The Best Movies Based on True Stories Films

The Best Movies Based on True Stories

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List Criteria: Some story liberties and combining of characters allowed. All within reason. And yes, Cool Runnings.

"Based on a true story" is so commonly thrown around it's practically the new "in a world where...." as far as trailer plugs go. But the films on this list really were based on true events or a real person's life story. And they weren't just so-so, they were great movies.

The surge in the popularity of movies based on true stories in the last decade is especially staggering. The first feature length film based on a true story was The Kelly Gang, about Ned Kelly. It was released in 1900. Between 1900 and 2000, there were a total of 211 films with the distinction of being based on a true story.

In the thirteen years since 2000, there have been 221. Yeah. So in the last 13 years Hollywood has made more 'true story' films than in the 100 years prior. Whoa.

The films on this list dove deep, did the research, and created a films as honest and true to the facts as possible. Below are the best movies truly based on true stories. Vote up your favorite films on this list, or add a movie you love that was based on a real life story or historical events.


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  1. 1
    + 114
    - 29
    Apollo 13

    Tom Hanks, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ed Harris

    ;
  2. 2
    + 100
    - 32
    Catch Me If You Can

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner

    ;
  3. 3
    + 84
    - 39
    A League of Their Own

    Madonna, Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell

    ;
  4. 4
    + 78
    - 35
    Walk the Line

    Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Ginnifer Goodwin

    ;
  5. 5
    + 71
    - 36
    Cool Runnings

    John Candy, Malik Yoba, Jay Brazeau

    ;
  6. 6
    + 62
    - 33
    The Pursuit of Happyness

    Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith

    ;
  7. 7
    + 51
    - 26
    Cinderella Man

    Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti

    ;
  8. 8
    + 61
    - 35
    The Perfect Storm

    George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane

    ;
  9. 9
    + 59
    - 34
    Moneyball

    Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright

    ;
  10. 10
    + 47
    - 26
    We Are Marshall

    Matthew McConaughey, Kate Mara, January Jones

    ;
  11. 11
    + 63
    - 41
    Erin Brockovich

    Julia Roberts, Marg Helgenberger, Aaron Eckhart

    ;
  12. 12
    + 43
    - 23
    Gettysburg

    Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, Sam Elliott

    ;
  13. 13
    + 46
    - 27
    Flags of Our Fathers

    Paul Walker, Ryan Phillippe, Jamie Bell

    ;
  14. 14
    + 43
    - 25
    Mississippi Burning

    Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand

    ;
  15. 15
    + 48
    - 30
    Miracle

    Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Dryden

    ;
  16. 16
    + 45
    - 28
    Monster

    Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Rose Byrne

    ;
  17. 17
    + 47
    - 32
    The Fighter

    Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg

    ;
  18. 18
    + 48
    - 33
    Zodiac

    Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo

    ;
  19. 19
    + 55
    - 40
    The Social Network

    Justin Timberlake, Rashida Jones, Rooney Mara

    ;
  20. 20
    + 39
    - 26
    October Sky

    Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper

    ;
  21. 21
    + 41
    - 28
    Lincoln

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field

    ;
  22. 22
    + 42
    - 30
    The Aviator

    Kate Beckinsale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwen Stefani

    ;
  23. 23
    + 37
    - 27
    Ray

    Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx, Terrence Howard

    ;
  24. 24
    + 37
    - 27
    Dallas Buyers Club

    Jennifer Garner, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto

    ;
  25. 25
    + 36
    - 27
    Charlie Wilson's War

    Julia Roberts, Amy Adams, Tom Hanks

    ;
  26. 26
    + 37
    - 34
    127 Hours

    James Franco, Kate Mara, Lizzy Caplan

    ;
  27. 27
    + 36
    - 33
    Born on the Fourth of July
    ;
  28. 28
    + 38
    - 36
    Into the Wild

    Kristen Stewart, Vince Vaughn, Zach Galifianakis

    ;
  29. 29
    + 31
    - 29
    Jarhead

    Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, John Krasinski

    ;
  30. 30
    + 30
    - 28
    The People vs. Larry Flynt

    Courtney Love, Edward Norton, Woody Harrelson

    ;
  31. 31
    + 29
    - 27
    Capote

    Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Cooper, Catherine Keener

    ;
  32. 32
    + 29
    - 27
    The Last King of Scotland

    Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, James McAvoy

    ;
  33. 33
    + 28
    - 26
    Amistad

    Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey, Anna Paquin

    ;
  34. 34
    + 28
    - 27
    Ali

    Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith

    ;
  35. 35
    + 29
    - 29
    Alive

    John Malkovich, Ethan Hawke, Josh Lucas

    ;
  36. 36
    + 28
    - 29
    Invincible

    Elizabeth Banks, Mark Wahlberg, Randy Couture

    ;
  37. 37
    + 27
    - 31
    The Basketball Diaries

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Juliette Lewis

    ;
  38. 38
    + 27
    - 32
    We Bought a Zoo

    Scarlett Johansson, Matt Damon, Elle Fanning

    ;
  39. 39
    + 21
    - 25
    Elizabeth

    Cate Blanchett, Daniel Craig, Lily Allen

    ;
  40. 40
    + 19
    - 24
    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

    Brad Pitt, Zooey Deschanel, Jeremy Renner

    ;
  41. 41
    + 24
    - 31
    Milk

    James Franco, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin

    ;
  42. 42
    + 19
    - 29
    Frost/Nixon

    Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell, Michael Sheen

    ;
  43. 43
    + 19
    - 32
    Lords of Dogtown

    Sofía Vergara, Heath Ledger, Jeremy Renner

    ;
  44. 44
    + 12
    - 24
    Antwone Fisher

    Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Salli Richardson

    ;
  45. 45
    + 12
    - 26
    Mandela

    Danny Glover, Alfre Woodard, Julian Glover

    ;
  46. 46
    + 9
    - 27
    The Informant!

    Matt Damon, Patton Oswalt, Joel McHale

    ;
  47. 47
    + 7
    - 26
    Lovelace

    Amanda Seyfried, Sharon Stone, James Franco

    ;
  48. 48
    + 9
    - 31
    The Way Back

    Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, Ed Harris

    ;
  49. 49
    + 8
    - 29
    The Soloist

    Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Jena Malone

    ;
  50. 50
    + 6
    - 27
    Rescue Dawn

    Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies

    ;
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