Follow TV Tropes


Historical Hero Upgrade

Go To

"Remember that God created all men equal!"
William Wilberforce, abolitionist, in the film Amazing Grace

"[The poor should know] that their more lowly path has been allotted to them by the hand of God; that it is their part ... contentedly to bear its inconveniences."
William Wilberforce in Real Life

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: most of the real life figures were morally grey and 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 hang on. There's another 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. 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.

While we would prefer not to name specific examples, one common Real Life sequence of events that results in this is as follows: 1) X region is populated by numerous tiny warring tribes led by warlords constantly attempting to conquer one another. 2) Eventually one tribe gets a new warlord who turns out to be vastly better at their job than the others. 3) Said hypercompetent 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 mean that he was evil in real life; he is simply being portrayed more positively in the work of fiction than he was in real life. Also note that this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is often done to make for a better story.

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 or 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.

    open/close all folders 

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and feminine built, 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 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/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).
  • 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: The 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 Shuumatsu no Walküre: 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 300 conveniently 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 extreme devotion to religion 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." However, this is justified as the comic is narrated by the Greek soldier Dilios, hence the lionization of the Spartans.
    • Three was born out of the author reading 300 and being driven apoplectic at the grandiose speeches about freedom from a culture that had massive slave population. The story begins with the Spartiates hunting down slaves who had proven a little too successful at war.
  • 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. Various comics have given him a more active role.
  • Vlad the Impaler himself receives this in Image Comics title Impaler, where he 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 Colombus, 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.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • The imperial Romanov family in Anastasia. Don Bluth really just grabbed the opportunity to portray another idyllic Disney-like princess, while neglecting to mention all the reasons the revolutionists thought themselves justified in their actions. On the other hand, Grigori Rasputin gets quite the Historical Villain Upgrade, and indeed it's implied that the only reason the Revolution happened at all is that Rasputin had cursed the family.
  • Disney's Pocahontas movie, 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. 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 Powhatan in particular gets this, becoming a wise and noble (if imperfect) leader. The real Chief Powhatan, 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 converted to Anglicanism). He's also thought by some historians to have been involved in introducing slavery to England's New World colonies.
  • Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar aka El Cid 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.
  • 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.

    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 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.

Specific movies

  • 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. On the other hand, Spartan women were given more rights than other Greek women.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 its titular subject pretty big HHU 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 recieved 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.
  • John Nash and his (first) wife in A Beautiful Mind. In the film, she is still with him in the 1990s when he got his Nobel prize, making it a heterosexual triumph-of-love story. In real life, she divorced him in the 60s when he got caught hanging around in public toilets picking up young men, and he wasn't allowed to accept his Nobel onstage due to being off his meds. He did, however, reconcile with and remarry her.
  • 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 Kind 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 one 1873 massacre 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 are actually 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. Constance Manziarly is merely stated to have "disappeared" after leaving the bunker, 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 
    • Downplayed with Wilhelm Mohnke. He's characterized as one of the few German generals with more or less clean hands. The real Mohnke was investigated for alleged war crimes, including claims that he was responsible for the murder of civilians and POWs, but not enough evidence was found to prosectue 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 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 glamourous anachronistic gowns while singing pretty songs about her tragic life.
  • 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. In reality, Carter was locked up for assaulting and robbing a man, a fact 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Outlaw King: Rober 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 much interested in curing them.
  • 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. His companions' hostility comes entirely from the latter. The former likely was the inspiration for movie!Fitzgerald being the son of a villainous (and anachronistic) Texas ranger instead.
    • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 fulfil 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 members of NWA are depicted as reconciling with Eazy 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.
    • 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).
  • 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.
  • Tombstone takes several liberties to whitewash the Earp faction, even though the film doesn't take it quite as far as 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] In most of the rural US at this time, sheriffs were charged with collecting taxes, and were entitled to a share. In Tombstone at this time, the sheriff's cut could be 30000 dollars a year, at a time when a laborer was lucky to earn a dollar a day.[/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.
  • 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 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 against Hitler for moral reasons. The fact that many of them harbored racist, anti-Semitic and classist views is glossed over. 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.
    • The film leaves out 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. 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 who was close friends with Joseph Goebbels, and had earlier masterminded round-ups and pogroms of Jews in Berlin, including a key role in organizing Kristallnacht in 1938. 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 removes the moral ambiguity of V, the self-styled modern-day Guy Fawkes.
  • 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.

