True Crime The Best Movies Based on Real Murders  

Ranker Film
2.4k votes 629 voters 39.3k views 32 items

List Rules Only films based on murders that really happened, whether focusing on the killers, the victims, or the investigation. No documentaries.

The truth is often stranger than fiction. That's what makes these movies based on real murders some of the scariest projects to ever hit the big screen. The best real murder movies feature talented actors who strike fear into the hearts of audiences with their terrifying portrayals of real-life killers. This is a list of the best movies based on real murders including everything from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to Badlands to Wolf Creek.

What movies will you find on this list of the best films about real murders? You might vote Zodiac – directed by David Fincher – up to the top. The film follows several reporters, citizens, and police officers as they try to uncover who committed a horrific killing spree in the 1960s and 1970s. The crimes remain unsolved to this day. Monster, starring Charlize Theron, is another one of the best movies based on a real murderer. Spike Lee's Summer of Sam focused on the lives of New York City residents during the time of the infamous Son of Sam serial killings. Other notable movies featured on this list include Bernie, In Cold Blood, and Dahmer.

Which film about real murders do you think is the best? Give the scariest movies a thumbs up and get in on the conversation in the comments section.

1
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Monster is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Rose Byrne
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
2
199 60
Zodiac is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo
Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery-thriller film directed by David Fincher and based on Robert Graysmith's non-fiction book of the same name. Zodiac tells the story of the manhunt for a person ...more
3
120 47
Boys Don't Cry is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Tre Cooley added Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, Natalie Zea
Boys Don't Cry is a 1999 American independent romantic drama film directed by Kimberly Peirce and co-written by Andy Bienen. The film is a dramatization of the real-life story of Brandon Teena, ...more
4
63 31
In Cold Blood is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Robert Blake, John Forsythe, Will Geer
In Cold Blood is a 1967 film based on Truman Capote's book of the same name. Richard Brooks prepared the adaptation and directed the film. It stars Robert Blake as Perry Smith, Scott Wilson as ...more
5
73 39
Alpha Dog is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
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
6
74 40
Bully is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner, Nick Stahl
Bully is a 2001 American film directed by Larry Clark, and starring Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner, Michael Pitt, Leo Fitzpatrick, Kelli Garner, and Nick Stahl. The screenplay was ...more
7
57 31
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Ki... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold
This film is a 1986 American psychological horror film directed and co-written by John McNaughton who seemingly operates with impunity. It stars Michael Rooker as the nomadic killer Henry, Tom ...more
8
43 23
Badlands is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek
Badlands is a 1973 American 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 speaking ...more
9
60 39
Capote is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Kelly Winstead Johnson added Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Cooper, Catherine Keener
Capote is a 2005 biographical film about Truman Capote, following the events during the writing of Capote's non-fiction book In Cold Blood. Philip Seymour Hoffman won several awards, including ...more
10
55 35
Summer of Sam is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Esposito, Adrien Brody
Summer of Sam is a 1999 American thriller film that recounts the Son of Sam. It was directed and produced by Spike Lee and stars John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, and Jennifer
11
52 34
Dahmer is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison, Dion Basco
Dahmer is a 2002 American biopic horror film about the American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Jeremy Renner stars in the title role. There are two timelines in the film: The "present" ...more
12
46 30
Wolf Creek is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Teresa Palmer, John Jarratt, Kestie Morassi
Wolf Creek is a 2005 Australian horror film written, co-produced, and directed by Greg McLean, and starring John Jarratt. The story revolves around three backpackers who find themselves held ...more
13
45 30
Bernie is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Matthew McConaughey, Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine
Bernie is a 2011 black comedy film directed by Richard Linklater, and written by Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth. The film stars Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey. It is ...more
14
42 28
Gacy is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Adam Baldwin, Allison Lange, Charlie Weber
Gacy is a 2003 direct-to-video biographical-drama film directed by Clive Saunders and written by Saunders and David Birke. The story revolves around the life of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
15
22 10
Wonderland is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Casey Nicole added Paris Hilton, Christina Applegate, Val Kilmer
Wonderland is a 2003 American drama film co-written and directed by James Cox. The film stars Val Kilmer, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDermott, Carrie Fisher, Lisa Kudrow, Josh Lucas, Christina ...more
16
38 25
The Boston Strangler is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Henry Fonda, Tony Curtis, George Kennedy
The Boston Strangler is a 1968 American film based on the true story of the Boston Strangler and the book by Gerold Frank. It was directed by Richard Fleischer, and stars Tony Curtis as Albert ...more
17
38 25
Ted Bundy is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Tom Savini, Tracey Walter, Diana Kauffman
Ted Bundy is a 2002 American crime drama film directed and co-written by Matthew Bright. The film dramatizes the crimes of serial killer Ted Bundy. It stars Michael Reilly Burke in the title ...more
18
65 50
Black Dahlia is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart
Black Dahlia is a 2006 United States production horror film that is inspired by the mysterious unsolved murder of "Black Dahlia"—Hollywood actress Elizabeth Short. Instead of ...more
19
29 17
The Hunt for the BTK Killer is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Michael Michele, Maury Chaykin, Robert Forster
The Hunt for the BTK Killer is a 2005 biographical telefilm directed by Stephen T. Kay. First shown on CBS it is based on the true story of Dennis Rader killing ten people from 1974 to 1991. ...more
20
53 41
The Snowtown Murders is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris
The Snowtown Murders (a.k.a. Snowtown) is a 2011 Australian biographical crime drama directed by Justin Kurzel based on the true story.
21
26 16
Rosewood is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Tre Cooley added Jon Voight, Don Cheadle, Ving Rhames
Rosewood is a 1997 film directed by John Singleton. While based on historic events of the 1923 in Florida, when a white mob takes out blacks and destroyed their town, the film introduces ...more
22
33 27
True Story is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones
True Story is a 2015 American drama film, directed by Rupert Goold and written by David Kajganich. Based on the memoir by Michael Finkel, the film stars Jonah Hill, James Franco, Felicity Jones, ...more
23
26 21
Pain & Gain is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, Ed Harris
Pain & Gain is a 2013 American 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 1999 ...more
24
6 1
22 July is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Anders Danielsen Lie, Jon Øigarden, Thorbjørn Harr
22 July is a 2018 drama film directed by Paul Greengrass, based on the aftermath of the 2011 Norway attacks. In Norway on July 22, 2011, right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik (Anders ...more
25
5 1
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly E... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies Based on Real Murders
Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Kaya Scodelario
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a 2019 thriller film directed by Joe Berlinger. Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) and his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins) struggle to accept the ...more