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The Best Movies Based On True Stories

Updated September 22, 2020 71.0k votes 5.0k voters 227.7k views236 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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  • 1
    Apollo 13 is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Apollo 13

    Tom Hanks, Bryce Dallas Howard

    Released1995

    Directed byRon Howard

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  • 2
    Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Schindler's List

    Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes

    Released1993

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

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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
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    Catch Me If You Can

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams

    Released2002

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

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  • 4
    Goodfellas is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Goodfellas

    Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson

    Released1990

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

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  • 5
    Titanic is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Titanic

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet

    Released1997

    Directed byJames Cameron

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  • 6
    Walk the Line is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Walk the Line

    Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix

    Released2005

    Directed byJames Mangold

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  • 7
    A League of Their Own is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    A League of Their Own

    Madonna, Tom Hanks

    Released1992

    Directed byPenny Marshall

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  • 8
    The Sound of Music is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    The Sound of Music

    Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer

    Released1965

    Directed byRobert Wise

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  • 9
    Cool Runnings is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Cool Runnings

    John Candy, Malik Yoba

    Released1993

    Directed byJon Turteltaub

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  • 10
    Zodiac is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Zodiac

    Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal

    Released2007

    Directed byDavid Fincher

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  • 11
    Braveheart is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Braveheart

    Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau

    Released1995

    Directed byMel Gibson

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  • 12
    Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Erin Brockovich

    Julia Roberts, Marg Helgenberger

    Released2000

    Directed bySteven Soderbergh

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  • 13
    12 Years a Slave is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    12 Years a Slave

    Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender

    Released2013

    Directed bySteve McQueen

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  • 14
    American Sniper is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
    842
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    American Sniper

    Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

    Released2015

    Directed byClint Eastwood

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  • 15
    The Perfect Storm is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    The Perfect Storm

    George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg

    Released2000

    Directed byWolfgang Petersen

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  • 16
    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

    Paul Newman, Robert Redford

    Released1969

    Directed byGeorge Roy Hill

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  • 17
    The Great Escape is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    209

    The Great Escape

    Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough

    Released1963

    Directed byJohn Sturges

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  • 18
    The Elephant Man is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
    411
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    The Elephant Man

    Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt

    Released1980

    Directed byDavid Lynch

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  • 19
    The Pursuit of Happyness is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    The Pursuit of Happyness

    Will Smith, Thandie Newton

    Released2006

    Directed byGabriele Muccino

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  • 20
    The Revenant is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
    436
    259

    The Revenant

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy

    Released2015

    Directed byAlejandro G. Iñárritu

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  • 21
    Patton is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Patton

    George C. Scott, Karl Malden

    Released1970

    Directed byFranklin J. Schaffner

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  • 22
    The Aviator is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    317

    The Aviator

    Kate Beckinsale, Leonardo DiCaprio

    Released2004

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

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  • 23
    Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Lincoln

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Day-Lewis

    Released2012

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

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  • 24
    Amadeus is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Amadeus

    Jeffrey Jones, Cynthia Nixon

    Released1984

    Directed byMiloš Forman

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  • 25
    Ray is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies Based On True Stories
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    Ray

    Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx

    Released2004

    Directed byTaylor Hackford

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