film The Best Movies Based on True Stories  

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List Rules 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.
list ordered by

1
273 66
Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Schindler's List Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas ...more

Famous Schizophrenics 35+ Great Political Movies Based on True Stories

2
403 130
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Apollo 13 Tom Hanks, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ed Harris Apollo 13 is a 1995 American historical docudrama film directed by Ron Howard. The film stars Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris. The screenplay by William Broyles, ...more

3
396 127
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Catch Me If You Can Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 American biographical crime drama film based on the life of Frank Abagnale, who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by ...more

4
207 70
Goodfellas is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Goodfellas Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, Joe Pesci Goodfellas is a 1990 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a film adaptation of the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese. ...more

5
254 112
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Walk the Line Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Ginnifer Goodwin Walk the Line is a 2005 American biographical drama film directed by James Mangold and based on the early life and career of country music artist Johnny Cash. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, ...more

6
159 72
Braveheart is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Braveheart Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical medieval war drama film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. Gibson portrays William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First ...more

7
143 36
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carlybobarly added Hidden Figures Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly. The story of a team of female African-American ...more

8
133 48
A Beautiful Mind is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
A Beautiful Mind Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Ron Howard A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. The film was directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay written by Akiva ...more

9
128 54
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12 Years a Slave Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch 12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film and an adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man who was ...more

10
191 85
Titanic is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates Titanic is a 1997 American epic romantic disaster drama film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. A fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it stars ...more

11
188 68
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American Sniper Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Jonathan Groff American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall. It is based on the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal ...more

12
117 42
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Jon DeSpirito added Black Hawk Down Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom Black Hawk Down is a 2001 American-British war film directed by Ridley Scott. It is an adaptation of the 1999 book of the same name by Mark Bowden based on his series of articles published in ...more

13
240 98
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The Pursuit of Happyness Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith The Pursuit of Happyness is a 2006 American biographical drama film based on Chris Gardner's nearly one-year struggle with homelessness. Directed by Gabriele Muccino, the film features Will ...more

14
268 116
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A League of Their Own Madonna, Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell A League of Their Own is a 1992 American comedy-drama film that tells a fictionalized account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Directed by Penny Marshall, the ...more

15
230 113
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Cool Runnings John Candy, Malik Yoba, Jay Brazeau Cool Runnings is a 1993 American sports film directed by Jon Turteltaub, and starring Leon, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba and John Candy. The film was released in the United States on ...more

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193 94
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The Perfect Storm George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane The Perfect Storm is a 2000 American biographical disaster drama film directed by Wolfgang Petersen. It is an adaptation of the 1997 non-fiction book of the same title by Sebastian Junger, which ...more

17
106 48
The Right Stuff is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Charles Adams added The Right Stuff Jeff Goldblum, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid The Right Stuff is a 1983 American drama film that was adapted from Tom Wolfe's best-selling 1979 book of the same name about the Navy, Marine and Air Force test pilots who were involved in ...more

18
104 26
Good Morning, Vietnam is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Jon DeSpirito added Good Morning, Vietnam Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, J. T. Walsh Good Morning, Vietnam is a 1987 American war-comedy film written by Mitch Markowitz and directed by Barry Levinson. Set in Saigon in 1965, during the Vietnam War, the film stars Robin Williams ...more

19
174 85
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Mississippi Burning Willem Dafoe, Gene Hackman, Frances McDormand Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American crime thriller film directed by Alan Parker and written by Chris Gerolmo. It was loosely based on the FBI investigation into the murders of three civil ...more

20
131 45
Tombstone is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Tombstone Val Kilmer, Kurt Russell, Charlton Heston Tombstone is a 1993 American western film directed by George P. Cosmatos, written by Kevin Jarre and starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, with Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael ...more

21
153 82
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Cinderella Man Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti Cinderella Man is a 2005 American drama film by Ron Howard, titled after the nickname of heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock and inspired by his life story. The film was produced by ...more

22
165 91
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Moneyball Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright Moneyball is an American 2011 biographical sports drama film directed by Bennett Miller from a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. The film is based on Michael Lewis's 2003 ...more

23
81 25
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Jon DeSpirito added Rudy Vince Vaughn, Sean Astin, Jon Favreau filmography Rudy is a 1993 American sports film directed by David Anspaugh. It is an account of the life of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, who harbored dreams of playing football at the University of ...more

24
146 69
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Gettysburg Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, Sam Elliott Gettysburg is a 1993 epic war film written and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell, adapted from the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, about the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil ...more

