Entertainment
5.3k voters

The Best Movies Based On True Stories

Updated April 15, 2021 72.1k votes 5.3k voters 241.2k views304 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.

Photo:
...more
  • 1
    1,439
    350

    Schindler's List

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

    More Schindler's List 

    #107 of 112 Movies That Need Sequels#108 of 152 Movies That Should Never Be Remade

  • 2
    1,214
    435

    Apollo 13

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

    More Apollo 13 

    Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'Apollo 13'#2 of 50 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the '90s

  • 3
    1,054
    370

    Goodfellas

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

    More Goodfellas 

    15 Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Goodfellas'#23 of 63 Movies Set in Brooklyn

  • 4
    1,180
    482

    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

    More Catch Me If You Can 

    Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'Catch Me If You Can'#8 of 26 The Best F-Bombs In Movie History

  • 5
    723
    299

    Black Hawk Down

    Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy
    Black Hawk Down is a 2001 American-British war film directed by Ridley Scott. It is an...  more

    More Black Hawk Down 

    #127 of 541 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies#25 of 28 The Best Movies With A Bird Name In The Title

  • 6
    846
    392

    Walk the Line

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

    More Walk the Line 

    #2 of 195 The Best Movies About Music#375 of 549 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

  • 7
    545
    220

    Glory

    Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington
    Glory is a 1989 American drama film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick,...  more

    More Glory 

    #2 of 28 Civil War Movies List#9 of 75 The Best Movies About Historical Battles

  • 8
    816
    377

    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

    More The Pursuit of Happyness 

    #23 of 172 The Most Utterly Depressing Movies Ever Made#56 of 85 The Greatest African American Biopics

  • 9
    1,013
    510

    Titanic

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

    More Titanic 

    Weird But True Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Set Of 'Titanic'#9 of 50 The 50 Highest Grossing '90s Movies, Ranked

  • 10
    506
    204

    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

    More The Great Escape 

    #3 of 175 The Best Movies Of The '60s#25 of 306 The Best Ensemble Movies

  • 11
    804
    296

    Hidden Figures

    Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer
    Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, based on...  more

    More Hidden Figures 

    #228 of 781 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made#4 of 136 The Very Best Movies of 2016, Ranked

  • 12
    835
    410

    Cool Runnings

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

    More Cool Runnings 

    #142 of 665 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked#36 of 252 The Funniest '90s Movies

  • 13
    850
    493

    Braveheart

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

    More Braveheart 

    #61 of 375 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime#55 of 92 The Most Rewatchable Action Movies

  • 14
    834
    438

    American Sniper

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

    More American Sniper 

    29 Things Most People Don't Know About 'American Sniper'#1147 of 1,184 Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

  • 15
    681
    260

    Tombstone

    Val Kilmer, Kurt Russell
    Tombstone is a 1993 American western film directed by George P. Cosmatos, written by Kevin...  more

    More Tombstone 

    #3 of 400 The Best Western Movies Ever Made#2 of 77 The 30+ Best Modern Western Movies

  • 16
    568
    252

    The King's Speech

    Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth
    The King's Speech is a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written...  more

    More The King's Speech 

    #85 of 675 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars#1 of 14 Pretty Good Movies About Historical Royals

  • 17
    588
    210

    Good Morning, Vietnam

    Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker
    Good Morning, Vietnam is a 1987 American comedy film written by Mitch Markowitz and directed...  more

    More Good Morning, Vietnam 

    #58 of 922 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films#44 of 305 The Funniest '80s Movies

  • 18
    544
    259

    The Wolf of Wall Street

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey
    The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 American biographical black comedy film directed by Martin...  more

    More The Wolf of Wall Street 

    #2 of 125 The Best Period Movies Set in the '80s#9 of 17 People Share The Most Awkward Movie Moments They Watched With Their Parents And The Cringe Is Real

  • 19
    865
    381

    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

    More A League of Their Own 

    #1 of 204 The Best Sports Movies Ever Made#3 of 12 Movies Where The Cast And Crew Disagreed About Its Meaning

  • 20
    609
    298

    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

    More The Sound of Music 

    12 Facts We Learned About 'The Sound of Music' That Just Became A Few Of Our Favorite Things#13 of 46 Movies That Won Best Picture at the Oscars and Golden Globes

  • 21
    355
    199

    The Right Stuff

    Jeff Goldblum, Ed Harris
    The Right Stuff is a 1983 American drama film that was adapted from Tom Wolfe's best-selling...  more

    More The Right Stuff 

    #1151 of 1,506 The Most Rewatchable Movies#169 of 512 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

  • 22
    689
    357

    The Perfect Storm

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

    More The Perfect Storm 

    Tragic Facts About The Perfect Storm, The Shipwreck Story No One Lived To Tell#186 of 246 The Best Rainy Day Movies

  • 23
    651
    347

    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

    More 12 Years a Slave 

    #7 of 23 23 Disturbing, Brutal Movies Based on Real-Life Atrocities#10 of 14 The Most Horrifying Non-Horror Movies Ever Made

  • 24
    346
    211

    Patton

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

    More Patton 

    #17 of 552 The Best '70s Movies#17 of 99 The Most Patriotic Movies of All Time

  • 25
    417
    237

    The Elephant Man

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

    More The Elephant Man 

    #8 of 50 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the '80s#32 of 225 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made