30 Best Movies Based on True Story

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Home » Films » 30 Best Movies Based on True Story

A list of must see films that are based on a true story

There’s nothing better than sitting down to enjoy a great movie that is based on true story. We often find ourselves mesmerised by a film plot that’s based on actual events, one that’s gives us a glimpse into the real world we’re part of.

Most movies are capable of provoking some emotion in us such as pleasure, shock, horror, humour and distress. But these type of films will often enhance this experience for the viewer, what with us knowing it’s based on an actual event that had taken place

Many of us who catch a movies inspired by true events will often take to the internet straight after the film’s ended, wanting to conduct our own research and learn more. This is one of the great things about movies based on true stories – they can often provoke a new interest and stay with us for quite a time after the movie has finished.

Here is a comprehensive list of movies based on a true story. There’s a mixed bag of goodies to see here including real life drama, crime and war.

Best true story movies American Gangster

1. American Gangster (2007)

American Gangster is a true crime movie starring Denzel Washington who portrays a character you’d love to hate. Russell Crowe also plays an excellent role as the cop who eventually brings him down. If you’re in to your crime or gangster movies, this is definitely one to add to your list. This biographical film is based on true events – drug lord Frank Lucas who made hundreds of millions of dollars shipping heroin from Vietnam during the war.

Best true story movies The Pursuit of Happiness

2. The Pursuit of Happiness (2006)

Some might find this film drags a little. But if you’re into your drama, we think this film will be right up your alley. Will Smith delivers a powerful performance of a determined New York City family man. Chris Gardner has an unfortunate life until he decides to turn things around for him and his family. But this is no easy task when he encounters several, unexpected events.

Best true story movies Million Dollar Baby

3. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Four Academy Award winner, Million Dollar Baby (directed by Clint Eastwood), is a great movie based on a true story. If you’ve not already seen it, you should add this to your list. Margaret Fitzgerald is a waitress but is also pursuing a career in boxing. She finds it difficult to secure the training required and is told she is too old to become a professional boxer. She forms a close bond with a veteran boxing trainer who agrees to take her on. What follows is a gripping, tragic and sad story as they journey together through the world of boxing.

Best true story movies 12 Years a Slave

4. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years A Slave is a powerful, real life story that gives us an insight into how difficult it was for African Americans during the 1800s. This film is gripping and emotional and should be on anyone’s to-watch list of movies based on true stories. Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays Solomon Northup, a talented African American musician whose freedom is stole from him in 1853 when he’s sold to slavery.

Best true story movies Catch Me If You Can

5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

A movie starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, who both play amazing roles. It’s hard to accept this movie is based on a true story, it is so unbelievable. It portrays the real story of Frank Abagnale Jr – a young man with exceptional conman skills. He manages to successfully impersonate an airline pilot, doctor and lawyer and also steals over two million dollars in foreign cheques. All this before his 19th birthday. This movie is full of drama and comedy – well worth a watch.

Best true story movies Eddie the Eagle

6. Eddie the Eagle (2015)

Eddie the Eagle is a great true story which just goes to show that any dream is possible. It’s dramatic whilst, at the same time, funny and entertaining. Starring Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton, Eddie Edwards has a dream to compete in the Olympics. Despite all his obstacles and setbacks, he goes on to take part in the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Best true story movies The Social Network

7. The Social Network (2010)

It’s not one of greatest movies inspired by a true story. Saying that though, it gives us a really interesting insight into the development of a successful company. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg who attends Harvard University where he develops a social media network called Facebook. He is then sued by one of his friends and two brothers who claim that he stole their idea.

Best true story movies A Beautiful Mind

8. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

This may not be everyone’s ideal true story movie and you might even find yourself drifting off. But if you’re a fan of good drama (plus a little action) then this movie will likely hold your attention. Russell Crowe plays John Nash who is an excellent, mathematical genius who struggles with social skills. He’s given the challenge of carrying out secret work to encrypt a hidden code. Nash also sees things that are not there.

Best true story movies The Imitation Game

9. The Imitation Game (2014)

War films are often portrayed on the front line but this film gives us an insight into life behind the scenes during wartime. The Imitation Game is surprisingly more interesting than the plot first appears. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley – a dramatic portrayal of the Second World War, when the Germans were ahead of the game until a mathematical genius, *Alan Turing) has a revolutionary idea. He believed he could crack the German enigma which would help bring allies to defeat the German navy.

