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The Best Movies Based On True Stories

Updated April 15, 2021 71.0k votes 5.3k voters 243.2k views301 items

List RulesSome story liberties and combining of characters allowed. All within reason. And yes, Cool Runnings.

"Movies 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 are based on true events or a real person's life story. And they weren't just so-so, they're the best movies based on true stories.

The surge in the popularity of great movies based on or inspired by 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. Since then, movies based on true stories are being made with increasing regularity, and each year sees the release of more true story movies. Of course, there are movies based on true events like Apollo 13, but there are also good biopics that give an audience insight into a person's life such as Erin Brockovich and Walk the Line. There are also, occasionally, "true stories" based on highly questionable sources, or ones that play with tired tropes. There are even som great action movies  based on true stories. And sometimes, the movie provides a rosier version of true events, as with The Sound of Music.

The films on this list dove deep, did the research, and created films as honest and true to the facts as possible. Below are the top movies truly based on true stories. Vote up your favorite films on this list based on a real life story or historical events.

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    Apollo 13

    Tom Hanks, Bryce Dallas Howard
    Apollo 13 is a 1995 American historical docudrama film directed by Ron Howard. The film stars...  more

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    Schindler's List

    Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
    Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by...  more

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    Catch Me If You Can

    Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio
    Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 American biographical crime drama film based on the life of...  more

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    Goodfellas

    Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson
    Goodfellas is a 1990 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a film adaptation...  more

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    Titanic

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet
    Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed by James Cameron. A...  more

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    Walk the Line

    Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix
    Walk the Line is a 2005 American biographical drama film directed by James Mangold and based...  more

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    A League of Their Own

    Madonna, Tom Hanks
    A League of Their Own is a 1992 American comedy-drama film that tells a fictionalized account...  more

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    The Sound of Music

    Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer
    The Sound of Music is a 1965 American musical drama film produced and directed by Robert Wise...  more

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    Braveheart

    Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau
    Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical medieval war drama film directed by and starring Mel...  more

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    Cool Runnings

    John Candy, Malik Yoba
    Cool Runnings is a 1993 American sports film directed by Jon Turteltaub, and starring Leon,...  more

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    The Great Escape

    Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough
    The Great Escape is a 1963 American WWII epic film based on an escape by British and...  more

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    Zodiac

    Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal
    Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery thriller film directed by David Fincher, based on the 1986...  more

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    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

    Paul Newman, Robert Redford
    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a 1969 American Western film directed by George Roy Hill...  more

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    12 Years a Slave

    Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender
    12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film directed by Steve McQueen, based on the 1853...  more

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    The Perfect Storm

    George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg
    The Perfect Storm is a 2000 American biographical disaster drama film directed by Wolfgang...  more

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    American Sniper

    Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
    American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and...  more

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    Erin Brockovich

    Julia Roberts, Marg Helgenberger
    Erin Brockovich is a 2000 biographical film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by...  more

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    The Elephant Man

    Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt
    The Elephant Man is a 1980 American-British biographical film about Joseph Merrick, a severely...  more

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    Patton

    George C. Scott, Karl Malden
    Patton is a 1970 American epic biographical film about U.S. General George S. Patton during...  more

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    The Pursuit of Happyness

    Will Smith, Thandie Newton
    The Pursuit of Happyness is a 2006 American biographical drama film based on Chris Gardner's...  more

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    Amadeus

    Jeffrey Jones, Cynthia Nixon
    Amadeus is a 1984 American period biographical drama film directed by Miloš Forman and adapted...  more

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    Gandhi

    Daniel Day-Lewis, Ben Kingsley
    Gandhi is a 1982 epic biographical film which dramatises the life of Mohandas Karamchand...  more

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    Miracle

    Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson
    Miracle is a 2004 American sports docudrama about the United States men's hockey team, led by...  more

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    The Revenant

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy
    The Revenant is a 2015 American semi-biographical epic western film directed by Alejandro G....  more

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    Ray

    Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx
    Ray is a biographical film focusing on 30 years in the life of rhythm and blues musician Ray...  more

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