• Entertainment

The Best Movies Based on Memoirs

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

    The Pianist

    Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann
    26
    10

    Released2002

    Directed byRoman Polanski

    The Pianist

    In this adaptation of the autobiography "The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945," Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Polish Jewish radio station  ...more
  • 2

    Girl, Interrupted

    Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder
    22
    10

    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
  • 3

    The Sound of Music

    Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer
    20
    8

    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
  • 4
    Alexandra Lara, Bruno Ganz
    16
    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
  • 5
    Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle
    16
    6

    Released1999

    Directed byAlan Parker

    Angela's Ashes

    In 1935 when it is more common for Irish families to leave their famine-stricken country for America, the impoverished McCourt family does the reverse. Following the sudden death of her 7-week-old  ...more
  • 6

    Mommie Dearest

    Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid
    14
    7

    Released1981

    Directed byFrank Perry

    Mommie Dearest

    In this biographical film, glamorous yet lonely star Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) takes in two orphans, and at first their unconventional family seems happy. But after Joan's attempts at romantic  ...more
  • 7

    This Boy's Life

    Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin
    12
    7

    Released1993

    Directed byMichael Caton-Jones

    This Boy's Life

    In the 1950s, Toby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his mom, Caroline (Ellen Barkin), move to the state of Washington. There they meet mild-mannered Dwight (Robert De Niro), who falls in love with Caroline.  ...more
  • 8

    Can You Ever Forgive Me?

    Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant
    10
    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
  • 9

    Out of Africa

    Meryl Streep, Robert Redford
    13
    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
  • 10

    Jarhead

    Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard
    10
    7

    Released2005

    Directed bySam Mendes

    Jarhead

    In the late 1980s, Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) enlists as a Marine, training in boot camp under a sadistic drill instructor. Swofford undertakes a sniper course headed by Staff Sgt. Sykes  ...more
  • 11

    October Sky

    Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern
    10
    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
  • 12

    Behind the Candelabra

    Michael Douglas, Matt Damon
    9
    9

    Released2013

    Directed bySteven Soderbergh

    Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace

    World-famous pianist Liberace (Michael Douglas) takes much-younger Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) as a lover, but the relationship deteriorates when Liberace takes other bedmates and Thorson becomes  ...more
  • 13

    Syriana

    George Clooney, Matt Damon
    8
    8

    Released2005

    Directed byStephen Gaghan

    See No Evil

    The Middle Eastern oil industry is the backdrop of this tense drama, which weaves together numerous story lines. Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) is an American lawyer in charge of facilitating a  ...more
  • 14

    The Motorcycle Diaries

    Gael García Bernal, Mía Maestro
    8
    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
  • 15
    Siersha 2 added

    Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

    Gabrielle Anwar, Michael Schoeffling
    4
    3

    Released1991

    Directed bySteve Miner

    Thrilled by a performance she sees at a fair, Sonora (Gabrielle Anwar) tries to land a spot as a daredevil who rides horses off of high dives. With the help of Al Carver (Michael Schoeffling), whose  ...more
  • 16
    Siersha 2 added

    127 Hours

    James Franco, Kate Mara
    4
    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
  • 17

    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

    Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner
    8
    9

    Released2007

    Directed byJulian Schnabel

    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

    Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), editor-in-chief of French fashion bible Elle magazine, has a devastating stroke at age 43. The damage to his brain stem results in locked-in syndrome, with  ...more
  • 18

    Boy Erased

    Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman
    6
    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
  • 19

    Blinded by the Light

    Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell
    4
    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
  • 20
    Siersha 2 added

    A Street Cat Named Bob

    Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas
    3
    3

    Released2016

    Directed byRoger Spottiswoode

    A stray ginger cat changes the life of James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a homeless London street musician and recovering drug addict.
  • 21

    Beautiful Boy

    Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet
    7
    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
  • 22

    Running with Scissors

    Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow
    6
    9

    Released2006

    Directed byRyan Murphy

    Running with Scissors

    As the son of an alcoholic father (Alec Baldwin) and a mentally ill mother (Annette Bening), young Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) faces a challenging childhood at the very least. His life takes an  ...more
  • 23

    The Glass Castle

    Brie Larson, Naomi Watts
    4
    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
  • 24
    Siersha 2 added

    Persepolis

    Sean Penn, Catherine Deneuve
    3
    4

    Released2007

    Directed byMarjane 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
  • 25
    Siersha 2 added

    An Education

    Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan
    3
    4

    Released2009

    Directed byLone Scherfig

    Despite her sheltered upbringing, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a teen with a bright future; she's smart, pretty, and has aspirations of attending Oxford University. When David (Peter Sarsgaard), a  ...more