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The Best Movies Based on Real Murders

Updated March 19, 2021 3.1k votes 761 voters 53.2k views34 items

List RulesOnly 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 Zodiacdirected 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.

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  • 1

    Monster

    Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci
    234
    57

    Released2003

    Directed byPatty 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 her...  more
  • 2

    Zodiac

    Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal
    248
    74

    Released2007

    Directed byDavid 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
  • 3
    Tre Cooley added

    Boys Don't Cry

    Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny
    143
    56

    Released1999

    Directed byKimberly Peirce

    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, a...  more
  • 4

    In Cold Blood

    Robert Blake, John Forsythe
    82
    34

    Released1967

    Directed byRichard Brooks

    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

    Bully

    Bijou Phillips, Rachel Miner
    92
    47

    Released2001

    Directed byLarry Clark

    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 written...  more
  • 6

    Alpha Dog

    Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried
    81
    49

    Released2006

    Directed byNick Cassavetes

    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
  • 7
    Kelly Winstead Johnson added

    Capote

    Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Cooper
    73
    42

    Released2005

    Directed byBennett Miller

    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 the...  more
  • 8

    Summer of Sam

    Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Esposito
    74
    43

    Released1999

    Directed bySpike Lee

    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 Esposito. ...  more
  • 9

    Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

    Michael Rooker, Tom Towles
    72
    42

    Released1986

    Directed byJohn McNaughton

    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 Towles...  more
  • 10

    Released2019

    Directed byJoe Berlinger

    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 reality...  more
  • 11

    Black Dahlia

    Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson
    79
    57

    Released2006

    Directed byUlli Lommel

    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 dramatizing the infamous...  more
  • 12

    Badlands

    Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen
    53
    31

    Released1973

    Directed byTerrence Malick

    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 part,...  more
  • 13

    Dahmer

    Jeremy Renner, Bruce Davison
    63
    42

    Released2002

    Directed byDavid Jacobson

    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" of the film...  more
  • 14

    Wolf Creek

    Teresa Palmer, John Jarratt
    56
    35

    Released2005

    Directed byGreg McLean

    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 captive...  more
  • 15

    Gacy

    Adam Baldwin, Allison Lange
    53
    37

    Released2003

    Directed byClive Saunders

    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....  more
  • 16

    Bernie

    Matthew McConaughey, Jack Black
    51
    37

    Released2012

    Directed byRichard Linklater

    Bernie is a 2012 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 based on...  more
  • 17

    City of Lies

    Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker
    0
    4

    Released2021

    Directed byBrad Furman

    City of Lies is a 2021 American biographical crime thriller film directed by Brad Furman, based on the book LAbryinth by Randall Sullivan. Former LAPD detective Russell Poole (Johnny Depp) and...  more
  • 18
    Casey Nicole added

    Wonderland

    Paris Hilton, Christina Applegate
    33
    17

    Released2003

    Directed byJames Cox

    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 Applegate,...  more
  • 19

    The Hunt for the BTK Killer

    Michael Michele, Maury Chaykin
    37
    23

    Released2005

    Directed byStephen T. Kay

    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. Though...  more
  • 20

    The Boston Strangler

    Henry Fonda, Tony Curtis
    43
    32

    Released1968

    Directed byRichard Fleischer

    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
  • 21

    Ted Bundy

    Tom Savini, Tracey Walter
    42
    33

    Released2002

    Directed byMatthew Bright

    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 role,...  more
  • 22

    delete

    Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall
    51
    46
  • 23

    10 Rillington Place

    John Hurt, Richard Attenborough
    30
    22

    Released1971

    Directed byRichard Fleischer

    10 Rillington Place is a 1971 British crime drama film, directed by Richard Fleischer. It stars Richard Attenborough, John Hurt and Judy Geeson and was adapted by Clive Exton from the book Ten...  more
  • 24
    Tre Cooley added

    Rosewood

    Jon Voight, Don Cheadle
    28
    21

    Released1997

    Directed byJohn Singleton

    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 fictional...  more
  • 25

    True Story

    James Franco, Jonah Hill
    37
    31

    Released2014

    Directed byRupert Goold

    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