25
80 26
Glory is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Jon DeSpirito added Glory Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick Glory is a 1989 American drama war film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. The screenplay was written by Kevin Jarre, ...more

26
172 90
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Zodiac Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery-thriller film directed by David Fincher and based on Robert Graysmith's non-fiction book of the same name. The Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. joint ...more

27
213 98
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Erin Brockovich Julia Roberts, Marg Helgenberger, Aaron Eckhart Erin Brockovich is a 2000 biographical film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Susannah Grant. The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia ...more

28
88 41
Gangs of New York is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Gangs of New York Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Liam Neeson Gangs of New York is a 2002 American fictionalized historical drama film set in the mid-19th century in the Five Points district of Lower Manhattan in 1863. The film was directed by Martin ...more

29
82 30
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The Elephant Man Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft The Elephant Man is a 1980 American-British biographical film about Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man in 19th century London. The film was directed by David Lynch and stars John Hurt, ...more

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137 90
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The Aviator Kate Beckinsale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwen Stefani The Aviator is a 2004 American biographical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by John Logan and produced by Michael Mann, Sandy Climan, Graham King, and Charles Evans, Jr.. It ...more

31
106 48
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The King's Speech Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth, Guy Pearce The King's Speech is a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. Colin Firth plays King George VI who, to cope with a stammer, sees Lionel Logue, an ...more

32
93 42
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance... is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Cloris Leachman Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a 1969 American Western film directed by George Roy Hill and written by William Goldman. Based loosely on fact, the film tells the story of Wild West ...more

33
104 51
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The Revenant Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson The Revenant is a 2015 American semi-biographical epic western film directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. A frontiersman (Leonardo DiCaprio) on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s ...more

34
83 45
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Tom Islava added Patton George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Paul Frees Patton is a 1970 American epic biographical war film about U.S. General George S. Patton during World War II. It stars George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates and Karl Michael Vogler. It was ...more

35
132 71
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Ray Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx, Terrence Howard Ray is a biographical film focusing on 30 years in the life of rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles. The independently produced film was written, produced and directed by Taylor Hackford, and ...more

36
79 50
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Tom Islava added Amadeus Jeffrey Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Christine Ebersole Amadeus - Directors Cut is a 1984 biography drama film written by Peter Shaffer and directed by Milos Forman.

37
122 64
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Flags of Our Fathers Paul Walker, Ryan Phillippe, Jamie Bell Flags of Our Fathers is a 2006 American war film directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood and written by William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis. It is based on the book of the same name ...more

38
77 33
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Hotel Rwanda Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, Don Cheadle Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 American historical drama film directed by Terry George. It was adapted from a screenplay written by both George and Keir Pearson. It stars Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo ...more

39
132 73
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Monster Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Rose Byrne Monster is a 2003 crime drama film about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a former prostitute who was executed in Florida in 2002 for killing six men in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Wuornos was ...more

40
95 33
The Wolf of Wall Street is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Tom Islava added The Wolf of Wall Street Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 American biographical black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese. The screenplay by Terence Winter is adapted from the eponymous memoir by Jordan Belfort and ...more

41
118 75
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The Fighter Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg The Fighter is a 2010 biographical sports drama film directed by David O. Russell, and starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. The film centers on the life of ...more

42
63 15
The Great Escape is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
DeltaBlues added The Great Escape Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner The Great Escape is a 1963 American World War II epic film based on an escape by British and Commonwealth prisoners of war from a German POW camp during World War II, starring Steve McQueen, ...more

43
69 44
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Lawrence of Arabia Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British epic adventure drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel through his British company, Horizon ...more

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145 71
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Lincoln Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field Lincoln is a 2012 American epic historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as United States President Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. The ...more

45
148 73
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We Are Marshall Matthew McConaughey, Kate Mara, January Jones We Are Marshall is a 2006 American historical drama biopic film directed by McG. It depicts the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed 37 football players on the Marshall University ...more

46
88 34
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The Sound of Music Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker 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

47
57 37
Raging Bull is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Raging Bull Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Martin Scorsese Raging Bull is a 1980 American biographical black-and-white sports drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, produced by Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler and adapted by Paul Schrader and Mardik ...more

48
134 85
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127 Hours James Franco, Kate Mara, Lizzy Caplan 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

49
36 8
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Neal Waby added Philadelphia Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Julius Erving Philadelphia is a 1993 American drama film and one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia. It was written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by ...more

50
121 75
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October Sky Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper 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