Adaptations

The Best Movies Based on Memoirs 

Ranker Film
Updated December 28, 2019 330 votes 39 voters 1.4k views 34 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite movies based on or inspired by memoirs. No biopics without written source material.

Sometimes the truth is more entertaining than fiction. The best movies based on memoirs capture real-life experiences of people fighting addictions, surviving war, and falling in love. Many films based off of memoirs feature amazing actors and actresses and a few movies based on biographies have even won Academy Awards.

What memoirs adapted into movies will you find on this list. The Sound of Music has to be near the top. The stage musical – featuring music composed by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II – was based on Maria van Trapp's memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Girl, Interrupted is another good movie adapted from a memoir.

The Pianist, based on Wladyslaw Szpilman's memoir of the same name, won three Academy Awards including Best Actor for Adrien Brody. Other good memoir movies include Mommie Dearest, Downfall, and Eat Pray Love.

Do you have a favorite movie based on a memoir? Vote the best films up to the top of this list, add any we may have missed, and check back for new movies based on memoirs as they come out.

list ordered by
1
The Pianist is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox

Released: 2002

Directed by: Roman Polanski

The Pianist

The Pianist is a 2002 historical drama film co-produced and directed by Roman Polanski, scripted by Ronald Harwood, and starring Adrien Brody. It is based on the autobiographical book The ...more
2
Girl, Interrupted is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder, Whoopi Goldberg

Released: 1999

Directed by: James Mangold

Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted is a 1999 American drama film, and an adaptation of Susanna Kaysen's 1993 memoir of the same name. The film chronicles Kaysen's 18-month stay at a mental institution. Directed ...more
3
The Sound of Music is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker

Released: 1965

Directed by: Robert Wise

The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music is a 1965 American musical drama film produced and directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film is an adaptation of the 1959 Broadway ...more
4
Downfall is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Alexandra Lara, Bruno Ganz, Thomas Kretschmann

Released: 2004

Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Inside Hitler's Bunker and Until the Final Hour

Downfall is a 2004 German film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, depicting the final ten days of Adolf Hitler's reign over Nazi Germany in 1945. The film is written and produced by Bernd ...more
5
Angela's Ashes is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Robert Carlyle, Emily Watson, Alan Parker

Released: 1999

Directed by: Alan Parker

Angela's Ashes

Angela's Ashes is a 1999 Irish-American drama film based on the memoir of the same name by Frank McCourt. It was co-written and directed by Alan Parker, and starred Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, ...more
6
Mommie Dearest is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest

Released: 1981

Directed by: Frank Perry

Mommie Dearest

Mommie Dearest is a 1981 American biographical drama film about Joan Crawford, starring Faye Dunaway. The film was directed by Frank Perry. The story was adapted for the screen by Robert ...more
7
Out of Africa is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Iman Abdulmajid

Released: 1985

Directed by: Sydney Pollack

Out of Africa

Out of Africa is a 1985 American epic romantic drama film directed and produced by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. The film is based loosely on the autobiographical ...more
8
Can You Ever Forgive Me?... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Jane Curtin

Released: 2018

Directed by: Marielle Heller

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a 2018 biographical comedy-drama film directed by Marielle Heller, based on the memoir by Lee Israel. When bestselling celebrity biographer, Lee Israel (Melissa ...more
9
Jarhead is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, John Krasinski

Released: 2005

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Jarhead

Jarhead is a 2005 biographical drama film based on U.S. Marine Anthony Swofford's 2003 memoir of the same name, directed by Sam Mendes, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Swofford with Jamie Foxx, ...more
10
Behind the Candelabra is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Dan Aykroyd

Released: 2013

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace

Behind the Candelabra is a 2013 American drama film directed by Steven Soderbergh. It dramatizes the last ten years in the life of pianist Liberace and the relationship he had with Scott ...more
11
Beautiful Boy is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney

Released: 2018

Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction

Beautiful Boy is a 2018 American biographical drama film directed by Felix Van Groeningen, based on the books by David and Nic Sheff. The film chronicles meth addiction and recovery through the ...more
12
This Boy's Life is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Eliza Dushku

