact that the revolt was triggered in part by him reneging on a promise to rebuild the Jewish Temple, instead deciding to build a temple to Jupiter where the Second Temple once stood, then doubling down and building a colonia called Aelia Capitolina over the ruins of Jerusalem.
    • In real life, Caracalla had Geta murdered, but here he's portrayed as loving his brother and treating whatever he perceives as a negative influence, or suggesting he's the one to murder Geta, to a wrathful response. That being said, his depiction is otherwise accurate to the violent and wrathful nature of the real Caracalla, albeit played for comedy.
    • Elagabalus is depicted as engaging in some ridiculously debauched behavior to bring attention to the Empire's degeneracy problems, and preaching about Sol Invictus to streamline Roman religious practices. In reality, his unrestrained pleasure-seeking was motivated by nothing more than self-indulgent and unethical hedonism, and he simply placed his namesake Syrian sun god above the Roman pantheon.
    • Persecutors of Christians, like Decius and Valerian, have their actions justified as them needing all the help they could get from their pagan gods against internal and external enemies, and needing to punish Rome's Christian population for its obstinance.
    • Diocletian is portrayed as a capable but tragic figure and as such his more questionable actions are subjected to whitewashing. For example, his Edict on Maximum Prices (an attempt to curb inflation that only caused more problems for the Roman economy) is depicted as failing because the world wasn't ready for the full force of his reforming genius. His persecution of the Manichaeans, meanwhile, is said to have been justified by virtue of Manichaeism supposedly being a demonic chaos cult.
    • Justinian is depicted as an ideal ruler, and his general Belisarius depicted as a perfect commander waring a just war. The devastation of Italy, including Rome itself, from the war is left unmentioned. Meanwhile Justinian's persecution of non-Christians and of heretics is depicted as a completely justified curbing of Satan's influence. Interestingly enough, they go out of their way to give Procopius (the chronicler for almost all we know about Justinian) a Historical Villain Upgrade to explain all the bad things you may have heard about the emperor. In other words, not unlike what Extra Credits did, except this one was on purpose.

    Web Original 
  • Epic Rap Battles of History:
    • While Muhammad Ali isn't exactly depicted as a Nice Guy, his trash-talk in his rap battle against Michael Jordan is a lot cleaner and more politically correct than it was in real life, which is unique for this series as the rappers are usually made cruder and more vulgar (for obvious reasons). For example, he called Joe Frazier an "Uncle Tom", "ugly gorilla", and "the wrong kind of negro"; insulted George Foreman for his devout Christianity and called him "a white, flag-waving bitch"; and claimed Ernie Terrell was "an Uncle Tom nigger who is going to get his ass whupped". ERB's Ali also never brings up the fact that Jordan had a white wife, which the real Ali definitely would have done in this context considering he spoke at KKK rallies advocating segregation and gave an interview to Playboy in 1975 where he said that any black person who married a white person should be lynched; the closest the battle gets to addressing the real Ali's extreme views on race is him saying Jordan "sold out to crackers". He did mellow out later in life, but the Ali of the battle is clearly depicted as the active boxer of the 60s and 70s.
    • William Wallace gets this treatment by virtue of being portrayed as something akin to his Braveheart self, which makes him stand out in comparison to his opponent, George Washington, being closer to how he was in reality. The real Wallace would've provided Washington with more ammunition, due to him being a serf-owning Feudal Overlord who had no problems with massacring English peasants and villagers during his York campaign.
    • Caitlyn Jenner is portrayed as something of a Flawless Token, with neither her controversial political stances nor the vehicular manslaughter incident she was involved in ever getting brought up.
    • Mansa Musa is characterized as a more positive foil to Jeff Bezos and scolds the latter for the way he treats his workers. While the working conditions of Amazon employees have been the subject of criticism for a long time, it rings a little hollow coming from Musa, considering he owned thousands of slaves. To be fair, this was hardly unknown for Muslim rulers of the era, but the fact that the rap battle never brings up his slave ownership is pretty glaring, especially after George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were cast as hypocrites by their opponents for owning slaves.
    • Karl Marx heavily criticizes Henry Ford for his anti-Semitism. While the real Marx never sunk as low as Ford did in that regard (Ford actively promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and was an apologist for the Nazis), he still expressed contempt for Jewish culture and religion (despite being of Jewish descent himself) and held negative views of black people, Mexicans and Slavs.
  • The Fire Never Dies: Al Capone betrays the Five Points Gang to the IWW. He later appears leading a commando unit known as "The Outfit".
  • The Footprint of Mussolini:
    • In this timeline, Fidel and Raul Castro end up turning against communism. This, combined with better relations with America, means that they don't install their own dictatorship after overthrowing Batista, instead becoming democratically elected presidents of a free Cuba (though their terms of office are decades apart).
    • Unlike in our timeline where he came to power via Military Coup, Augusto Pinochet is democratically elected as president of Chile after defeating Argentina in the Beagle War. Upon his victory in the election, he even thanks his predecessor Salvador Allende for putting the good of the country above partisanship during the war.
  • The Great War discusses how Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was idolised until relatively recently for his role in defending German East Africa against a much larger Entente force. It acknowledges his skill as a commander, stating that he was a major pioneer of guerrilla warfare in the 20th century. However, the show also mentions von Lettow-Vorbeck's role in the Herero genocide, his participation in the 1920 Kapp-Putsch (a far-right coup attempt, intending to depose the Weimar Republic), along with his racist imperialist views.
  • Hitler Rants features Hermann Fegelein, who's presented as a lovable and devious trickster who lives to make Hitler's life miserable through his antics. Putting aside the fact that the real Fegelein didn't piss off his boss nearly that much until his final days, this makes him a saint compared to the man who oversaw the murder of tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews. Albert Speer also described him as being the most personally loathsome member of Hitler's inner circle.
  • While the real life Robert Smirke wasn't a villain (Unless you really hate Greek revival architecture), The Magnus Archives portrays him as one of the first to try to seriously study and catalogue the Fear Entities, and the heroes build off his theories and discoveries.

