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The Best Movies Based On True Stories 

Ranker Film
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Updated July 29, 2020 64.1k votes 4.8k voters 223.4k views 235 items

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 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 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. 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, or add a movie you love that was based on a real life story or historical events.

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1
Apollo 13 is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Tom Hanks, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ed Harris

Released: 1995

Directed by: Ron Howard

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

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2
Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley

Released: 1993

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

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

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3
Catch Me If You Can is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner

Released: 2002

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

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

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4
Goodfellas is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, Joe Pesci

Released: 1990

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

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

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5
Walk the Line is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Ginnifer Goodwin

Released: 2005

Directed by: James Mangold

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

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6
A League of Their Own is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Madonna, Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell

Released: 1992

Directed by: Penny Marshall

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

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7
Titanic is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates

Released: 1997

Directed by: James Cameron

Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed by James Cameron. A seventeen-year-old aristocrat (Kate Winslet) falls in love with a kind but poor artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) ...more

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8
Braveheart is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson

Released: 1995

Directed by: Mel Gibson

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

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9
Cool Runnings is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
John Candy, Malik Yoba, Jay Brazeau

Released: 1993

Directed by: Jon Turteltaub

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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10
Zodiac is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo

Released: 2007

Directed by: David Fincher

Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery thriller film directed by David Fincher, based on the 1986 non-fiction book by Robert Graysmith. In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist (Jake ...more

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11
The Perfect Storm is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane

Released: 2000

Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen

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

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12
The Sound of Music is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker

Released: 1965

Directed by: Robert Wise

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

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13
12 Years a Slave is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch

Released: 2013

Directed by: Steve McQueen

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

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14
Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Julia Roberts, Marg Helgenberger, Aaron Eckhart

Released: 2000

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

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

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15
American Sniper is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Jonathan Groff

Released: 2015

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical 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

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16
The Aviator is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Kate Beckinsale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwen Stefani

Released: 2004

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

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

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17
Butch Cassidy and the Su... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Cloris Leachman

Released: 1969

Directed by: George Roy Hill

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

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18
The Elephant Man is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft

Released: 1980

Directed by: David Lynch

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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19
127 Hours is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
James Franco, Kate Mara, Lizzy Caplan

Released: 2010

Directed by: Danny 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 ...more

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20
Into the Wild is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Kristen Stewart, Vince Vaughn, Zach Galifianakis

Released: 2007

Directed by: Sean Penn

Into the Wild is a 2007 American biographical drama survival film written and directed by Sean Penn. It is an adaptation of the 1996 non-fiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer based on ...more

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21
Patton is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Tom Islava added George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Paul Frees

Released: 1970

Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner

Patton is a 1970 American epic biographical film about U.S. General George S. Patton during WWII. It stars George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates and Karl Michael Vogler. It was directed by ...more

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22
The Revenant is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson

Released: 2015

Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

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

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23
Amadeus is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Tom Islava added Jeffrey Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Christine Ebersole

Released: 1984

Directed by: Miloš Forman

Amadeus - Directors Cut is a 1984 biography drama film written by Peter Shaffer and directed by Milos Forman.

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24
Monster is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Rose Byrne

Released: 2003

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Monster is a 2003 drama film about Aileen Wuornos, who was executed in Florida in 2002 for taking six men's lives in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Wuornos was played by Charlize Theron, and ...more

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25
Ray is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx, Terrence Howard

Released: 2004

Directed by: Taylor Hackford

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

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