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Top 27: Best Movies Based on a True Stories

Good movies that are based on true stories, it’s like sand on the sea. That’s why we have put together a list of the 27 best movies based on a true story. The top list is based entirely on our own opinion. We are curious about how many of these movies you have already seen!

Why are the movies which based on true stories fascinating us?

This “stamp” tells us that we’re not following a screenwriter’s imagination, but real events that we’ve probably only followed superficially and disinterestedly in the news back then. But in the guise of a feature film and with the necessary dramatic spice, history makes us real sensational junkies. Even horror movies are now based on true events (Conjuring) and shock the audience with the incomprehensibility of reality.

This list includes our 27 favorite movies based on true stories.

Assessment criteria include:

  1. Quality of the film (fiction, drama, actors, etc.)
  2. historical template (topic, relevance)
  3. Fidelity to the story (objectivity, realism, facts accuracy)
  4. overall impression

Have fun browsing our Top 27!

#27: ‘The Big Short’ (2015)

Fast-paced manager biography with humor and sarcasm

Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

USA, 2006: A group sees a big financial crisis of investors betting against the American real estate market. The investors discover how degenerate and “full of shit” this market really is.


#26: ‘Donnie Brasco’ (1997)

Powerful gangster drama featuring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp and Al Pacino in a production by Donnie Brasco
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

New York, 1970s: FBI agent Joeseph Pistone (Johnny Depp) smashes into the New York mafia by posing as a jeweler “Donnie Brasco.” Especially the unsuccessful mafia member “Lefty” (Al Pacino) sees Donnie as a friend and helper. But how long can the masquerade be fine?


#25: ‘The Intouchables ‘ (2011)

The feel-good hit from France with wit and heart

Omar Sy and François Cluzet in a production of The Intouchables
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

Paris: The Senegalese Driss (Omar Sy) has just come out of prison and now has to prove to the employment office that he is looking for a job. Halfheartedly, he goes to a job interview as a caregiver for the paralyzed multimillionaire Phillipe. However, he is taken by Driss’ indifferent attitude and gives him the job. The unequal men develop a unique “bromance” that will change their lives forever.


#24: ‘The Disaster Artist’ (2017)

Hilarious biography in the guise of a comedy with and by James Franco

James and Dave Franco in a production of The Disaster Artist
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

Hollywood, 2003: Wannabe actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) meets comic bird Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), who would also sacrifice his life to become a great actor. Then Tommy comes up with a brilliant idea: the two finance and shoot their own movie! The result will be the infamous The Room, the “worst movie ever”.


#23: ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2001)

Rousing Psychodrama by Ron Howard with Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe on the official poster for movie A Beautiful Mind
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

USA, 1950s: The brilliant mathematician John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe) is not only known for his “game theory”, but also for his mental illness: Nash suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is convinced he crack codes of Soviet agents for the American government. His psychosis is becoming more and more horror ideas …


#22: ‘Vice’

Bitterly angry politics criticism with method actor Christian Bale in peak form

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

US under the rule of George W. Bush: September 11 shakes the country and two devastating wars ensue in the Middle East. The Stripper: Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), Vice-President. The experienced manipulator not only controls Bush like a puppet, but expands his power as far as no other vice has ever managed.


#21: ‘Captain Phillips’ (2013)

Exciting hostage drama with Tom Hanks

Exciting hostage drama with Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

April 2009, Gulf of Aden: The US container ship “Maersk Alabama” is attacked by Somali pirates on its way from Oman to Mombasa. Captain Rich Phillips (Tom Hanks) finds himself in a delicate situation. While hiding in the engine room, the crew must negotiate with the pirates on the bridge.


#20: ‘Walk The Line’ (2005)

Engaging music drama with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Cater in a production of Walk The Line
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

USA, 1950s: Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) conquers the Rock’n’Roll-influenced music scene and meets greats like Elvis Presley – and his great love June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). Walk The Line is a tribute to Cash’s incredible life, which, with all its ups and downs, is a strong template for this biography.


#19: ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (2013)

Sensitive drama movie with Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto

Matthew McConaughey on the official poster for Dallas Buyers Club
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

In 1985 in Dallas, Texas: Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a rodeo rider, raider and homophobic. The irony of fate strikes him hard when Ron is diagnosed with HIV. He has only 30 days to live. Ron breaks out of his limited thinking and founds the “Dallas Buyers Club”, which smuggles illegal but effective drugs for other AIDS sufferers to the United States.