    Western Animation 
  • Christopher Columbus' heroic reputation is actually averted in, of all places, an episode of The Flintstones dealing with Time Travel. While the mythical story of him trying to prove the world is round is kept, here he's portrayed as a Jerkass and a Mean Boss towards his crew (and the four members of the cast) who has to fend off an attempt at a mutiny while threatening the four cast members to help him. The mutiny is stopped when Wilma sees land... and he quickly takes credit for it. (Fortunately for the four protagonists, the Time Machine starts working again and whisks them to a new time period, but they only find more trouble there.)
  • Liberty's Kids:
    • The fact that George Washington owned slaves is never mentioned; in fact, his valet William Lee is implied to be a free man (he addresses Washington as "sir" rather than "master") even though the real Lee was a slave. He's also suggested to be at the very least sympathetic to the cause of abolition; while the real Washington did free his slaves in his will, he remained stubbornly neutral on the issue as a whole (at least publicly) and avoided directly addressing it at all during his presidency. What makes this particularly notable is that the show takes a more nuanced and gray-shaded approach to the American Revolution as a whole and many of its prominent figures.
    • In real life, the Marquis De Lafayette held a grudge against the English people as a whole for forcing him to grow up without a father; it's believed part of why he decided to help the American rebels was a desire for payback. But in the show, he ends up befriending the English-born Sarah.
  • Nero is never regarded as a hero, but when he appeared on Peabody and Sherman's segment of Rocky and Bullwinkle, there was a twist, as he was portrayed as Not Evil, Just Misunderstood. In this reality, it was actually Nero's music teacher who started the fire.
  • Played with hilariously in Time Squad. When the team is given a mission, Otto always would get really excited and start rattling off the wonderful achievements of whoever it was they were going to meet, pretty much ignoring any of the flaws (arguably justified through childish idealism). When they actually meet the historic figures however, they are nearly always stupid, insane, stubborn, cruel, or plain incompetent.
  • Subverted in a cutaway gag on Family Guy, where Thomas Edison is shown claiming credit for Menlo Park workers' inventions despite having no idea what they are or what they do. The cutaway ends with the jingle "Look it up, Edison was a dick!"

In-Universe examples

    Anime & Manga 
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei has an instance wherein during a lecture on the importance of holding one's tongue, Nozomu speaks positively about Kira, the man traditionally viewed as the villain in The 47 Ronin incident. Nozomu refers to him as a cultured man taken advantage of by a bunch of bumpkins.
  • At the end of Fullmetal Alchemist, the heroes have to whitewash Führer Bradley's life and not tell anyone that he was a Homunculus and willing to sacrifice his people to give Father godhood.
  • The second prequel series of Legend of the Galactic Heroes has a younger Yang Wenli trying to research the life of one Bruce Ashbey, a famous Alliance war-hero. The arc itself is a discussion of this trope, with Yang lampshading the fact that while Ashbey, admirable as he was, may not have been the great badass people remember him to be, it would be foolish to automatically assume the opposite just to say that his interpretation is "unique."
  • Naruto: The Uchiha Clan. The village at large sees them as a great and noble clan that were victims of their traitorous prodigy, Itachi. The truth of the matter is that the Uchiha Clan was extremely bitter about their lack of power in the politics of the village despite being politically the most powerful clan due to their Military Police position, and about the perceived discrimination they suffered during the Second Hokage's reign and after the Kyuubi attack. It eventually led them to plan a coup against the village, which forced Itachi to kill them all, though in fairness, he mainly did it because Danzo ordered the hit. It should be noted that Itachi WANTED the massacre if it meant that Sasuke wouldn't live with his clan's crimes on his shoulders, and would rebuild the Uchiha to be truly noble after "avenging" their deaths. When Sasuke found all of this out, his reaction was a bit... extreme.
  • In One Piece's Skypiea Arc, the tale of Noland The Liar paints the king of Noland's country as a brave warrior who overcame many dangers but got suckered by Norland's lies. The flashback shows that the king was actually a greedy opportunist who relied on Noland the entire journey. When the island where the City of Gold supposed to be wasn't there, the king had Noland put in a Kangaroo Court and basically destroyed his good name out of spite.
  • In Tales of Wedding Rings, the first Ring King is remembered as a brave and selfless hero who defeated the Abyss King with the power of the titular wedding rings and saved the world in ancient times. This much is true, but as Peridot—one of the five ring princesses who married the Ring King—reveals, he was not the selfless hero that legend makes him out to be. He was a flawed, fallible man who quickly got drunk on the power of the rings, raping his wives to empower himself before battle, and everyone could see that he was probably going to turn around and conquer the world himself as soon as he defeated the Abyss King. To prevent this, Peridot and the other princesses betrayed and murdered the Ring King in his moment of triumph, then crafted a false narrative about him dying heroically in the last battle so that no one would ever know what a terrible person he was.

    Fan Works 
  • Daria in Morrowind presents this as being the case with Pelinal Whitestrake and Tiber Septim.
  • The End of the World (FernWithy): District 4 victor Benit supposedly died in a heroic battle against marauders living outside the districts, but Mags confides in Haymitch that he really had a stroke from the strain of staying awake for three straight weeks (while also hunting mutts) due to some overly potent drugs he took.
  • Escape from the Moon: In the later sequel Scavenge for the Future, by the time it takes place (five thousand years into the future), Spliced Genome is known more for her work healing and curing the diseases she created and is considered the foremare in the universal health standard. She reacts with disgust at hearing that description of her.
  • Played for Laughs in Eugenesis: The Quintesson general Ghyrik was a heroic patriot who sacrificed his life for the cause. He was absolutely, totally not an egotistical idiot who got himself killed in a laughably one-sided battle. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, according to the Quintesson leadership.
  • In Kingdom Hearts New Epic The First, being that it's a Flash Forward Fic set in Lord Cavendish's verse, the new President of the Alliance has given himself a massive Historical Hero Upgrade, presenting himself as a victorious war hero. The actual history shows he only got involved when it looked like things were going the Alliance's way, and only even then got involved in "easy" campaigns.
  • In Remnant's Bizarre Adventure, this turns out to be the case for Morioh's founder Johnathan Joestar. When Okuyasu and Koichi tell Weiss, Blake, and Team JNPR about Jonathan, their version of him portrays him as The Paragon according to Speedwagon's account. Weiss and the others are skeptical about this, much to the dismay of Koichi and Okuyasu. Josuke and Jotaro admit to Yang and Ruby, respectively, that Speedwagon exaggerated many details of Jonathan's life. While Jonathan or "Johnny" was ultimately a good man, he was still a flawed human being and not the pure saint that Speedwagon portrayed him as. Justified, however, because Speedwagon wanted to give the people of Morioh someone to look up to and give them hope. Because while Jonathan may not have been as much of a hero as he was portrayed, his archenemy Dio Brando was every bit of the monster that he was described as.
