New study of 2010s Oscar contenders reveals varying levels of historical accuracy

While 'Selma' was 100% accurate, 'The Imitation Game' only scored 41% for its historical portrayal

A new study has established the historical accuracy of a number of fact-based Oscar-worthy films from this current decade.

The data-based site Information is Beautiful have conducted an investigation into the accuracy of historical films, which has aimed to find out how much – in percentage form, on a scene-by-scene basis (though any omitted historical information was not counted) – a particular movie is actually “based on a true story.”

As The Guardian reports, the study looked at 14 fact-based Oscar contenders since 2010, starting with 2010’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech and finishing with this year’s nominee The Big Short. Of the 14 films, the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma (2014) came out on top with a score of 100% historical accuracy.

Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game (2014), however, scored the lowest in the study, with a 41% rating of its historical accuracy. The Benedict Cumberbatch-starring film, which explored the story of British codebreaker Alan Turing, was panned by the study for its inaccuracies: “to be fair, shoe-horning the incredible complexity of the Enigma machine and cryptography in general was never going to be easy. But this film just rips the historical record to shreds.”

Other scores in the study saw this year’s Best Picture winner Spotlight register a rating of 81.6%, while the aforementioned The Big Short scored 91.4%. Bridge of Spies (89.9%), 12 Years a Slave (88.1%), and The Wolf of Wall Street (74.6%) also scored well.

The results of the study can be sorted by a “pedantry level”, allowing viewers to rank the films by three categories: ‘flexible – c’mon, it’s the movies!’, ‘can bear some dramatic license’ and ‘only the absolute truth’. Even when the final filter is applied, Selma still comes out on top by adhering to 81.4% of ‘the absolute truth’.