How Historically Accurate Is The Movie Argo?

The 1979 Iranian Revolution was a pivotal moment in global politics. The American and British-backed shah was deposed after decades of increasing unpopularity due to his reputation as an oppressive Western puppet. The uprising was led by a loose coalition of left-wing and religious movements that found common ground on removing Western influence. However, the latter would rapidly gain most of the levers of power, resulting in the Islamic Republic of Iran known today after the provisional government was liquidated (via The New York Times). 

For the United States, which still had a fully staffed embassy in Iran at the time, this movement presented a massive problem. As portrayed in the 2012 film "Argo," demonstrators breached the facility and took 66 Americans inside as hostages, 52 of whom would remain as such until 1981 (via Britannica). In a daring escapade, however, six staff members managed to successfully evade capture and flee the country. Yet according to the real individuals, the film is overall accurate in tone, but there are critical details which it gets very wrong.

The escape of the embassy staff

Initially, the bulk of the movie is accurate, with survivor Mark Lijek attesting to the surge of emotion he felt upon seeing the breach of the embassy on screen. According to the BBC, however, the film begins to diverge from reality after he and the five other escapees find refuge in the Canadian embassy. In reality, they found themselves sent to two separate residences of Canadian ambassadors, where they were also able to go outside occasionally. While acknowledged in the film, Canada's role in the escape is treated as mostly that of a safe-house. As a matter of fact, its own embassy staff went through great lengths to secure documentation for the Americans (via History vs Hollywood).

Most importantly in terms of liberties taken, the "Argo" plot, in which the six would pose as members of a sci-fi film crew in order to escape, was for all its ingenuity almost completely unnecessary in real life. Additionally, the survivors never made such public efforts to convince the Iranians of the ruse as those presented by director and leading actor Ben Affleck. Furthermore, the climactic escape scene from armed guards was instead a comparatively mundane walk through the airport, as they all had arrived early in the morning (via Slate).