  • The Victors Project discusses this in Finnick's chapter. It's noted that the common people tend to idealize Finnick and Annie and their love story and gloss over the more nasty bits about their characters (namely that they were Career tributes who willingly volunteered for the Games and slaughtered numerous other children for the glory of being Victors) because it "doesn't fit the narrative".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself is all about this trope, with Villa's image being changed by the filmmakers for Rule of Drama and to make him more acceptable to American audiences. For example, the episode where he murdered a grieving widow is deliberately omitted.
  • In Back to the Future Part II, when Biff Tannen uses the almanac to make himself a wealthy and corrupt man, and turn Hill Valley into a Wretched Hive, he does this twofold: in the museum in the casino he owns, he makes his ancestor Buford Tannen, a sociopathic outlaw, into a brave frontiersman, and unsurprisingly, portrays himself as a patriotic and generous businessman.
  • Bright: Four cops are supposedly killed in the line of duty against a terrorist group and honored in heroes. In reality, they were corrupt and tried to murder the main protagonist and steal the MacGuffin for themselves, though he manages to kill them in self-defense. The federal agents made up this cover story to protect the main protagonist's reputation and keep the whole incident secret.
  • Nixon: Richard Nixon is shown to be desperate for this to happen to him and frustrated at how the process works. Various presidential portraits are shown in the background of scenes set in the White House, obviously a tradition that Tricky Dick aspires to continue, and Nixon is happy to point out the failures and shortcomings of previous presidents in order to defend and rationalize his own misdeeds. At the end, Nixon sees John F. Kennedy's unfinished painting and realizes that this process has already happened with JFK and there's nothing he can do about it.
  • Star Trek: First Contact explores this trope with the fictional historical figure of Zefram Cochrane. Federation history paints Cochrane as a shining paragon of idealism while he was really a selfish, perverted, cynical drunk (but still kind of a Loveable Rogue). Much of his widely known idealism only came long after he'd made First Contact, while the time-traveling crew only met the earlier, broken man who'd barely lived through World War 3. The Cochrane they meet even sneers at the very same aphorisms he'll later famously deliver. The novelization hints that he may have had untreated bipolar disorder, alternating between manic creative highs that led to his inventing the warp drive and crushing lows.
    • Perhaps even shown earlier in Star Trek: The Original Series where after being forced to land on a planet by an energy cloud, Kirk and company encounter a still alive and rejuvenated Cochrane. When he's informed that the energy cloud that's been keeping him alive is female and in love with him, he's disgusted by it as immoral which can be perceived as Fantastic Racism. It's not until she takes over the body of a dying human woman is he able to return her feelings.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi: At the end of the film, Luke Skywalker is revered as the great hero, with his actions in enabling Kylo Ren's and the First Order's rise not made public by Rey or anyone to either Leia or others, nor his inaction for the bulk of the resistance against the First Order's atrocities held against him.
  • Thor: Ragnarok:

  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy: William Gladstone (a powerful magician in this universe) is generally remembered in Britain as a kind and noble figure. Bartimaeus' flashbacks paint a different picture, however, showing Gladstone as a ruthless and power-hungry man who is implied to have deposed the previous {{muggle|s} government in a coup. He does, however, come off as a more impressive and respectable individual compared to the more decadent people who generally make up the British government of the present day.
  • In the Belisarius Series, there are a couple of comments lampshading this, in which it is said that a character who died in battle would become an epic hero. In one of those cases King Eon of Ethiopia says that about himself as he is dying (ironically Eon's case is a subversion; his behavior clearly was heroic enough to win him such an honor, it simply lacked military professionalism as might be expected for so young a Warrior Prince).
  • Ciaphas Cain:
    • Cain is a cowardly, manipulative political officer who gets thrown into death and destruction at every turn, and comes out as a hero for the Imperium, even revered as an aspect of the god-emperor of mankind in some circles. He doesn't believe all the hype, though.
    • A recurring theme in the books is Cain using his memoirs (compiled into the books we read) to give himself a Historical Villain Upgrade instead. By his actions, Cain is a hero. By his own claims he's a self-serving coward. Those tropes get played with a lot, and Sandy Mitchell says he's not sure if Cain is a hero or a coward.
  • Discworld:
    • Pyramids: When the incumbent pharaoh dies due to a mishap involving belief he's a seagull, the architects working his tomb run into a problem depicting his life, because in terms of Mighty Deeds Accomplished, he hadn't actually done anything at all (even a tremendous cock-up would've been something). They decide to take a bit of artistic license.
    • Small Gods: As the novel makes very clear, Om's religion has been embellishing their main god quite a lot. Many of the incidents in their holy books are exaggerated or just plain made up. Om does remember meeting one of his supposed holy prophets, but where the books say he imparted commandments unto the guy, all Om recalls is just saying "Hey, look what I can do!"
  • Within the Dragaera series, the Dumas-recycling Khaavren Romances novels are an example of this (and probably Historical Villain Upgrade as well) in universe. Paarfi, the narrator, presents a rose-colored, Good Old Ways view of Dragaeran history and tends to present historical figures in a flattering light, although in some cases, you can read between the lines and sense the real person was much less pleasant. In one amusing example, Paarfi's depiction of Aerich's confrontation with a sorcery-wielding Teckla gives a far better impression of Aerich than the story told to Vlad by that Teckla in Teckla.
  • In Dragon Bones, the hero, Ward, is told to his horror that Seleg, the man he hero-worshipped and admired as role-model, had been No Hero to His Valet, and in fact, been the one who horribly punished the defenseless slave Oreg, when Oreg complained about his killing the dragons he (Seleg) was duty-bound to protect. Naturally, no report of those deeds made it to any ballad or other account of history.
  • This is the central conceit of the Flashman series by George Macdonald Fraser, which purports to be the memoir of a celebrated Victorian war hero confessing that he was actually an inveterate coward and lecher who won his reputation largely through luck and Stealing the Credit for the heroism of dead subordinates, although he does occasionally have genuinely heroic moments.