  • 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 has a few, mostly with the Shu Han kingdom portrayed as what would be the best path for China to being a Doomed Moral Victor.
    • This is especially the case regarding on Liu Bei. True enough, he had noble goals. However, his traits have often been exaggerated to make him seem as if he was an extremely honorable man; never mind that he made lots and lots of mistakes that make him pale in comparison to Cao Cao's war abilities (such as irrationally leading the disastrous attack on Yiling, or slamming his infant son to the ground, effectively dooming his future empire). Yeah, author favoritism is also at fault here. Even his goals were less than noble. While the novel depicts him as a loyal subject of the Han Empire and distant relation to the emperor himself, in reality Liu Bei spent most of his life as a mercenary, betraying many warlords who took him in before he establishing Shu Han. And his descent from the Han Dynasty was so distant that his adopted son, Liu Yong, who he ordered to commit suicide because of the birth of his biological son, was more closely related to the royal family.
    • His blood brothers also are as flawed as he was. For example, Zhang Fei, often depicted as a headstrong warrior, was a ruthless bandit who kidnapped Xiahou Yuan's niece in Real Life. And Guan Yu being betrayed at Fan Castle wasn't because of treachery but due to his arrogance as well as refusing to allow one of his children to marry into the Sun family for political reasons.
    • The author portrays Zhuge Liang as completely godlike in every way, except for the minor detail where he has to succumb to overwork in the end because history said so. In real life his greatest weakness was his cronyism and sweeping Wei Yan aside despite his accomplishments.
    • Zhao Yun gets special treatment as Liu Bei's most badass Bishounen spear-wielding hero apparently and treated like Yukimura as one of the best warriors in China. In reality he was an insignificant officer in Shu's ranks until Chengdu and only became well known after Zhuge Liang's commendations.
    • Special mention goes to Ma Chao, whose father Ma Teng was a willing Han rebel who even served Dong Zhuo, and what does Ma Chao do? He's abandoned his members of his family all too many times, and tried to always rebel against Cao Cao to no avail before his service in Shu.
  • 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 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, ultimately agreeing to serve an abolitionist who beat him in a fair election. The real Nathan Bedford Forrest is perhaps 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).
  • 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 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.
  • The G. K. Chesterton poem "Lepanto" pumps up Don Juan 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: The novel heavily romanticizes Richard III, portraying him as a dashing victim of circumstances who only did ruthless things when necessary and most certainly did not kill his nephews.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 100 Greatest Britons: Several of the candidates who ended up in the list were not free of controversy:
    • 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 Complete Monster, making his relative whitewashing in British popular culture 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 also considered to be a polarizing choice. Her politics and economics weren't exactly considered beneficial to the working class population, especially not Oop North.
    • Nr. 30, Guy Fawkes, tried blowing up 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 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).
  • 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 Romans were scandalized at.
    • 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, with both sides being pretty questionable by modern standards and neither one holding a decisive moral edge.
    • Hannibal 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 real life, newscaster Walter Winchell vociferously opposed Nazism and racism during the 1930 and 1940s. In this Alternate History, he starts an actual political campaign and personally faces down fascist thugs to oppose President Charles Lindbergh's Nazi-friendly policies. This version doesn't live long enough to become a villain in the 1950s, when his full-throated support of McCarthyism put his real-life counterpart very much on the wrong side of history.
  • 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.

  • 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 pointless war, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (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 plenty of evidence 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, he 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 barley 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.
    • 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 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. 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.
    • According to some fan-theories, the events of the games are filtered through Altair and Ezio'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. 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 does 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.

    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 couple of 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 and was the 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 Ostragoths (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 unnecessary sufferings 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.
  • The Unbiased History of Rome: As you can guess from the title, this trope and its counterpart are 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 trumped-up 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, 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, albiet 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.

    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 more crude and 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 man who married a white woman should be lynched (ditto a black woman marrying a white man); the closest the battle gets to addressing the real Ali's racism 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.
  • 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 loathesome member of Hitler's inner circle.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 all stupid, insane, stubborn, cruel, or plain incompetent.
  • 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.)
  • 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.

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 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.

  • 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.

    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 portrays 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.
  • 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 begin 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.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: During the Batman Cold Open, Loki tries to invoke this on himself while posing as Odin. Thor finds him putting on a terrible play that portrays Loki as a kind, innocent, and misunderstood soul who just wanted his family to love him. Actor Thor brushes off all of Loki's crimes as the actions of a lovable scamp.
    • It also reveals, more seriously, that Odin did this to himself, hiding his history of conquest with his firstborn Hela. He did have a Heel–Face Turn that included banishing Hela when she became too bloodthirsty, but rather than owning up to his mistakes, he chose to sweep them under the rug (well, tile over the ceiling) and present himself as always having been a heroic figure, erasing Hela from the narrative entirely.

  • 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.
  • CIAPHAS CAIN, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! Pretty much the poster boy for this trope: 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.
  • 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 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).
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

    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 Kitchent 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.
  • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon 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.
    • Raven King Naesala gets this in Fire Emblem Awakening. 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.
    • Also in Awakening, this trope is 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!
    • Speaking of Tellius, 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: 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 and went on another murderous rampage against the remaining Nabateans, 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.
  • 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.
  • Many fade spirits from the Dragon Age series 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 Continuinty 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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 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 gain 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 deceit the Northwests, Gravity Falls' supposed "first family", has been involved in since then — a fact that Pacifica Northwest is very much horrified to find out.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


Mr. Burns

Mr. Burns does this to himself, in his film "A Burns For All Seasons." It does not work for him.

How well does it match the trope?

2.8 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / HistoricalHeroUpgrade

Media sources:

Main / HistoricalHeroUpgrade