History of the World According to the Movies: Part 89 – World of the 1980s


Cool Runnings is a 1993 Disney film about the Jamaican bobsled team starring John Candy as their disgraced gold medalist coach who probably didn’t exist. Yet, while this is sort of entertaining in its own little way, it bears little resemblance to the real story except that there was a boblsed team from Jamaica that competed in the 1988 Olympics at Calgary. Let’s just say that the real story didn’t have anything to do with failed sprinters or a disgraced gold medalist coach. Rather the idea of a Jamaican bobsled team came from American businessmen and the team members were recruited from the army. Oh, and they didn’t make it to the first round in 1988 either.

Of course, things weren’t just happening in the US during the 1980s. In Britain, you had the rule of Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative Party where the country saw the decline in manufacturing, unions, and what not and people weren’t happy about it. You have Eastern Europe where the Cold War was thawing its one last thaw and where East and West Germany would be reunited in 1989. You have Japan where it’s said to become an economic powerhouse with its culture and popular media making it to America’s shores as well as China becoming a Communist country in name only but would remain as an authoritarian dictatorship to this day. Then there’s Jamaica with it’s 1988 bobsled team that won your hearts in Cool Runnings. Next you have the Falklands war between Britain and Argentina as well as Apartheid in South Africa. Still, while there are some movies made about the 1980s, there are plenty of things they get wrong which I shall list.


The members of the 1988 Jamaican Olympic bobsled team were failed sprinters who approached a disgraced gold medalist to train them. (Contrary to Cool Runnings, they were recruited from the army with one being a helicopter pilot. Not only that but it was the idea of two  American businessmen who saw the Jamaicans playing around with pushcart street races and figured hurtling them down a giant ice slide 100 miles per hour in a metal box was a logical step. It basically went on what you’d expect if your state tourism board volunteered you to play in the Super Bowl, say tomorrow. Oh, and they had a number of coaches assigned to the team, which didn’t include a disgraced American coach played by John Candy.)

The other Olympic bobsled teams in 1988 were openly hostile to the Jamaican bobsled team. (Though seen in Cool Runnings, the real team received nothing but support from their competitors and some even lent their equipment to help them. According to one of the bobsledders Devon Harris, We didn’t experience any animosity from other teams as depicted in the movie. One of the East Germans smiled at me and gave me a badge.”)

The 1988 Jamaican bobsled team had to go through zany fundraising schemes to finance their trip to the Winter Olympics. (They went to Calgary that year on corporate funding.)

The Jamaican bobsled team crashed in the final race due to mechanical failure but they carried the sled to the finish line. (Contrary to Cool Runnings, the crash happened during the qualifiers so the team didn’t make it to the first round and was caused by human error. Oh, and that carrying the sled to the finish line bit didn’t even happen.)



Ivan McCormick passed up the opportunity to join U2. (Contrary to Killing Bono, it was actually his brother Neil who is now a music journalist. As for Ivan, he’d become a wedding singer. Also, the bit about the gangsters and guns isn’t true either.)

Great Britain:

British Labour Party leader Michael opposed the British War in the Falkland Islands. (Unlike in The Iron Lady, he actually supported it. It was one of the few issues he actually agreed with Thatcher despite their differences.)

Margaret Thatcher:

Margaret Thatcher had become notoriously rude during her time as British Prime Minister in the late 1980s. (Contrary to The Iron Lady, she was always tough and inflexible.)

Margaret Thatcher gave a speech prior to Bobby Sands’ 1981 hunger strike that said, “There’s no such thing as political murder, political bombing or political violence. There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing, criminal violence. We will not compromise on this. There will be no political status.” (She gave this speech a few days after Bobby Sands began his hunger strike, though this can be forgiven in Hunger.)

Towards the end of her time as prime minister, half of Great Britain hated Margaret Thatcher for no reason. (Contrary to The Iron Lady, let’s just say that the Brits don’t like her for reasons that her economic policies led to mass unemployment , the destruction of the country’s industrial sector, and the weakening power of its trade unions. Also, the reason why she continued to win elections in the 1980s had more to do with her Conservative Party’s popularity and she was a hit among them until 1990, not hers since she had one of the lowest approval ratings of any British Prime Minister. In Britain, a prime minister’s approval rating doesn’t always correspond with their re-election chances. Let’s just say she left office with her party turned against her and people in England were rioting against her policies such as a poll tax.)

Margaret Thatcher wore a hat in the House of Commons while she was prime minister. (Contrary to The Iron Lady, she never did it since the practice is discouraged by Parliament members at the time.)

There were no MPs in Parliament while Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. (There were between 19 and 41 female MPs during Thatcher’s time but you wouldn’t know it from The Iron Lady.)

Michael Peterson (a.k.a Charles Bronson):

Charles Bronson proposed to his girlfriend before being sent back to prison. (Contrary to Bronson, he did rob a jewelry store and stole an engagement ring with the purpose of proposing to his girlfriend. However, he was arrested during a morning jog before he could get around to it.)

Charles Bronson was the most violent prisoner in Britain. (Well, he’s said to be but he’s never killed or raped anyone. I think serial killers are just more dangerous than those who assault and commit armed robbery. No offense, Britain but yes, he’s violent all right, but he’s not in the same league with some famous American criminals.)


Tony Wilson was at Ian Curtis’ funeral. (Contrary to 24 Hour Party People, he was given the task of looking after his Belgian girlfriend Annik Honore so she wouldn’t attend so not to cause an upset with his wife.)

“Under Pressure” was a popular song in April 1981. (It would be released in July of that year.)

Joy Division:

Ian Curtis hung himself in a den while watching TV. (He hung himself in the kitchen after watching a Werner Herzog film and while listening to an Iggy Pop album.)

Ian Curtis’ first seizure occurred on stage during a Joy Division gig. (It occurred when he was in a car on the way home from a gig.)

Joy Division’s original name was Stiff Kittens. (They originally went by Warsaw and never officially went by that name, though they did allow it to be used on a poster for a show because they didn’t have any other name they could use.)

Neo-Fascists attended and caused a riot at a Joy Division concert. (Though seen in 24 Hour Party People, this didn’t happen.)

Northern Ireland:

The Troubles:

Bobby Sands:

Bobby Sands communicated with a priest name Father Dominic during his hunger strike in prison. (Contrary to Hunger, Sands’ diaries refer to two such priests named Father Murphy and Father Toner.)


Bystolic was available during the 1980s. (It didn’t come out until 2008.)

Stainless steel was used in a lot of kitchen appliances during this time. (Not until the 1990s.)

Only sexual deviants and drug addicts contracted HIV and AIDS. (People also contracted HIV through their long time sexual partners, blood transfusions, and being born to an HIV positive parent.)

Snowboard didn’t exist in the 1980s. (They did but most ski resorts wouldn’t allow them.)

CD burning was a thing during the 1980s. (CD burning wasn’t available until the 1990s.)

Plastic bags were widely available in 1981. (Not really.)

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