  • In The Priory of the Orange Tree, Galian Berethnet is revered as the founder of both Virtudom and the nation of Inys after he defeated the Nameless One, an enormously powerful dragon. Ead's version of his romance with Cleolind is an early hint that he's more revered than he should be, since he tries to demand Cleolind's hand in exchange for defeating the dragon and Cleolind refuses.note  Later information shows that he was not nearly the hero Inys remembers him as. On the other hand, it is impossible not to feel bad for him when the sorceress Kalyba reveals that she raised him as a son and later duped him into marrying her by posing as Cleolind, driving him to suicide when he learned the truth.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Renly Baratheon is portrayed by the Lannister-Tyrell regime as a heroic and glamorous figure who came back from the dead to defeat his wicked brother Stannis Baratheon. In reality Renly, though brilliant with publicity and putting on an image of The Good King, really has only publicity going for him. He shows himself in private to be a Smug Snake, greedy for more influence, showing no real administrative skills, along with being a terrible military leader and fighter, and trying to usurp the throne after his brother Robert's death with the Tyrells' aid, along with planning the death of Robert's true heir, his brother Stannis. However after his death the Tyrells join the Lannisters so they can get more power, and Garlan Tyrell disguises himself in Renly's armor so it appears he came back from the dead, therefore Renly is given a better reputation. This is suitable considering Renly is based on the treacherous George, duke of Clarence (see above). Oddly enough this was missed in the TV series, which tries to portray Renly as an ideal ruler (though this comes across as Informed Ability).
  • Wings of Fire: Prince Arctic is portrayed in IceWing mythology as an innocent rape victim who happened to be kidnapped by Foeslayer and forced to rip out his own tongue and use his own claws to disembowel himself, courtesy of Darkstalker. In reality, Arctic and Foeslayer had a consensual relationship (albeit a tragic and unhappy one), and while what Darkstalker did was extremely morally ambiguous, it is worth noting that Arctic tried to kidnap and enchant his own daughter, and give NightWing intel to the IceWings. and was just a really lousy father and dragon.
  • The 1632 series frequently notes this happening in real-time, as both the deeds and personalities of the characters get exaggerated with each telling, and recorded in deliberately embellished accounts by sensationalistic newspapers. The best examples are Gretchen Richter and Jeff Higgins. They're both genuinely tough characters (she a revolutionary and he a military officer), but the stories turn them into a quasi-mythical Battle Couple, personally responsible for every USE military victory.
  • In Sweet Diamond Dust, Don Hermenegildo is attempting to do this with the biography he is writing of Don Ubaldino De la Valle.
  • In Timeline, The Hundred Years War English leader Lord Oliver is regarded by historians as "almost a saint," but the time travelers find that the real Oliver is a massive, gluttonous, sadistic jerkass.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of The Brady Bunch showed Bobby idolizing Old West gunman Jesse James. His worried parents take him to meet one of James's victims, after which he has a nightmare in which James murders his entire family. That cures him.
    • Earlier in the same episode, they watch a movie based on Jessie James, but it had been Bowdlerized due to TV censorship, leading Bobby to believe that James was not violent.
  • Jayne Cobb in Firefly. On a backwater planet of mud-cultivating peasants, Jayne apparently stole a fortune from the local tyrant, but was forced to jettison the cargo from his damaged ship. It landed near the homes of the 'Mudders', who assumed he had done it on purpose. Stories were told and songs were sung about the legendary Jayne Cobb, folk hero. Even when the Mudders are told the truth, some of them are so loyal to the idea of their hero that they prefer to stick to the old story.
  • The original Star Trek invokes this trope by establishing that some people in the 23rd century consider Khan Noonien Singh to be one of history's heroes.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Living Witness", the ancestors of an alien civilization are treated this way after they tried to raid Voyager and took hostages while doing so. Voyager was trading with one of their enemies while not knowing there was even a conflict between the two sides, and both are given a corresponding Historical Villain Upgrade to the point that they launched a horrific war against their "peace-loving" culture and staged full-on genocide against them. They themselves, on the other hand, are depicted as martyrs and freedom fighters.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Dax", General Tandro is hailed as a hero for his noble leadership and death during his planet's civil war. Since then he's been turned into an important symbol for his people. The plot of the episode concerns Dax and his widow, Enina, trying to suppress the truth about him: that he was killed by his own side for trying to betray them, and also that he was apparently a pretty terrible husband and friend.
    Enina: I knew the man before he became a legend. But I also knew my place in history. My place is to carry on bravely, never to remarry, to represent my husband at the banquets given in his name. But never, never to talk about who he really was, because nobody wants to hear that.
  • On the series True Blood, 3000 year old vampire Russell Edgington claims that he once met Jesus, who was just a "boring hippie who stank of patchouli."
  • In the Supernatural episode "About a Boy", the Winchesters meet Hansel. He's in league with the child-eating witch and has willingly eaten his own sister.
  • Discussed in a Star Trek: Enterprise episode in regards to Zephram Cochrane. Captain Archer wants to take an obscure speech by Cochrane in which he claimed cyborgs tried to sabotage first contact as the complete truth (which, of course, it is). T'Pol points out that Cochrane was "frequently intoxicated" (which is also true, and probably the only reason Cochrane ever revealed that information).
  • In Game of Thrones Ned Stark is considered one of the greatest swordsmen of his generation because he defeated Ser Arthur Dayne in single combat at the Tower of Joy. Dayne was a master swordsman and had a reputation for honor and chivalry. Bran Stark is shown a vision of what really happened during the fight at the Tower of Joy. Ned and five of his soldiers attacked Dayne and another knight of the Kingsguard. Ned killed the other Kingsguard, but Dayne really was as good as the stories said and he killed Ned's four remaining soldiers. He then destroyed Ned in one-on-one combat. Dayne was about to kill a disarmed Ned when he was stabbed in the back by Howland Reed who was wounded at the beginning of the fight and presumed dead. The fight at the Tower of Joy was brutal and dirty but few people know what really happened since Ned and Howland, the only survivors, refused to talk about it. Stories turned Ned into a brilliant swordsman who defeated the chivalrous Ser Arthur Dayne in an honorable duel.
