Movies based on true stories have a unique power to captivate and inspire audiences. From inspiring biopics to thrilling crime dramas, these films offer an exciting glimpse into real-life events that have shaped history. Whether it’s a heartwarming tale of courage or a gripping exploration of human ambition, these movies based on true stories provide an entertaining way to learn about the past.
From Oscar-winning classics to more recent favourites, there are plenty of great movies based on true stories for viewers to enjoy. These films often feature compelling performances from some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, as well as stunning visuals that bring the stories to life. Whether you’re looking for a powerful drama or a lighthearted comedy, there is something for everyone in this captivating collection of films based on real-life events.
With so many great options available, it can be difficult to narrow down which ones are worth watching. To help make your decision easier, we’ve compiled a list of 25 fantastic films based on a true story that you won’t want to miss out on!
1. Wild (2014)
Get ready to be inspired, captivated, and moved as Wild takes you on a journey with Cheryl Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon). After enduring a string of personal tragedies, Cheryl embarks on a trek along the 1,100-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail to find herself and rediscover life’s beauty. And let’s not forget about Reese’s co-star, Laura Dern, who portrayed Cheryl’s mother with such perfection that both actresses received Oscar nominations. Get ready to witness these real-life characters come to life before your eyes!
2. The Terminal (2004)
Tom Hank’s hit movie, The Terminal, is a brilliant classic that’s sure to make you laugh and tug on your heartstrings. It’s based on the real-life story of Mehran Karimi Nasser, an Iranian refugee who was denied entry into France and ended up spending 18 whole years living in the transit area at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. Directed by the one and only Steven Spielberg, its purpose was to leave the audience feeling good about the world, and it most certainly delivers!
3. Hidden Figures (2016)
Hidden Figures is a brilliant film based on true events, telling the stories of three incredible African American mathematicians: Katherine Goble Johnson (played by the amazing Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (a wonderful Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (a talented Janelle Monáe). Despite facing racial and gender discrimination at NASA, they played an instrumental part in launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit during the tense Space Race. These brilliant women faced and broke through barriers, paving the way for future generations after them.
4. Erin Brockovich (2000)
Erin Brockovich is a classic movie that earned Julia Roberts a stellar Best Actress award at the Oscars. The film’s storyline revolves around a legal assistant in Hinkley, California, who took on an energy corporation after uncovering its detrimental impact on the health of the area’s residents. This added extra depth to the plot, which Roberts’ character portrayed epically, making it a must-watch for movie enthusiasts who want to witness powerful performances and important, real-life stories.
5. I, Tonya (2017)
Margot Robbie’s Best Actress nomination was well-deserved for her magnificent portrayal of the competitive ice skater Tonya Harding. As Tonya’s fame soars, her already-troubled personal life becomes even more chaotic, thanks to her ex-husband Jeff (brilliantly played by Sebastian Stan), who re-enters her world and sets off a sequence of events culminating in a shocking assault on Tonya’s fellow skater, Nancy Kerrigan in 1994.
Jeff and his accomplice Shawn Eckardt devised the vicious attack, which left Nancy with a bat-inflicted leg injury that shocked the world. Tonya initially denied any involvement in the incident but soon confessed and accepted a plea agreement for helping to cover up the attack. Tragically, her involvement in the ordeal led to a lifetime ban from USFSA figure skating events.
6. The Swimmers (2022)
Sally El-Hosaini’s biopic recounts the awe-inspiring journey of two Syrian sisters, Yusra and Sara Mardini. As they prepare for the Olympics, the Mardini siblings flee across rough terrain and choppy waters to Germany. Their determination to achieve their dreams and reunite with loved ones amidst a global refugee crisis is a powerful account of their courage. The Swimmers is a must-see for anyone who seeks to be inspired and moved by the incredible stories of resilience and perseverance in a world filled with challenges.
7. King Richard (2021)
Experience the heartwarming and uplifting journey of a family full of unconditional love and fierce determination in King Richard, a true story that has inspired millions. Witness two young and talented girls, Venus and Serena Williams, rise through the ranks with the unyielding guidance of their father. This film shows that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible, even becoming the best tennis player in the world!
8. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Director Mel Gibson took us all by surprise after several years out of the spotlight with his glorious return to form in Hacksaw Ridge. Merging classical filmmaking with immersive battlefield scenes, it’s unlike any other war picture you’ve seen. The energetic and graceful performance by Oscar-nominated Andrew Garfield as real-life hero Desmond Doss adds to the film’s staggering emotional kick. You’ll find yourself in awe of this visionary, compelling, and cinematic portrayal of a fascinating, inspiring American hero.
9. Spotlight (2015)
Tom McCarthy‘s masterpiece, Spotlight, is a captivating drama and a two-time Oscar winner, including Best Picture. The film chronicles the investigation of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church by The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team and boasts an engrossing and award-winning script. The film’s uniformly excellent cast, including Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo, breathes life into this gripping tale. The film’s critical acclaim reflects its iconic status, making it a must-watch for audiences worldwide.
10. Moneyball (2011)
Baseball flicks don’t generally pique interest and even less so are those that focus on front-office politics rather than on players. However, Moneyball (based on Michael Lewis’ groundbreaking book and conversational companion to The Big Short) defies the odds. It tells the story of Oakland A’s extraordinary success during the early 2000s, brought about by unorthodox thinking, rendering it a profoundly insightful commentary on the outmoded conservatism plaguing the US’ national sport. Plus, witnessing Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman master Aaron Sorkin’s weighty dialogue is entertaining enough.
11. The Social Network (2010)
Remember when Facebook’s biggest controversy was about the origin of Mark Zuckerberg’s ideas? It’s almost hard to imagine. Nevertheless, David Fincher’s suspenseful drama has a unique style that still resonates today. The ominous undertones of the film – intensified by Trent Reznor’s award-winning soundtrack – seem to prophesy the unprecedented impact social media would have on world events in the years that follow. Get ready to be insatiably hooked if you haven’t watched The Social Network already.
12. Argo (2012)
Argo, a movie by Ben Affleck, tells the harrowing story of six Americans trapped in Tehran following a militant takeover and the remarkable efforts of Tony Mendez, a CIA agent, to rescue them. The film stays true to the real events, as the actual Tony Mendez confirmed. Get ready to be captivated by this utterly gripping and thoroughly authentic tale.
13. Zodiac (2007)
David Fincher’s beautifully captured crime drama about the true crime serial killer will give you goosebumps. The film features an extremely disturbing slaying that takes place in broad daylight, but it’s still worth watching (you’ll know it when you see it). The cast includes phenomenal actors like Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. (this was released just before Iron Man shot his career back into the stratosphere).
Zodiac was a critical darling upon release and is widely considered a classic today, earning a prestigious ranking of 12th place on the BBC’s list of the best films of the 21st century based on a poll of 177 international critics.
14. Roma (2018)
Alfonso Cuarón turns the lens on his own life with a sprawling autobiographical masterclass set in 1970s Mexico City. Brimming with human moments, Yalitza Aparicio’s performance as domestic worker Cleo glows majestically on screen. Though the supporting cast may not shine as brightly, Roma boasts an ingeniously crafted tale that affirms why cinema is a truly timeless art form.
15. Lion (2016)
Dare to keep your eyes dry while watching Lion, the movie that defies the impossible. Based on Saroo Brierley’s 2013 autobiography, A Long Way Home, the movie recounts his accidental separation from his family in India at age five.
After a harrowing stint on the streets of Calcutta, he is adopted by a loving Australian couple but never forgets his roots. Years later, he acquires the aid of Google Earth to locate his birth family, leading to an emotional reunion in India. Boasting an all-star cast including Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara, and Nicole Kidman, this poignant tale will make you believe in miracles.
16. The Impossible (2012)
The powerful 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and subsequent tsunami left the entire world stunned. The Impossible is a riveting masterpiece brought to life by outstanding performances from Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Oaklee Pendergast, and Samuel Joslin. It follows the incredible real-life story of the Alvárez-Belón family as they faced the aftermath of the deadliest tsunami ever recorded, struggling for survival amidst being separated from each other. With the world held in awe, it’s a tale that truly captivates and inspires.
17. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of writer Lee Israel in this film is beyond amazing. The plot follows the life of a celebrity biographer who resorts to forgery when the doors of literary publishing slam shut in her face, making her desperate to pay her bills. You may not like Israel for her sourness, but you can’t help but feel for her struggles once McCarthy brings her to life on the big screen. Somehow, the prickly character is rendered lovable with a rawness that leaves no room for smoothening.
The screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty is equally amazing as it manages to make the protagonist sympathetic, and as we learn, the world loves a good liar, which proved vital for Israel’s short-lived con. In the end, the memoir on which the film is based turns out to be her most successful book.
18. The Bling Ring (2013)
The Bling Ring movie is based on a group of seven teens known as the Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch, who robbed the homes of celebrities in Los Angeles, including Paris Hilton’s mansion- which makes a cameo in the film. Sofia Coppola’s movie gives us a sneak peek into the lives of these real-life burglars and what motivated them to commit these crimes. Prepare to be shocked by their audacity and affronted by their recklessness in this captivating and intriguing crime story.
19. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 masterpiece Zero Dark Thirty is a must-watch action flick that captures the CIA’s manhunt for Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While Jessica Chastain’s character is a fictional CIA operative, her portrayal of the dedicated agent is both riveting and inspirational. All events in the movie are based on true events, which makes watching it all the more spine-tingling.
20. Eat Pray Love (2010)
Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel, Eat Pray Love has inspired a movie of the same name that portrays Elizabeth’s journey post-divorce as she sets out to find herself. From savoury meals in Italy to a spiritual awakening in India, the film takes us on a breathtaking adventure around the world. Join Elizabeth as she obsesses over pizza in Naples, meditates in India, and reinvents herself and her life in Bali.
21. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Discover Chris Gardner’s remarkable journey from being homeless to becoming a successful stockbroker while raising his son in The Pursuit of Happyness. This heart-wrenching film depicts Gardner’s true and real struggles as he lost his home, navigated a new career, and kept his son’s spirits high amid the chaos of life. Get ready to be inspired and moved by one man’s unwavering courage and determination.
22. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Meet Frank Abagnale, Jr.: a high school dropout with a stomach for risk and a passion for deception. Leonardo DiCaprio plays this cunning con artist and master forger whose scams make him the most successful fraudster in the US. Hunted by the relentless FBI Agent Carl Hanratty, portrayed by Tom Hanks, Frank is forced to use his clever wits and daring guises to outrun the law. Get ready for a thrill ride of increasingly cunning gambits and heart-stopping close calls!
23. American Sniper (2014)
The silver screen doesn’t get any grittier than this! In this Clint Eastwood-directed heart-wrenching drama, Bradley Cooper delivers a star performance as real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who holds the title of the fatal marksman of the US Military, with over 255 kills! But the intense battleground battles – spanning four tours in the Iraq War – eventually took an indelible toll on his personal and family life, leading to an unexpected tragedy that you won’t see coming.
24. Selma (2014)
Step back into the tumultuous times of 1965 with Ava DuVernay’s Selma, an emotive historical drama that chronicles the powerful voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, led by none other than the revered Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and Hosea Williams. Relive the journey that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act as you experience this masterful cinematic creation.
25. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
12 Years a Slave is an epic tale of malevolence and heroic survival that vividly illustrates the brutality of pre-Civil War slavery in the South through the eyes of a free black man who gets kidnapped and sold into bondage. The harrowing story expertly captures the desperation and strength of the human spirit in the face of inhumane atrocities.
Movies based on true stories have the power to captivate audiences, as they provide a unique insight into the lives of real people. From biopics to crime dramas, there are countless films that have been inspired by true events. These 25 best movies based on a true story offer a diverse range of genres and stories. Each of these films offers an entertaining and thought-provoking look at some of the most remarkable moments in history. Whether you’re looking for a heartwarming drama or an action-packed thriller, these 25 movies based on true stories will not disappoint.