It’s Oscar tradition to honor movies that are based on true stories. This year, four of the eight nominees for best picture are based on real-life tales ranging from 1800s Dakota territory to the 2008 financial crisis to a 2001 newsroom to a Cold War thriller. We investigated the trailers for each of these films to figure out how exact they actually are in the portrayal of their subjects and events. In the pop-up videos below, green indicates accuracy, red means false, and blue provides background information or a fun fact. Happy truthing!
“The Revenant” revisits the story of folk hero Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who was mauled by a bear and then left for dead by his fellow fur trappers, who took his weapons and supplies along with them. But Glass managed to muster the strength to crawl and limp hundreds of miles in search of the men who ditched him. Revenge, it turns out, is a powerful motivator. While the drama freely takes liberties with the facts, it is nominated for a dozen Oscars, including one for best actor front-runner Leonardo DiCaprio.
– Stephanie Merry
“The Big Short”
Based on author Michael Lewis’s 2010 nonfiction bestseller “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,” Adam McKay’s film adaption profiles a handful of oddballs and mavericks who profited from the implosion of the home-mortgage bubble in 2007 and 2008. Best known as Will Ferrell’s writing partner and the director of the “Anchorman” movies, McKay and co-writer Charles Randolph tell a story that, while lightly fictionalized, is too crazy to have been made up.
– Michael O’Sullivan
“Spotlight” expertly dramatizes the Boston Globe’s 2001-2002 investigation of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, and the coverup of the scandal by church officials. It was directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2010 for his work on the screenplay for “Up.”
– Ann Hornaday
“Bridge of Spies”
“Bridge of Spies” tells the little-known story of James B. Donovan and the prisoner swap he negotiated between the United States and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. While Steven Spielberg’s film accurately portrays the timeline leading up to the exchange, the movie tackles five years’ worth of events in just over two hours, which can give the viewer the impression that things progressed at a more accelerated pace than they did in reality. Donovan’s experiences are dramatized — including attacks on his home that never actually occurred and his time in East Germany — but the overall tone captures the public hysteria surrounding one of the most paranoid periods in U.S. history.
– Nicki DeMarco