  • On The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Captain Gregg tries to convince everyone that a celebrated local hero was a ne'er do well and braggard. Yet when his grave is uncovered, the headstone reads of a man 'who did not hesitate', it seems the ghost has not a chance of changing any minds. When the dedication ceremony occurs, Gregg summons a wind-storm to completely uncover the headstone, which then reads 'He did not hesitate - He Ran Like Hell!'. Played with in a later episode, when Gregg realizes his recall of a second-hand account about two of the American Founding Fathers may not be perfect, and nearly ruins Mrs. Muir's son's school report by insisting they were bitter adversaries, not the friends the boy originally believed. While Gregg's stubbornness nearly derails the reputation of another rival-in-life by showing the school he supposedly founded was in fact founded much earlier, his historian descendant is delighted; it means their school is among the oldest in all of New England.
  • Lucifer (2016) sees Abel of Cain and Abel fame, despite how the Bible talks about him, turned out to be just as big an asshole as Cain. Tellingly, both actually wanted to kill the other and Abel was actually the first soul sent to Hell after Cain killed him. When Cain learns that Abel went to Hell he's not surprised and bemoans that nobody ever believes him when he tells them that Abel was "an asshat".
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In-Universe. In "Gettysburg", Andy Larouche is very proud that his ancestor Major Beauregard Larouche led the only Confederate unit in Pickett's Charge to break through the Union lines during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. He often boasts about this to his friend and fellow War Re Enactor Vince Chance. However, when Andy and Vince are sent back in time to 1863 by Nicholas Prentice, they meet Beauregard Larouche, who is only a corporal. Andy soon discovers that his exploits have been highly exaggerated. When he asks his ancestor whether he still believes in the cause of the Confederacy, Beauregard replies that he only believes in the cause of staying alive. When the two of them, Vince and Major Drummond come under fire from Union troops while trying to rescue the wounded Will Monroe, Beauregard runs away as he has seen enough death. He later tells Colonel Angus Devine that he rescued Monroe single-handedly. Andy's fervour reignites Beauregard's own long dormant patriotism and he proudly takes part in Pickett's Charge in which he is killed, the only accurate part of the Larouche family legend beyond his name.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In the 5th edition adventure Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen, Zanas Sarlamir is remembered as a heroic Knight of Solamnia who nobly gave his life protecting people from a horde of rampaging evil dragons. Dragons were involved, but his death was not so heroic. The dragons were good, they were mad that the Kingpriest of Istar had desecrated their sacred burial ground by using it as the foundation/power source for a flying city, and Sarlamir, who was supposed to resolve this conflict peacefully, instead murdered the dragons' leader, provoking their wrath. The knight who brought back Sarlamir's body twisted the truth to protect his reputation.

  • Cesare - Il Creatore che ha distrutto has its own example with protagonist Cesare Borgia, as well as all the other historical figures from 1491 who appear, even the Borgias' enemies (see above), but it also has an in-universe example, with 16-year-old Cesare reading Dante Alighieri's account of the Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich VII in Italy, and the place he reserves for Heinrich in the highest heaven in his Paradiso. Both Dante and Heinrich appear as visions and sing the story, with Heinrich in a glittering silver-white costume, singing how moved he was by the plight of Pisa, and how determined he is to do the proper righteous work of a holy emperor. In reality, his attempt to unify Italy was not any different from the brutal conquests that Cesare would later perpetrate, and be demonized for for 500 years. When Heinrich's solo ends and the song returns to Dante's narration, the music turns darker, as Dante tells Cesare that if Heinrich had survived one step further, just one more step, he could have crushed the Guelphs — and Dante angrily belts that last part. The music shows that Cesare understands that it isn't all romanticized speeches and glittering thrones in Heaven, but he agrees with Dante's vision of a successor to Caesar, and he is determined to do whatever it takes to become that emperor.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Ysgramor, the first king of Men in Tamriel, was a Atmoran (ancient proto-Nord) hero who led his family and some like minded individuals from their homeland of Atmora to the northernmost area of Tamriel, now known as Skyrim, after Atmora became embroiled in a massive civil war. Ysgramor later led the Atmoran people in colonizing Skyrim from their landing point of Hsaarik Head. He also became the first historian of mankind and developed the first written human language based on Atmoran and Elvish linguistic principles. After the Falmer, native "snow elves" of Skyrim, massacred an Atmoran city, Ysgramor and his sons returned to Atmora. There, they gathered a group of potent warriors known as the 500 Companions, and handily slaughtered the majority of the Falmer population and drove the remainder underground. However, some scholars suggest that the accomplishments credited to Ysgramor were actually performed by several early Nordic kings. Additionally, his claim that the Falmer attack on Saarthal was "unprovoked" is disputed by numerous records of the Elves who say that the attack was in response to repeated "provocations and blasphemies" committed by the early Nords.
    • Pelinal Whitestrake, known as the "Divine Crusader", was the legendary 1st Era hero of mankind/racist berserker. Believed to have been a Shezarrine, physical incarnations of the spirit of the "dead" creator god Lorkhan (known to the Imperials as "Shezarr"), Pelinal came to St. Alessia to serve as her divine champion in the war against the Ayleids. Pelinal would fly into fits of Unstoppable Rage (mostly directed at the Ayleids) during which he would be stained with their blood and left so much carnage in his wake that Kyne, one of the Divines, would have to send in her rain to cleanse Ayleid forts and village before they could be used by Alessia's forces. In one particularly infamous fit of rage, Pelinal is said to have damaged the lands themselves, nearly causing the Divines to leave the world in disgust. His hatred of non-human races extended even beyond the Elves to the Khajiit, whom he slew in droves mistaking them for another race of Elf. Imperial dogma (and his portrayal in Oblivion's Knights of the Nine expansion) conveniently forgets about his blatant racism and psychopathic episodes, focusing only on his heroic aspects.
    • Reman Cyrodiil, founder of the Reman Dynasty who would forge the Second Cyrodiilic Empire of Tamriel, is said to have had divine origins which made him The Chosen One and was coronated at no older than age thirteen. However, there is evidence that his "divine" origins were fabricated in order to legitimize his rule. Further, modern Imperial propaganda has covered up most of his debauchery and psychoses. Despite this, he is (justifiably) remembered as one of the greatest rulers in Cyrodiilic history.