Best true story movies Hacksaw Ridge

10. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

A great true story that’s directed by Mel Gibson. Hacksaw Ridge is a true and inspiring movie. If you’re into your war films and haven’t yet seen this, you’ll likely find it one if the better war films you’ve encountered. Andrew Garfield portrays Desmond T. Doss who joins the army as a medic. As he doesn’t believe in war or violence, he refuses to take up a weapon to serve his country. This makes him unpopular but he soon becomes the hero at the Battle of Okinawa, receiving the medal of honour without taking up Arms.

Best true story movies Deepwater Horizon

11. Deepwater Horizon (2016)

Deepwater Horizon gives us a good insight into who was at fault in the biggest oil spill in history. Starting Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell, this film gives us an accurate portrayal of the build up to this tragic real event that took place in April 2010. Taking place on the offshore rig – Deepwater Horizon, this was the worst oil spill in American history.

Best true story movies Public Enemies

12. Public Enemies (2009)

Public Enemies is a historic story based on the real life of well known gangster, John Dillinger (portrayed by Johnny Depp). This crime film is intriguing. It allows us a glimpse into the life of a bank robber during the 1930s when crime rates soared and Feds were asked to put together a task force to bring these infamous bank robbers down. These included John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson.

Best true story movies The Blind Side

13. The Blind Side (2009)

This is enjoyable and uplifting, even if you’re not a sports fan. Michael Oher is a young boy who lives an unfortunate life, surviving and sleeping where he can. All this changes when a family sees him walking the streets and decides to take him in. He goes on to become a player for the NFL American football team.

Best true story movies Unstoppable

14. Unstoppable (2010)

A remarkable movie based on real life events (you can find the actual footage on YouTube). Most people who see this movie will enjoy it – gripping, full of action and excitement. Starring Denzel Washington, he portrays a train engineer that’s left to stop a freight train that is unmanned and heading towards a city. If the freight train isn’t stopped, there will be devastating consequences.

Best true story movies The Wolf of Wall Street

15. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Directed by Martin Scorsese, it’s shocking The Wolf of Wall Street is based on a true story. It features crime, comedy and black humour throughout. Starring Margot Robbie (one of the sexiest actresses in Hollywood), this biography portrays the story of Jordan Belfort, a young stockbroker who fraudulently steals people’s money to give himself lafive lifestyle that most can only dream of.

Best true story movies Dunkirk

16. Dunkirk (2017)

Another gripping WW2 movie on our list of best movies based on true story, Dunkirk has very intense movie moments. What is apparent in this film is the attention to detail. You will have a good insight into the lives of these young soldiers and the sense of fear they experienced. During WWII, Dunkirk beach featured one of the biggest evictions of allied soldiers who were trying to escape the Germans.

Best true story movies Sully: Miracle on the Hudson

17. Sully: Miracle on the Hudson (2016)

Sully is another great film that’s based on real events that took place not so long ago. We’re given an insight into the day when a plane came down and landed on the Hudson. Tom Hanks plays the role of Chesley Sullenberger who is an experienced pilot that came into trouble whilst ascending. When the plane loses both its engines, Sullenberger has no choice but to land on the river Hudson, saving the lives of everyone onboard.

Best true story movies The Fighter

18. The Fighter (2010)

A film directed by David O. Russell, The Fighter is a great sports movie based on a true story. This role was perfect for Mark Wahlberg to be cast in – a lightweight boxer who is trying to make it as a professional fighter but who is also trying to separate himself from the limelight of his older brother.

Best true story movies 127 Hours

19. 127 Hours (2010)

If you are a Danny Boyle fan then you will certainly enjoy 127 Hours. It’s the true story of Aron Ralston who is a young mountain climber who decided to go hiking in Utah’s Blue John Canyon. When he slips into a cave and a boulder lands on his arm and cannot be moved, he’s faced with a difficult decision in order to survive.

Best true story movies Cleveland Abduction

20. Cleveland Abduction (2015)

Movie critics gave this movie a hard time. However this crime drama is still worth a watch. Some might find this a difficult thriller to watch, but it’s a good account as far as true stories go. Taryn Manning plays the part of a young mother who’s running late for job interview. She’s offered a lift by Ariel Castro who then holds her captive for over 11 years, along with two other women who she ends up supporting throughout the kidnapping.

