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Films Based on True Stories

"Based on a true story" is probably the most abused phrase in video entertainment. The basis could be nothing more substantial than having a few details in common with the original events, but sometimes it's a faithful enough telling that it could be considered educational. Sometimes the story in question is a war, a political event, a news-worthy court case, or even a family drama such as the dreaded "movie of the week" trope of television yore. Then there are biographical pieces, in which the story can be about a particular person, a band, or company.

Our culture's current fascination with "reality TV" (wake us when the fad passes!) tends to steal some of the thunder out of modern movies based on real-life events. Certainly, no actor can compare to the events filmed with real people in the moment. But there are still movies which use drama to tell the story behind the scenes, such as with The Social Network. Sometimes the movie doesn't really have to stretch the truth so far when telling a story about a character, since the main character was just that interesting, as with Catch Me If You Can. Sometimes the story told is a mash-up of various topical stories knitted together, such as the 1970s' black-comedy media farce Network. Whatever the case, these works can give us new ways to think about real life.

  • 2010 127 Hours
    127 Hours Director: Danny Boyle
    Starring: James Franco, Amber Tabmblyn; Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn
  • 2014 300: Rise of an Empire
    300: Rise of an Empire Director: Noam Murro
    Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey
  • 2001 A Beautiful Mind
    A Beautiful Mind Director: Ron Howard
    Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg
  • 2004 Aviator, The
    Aviator, The Director: Anthony Nalli, John Lovelace
    Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin
  • 1967 Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
    Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Director: Arthur Penn
    Starring: Estelle Parsons, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman
  • 1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Director: George Roy Hill
    Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Henry Jones
  • 2013 Captain Phillips
    Captain Phillips Director: Paul Greengrass
    Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali
  • 2002 Catch Me If You Can
    Catch Me If You Can Director: Steven Spielberg
    Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye
  • 2013 Dallas Buyers Club
    Dallas Buyers Club Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
    Starring: Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner
  • 2011 Dolphin Tale
    Dolphin Tale Director: Charles Martin Smith
    Starring: Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman
  • 2004 Downfall
    Downfall Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
    Starring: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Corinna Harfouch, Ulrich Matthes, Juliane Köhler
  • 2000 Erin Brockovich
    Erin Brockovich Director: Steven Soderbergh
    Starring: Julia Roberts, David Brisbin, Dawn Didawick, Albert Finney, Valente Rodriguez
  • 2012 Foreign Letters
    Foreign Letters Director: Ela Thier
    Starring: Noa Rotstein, Dalena Le, Daniel Bahr, Laura Camien, Jade Gurman-Chan
  • 1990 Goodfellas
    Goodfellas Director: Martin Scorsese
    Starring: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino
  • 1963 Great Escape, The
    Great Escape, The Director: John Sturges
    Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett "Big X", Charles Bronson
  • 1999 Insider, The
    Insider, The Director: Pete Woeste
    Starring: Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer, Diane Venora, Philip Baker Hall
  • 2007 Into the Wild
    Into the Wild Director: Sean Penn
    Starring: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Catherine Keener, Jena Malone
  • 2013 Lone Survivor
    Lone Survivor Director: Peter Berg
    Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
  • 1962 Longest Day, The
    Longest Day, The Director: Fox
    Starring: Eddie Albert, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Paul Anka, Richard Burton
  • 2013 Maidentrip
    Maidentrip Director: Jillian Schlesinger
  • 1978 Midnight Express
    Midnight Express Director: Alan Parker
    Starring: Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins, Paolo Bonacelli, Paul Smith
  • 2004 Miracle
    Miracle Director: Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray
    Starring: Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson & Noah Emmerich, Gavin O'Conner
  • 2005 Munich
    Munich Director: Steven Spielberg
    Starring: Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz
  • 2013 Pain & Gain
    Pain & Gain Director: Michael Bay
    Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris
  • 2002 Pianist, The
    Pianist, The Director: Roman Polanski
    Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox
  • 1980 Raging Bull
    Raging Bull Director: Martin Scorsese
    Starring: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto
  • 2004 Ray
    Ray Director: Taylor Hackford
    Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix
  • 2013 Saving Mr. Banks
    Saving Mr. Banks Director: John Lee Hancock
    Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Pual Giamatti
  • 2003 Seabiscuit
    Seabiscuit Director: Gary Ross
    Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Cameron Bowen, Mariah Bess
  • 2010 Social Network, The
    Social Network, The Director: David Fincher
    Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella
  • 1965 Sound of Music, The
    Sound of Music, The Director: Robert Wise
    Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood
  • 2013 Summer in February
    Summer in February Director: Christopher Menaul
    Starring: Dominic Cooper, Dan Stevens
  • 1997 Titanic
    Titanic Director: James Cameron
    Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher
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