Mark Twain said that “truth is stranger than fiction” so it’s not surprising that film makers often use real life stories when looking for inspiration.
Some of the greatest films of all time were based on true stories; Schindler’s List, The Exorcist and more recently, 12 Years A Slave.
Even horror movies draw from real life.
Of course, just having a brilliant story does not make a brilliant film, and it takes technical expertise and craftsmanship to turn it into something special.
With that being said, we have compiled a list of all the greatest films based on true stories. Next time you’re looking for a film that will entertain and educate, you know where to turn.
Schindler’s List (1993)
Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson , was a German businessman in World War Two who managed to save over 1,000 Jews from the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust.
The film, directed by Stephen Spielberg, follows his life and was critically acclaimed, winning Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Martin Scorsese’s entertaining romp, starring Leonardo Di Caprio , Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie, was based on the life of Jordan Belfort, from his life as a stock-broker to his fall from grace involving corruption and the federal government.
Di Caprio won the Best Actor award at the 71st Golden Globe Awards for his performance as Jordan Belfort.
Daniel Radcliffe’s film Jungle is based on the life of Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg who ventured into Bolivian jungle 26 years ago and got lost for three weeks.
Somehow he survived the ordeal and wrote a book about his experiences. He fought off a jaguar with a lighter and deodorant, had twelve burrowing worms in his forehead, and he nearly lost his foot to fungi.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
The British film was based on the harrowing story of Solomon Northup who was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1850s America, suffering years of abuse.
It is based on Solomon’s book, written after his release.
The film won three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Dallas Buyers Club (2014)
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club follows the story of Ron Woodruff who set up a drugs ring to sell non-approved meds to Aids patients after discovering he was HIV positive in 1985.
McConaughey picked up an Oscar for Best Actor and the film was a huge sucess.
I, Tonya (2018)
I, Tonya stars Margot Robbie and is about ice skater Tonya Harding and the attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan as they prepared for the 1994 Winter Olympics
Harding was born in a trailer park in Portland, Oregon and saw skating as her “ticket out of the gutter” according to her coach, but she fell into scandal and disgrace when rival Kerrigan was attacked by a hired hitman.
The film was nominated for several Oscars.
Into the Wild (2007)
Sean Penn wrote the screenplay and directed this film about the life of Christopher McCandless, who gave up all his earthly possession to travel to Alaska.
His travels across the North American wilderness are beautifully documented and the film was nominated for two Golden Globes. It won the award for Best Original Song for “Guaranteed” by Eddie Vedder.
The Exorcist (1973)
One of the most profitable horror flicks ever made, this 1973 film focused on a little girl who was possessed by a demon. Her parents sought the help of a priest to have an exorcism performed.
William Pleter Blatty wrote the book, based on the records of a young boy named Roland Doe. He was believed to be possessed by a demon, and priests who were tasked with his exorcism recorded the startling events.
American Sniper (2014)
Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is a dramatic adaptation of the account of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, whose pinpoint accuracy during the war in Iraq saved countless lives and turned him into a living legend.
Like many soldiers, he struggled to adapt when he left the military and his relationship with his wife and children was severely strained.
The Pianist (2002)
Directed by Roman Polanski and starring Adrien Brody , the film is about Polish-Jewish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman who struggled to survive the destruction of a Warsaw ghetto during WWII.
This critically acclaimed film won three Oscars, a Palme d’Or and many other awards.
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