Disney Movies Based On History, Unsplash

Disney loves recreating stories. From popular fairy tales of Cinderella and Snow White to myths and legends of Mulan and Moana, Disney does an outstanding job at retelling these stories for families. But what about the stories that were actually true? Many of us might believe in fairy tales and legends, but there’s no real way of knowing. So let’s dive into the Disney movies based on history, meaning the stories that are actually true that happened years ago. All of the movies listed below can be found on the streaming platform Disney Plus.

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Are Many Disney Movies Historically Accurate?

Generally, most of Disney’s movies are historically accurate. Because they love taking from myths, legends, lore, and fairy tales, not everything about Disney is true. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t go the extra mile to create accuracy within the culture, science, or history. There are a few instances to prove this case.

  • In Aladdin, Genie writes down his orders from right to left because he’s writing in Persian, which keeps to the cultural authenticity.
  • In Zootopia, Chief Bogo wears eyeglasses because buffalo have poor eyesight, once again showing off the minute details that make Disney accurate.
  • In The Lion King, Shenzi, the female hyena, is the leader of the pack because females tend to be more dominant and smart, a scientific accuracy that many might overlook.
  • Frozen also created 100% accurate Norse runes and went as far as consulting with Jack Crawford, an expert in Old Norse. He not only made minor plot changes to represent the accuracy, but coached voice actors in the Norse language to keep it accurate.
  • Lastly, Moana actually stopped exploring for a real historical event. While her grandmother explains that they stopped after Maui stole the heart of Ta Fiti, it actually is related to the Polynesian time called “The Long Pause“, which lasted around 2,000 years.

Which Disney Princess Is Based on a Historical Figure?

With so many Disney princesses, there’s actually one that is based on a historical figure. While many Disney movies based on history are focused on biographies, Pocahontas is actually loosely based on the daughter of a Native American Tsenacommacah-paramount chief of the Powhatan paramountcy.

And by Disney standards, the story made for families is a much happier tale than the original story. The true story sees Pocahontas captured and held for ransom by English colonists during hostilities in 1613. During her captivity, she was encouraged to convert to Christianity and was baptized under the name Rebecca. She married the Tobacco planter John Rolfe at the age of 17 or 18.

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Top 10 Movies Based on History

9. Miracle (2004)

Disney Movies Based On History
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The first Disney movie based on history on the list is Miracle, a 2004 sports film that stars Kurt Russell with Patricia Clarkson and Noah Emmerich in supporting roles. The movie received positive reviews and currently sits at 7.5 out of 1o on IMDb.

The movie follows the true, inspiring story of the U.S. men’s ice hockey team that was part of the 1980 Olympic Games. The coach, Herb Brooks, played by Russell, brought a group of college kids up against the legendary juggernaut from the Soviet Union at the Games.

In hopes of finally winning against the Soviet Union, who had won gold medals in the four previous Olympics, he changed the strategy of the games and the players. And of course, despite the crippling odds against the U.S. team, they carried the pride of their nation and won, which many called the “Miracle on Ice“, thus giving the movie its name.

8. The Straight Story (1999)

The Straight Story is an interesting change of pace when it comes to true stories. This is one of many great Disney movies based on history. The 1999 biographical road drama directed by David Lunch is about Alvin Straight. The movie was a critical success with many reviews praising the intensity of the character performances and has a rating of 8 out of 10 on IMDb.

Based in 1994, the movie follows Straight’s journey across Iowa and Wisconsin on a lawn mower. While it sounds strange and possibly boring, it’s one of the most inspirational and heartwrenching stories. Straight is an elderly World War II veteran who lives with his daughter. When he hears that his estranged brother has suffered a stroke, he makes up his mind to visit him and make amends before he passes.

But since his daughter is disabled, and his legs and eyes are both impaired, he doesn’t have a driver’s license. So in order to travel the distance, he decides to hitch a trailer to his recently purchased John Deere lawn mower that can only go a maximum of 5 miles per hour and sets off on a 240-mile journey.

7. The Finest Hours (2016)

Disney Movies Based On History
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Moving on to an action thriller, The Finest Hours is another one of the great Disney movies based on history and directed by Craig Gillespie. Starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz, and Eric Bana, the movie received mixed reviews with a 6.7 out of 10 IMDb rating.

The movie focuses on the story of the historic 1952 United States Coast Guard rescue of the crew of SS Pendleton after the ship split apart during a nor’easter, or large cyclone, off the New England coast. The story was created into a book in 2009 sharing the same name but then turned into a film in 2016.

