Entertainment
56 voters

The Best Movies Based on Memoirs

Updated December 28, 2019 651 votes 56 voters 3k views34 items

List RulesVote 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.

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  • 1
    Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann
    27
    10

    Released2002

    Directed byRoman 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 Pianist, a...  more
  • 2
    Meryl Streep, Robert Redford
    28
    11

    Released1985

    Directed bySydney 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 book...  more
  • 3
    Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant
    19
    6

    Released2018

    Directed byMarielle 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 McCarthy),...  more
  • 4
    Lenny Kravitz, Max von Sydow
    18
    9

    Released2007

    Directed byJulian 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
  • 5
    George Clooney, Matt Damon
    17
    8

    Released2005

    Directed byStephen 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 screenplay is...  more
  • 6
    Alexandra Lara, Bruno Ganz
    15
    6

    Released2004

    Directed byOliver 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 Eichinger,...  more
  • 7
    Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet
    17
    9

    Released2018

    Directed byFelix 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 eyes...  more
  • 8
    Robert Carlyle, Emily Watson
    14
    6

    Released1999

    Directed byAlan 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, Joe...  more
  • 9
    Gael García Bernal, Mía Maestro
    15
    7

    Released2004

    Directed byWalter 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
  • 10
    Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder
    22
    20

    Released1999

    Directed byJames 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 by...  more
  • 11
    Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro
    12
    7

    Released1993

    Directed byMichael 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, Robert De...  more
  • 12
    Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman
    11
    6

    Released2018

    Directed byJoel 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 outed...  more
  • 13
    Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer
    19
    17

    Released1965

    Directed byRobert 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
  • 14
    Brie Larson, Naomi Watts
    10
    6

    Released2017

    Directed byDestin 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
  • 15
    Julia Roberts, James Franco
    14
    12

    Released2010

    Directed byRyan Murphy

    Eat, Pray, Love

    Eat Pray Love is a 2010 American romantic comedy-drama film starring Julia Roberts as Elizabeth Gilbert, based on Gilbert's best-selling memoir of the same name. Ryan Murphy co-wrote and directed the...  more
  • 16
    Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx
    10
    7

    Released2005

    Directed bySam 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, Peter...  more
  • 17
    Siersha 2 addedLuke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas
    3
    3

    Released2016

    Directed byRoger Spottiswoode

    A Street Cat Named Bob is a 2016 British biographical drama film directed by Roger Spottiswoode, based on the book The World According to Bob by James Bowen. A stray ginger cat changes the life of...  more
  • 18
    Siersha 2 addedJames Franco, Kate Mara
    3
    3

    Released2010

    Directed byDanny 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 became...  more
  • 19
    Siersha 2 addedDavid Morrissey, Charles Dance
    3
    4

    Released1998

    Directed byAnand 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
  • 20
    Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern
    8
    6

    Released1999

    Directed byJoe 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 son who...  more
  • 21
    Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid
    15
    16

    Released1981

    Directed byFrank 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 Getchell,...  more
  • 22
    Angelina Jolie, Archie Panjabi
    10
    9

    Released2007

    Directed byMichael Winterbottom

    A Mighty Heart

    A Mighty Heart is a 2007 drama film directed by Michael Winterbottom; It is an adaptation of Mariane Pearl's memoir, A Mighty Heart. A Mighty Heart was met with relatively positive reviews from both...  more
  • 23
    Siersha 2 addedEmma Thompson, Carey Mulligan
    3
    4

    Released2009

    Directed byLone 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, and...  more
  • 24
    Matt Damon, Michael Douglas
    9
    9

    Released2013

    Directed bySteven 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 Thorson. It...  more
  • 25
    Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell
    5
    4

    Released2019

    Directed byGurinder 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