The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

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It is said that the truth is stranger than fiction. Well, in the case of scary movies, there is probably a lot more horrifying truth than one would expect. Many of the scariest movies were inspired by real events - which, if nothing else, is something we should all lose a little bit of sleep over. This is a list of the best scary movies based on true stories to determine just what horrifyingly true story is the most teeth-chattering, nightmare-inducing, sleep-with-a-nightlight-for-the-rest-of-your-life cinematic masterpiece. So, what is the best scary movie based on a true story?

Here you'll find some of horror's (and cinema's) undisputed masterminds all drawing on real-world events to inspire some of their finest work. Heavyweights like Steven Spielberg, the "Master of Suspense" Wes Craven, and Alfred Hitchcock have all drawn from real headlines to create some of their most famous films.

There are many factors to consider here. Comparing a film up against another film (even in the same genre) can feel like comparing apples and oranges. So, it's on you, Ranker voters. Does it matter how closely the film adheres to the story that it was inspired by, like in a biopic like Dahmer? Or is it more important that the movie be genuinely, undeniably, amazing even though it strays a bit from its inspiration? Because maybe Jaws and Psycho win that battle.

These are all almost impossibly tough calls, and there are a lot of classics to sift through... but isn't that what makes this fun? Vote up the top scary movies inspired by true events, and click Rerank to make a list of your own.
Collection Photo:  Universal Pictures
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  1. 1
    + 2,041
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    The Exorcist is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    the people's #1 & most listed
    Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair Inspired by the alleged demonic possession of Robbie Mannheim.

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  2. 2
    + 1,778
    - 403
    The Silence of the Lambs is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Isaak Based loosely on the relationship between serial killer Ted Bundy and criminal profiler Robert Keppel.

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  3. 3
    + 1,299
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    Psycho is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins Loosely based on Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein.

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  4. 4
    + 1,394
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    The Amityville Horror is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger Inspired by the experiences of the Lutz family as investigated by Paranormal Detectives, Ed and Lorraine Warren.

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  5. 5
    + 1,520
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    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal Loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein.

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  6. 6
    + 1,392
    - 430
    The Conjuring is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    added by spence815
    Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Joey King Based on the experiences of the Perron family as investigated by paranormal detectives Ed and Lorraine Warren.

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  7. 7
    + 1,188
    - 554
    Jaws is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider Inspired by a series of shark attacks off the New Jersey shore in 1916.

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  8. 8
    + 1,443
    - 451
    A Nightmare on Elm Street is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp Loosely based on a group of Cambodian refugees in the 1970's who were suffering disturbing night terrors after fleeing to the United States. Their nightmares were so terrifying, they began refusing to

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  9. 9
    + 909
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    The Hills Have Eyes is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, John Steadman Based on the sixteenth century cave-dwelling-clan leader Alexander Bean. He and his disciples ate an estimated 1,000 people.

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  10. 10
    + 692
    - 531
    Monster is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Rose Byrne Based on the story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos who killed seven men in Florida while maintaining that they were all acts of self-defense. 

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  11. 11
    + 822
    - 375
    The Haunting in Connecticut is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Virginia Madsen, Amanda Crew, Elias Koteas Inspired by the experiences of the Snedeker family as investigated by paranormal detectives Ed and Lorraine Warren.

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  12. 12
    + 1,008
    - 505
    Child's Play is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon Seriously. Based on Robert the doll, who is a doll, owned by author Robert Eugene Otto, who is a man. Robert (the doll) was said to be possessed by evil spirits. 

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  13. 13
    + 933
    - 448
    The Exorcism of Emily Rose is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Laura Linney, Jennifer Carpenter, Tom Wilkinson Based on the story of a 16-year-old German girl named Anneliese Michel who was believed to be possessed in 1968.

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  14. 14
    + 732
    - 441
    Bram Stoker's Dracula is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Monica Bellucci, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder Vlad the Impaler. Period.

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  15. 15
    + 768
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    The Zodiac Killer is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Based on the notorious San Francisco serial killer, the Zodiac.

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  16. 16
    + 353
    - 133
    Scream is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    added by lakshmi-tejasvi
    Drew Barrymore, Rose McGowan, Courteney Cox Based partly on the real-life case of the Gainesville Ripper.

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  17. 17
    + 596
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    An American Haunting is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, Rachel Hurd-Wood Based on the legend of the Bell Witch.

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  18. 18
    + 627
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    The Strangers is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward, Scott Speedman Writer/Director Bryan Bertino claims that the movie is based on a series of break-ins that occurred in his neighborhood as a child. The legitimacy of this claim is up for debate.

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  19. 19
    + 401
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    The Entity is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, George Coe Inspired by the experiences of Doris Blither, who claimed to be assaulted by invisible entities. This was documented by paranormal investigators Barry Taff and Kerry Gaynor.

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  20. 20
    + 536
    - 499
    The Mothman Prophecies is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Richard Gere, Debra Messing, Laura Linney Based on author John Keel's own investigations into the mysterious Mothman in the town of Point Pleasant.

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  21. 21
    + 329
    - 398
    Wolf Creek is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Teresa Palmer, John Jarratt, Kestie Morassi Loosely inspired by Ivan Milat, who captured and tortured many hitchhikers and travelers during the 1990s.

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  22. 22
    + 477
    - 381
    From Hell is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane Inspired by the murders committed by Jack The Ripper.

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  23. 23
    + 331
    - 384
    The Girl Next Door is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Catherine Mary Stewart, William Atherton, Mark Margolis Partially based on the torture and murder of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens in 1965.

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  24. 24
    + 334
    - 523
    Open Water is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Saul Stein, Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis Based on the story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan who were accidentally left behind on a scuba diving trip in 1998.

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  25. 25
    + 194
    - 131
    Ted Bundy is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    ranked low on reranks
    Tom Savini, Tracey Walter, Diana Kauffman Based on the crimes of the titular Ted Bundy.

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  26. 26
    + 292
    - 337
    Dahmer is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison, Dion Basco Biopic based on the life and murders of American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

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  27. 27
    + 284
    - 419
    Hard Candy is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Ellen Page, Sandra Oh, Patrick Wilson Inspired by incidents of young Japanese girls luring older businessmen online to meet at a specific location for "meaningful conversation" only to assault and mug them.

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  28. 28
    + 256
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    Fire in the Sky is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    James Garner, Robert Patrick, Peter Berg Based on the accounts of Timothy Walton, who claims to have been abducted by aliens.

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  29. 29
    + 19
    - 13
    Dracula is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    added by Tom Islava
    Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning, Carla Laemmle Inspired by the exploits of the Wallachian prince and serial killer Vlad III aka Vlad the Impaler

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  30. 30
    + 37
    - 27
    Gacy is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    added by RGLinc38
    Adam Baldwin, Allison Lange, Charlie Weber Based on the life and times of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

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  31. 31
    + 219
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    Henry: Portrait of a Serial Ki... is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold Based on the accounts of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas.

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  32. 32
    + 245
    - 367
    The Serpent and the Rainbow is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Bill Pullman, Paul Winfield, Michael Gough Inspired by the experiences of Canadian scientist Wade Davis and his knowledge in the field of "zombification."

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  33. 33
    + 269
    - 300
    The Rite is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories

    ranked low on reranks
    Anthony Hopkins, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Rutger Hauer Based on the real-life experiences of Father Gary Thomas.

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  34. 34
    + 102
    - 354
    Borderland is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Scary Movies Based on True Stories


    Sean Astin, Mircea Monroe, Martha Higareda Loosely based on the story of cult leader and serial killer Adolofo de Jesus Costanzo.

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