Released: 1993

Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones

This Boy's Life

This Boy's Life is a 1993 film adaptation of the memoir of the same name by American author Tobias Wolff. It is directed by Michael Caton-Jones and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Tobias Wolff, ...more
13
The Motorcycle Diaries ... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Gael García Bernal, Mía Maestro, Nidia Bermejo

Released: 2004

Directed by: Walter Salles

The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries is a 2004 biopic about the journey and written memoir of the 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara, who would several years later become internationally known as the iconic Marxist ...more
14
October Sky is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper

Released: 1999

Directed by: Joe Johnston

October Sky

October Sky is a 1999 American biographical film directed by Joe Johnston, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper and Laura Dern. It is based on the true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's ...more
15
The Diving Bell and the ... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Lenny Kravitz, Max von Sydow, Emmanuelle Seigner

Released: 2007

Directed by: Julian Schnabel

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a 2007 biographical drama film based on Jean-Dominique Bauby's memoir of the same name. The film depicts Bauby's life after suffering a massive stroke, on 8 ...more
16
Running with Scissors is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Gwyneth Paltrow, Alec Baldwin, Evan Rachel Wood

Released: 2006

Directed by: Ryan Murphy

Running with Scissors

Running with Scissors is a 2006 American black comedy film based on Augusten Burroughs' 2002 memoir of the same name, written and directed by Ryan Murphy, and starring Joseph Cross, Annette ...more
17
Blinded by the Light is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon

Released: 2019

Directed by: Gurinder Chadha

Blinded by the Light is a 2019 British comedy-drama film directed by Gurinder Chadha, based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor. In 1987, a ...more
18
The Glass Castle is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, Woody Harrelson

Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle is a 2017 drama film directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, based on Jeannette Walls's 2005 memoir of the same name. Brie Larson stars Jeannette Walls, the eldest daughter of deeply ...more
19
Syriana is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
George Clooney, Matt Damon, Amanda Peet

Released: 2005

Directed by: Stephen Gaghan

See No Evil

Syriana is a 2005 geopolitical thriller film written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, and executive produced by George Clooney, who also stars in the film with an ensemble cast. Gaghan's ...more
20
127 Hours is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Siersha 2 added James Franco, Kate Mara, Lizzy Caplan

Released: 2010

Directed by: Danny Boyle

127 Hours is a 2010 British-American biographical survival drama film directed, co-written and produced by Danny Boyle. The film stars James Franco as real-life canyoneer Aron Ralston, who ...more
21
Hilary and Jackie is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Siersha 2 added David Morrissey, Charles Dance, Emily Watson

Released: 1998

Directed by: Anand Tucker

Hilary and Jackie is a 1998 British biographical film directed by Anand Tucker. The screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce is often claimed to have been based on the memoir A Genius in the Family by ...more
22
Boy Erased is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe

Released: 2018

Directed by: Joel Edgerton

Boy Erased: A Memoir

Boy Erased is a 2018 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Joel Edgerton, based on Garrard Conley's memoir. When the son (Lucas Hedges) of a Baptist pastor in a small American town is ...more
23
Persepolis is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Siersha 2 added Sean Penn, Catherine Deneuve, Iggy Pop

Released: 2007

Directed by: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud

Persepolis is a 2007 French-Iranian-American animated film based on Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. The film was written and directed by Satrapi with Vincent ...more
24
Wild Hearts Can't Be Bro... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Siersha 2 added Gabrielle Anwar, Cliff Robertson, Bird York

Released: 1991

Directed by: Steve Miner

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken is a 1991 film about Sonora Webster Carver, a rider of diving horses and is based on events in her life as told in her memoir A Girl and Five Brave Horses.
25
An Education is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies Based on Memoirs
Siersha 2 added Emma Thompson, Carey Mulligan, Rosamund Pike

Released: 2009

Directed by: Lone Scherfig

An Education is a 2009 coming-of-age drama film, based on a memoir of the same name by British journalist Lynn Barber. The film was directed by Lone Scherfig from a screenplay by Nick Hornby, ...more