VOTE The Best Movies "Loosely" Based on True Stories  

Ranker Film
6.2k votes 610 voters 19.3k views 48 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
279 62
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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

2
214 80
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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

3
209 84
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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

4
219 100
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Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates Titanic is a 1997 American epic romantic disaster drama film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. A fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it stars ...more

5
181 82
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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

6
149 65
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Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner The Untouchables is a 1987 American crime 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 ...more

7
151 74
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
141 77
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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
116 71
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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
102 66
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Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Joey King The Conjuring is a 2013 American supernatural horror film directed by James Wan. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga star as Ed and Lorraine Warren, who were American paranormal investigators and ...more

11
89 61
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Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Gabriel Macht Behind Enemy Lines is a 2001 action war 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

12
84 62
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Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Paul Giamatti Donnie Brasco is a 1997 American crime 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. ...more

13
95 74
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is listed (or ranked) 13 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

14
82 62
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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

15
79 63
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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

16
71 60
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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

17
85 76
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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

18
69 59
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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

19
84 77
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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

20
63 60
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Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Robert De Niro American Hustle is a 2013 American crime 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 ...more

21
62 59
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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 and starring Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson. The film is loosely based on the story of ...more

22
58 55
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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
63 67
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Mel Gibson, Christian Bale, Billy Connolly Pocahontas is a 1995 American animated musical romantic-drama film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 33rd film in the Walt Disney Animated ...more

24
58 61
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Johnny Depp, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray Ed Wood is a 1994 American period comedy-drama biopic directed and produced by Tim Burton, and starring Johnny Depp as cult filmmaker Ed Wood. The film concerns the period in Wood's life when he ...more

25
45 45
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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

26
57 61
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Scarlett Johansson, Rose McGowan, Hilary Swank The Black Dahlia is a 2006 American neo noir crime thriller film directed by Brian De Palma. It is drawn from a novel of the same name by James Ellroy, writer of L.A. Confidential and stars Josh ...more

27
50 53
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Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan Changeling is a 2008 American drama film, written by J. Michael Straczynski and directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood, that explores child endangerment, female disempowerment, ...more

28
41 47
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Winona Ryder, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jeffrey Jones The Crucible is a 1996 drama film written by Arthur Miller and based on his play of the same name. It was directed by Nicholas Hytner and stars Daniel Day-Lewis as John Proctor, Winona Ryder as ...more

29
44 52
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Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Amber Heard Alpha Dog is a 2006 American crime drama film written and directed by Nick Cassavetes, first screened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2006, with a wide release the following year on ...more

30
44 53
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Virginia Madsen, Amanda Crew, Elias Koteas The Haunting in Connecticut is a 2009 American psychological horror film produced by Gold Circle Films and directed by Peter Cornwell. The film is alleged to be about Carmen Snedeker and her ...more

31
44 55
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Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, Ed Harris Pain & Gain is a 2013 American crime comedy film directed by Michael Bay and starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie. The film is loosely based on a story published in a ...more

32
40 50
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Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Nadine Velazquez Snitch is a 2013 action drama thriller film written by Ric Roman Waugh and Justin Haythe and directed by Ric Roman Waugh.

33
40 52
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Tom Hardy, Amanda Burton, James Lance Bronson is a 2008 British fictionalised biographical psychological drama film co-written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Tom Hardy. The film follows the life of notorious ...more

34
40 54
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Anna Kendrick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bryce Dallas Howard 50/50 is a 2011 biography, comedy, drama film written by Will Reiser and directed by Jonathan Levine.

35
1 0
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Jessica Chastain, Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer Woman Walks Ahead is a 2017 American biographical drama film directed by Susanna White. Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain), a portrait painter from 1890s Brooklyn, travels to Dakota to paint a ...more

36
1 1
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Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, James Marsden Shock and Awe is a 2017 American drama film directed by Rob Reiner. Journalists investigate the assertions by the Bush Administration concerning Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of ...more

37
33 49
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Saul Stein, Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis Open Water is a 2003 drama psychological horror film loosely based on the true story of an American couple, Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who in 1998 went out with a scuba diving group, Outer Edge ...more

38
37 55
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Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishburne 21 is a 2008 American heist drama film directed by Robert Luketic and stars Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Bosworth, Liza Lapira, Jacob Pitts, and Aaron Yoo. The film is ...more

39
33 54
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Kirsten Dunst, Meg Ryan, Kelsey Grammer Anastasia is a 1997 American animated musical fantasy drama film produced by Fox Animation Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox. Directed by former Disney animation directors Don Bluth ...more

40
25 44
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Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek Badlands is a 1973 American crime film written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. Warren Oates and Ramon Bieri are also featured. Malick has a small ...more

41
22 48
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Diana Ross, Richard Pryor, Billy Dee Williams Lady Sings the Blues is a 1972 American biographical drama film directed by Sidney J. Furie about jazz singer Billie Holiday loosely based on her 1956 autobiography which, in turn, took its ...more

42
22 49
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Charlize Theron, James Franco, Susan Sarandon In the Valley of Elah is a 2007 film written and directed by Paul Haggis, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, and Susan Sarandon. The film’s title refers to the Biblical valley where the ...more

43
22 51
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Lindsay Lohan, Emma Watson, Paris Hilton The Bling Ring is a 2013 American satirical crime film based on actual events. Written, directed and produced by Sofia Coppola, it features an ensemble cast including newcomers Israel Broussard, ...more

44
16 50
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Terrence Howard, Bernie Mac, Tom Arnold Pride is a 2007 biopic drama feature film released by Lionsgate Entertainment on March 23, 2007. Loosely based upon the true story of Philadelphia swim coach James "Jim" Ellis, Pride ...more

45
15 51
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Christian Bale, Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer The New World is a 2005 British-American romantic historical drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick, depicting the founding of the Jamestown, Virginia settlement and inspired by the ...more

46
13 48
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Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Michael O'Keefe Amanda was forced into prostitution in order to survive and addicted to drugs in order to cope.  She becomes the accessory to the brutal murder of her ex-lover.  The state wants Amanda ...more

47
11 52
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Henry Fonda, Margaret Hamilton, Sylvia Sidney You Only Live Once is a 1937 crime drama film starring Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda. Considered an early film noir, the film was the second directed by Fritz Lang in America. At least 15 ...more

48
9 53
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Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Angela Lansbury Till The Clouds Roll By is a 1946 American musical film made by MGM. The film is a fictionalized biography of composer Jerome Kern who was originally involved with the production of the film, ...more