    • Tiber Septim (aka Talos Stormcrown, Hjalti Early-Beard, et al), was the first emperor to unite all of Tamriel and is held up as a paragon of mankind, especially by the Imperials and Nords. Following his death, he did become the god Talos, God of War and Good Governance, and even took the top spot as the chief deity on the Nordic pantheon. However, elements of his past are almost certainly embellished and/or outright fabricated as part of Imperial propaganda to appeal to the Nords, whose support he badly needed in order to forge his empire. He may have had a hand in the assassination of King Cuhlecain (who Septim served as General) so that he could usurp the position. Many of his best known exploits can quite possibly be attributed to others (the Underking, Wulfharth Ash-King, Zurin Artus) or, at the very least, his role in them was highly embellished. His legions were brutal in conquering Tamriel, committing many atrocities along the way (such as slaughtering the ruling family of Morrowind down to their young daughter). He almost certainly betrayed and killed one of his closest advisors (Zurin Arctus) in order to power the Numidium to complete his conquests (and then had his propaganda machine paint Arctus as the villain). Of course, the worship of him isn't entirely unfounded, as there is evidence that he really did ascend to Godhood... and may be one of the last things holding Mundus together. Additionally, it is speculated that he may have used his divine powers post-apotheosis to alter reality to make his version of events "true".
    • As seen most prominently in Morrowind, with the Dwemer gone, Nerevar dead, and Azura a Daedric Prince who doesn't often openly communicate with most mortals, the Dunmeri Tribunal combined this with Written by the Winners in regards to themselves following the Battle of Red Mountain. They took credit for all of the positives that came out of the event, as well as many of Nerevar's accomplishments before, while blaming the Dwemer or Dagoth Ur for the negatives, including the death of Nerevar. As such, the Tribunal Temple's official story about what happened there is the most widely accepted version, even though it is clearly the version most full of Blatant Lies and Metaphorically True things out of those that comprise The Rashomon once you've done a little research. All stories to the contrary are considered heresy, kept alive only by the actions of the Ashlander Nerevarine Cult and the Dissident Priests.
    • The Dragonborn is revered in Skyrim for being a great hero, the ultimate warrior, and the pinnacle of what a Nord should aspire to be. Despite it being revealed that the First Dragonborn was actually a Dragon-Priest who Turned Against Their Masters and ruled over Solstheim as a tyrant. However, this is somewhat of an subversion, since the Ancient Nord legends didn't refer to them at all, but actually the Last Dragonborn, prophecied to appear when Alduin returned. This bizarrely makes it a case of Future Historical Hero Upgrade.
  • In Far Cry 4, Mohan Ghale, the founder of the Golden Path, is treated by Sabal as a mixture of Moses and George Washington, who led the oppressed people of Kyrat against the despotic rule of Pagan Min. Sabal's co-leader of the Golden Path, Amita, instead considers Mohan to be The Fundamentalist. And Amita's opinion has solid weight to it: Mohan was not just a brutal fundamentalist, but a supporter of Kyrat's ancient Stay in the Kitchen traditions, which is why he refused to let his wife Ishwari have a more active role in his revolutionary activities. Eventually, to try and discourage Ishwari from taking a greater role in the Golden Path, Mohan sent her to seduce Pagan Min for useful information, a decision that backfired when Pagan and Ishwari fell in love and had a daughter called Lakshmana. Afterwards, in a moment of jealous anger, Mohan killed Lakshmana when she was only a year old. In response, Ishwari shot her husband, took her and Mohan's son Ajay, and fled Kyrat to live in America, while Pagan Min Took a Level in Jerkass and treated the people of Kyrat even more callously than he already did. So, in a way, Mohan is ultimately the Greater-Scope Villain of Far Cry 4, not the Greater-Scope Hero.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics, the official history records Delita as a hero, even though he left quite a body count on the way to the throne.
    • Interestingly, Final Fantasy XIV's Heavensward expansion has both this and Historical Villain Upgrade on the first Azure Dragoon, the difference lying solely in who's remembering what he did. To Ishgard, the first Azure Dragoon is revered as a hero who slew Nidhogg, took his eyes, and went on to slay many more dragons. To the Dravanians, the first Azure Dragoon is vilified as a monster who... slew Nidhogg, took his eyes, and went on to slay many more dragons. The truth is a bit more complicated, of course: his fight with Nidhogg was in self-defense, after Nidhogg attacked Ishgard when his father, King Thordan I, betrayed the Dravanians by killing Nidhogg's sister Ratatoskr to consume her eyes for more power. He was also horrified by what his father had done, relinquishing his claim to the throne as Thordan's heir in favor of becoming a nameless dragoon who would simply defend Ishgard from further reprisals by the Dravanians, rather than seeking them out to slay them as either side believes. And, as it turns out, he didn't even really kill Nidhogg - he survived long enough to seek out his brother Hraesvelgr, convincing him to give up his own eye for Nidhogg to use to exact his revenge, and even after he's finally killed during Heavensward, his essence consumes the current Azure Dragoon when he comes into possession of both of his eyes.
    • In Final Fantasy XV, The Founder King AKA the Mystic, Somnus Lucis Caelum, is remembered by the Lucians as the noble king who built the first kingdom after the fall of the ancient civilization Solheim in the War of the Astral, mesmerizing in battle, bringing peace and fighting back the horrifying Starscourge hand-in-hand with the Oracle of his time. In truth, Somnus was a man who yearned to be special and loved and grew to envy his older brother Ardyn. This made it easier for him to follow the Astrals' plan to make Ardyn into the Starscourge's avatar, which entailed Somnus betraying his brother, killing the Oracle Aera (Ardyn's betrothed) when she got in the way, and sealing his brother in a prison for thousands of years. Ultimately, Somnus was less a hero and more the Astrals' pawn. At the end of the Ardyn DLC when Somnus is defeated by Ardyn, Somnus is reduced to a broken spirit who can only beg his brother for understanding (even he realizes he can't ask for forgiveness).
  • The protagonist of MediEvil, Sir Daniel Fortesque, became a friend of the king through various exaggerated tales of his exploits. When an actual battle occurred, Daniel ended up getting killed by arrows minutes into it. However, due to being the King's friend, he went down in history as a hero. When the evil sorceror he fought against tries to take over the world again, Sir Dan gets a chance to finally prove himself as the hero history remembers him as.