Best true story movies The Bank Job

21. The Bank Job (2008)

You might be thinking that this is just another one of those bank robber movies. And you’d be right, but it has a good twist. It’s an intriguing movie, based on genuine truth. Starring Jason Statham as Terry, he’s given information on a bank job and is told it has little risk. The robbery promises the score of a lifetime including a stash of diamonds and cash. But unbeknown to the bank robbers, they’re being secretly employed by the government to assist with the covering up of a royal secret.

Best true story movies Man on Fire

22. Man on Fire (2004)

Man on Fire is a shocking crime story, based on true events. It’s a great storyline and one that is made more dramatic by the fact it’s inspired by real events. Great for those who love action, Denzel Washington portrays an American assassin who is given an opportunity to work as a bodyguard for a young girl in Mexico City. He grows a very close bond with the girl and goes on a rampage to kill all the people involved in her subsequent kidnap.

Best true story movies Lord of War

23. Lord of War (2005)

Nicolas Cage has often been criticised for his mediocre acting capabilities. However, in Lord of War, it can’t be denied that Cage delivers an exceptionally powerful performance. This crime drama is both intriguing and gripping. It’s about the real life story of Yuri Orlov who became an illegal, international arms dealer and who sold arms to some of the poorest and most war conflicted countries in the world.

Best true story movies The Program

24. The Program (2015)

Even if you are not someone who is a massive sports enthusiast, this movie based on real life events is still worth a watch. It portrays the lengths some people will go to in order to win. Ben Foster acts as Lance Armstrong who wins the Tour de France seven times. This raises suspicions amongst a reporter who believes Lance is cheating. In this unbelievable tale, Lance does everything possible to prove he’s not doping.

Best true story movies Alive

25. Alive (1993)

As far as true stories goes, this is probably one of the most unbelievable on our list of best movies based on true stories. It’s both gripping and dramatic and definitely worth watching. In 1972, flight 571 was carrying the Uruguayan rugby team over the Andes mountain when it crashed. But not everyone on the plane was killed. A group of survivors were left stranded and resorted to extreme measures to survive…including deciding whether or not to eat the flesh of the deceased.

Best true story movies Dallas Buyer Club

26. Dallas Buyer Club (2013)

Dallas Buyer Club is a outstanding film. It’s an unbelievable real story that is powerful, gripping and dramatic. As far as real life stories go, it certainly worth a go. Matthew McConaughey plays the role of Ron Woodroof who is a Dallas rodeo rider who contracted the AID virus. He then turns into a hustler selling medication to patients with the virus. But these medications aren’t approved by the FDA (who try everything in their power to stop him from selling them, despite the drugs helping survivors).

Best true story movies Kingdom of Heaven

27. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

If you enjoy your history movies then this is right up your street. This film is loosely based on fact but producers admit that it was hard to determine what really happened. During The Crusades in the Middle-Ages, an ironsmith by name of Balian travels to the holy land of Jerusalem to ask for forgiveness. It isn’t long before Balian proves his worth and helps the city and it’s people survive an invasion.

Best true story movies Erin Brockovich

28. Erin Brockovich (2000)

A film directed by Steven Soderbergh, this is an incredible movie based on an enjoyable and gripping true story. Starring Julia Roberts, this biographical tale of Erin Brockovich portrays a struggling, single mother who finds herself working as a legal assistant. Without any prior knowledge of the law, she manages to sue a large power company for pollution to the local residents which causes multiple illnesses throughout the community.

Best true story movies Everest

29. Everest (2015)

Based on the book by Beck Weathers (Left For Dead: My Journey Home from Everest), Everest is a full adventure movie that’s based on real events. It’s both gripping, dramatic and tragic. In May 1996, a group mountaineers take on the challenge of climbing the biggest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. The expeditionis lead by mountaineer Robert Hall who later joins forces with Scott Fischer. But this adventure soon takes a tragic turn for the worse.

Best true story movies Monster

30. Monster (2003)

Ranked one of the best movies based on a true story is Monster. This biographical film was directed by Patty Jenkins and will have you gripped all the way through. Charlize Theron portrays Aileen Wuornos who is a sex worker who walks the streets of Daytona Beach. But after a string of events, Wuornos murders seven men, making her one of the most infamous female serial killers in history.