What the 2019 Oscar movies get right, wrong
Katie Sanders
By Katie Sanders February 19, 2019

BlacKkKlansman, Green Book and Vice are Oscar-nominated movies that claim to be based on real stories.

For the second year, we wanted to see how well the narratives stuck to the facts. So we took a quick break from political fact-checking to bring you the truth about three nonfiction films nominated for Best Picture.

Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman and John David Washington as Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee's Blackkklansman. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features.)

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman tells the tale of a black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s. The detective, Ron Stallworth, strikes up a phone friendship with the local chapter of the Klan and with David Duke himself to discover and thwart cross burnings and a bombing.

The movie is adapted from Stallworth’s 2014 memoir. To fact-check the movie, we relied on his account to verify the conversations between officers and the Klansmen as well as newspaper coverage at the time.

How much of it is real? Read the fact-check.

Mahershala Ali, left, and Viggo Mortensen, right, as Dr. Donald Shirley and Tony Vallelonga in the Oscar-nominated Green Book. (Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

The story of a white Bronx driver taking a black piano virtuoso through the Jim Crow South really happened. But Green Book does take some creative liberties.

Viggo Mortensen plays Tony "Lip" Vallelonga, a brash Italian-American bouncer, who changes his racist views as he chauffeurs piano virtuoso Dr. Donald Shirley, played by Mahershala Ali. The movie was about the 1962 drive co-written by Nick Vallelonga, Tony’s son, without participation from Shirley’s surviving family members.

Some of the movie’s timing and locations are inaccurate, but the thrust of it rings true. Read the fact-check.

The 9-11 terrorist attacks opened the door for Cheney to expand the reach of the presidency at the expense of congressional oversight. (Courtesy of Greig Fraser/Annapurna Pictures)

Adam McKay’s Vice is an impressionistic biopic about Vice President Dick Cheney and the run-up to the Iraq War. It draws on real events but often swerves into the surreal.

The movie offers dialogue that might not be verbatim about building the case for war against Iraq and justifying waterboarding. But Cheney did wield broad power as George W. Bush’s vice president.

For this movie fact-check, we interviewed Cheney insiders and compared official studies of key events to the movie’s portrayal. Read the fact-check.

More movie fact-checks

We fact-checked last year’s Oscar-nominated nonfiction movies, too. (The Best Picture prize went to The Shape of Water, a fantasy film about woman who falls in love with a sea creature. We didn’t fact-check that.)

Darkest Hour gets the history of Winston Churchill’s first few weeks as prime minister mostly right.

Dunkirk indulged a few myths about the pivotal World War II battle but also used real history.

The Post overplays some aspects of the Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers against the wishes of the Nixon administration.

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What the 2019 Oscar movies get right, wrong