  • In the Fire Emblem series:
    • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light has Adrah, the first Emperor of Archanaea, who is remembered as The Good King when in reality he was a common thief who stole the Fire Emblem from the Fane of Raman, removed and sold its Spheres and used the money to finance an army. In doing so, he caused the shield to lose its mitigating effects on dragon degeneration, leading to Medeus and the rest of the Earth Dragons' insanity. The few who do know his real story consider the current rumoured "curse" on the Fire Emblem to be a form of Laser-Guided Karma.
    • Ashnard, Big Bad of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, gets Hero Upgraded by his countrymen after Lekain, Big Bad of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, turns out to be even worse.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening:
      • Raven King Naesala, a character from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, gets this. Specifically, in Olivia's supports with Donnel she sings a song about his romance with the heron princess Leanne. While this is true, the song reduces the story to a fairy-tale style romance (and "downgrades" Naesala to a prince), conveniently leaving out some of his more...questionable deeds, such as his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, selling his best friend into slavery and piratical raids on any human ships entering his territory.
      • Inverted when Sumia talks with her daughter from the future, Cynthia. Instead of making a morally questionable person out to be a hero, a heroic person is made out to be less ethical:
        Cynthia: Well, in my time, you're a true legend. The most famed pegasus knight of all! There are so many stories of your heroic and terrible deeds. Like when you smashed through the enemy lines to rescue a stricken Chrom? note 
        Sumia: Er...did I do that?
        Cynthia: Or the time you argued with Chrom and slapped him in the face!note 
        Sumia: Gods above, I sound like a madwoman...
        Cynthia: Or the time you went into a blood frenzy and downed friend and foe alike!
        Sumia: I downed FRIENDS?! That's not heroic at all!
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Nemesis is known as the Liberator King, an ally of Saint Seiros in protecting humanity from other wicked Gods by wielding the Sword of Creator. Sadly, he became Drunk with Power and had to be put down by Seiros. By delving into the story, eventually you learn that Nemesis was just a normal petty thief who was manipulated by Those Who Slither In The Dark to murder the sleeping Goddess Sothis and make weapons out of her remains to be shared by his allies the Ten Elites and went on another murderous rampage against the remaining Children of the Goddess, which understandably made Seiros mad and killed him, and decided to saintify his allies in order to keep mankind's dark side at bay and make sure that the tragedy committed by Nemesis would never happen again. It didn't help that he and the Ten Elites were already considered heroes by many.
  • In the backstory of the Metal Gear series, Big Boss' exploits from before Outer Heaven were declassified at some point after the Big Shell Incident (a bit of Leaning on the Fourth Wall in that the game that came after MGS2 was a prequel focusing on Big Boss before he was Big Boss). As such, by the time of Metal Gear Solid 4, Big Boss is a legendary hero in the eyes of the current war economy - a far cry from the battle-obsessed soldier who tried to lead his own organization to their deaths that Solid Snake knew him as.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Many Fade spirits view Loghain as a coolheaded and savvy general who refused to let his soldiers get killed for King Cailan's vanity. The reality is that while this is how Loghain saw himself, he was delusional and paranoid when he made the call to retreat and leave Cailan to die. Other spirits take the opposite approach.
    • The Elven pantheon were actually corrupt and power-hungry mages known as the Evanuris who took lower-class elves as slaves, but are now remembered and celebrated as gods. (Naturally, Fen'Harel, the elf who fought back against the Evanuris, freed their slaves, and eventually imprisoned them is now remembered as a malevolent trickster god).
  • In World of Warcraft this is the Watsonian explanation on why Kargath Bladefist is regarded as a hero for freeing himself and his fellow slaves from their ogre masters and building a new clan, as well as his service during the first two wars. As a result many places are named after him and when he is corrupted by fel blood the Horde players are told to mourn him. This glosses over his sadism and own proclivity for slavery as well as the many war crimes he committed. The Doylist explanation is due to a Continuity Snarl; originally Kargath joined the modern Horde with Thrall fitting in with the orc campaign ending in Beyond the Dark Portal where Grom Hellscream, Kargath and their clans were left on Azeroth.
  • While telling the history of the Nedians to the heroes in Star Ocean: The Second Story, Mayor Nall describes Dr. Lantis as the one who discovered the means of defeating the seemingly-invincible Ten Wise Men. One of the heroes (an Intrepid Reporter) suspects that there might actually a little inaccuracy on Nall's account. An optional quest allows the heroes to unearth the true historical records, where it is revealed that Dr. Lantis is in fact the Ten Wise Men's creator, and uploaded his memories into the tenth and most powerful Wise Man, Gabriel.
  • In Guild Wars 2 the Charr consider Bonfazz Burntfur to have been a hero for leading the invasion of Ascalon and occupying Rin. They neatly excised the fact that he was a member of the now-despised Shaman caste and his victories were only possible due to the Searing.
  • In Path of Exile King Kaom is well remembered for his great military victories and heroic, if ultimately failed, attempt to carve out a kingdom for the Karui people from the corrupt Eternal Empire. Karui legends don't include him abandoning his people and slaughtering 500 of his own men in sacrifice to The Beast.
    • Also, every god ever rose to power through a series of horrifically catastrophic deeds and trials known as the divine birthing pains and became worshiped as god walking among men, only to go insane and/or seriously screw things up. Most are still venerated, some are properly reviled, and one has been declared the origin of all evil for trying to save mankind from divine madness.
  • In Sable's Grimoire history remembers the great friendship between the elf Ein and the human Bartholomew as being the birth of peace between the two races and later between humans and other non-humans after centuries of Fantastic Racism on both sides. Making the right choices in the story can reveal that in reality while Ein and Bartholomew were friends to start with Bartholomew became obsessed with Ein's magical power and imprisoned him in a torture device designed to siphon off that power for himself, planning to eventually do the same to Ein's infant daughter. Ein (who's still alive by the time of the game) escaped, killing Bartholomew in the process, but preserved his former friend's good name so as not to damage the fragile peace.
  • In Tales of Zestiria, Artorius is remembered as the first of the great Shepherds, an upstanding man who founded the Abbey in its modern form and rallied humanity and seraphs against daemonkind. In Tales of Berseria, we found out he performed human sacrifices with his own family, enslaved seraphs (then called Malakhim), and would indeed protect humanity from daemons... by completely suppressing their free will. In fact, he's the Big Bad of the story, but goes down in history a hero thanks to his status as Villain with Good Publicity. Meanwhile, Byronic Anti-Hero Velvet is remembered as the Lord of Calamity, her noble acts - if not intentions - forgotten by history.
