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
440 119
Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

2
549 169
Apollo 13 is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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
333 112
Goodfellas is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

4
544 188
Catch Me If You Can is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

5
229 86
A Beautiful Mind is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

6
217 84
Black Hawk Down is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Jon DeSpirito added 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

7
345 158
Walk the Line is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

8
270 138
Braveheart is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

9
216 88
12 Years a Slave is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch 12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film directed by Steve McQueen, based on the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free ...more

10
265 87
Hidden Figures is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
carlybobarly added 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

11
196 119
The Aviator is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

12
146 49
Glory is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Jon DeSpirito added 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

13
367 150
A League of Their Own is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

14
321 127
American Sniper is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

15
227 77
Tombstone is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

16
342 136
The Pursuit of Happyness is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

17
335 135
Titanic is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

18
274 127
The Perfect Storm is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

19
314 155
Cool Runnings is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

20
148 52
Rudy is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Jon DeSpirito added 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

21
133 56
The Elephant Man is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

22
224 116
Moneyball is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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
298 121
Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

24
212 97
Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

25
197 105
Cinderella Man is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

26
158 66
The King's Speech is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

27
141 57
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance... is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

28
181 61
The Wolf of Wall Street is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Tom Islava added 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

29
186 88
Gettysburg is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

30
164 76
The Revenant is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

31
121 71
Amadeus is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Tom Islava added Jeffrey Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Christine Ebersole Amadeus - Directors Cut is a 1984 biography drama film written by Peter Shaffer and directed by Milos Forman.

32
224 117
Zodiac is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

33
122 61
Patton is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Tom Islava added 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

34
162 53
Good Morning, Vietnam is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Jon DeSpirito added 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

35
49 4
First Man is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll First Man is a 2018 American historical biographical drama film directed by Damien Chazelle. A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), and the legendary space mission ...more

36
137 73
The Right Stuff is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Charles Adams added 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

37
178 90
Monster is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

38
176 90
Ray is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

39
122 53
Hotel Rwanda is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

40
222 98
Mississippi Burning is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

41
123 66
Argo is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston Argo is a 2012 American political thriller film directed by Ben Affleck. The film is adapted from U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operative Tony Mendez's book The Master of Disguise and Joshuah ...more

42
106 29
The Great Escape is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
DeltaBlues added 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
144 53
The Sound of Music is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

44
130 61
Gangs of New York is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

45
129 50
JFK is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon JFK is a 1991 American historical legal-conspiracy thriller film directed by Oliver Stone. It examines the events leading to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and subsequent ...more

46
116 42
Casino is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Sharon Stone, Robert De Niro, James Woods Casino is a 1995 American crime drama film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film ...more

47
189 89
We Are Marshall is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

48
79 56
Raging Bull is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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

49
140 84
The Passion of the Christ is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
Monica Bellucci, Jim Caviezel, Claudia Gerini The Passion of the Christ is a 2004 American epic biblical drama film directed by Mel Gibson and starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus Christ. It depicts the Passion of Jesus largely according to the ...more

50
155 95
October Sky is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Movies Based on True Stories
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