Chris Pine acts as one of the rescuers when he and four other members set out in a small lifeboat facing frigid temperatures and high waves to rescue more than 30 stranded sailors trapped on the broken boat.

6. Million Dollar Arm (2014)

Million Dollar Arm is another biographical sports drama and another Craig Gillespie Disney movie based on history. Starring Jon Hamm, Bill Paxton, Lake Bell, and more, the movie received positive reviews with a decent rating of 7 out of 10.

The biography focuses on two baseball pitchers — Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel — who were discovered by sports agent J.B. Bernstein after winning a reality show competition.

The movie follows Bernstein who has a struggling company in Los Angeles who is having trouble reeling in stars. But once he finds out that he might have baseball stars with cricket players in India, he starts to invest in them. In order to find these stars, he sets up an Indian reality TV contest called The Million Dollar Arm, in hopes of finding his next athlete.

Related: 10 Best Movies to Teach American History Outside of the Classroom

5. Queen of Katwe (2016)

Disney Movies Based On History
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Some of the best Disney movies based on history are sports biographies, like Queen of Katwe. The 2016 film stars David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, and Madina Nalwanga, and was directed by Mira Nair. The film had a limited theatrical release before its general release and received praise, with a 7.4 out of 10 rating.

The movie was adapted from an ESPN magazine article and book by Tim Crothers, which depicts the life of Phiona Mutesi, a girl living in Katwe, a slum of Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

The inspirational movie follows her life as finds a love for chess and becomes a Woman Candidate Master after her victories at World Chess Olympiads. She is one of the first female players in Ugandan chess history. The inspirational movie shows that you can truly become anything you set your mind to, as long as you follow your passions.

4. The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)

Starring familiar names like Shia LaBeouf, Stephen Dillane, Peter Firth, and more, The Greatest Game Ever Played is a 2005 biographical sports film. The 7.4-rated film was shot in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with the Kanawaki Golf Club as it follows the amateur golf champion, Francis Ouimet.

Francis DeSales Ouimet’s family purchased a house directly across from the 17th hole of the Country Club. While the family grew up relatively poor, Francis started to caddy for the club to encourage his interest in the sport, which was generally reserved for the wealthy.

The movie follows his early life, where he eventually earned the opportunity to play against his idol, 1900 U.S. Open champion, Englishman Harry Vardon at the 1913 U.S. Open, where he miraculously won at only 20 years old.

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3. Remember the Titans (2000)

Disney Movies Based On History
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Remember the Titans is probably one of the most well-known Disney movies based on history, and the most beloved. The 2000 biographical sports film was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer starring Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Donald Faison, and more. While the movie wasn’t well-liked on its initial release, fans have grown to show its appreciation over time, and is also considered one of the best football movies ever, with an IMDb rating of 7.8.

The movie is based on the story of coach Herman Boone, portrayed by Washington. Set in a 1971 Virginia high school, Boone must take part in integrating the team. When the school board is forced to bring an all-black school with an all-white one, the foundation of football, and everything the school knows, becomes a test.

The players soon learn to respect and support one another. The movie captures the tension and overcoming adversity, which makes it one of the greats in history.

2. The Ernest Green Story (1993)

Another one of the best Disney movies based on history is The Ernest Green Story which stars Morris Chestnut, Monica Calhoun, Ossie Davis, and more. The film premiered at Little Rock Central High School and received a Peabody Award for presenting a courageous story.

The story follows the true story of Ernest Green and eight other African-American high-school students, who were dubbed the “Little Rock Nine”, as they embark on their journey to integrate Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. Green was the first African-American to graduate from the school in 1958, and he and the other Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Bill Clinton in 1999.

1. Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Disney Movies Based On History
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

One of the best Disney movies based on history is Saving Mr. Banks. The film has a 7.5 rating on IMDb and was named one of the ten best films of 2013 by the National Board of Reviews and the American Film Institute. It was a commercial success, grossing $117 million worldwide.

The movie is incredible, gutwrenching, inspiring, and comforting. The 2013 biographical drama centered on the development of the 1964 film Mary Poppins. Starring Emma Thompson as the author P.L. Travers, and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, along with supporting roles from Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, and more.

Saving Mr. Banks explores the deep sentimental value that Travers has with the Mary Poppins story due to her traumatic childhood, all while showing off the production of the movie — like the infamous song Spoonful of Sugar. Walt Disney is portrayed as a comforting and generous character who helps Travers move forward with her life and let go of her connection with the novel, and even enjoying the changes that Disney has created for the film.

For the best Disney movie based on history, this is definitely one that you have to watch if you want a thorough look into one of the biggest Disney movies of all time.