Entertainment

The Best Movies "Loosely" Based on True Stories  

Ranker Film
6.8k votes 702 voters 21.1k views 51 items

List Rules Films loosely based on a true story. Vote based on the quality of the film, not the accuracy of the story.

"Based on a true story" isn't always exactly accurate. This list of movies loosely based on true stories took a few too many liberties or only used a true story as distant inspiration.

Hollywood loves this idea though. In the last thirteen years there have been more "based on a true story" films made than were released in the 100 years prior. The problem is that a lot of these "true stories" are hardly that. Be it a huge exaggeration, using one real life person in a crazy scenario, or taking a historical event and creating a fictional story around it (hi, Jack Dawson), the films on this list played fast and loose with the facts.

This isn't by any means knocking any of these films, many are fantastic, widely loved, award winning films. They just took a few too many liberties with the facts. Below is the list of films based on true stories... sort of. Vote up the best films on this list, even if they didn't stick to the truth.
list ordered by
1
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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
2
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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
3
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Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates
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
4
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Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel
Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic drama war film set during the Invasion of Normandy in World War II. Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, the film is notable for ...more
5
The Untouchables is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies "Loosely" Based on True Stories
Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner
The Untouchables is a 1987 American drama film directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet. Based on the book The Untouchables, the film stars Kevin Costner as government agent Eliot ...more
6
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Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Gosling, Denzel Washington
Remember the Titans is a 2000 American sports drama film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Boaz Yakin. The screenplay, written by Gregory Allen Howard, is based on the true story of ...more
7
A Beautiful Mind is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies "Loosely" 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
8
The Exorcist is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies "Loosely" Based on True Stories
Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair
The Exorcist is a 1973 American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name. The book, inspired by the 1949 ...more
9
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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
10
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Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Gabriel Macht
Behind Enemy Lines is a 2001 action film directed by John Moore in his directorial debut, and starring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman. The film tells the story of Lieutenant Chris Burnett, an ...more
11
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Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Joey King
The Conjuring is a 2013 American supernatural horror film directed by James Wan and the first installment in the Conjuring series. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are ...more
12
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies "Loosely" Based on True Stories
Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a 2019 crime thriller film directed by Quentin Tarantino. A TV actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) embark on an odyssey to make a name for ...more
13
Donnie Brasco is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies "Loosely" Based on True Stories
Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Paul Giamatti
Donnie Brasco is a 1997 American film directed by Mike Newell and starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp. Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, and Anne Heche appeared in supporting roles. The ...more
14
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies "Loosely" Based on True Stories
Johnny Depp, Cameron Diaz, Christina Ricci
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a 1998 American dark comedy film co-written and directed by Terry Gilliam, starring Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke and Benicio del Toro as Dr. Gonzo. It was adapted ...more
15
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Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, Barbara Hershey
Hoosiers is a 1986 sports film written by Angelo Pizzo and directed by David Anspaugh. It tells the story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. It ...more
16
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Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, Anna Paquin
Almost Famous is a 2000 comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit. It tells the fictional story of a teenage journalist ...more
17
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Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Emma Thompson
Saving Mr. Banks is a 2013 period drama film directed by John Lee Hancock from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Centered on the development of the 1964 Walt Disney Studios ...more
18
Lucy in the Sky is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies "Loosely" Based on True Stories
Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Dan Stevens
Lucy in the Sky (a.k.a. Pale Blue Dot) is a 2019 American drama film directed by Noah Hawley, loosely based on astronaut Lisa Nowak's alleged criminal activities. An astronaut (Natalie Portman) ...more
19
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Denzel Washington, Rosario Dawson, Chris Pine
Unstoppable is a 2010 American action thriller film directed by Tony Scott, written by Mark Bomback, and starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. The film, loosely based on the real-life CSX ...more
20
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Julianne Moore, Mark Wahlberg, Heather Graham
Boogie Nights is a 1997 American drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It is set in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley and focuses on a young nightclub dishwasher, Eddie Adams, ...more
21
Heat is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies "Loosely" Based on True Stories
Natalie Portman, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro
Heat is a 1995 American crime thriller film written, produced and directed by Michael Mann, and starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Val Kilmer. The film was released in the United States on ...more
22
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Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey
The French Connection is a 1971 American dramatic thriller film directed by William Friedkin and produced by Philip D'Antoni. It stars Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, and Roy Scheider. The film was ...more
23
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Laura Linney, Jennifer Carpenter, Tom Wilkinson
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a 2005 American courtroom drama horror film directed by Scott Derrickson, loosely based on the story of Anneliese Michel. A self-proclaimed agnostic lawyer (Laura ...more
24
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Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Robert De Niro
American Hustle is a 2013 American comedy-drama film directed by David O. Russell. It was written by Eric Warren Singer and Russell, inspired by the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and ...more
25
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Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward, Scott Speedman
The Strangers is a 2008 American horror film written and directed by Bryan Bertino and starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a young couple who are terrorized by three masked assailants, who ...more