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Lion, Hidden Figures and Hacksaw Ridge
Credit: Mark Rogers; Hopper Stone; Mark Rogers

Hidden Figures has taken home first prize — not for Best Picture at the Oscars ceremony, which will take place Sunday night, but in the Information is Beautiful movie accuracy fact-check.

The site, which unveiled the fascinating study last November, updated its list of films to include this year’s three Best Picture nominees that are based on real events: Hidden Figures, Lion, and Hacksaw Ridge.

Data journalist David McCandless and Information is Beautiful‘s Stephanie Smith compiled the information by carefully breaking down each scene in the films and comparing them to written accounts of each story.

The scale the pair devised gave each scene one of five ratings: true, true-ish, false-ish, false, or unknown.

Of the three, Hidden Figures was rated closest to the truth, scoring 72.6 percent accuracy. Theodore Melfi’s story of the African-American women mathematicians whose work at NASA helped send men to space got called out for a scene in which Katherine (Taraji P. Henson) is called in for questioning, as she’s suspected of being a Russian spy. The scene was labeled as false, since the incident is never mentioned in the Hidden Figures book.

“The timing of events was super condensed, and there were several composite characters,” McCandless wrote. “Still, the crux of the story is true, and any events that didn’t actually happen are at least illustrative of how things really were.”

Meanwhile, Lion came in second at 61.4 percent accurate. The Dev Patel-led tale of an Indian boy, Saroo, who finds his way home years after being adopted and raised by an Australian couple, almost completely invented a love interest storyline,and condensed the timeline of much of Saroo’s search for his birth parents. Scenes of Saroo fighting with his brother were also almost completely fabricated.

Even so, Lion held up better than Hacksaw Ridge, which received an accuracy rating of 51.5 percent. Mel Gibson’s war epic, about a man fighting in WWII without a weapon due to his religious beliefs, shifted much of the story’s timeline and conflated many characters. Information is Beautiful cites a scene near the middle of the film, where the main character, Doss (Andrew Garfield), becomes angry and punches a wall during a prison stint. As it turns out, Doss was never imprisoned, and at most spent a single night in a stockade, albeit under different circumstances.

Read up on McCandless and Smith’s other breakdowns, including The King’s Speech and Spotlight, here.

Hacksaw Ridge
  • Movie
  • 138 minutes

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