  • Twisted Wonderland: The "Great Seven", upon whose ideals Night Raven College was founded on, are all Disney villains. The tales about them that Ace gives you in the prologue either frame their actions with Metaphorically True or focus on their Evil Virtues (minus the evil part), implying that they were the targets of this in the game's universe.
  • View from Below: In-universe, the Crimson God is portrayed this way. The Bible owned by the Crimson God supposedly has different text from the more common versions of the Bible. Later, it's revealed the Crimson God is Jesus himself, but filled with vengeance instead of forgiveness because of his crucifixion. This indicates the common Bibles lied about Jesus's true intentions to maintain hope among humanity while the Crimson God's Bible is the true one.
  • In Pathfinder: Kingmaker the barbarian Armag is revered as by the Kellids as the greatest of their chieftains, the champion of Gorum himself. Armag the Twice-Born, falsely believing himself to be the original reborn, is bolstered by that legend as he gains power. When he meets Armag's spirit he learns he was a murderer and a kinslayer, who sought only to feed Gorum's desire for endless battle and cared nothing for the lives of his people.
  • Potionomics: Robin is revered by the people of Rafta as the Sole Survivor of the Heroes' Guild attack on the Witch-Queen Maven's castle and the liberator of the island. Xid the bard points out that Robin was, at the time, nothing more than a local kid the heroes hired to tag along as a guide and bag-carrier, and the reason he survived was that he was a little bit quicker than anyone else to get to cover when Maven decided to pull a spite-fueled kamikaze attack... but that's not the version people want to hear.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of the Fairly OddParents has Timmy wanting to make a parade float based on legendary Dimmsdale founder Dale Dimm; AJ scoffs at him, declaring Dale Dimm to be just a legend and wanting to base their float on Alden Bitterroot, who is given actual historical credit for founding Dimmsdale. It turns out they both sucked. When Timmy travels back in time, it turns out Dale IS real, but a moron who is an accidental Idiot Hero AT BEST, and Alden Bitterroot is an obsessive and delusional witch hunter, identical ancestor of Crocker (who is actually a real witch himself and even more of an evil pain than his Identical Grandson!).
  • Gravity Falls: Initially, in "Irrational Treasure", presumed founder of Gravity Falls Nathaniel Northwest was, in reality, a waste-shoveling village idiot that the government used to hide the existence of the real founder of Gravity Falls, America's 8th and 1/2 President Quentin Trembley. As it turns out, that was merely the tip of the iceberg — Northwest and his wife gained untold amounts of wealth with the cover-up, along with a mayoral position, and then used the townspeople to build Northwest Manor with the promise of a party every year celebrating their hard work. The people built the manor, only to be betrayed and denied entrance to the party for the next 150 years. This was the first of the many lies and deceits that the Northwests, Gravity Falls' supposed "first family", have been involved in since then — a fact that Pacifica Northwest is very much horrified to find out.
  • Parodied on a Robot Chicken sketch that shows Benjamin Franklin practicing with a bo staff and declares "For America!" at the very end.
    • A different, but similar, sketch had The American Revolution done in the style of the film 300.
      "1776! It ain't accurate, but it'll blow your fucking mind!"
  • Jebediah Springfield on The Simpsons. Touted as an archetypal pioneer who killed bears with his bare hands, he was in fact a German pirate who once tried to off George Washington but got his ass kicked.
    • And even before that was revealed, the narrator of the TV recreation showing a man dressed as a pioneer fighting a man in a bear suit says: "but modern historians think that was the bear who killed him"
    • Among many tall tales about Jebediah Springfield, one says that he tamed a wild buffalo by himself and in a matter of seconds, and another that he started the tradition of Springfield's Wacking Day by killing a snake in 1775 (the Springfeldians considered this a good thing at the time). In reality: he killed the buffalo, and Whacking Day was invented in 1924 as an excuse to beat up the Irish. At least it is true that he did not want men to marry their cousins.
    • "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star" ends with a flashforward to 3005 AD, showing that Bart is now revered as the Last Prophet of God. Unfortunately, the world is engulfed in a war between those who think he taught love and tolerance, and those who think he taught understanding and peace.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, the original Mewman colonists like to describe themselves as having bravely fought a war to purge the land of evil monsters so they could live in peace. The obvious subtext is that the monsters were the natives being driven from their lands by a superior force, and that history was Written by the Winners.
    • One queen in particular stands out, Solaria the Monster Carver is portrayed as stalwart hero who defended mewman lands from monsters in their history but the The Magic Book of Spells reveals that she had a hatred for monsters that exceeded even the rest of Mewni and would even lead genocidal purges into monster lands when they stopped attacking.
  • Steven Universe: Steven steadily realizes that the Crystal Gems have done this a bit with Rose Quartz; she was a hero who was willing to sacrifice everything to protect Earth, but the Crystal Gems (out of a mixture of Nostalgia Filter and wanting to protect Steven) have left out many of her flaws, making her out as if she was some kind of Messianic Archetype. As heroic as Rose was, she was also a warrior and commander of an army who had to repeatedly Shoot the Dog for the sake of the greater good, such as bubbling Bismuth and covering up her fate when the latter showed signs of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. They also left out the fact that it took a lot of Character Development for Rose to become such a good person, as it's implied she originally saw humans as little more than cute animals. In truth, Rose Quartz was originally called Pink Diamond, and came to Earth to oversee its colonization, a process that would've wiped out humanity. She eventually had a change of heart and created her new identity of Rose Quartz in order to lead a rebellion against her homeworld's government, even faking her own assassination in a misguided attempt to end the war quickly. Instead, it led the other diamonds to retaliate with a Fantastic Nuke that corrupted nearly all gems on Earth into mindless monsters. Rose Quartz spent thousands of years trying to atone for what she's done, culminating in her essentially dying in order to create Steven, a half-gem half-human who might some day become powerful enough to cure the corruption.


The real PT Barnum

The Greatest Showman may have taken a few liberties.

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Main / HistoricalHeroUpgrade

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