#18: ’12 Years a Slave’ (2013)

Shocking historical drama with Oscar award

Chiwetel Ejiofor in a scene from 12 Years a Slave
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

USA, 1841: Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free African American. After a night of drinking Solomon finds himself tied to chains. He was sold into slavery. But Solomon Northrup does not want to be broken by the brutal plantation owners.


#17: ‘Insider’ (1999)

Smart corporate thriller starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe, by Michael Mann

Al Pacino and Russell Crowe in a scene shot from inside
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

USA, nineties: chemist dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) works in the lab of an American tobacco company and is worried about the addictive formula of cigarettes. Wigand is then fired by the group and decides to reveal the dirty secrets of the tobacco world in public.


#16: ‘The Impossible’ (2012)

Melodramatic catastrophe film with Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts

A tsunami breaking in front of a swimming pool in a scenery shot from The Impossible
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

Thailand, 2004: The five-member Bennett family is separated during the tsunami. Reunification seems hopeless under the catastrophic circumstances. But the Bennetts do not give up the impossible.


#15: ‘The Imitation Game’ (2014)

Moving biography during World War II with Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch on an official poster for The Imitation Game
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

England during the Second World War: Winston Churchill uses the autistic computer scientist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a British codebreaker to solve the German encryption system “Enygma”. The cracking of the code should bring the decisive turn in the war against the Nazis.


#14: ‘127 Hours’ (2010)

Painfully realistic survival thriller with James Franco

James Franco on an official poster for 127 hours
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

2003 in Canyonlands National Park: Mountaineer Aron Ralston (James Franco) crashes into a crevice and remains trapped there for five days. The only way to survive is to amputate his trapped arm with a blunt pocket knife.


#13: ‘Sully’ (2016)

Exciting and innovative airplane thriller by Clint Eastwood with Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks on an official poster for Sully
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

September 9, 2016: The US Airways flight 1549 loses both engines shortly after the start of New York and has to urinate in the Hutson River. Later, Captain Sully (Tom Hanks) has to justify his torn emergency landing in court, although he could rescue all his passengers.


#12: ‘Green Book’ (2018)

Heart-warming road movie with feel-good factor

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in a poster for Critic Green Book
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

USA in the 60s: Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is the runner of a nightclub. The pretentious and racist Italian-American is not astonished when black star pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) makes him a handsome offer to become his driver and guardian for the upcoming tour. The road trip is dangerous because Don Shirley also wants to appear in the conservative southern states …


#11: ‘Aviator’ (2004)

Epic biography with Leonardo DiCaprio by Martin Scorsese

Leonardo DiCaprio on an official poster for The Aviator
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

1940, USA: The biography of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), who developed aircraft in the first half of the 20th century and also flew himself. The film focuses on his love life, his achievements and his unstable mental state.


#10: ‘Rush’ (2013)

Electrifying sports drama with Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl

Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

Formula 1 in the 70s: The friends James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Nikki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) become relentless rivals of racing. But what did the “hate friendship” between the two really look like?


#9: ‘Catch Me If You Can’ (2002)

Easy-footed rogue comedy by Steven Spielberg with Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio with a group of stewardesses in a production for Catch me if you can
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

1970s, USA: Frank Abagnale Junior (Leonardo DiCaprio) is one of the most successful imposters in US history. Not only can Frank deceive real checks, he also manages to spend years successfully as a pilot. Only the pursuit of an FBI agent (Tom Hanks) shoots the impostor from the clouds …


#8: ‘The Pianist’ (2002)

Shocking drama by Roman Polanski

Adrien Brody in a scene from The Pianist
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

Warsaw, 1939: The Jewish population suffers from the reign of terror of German soldiers. The family of pianist Władysław Szpilman (Adrien Brody) has a particularly difficult time in the Warsaw Ghetto and is struggling to survive day after day.


#7: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)

Crazy biography with Leonardo DiCaprio by Martin Scorsese

Leonardo DiCaprio in a production of The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

Rise and Fall Stockbroker Jordan Belfort: During the 1990s, the so-called “Wolf of Wall Street” (Leonardo DiCaprio) raked in money without end. But life in decadence pays off as soon as the FBI becomes aware of Belfort’s illegal business model.


#6: ‘Spotlight’ (2015)

Exciting drama movie with Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams

Man runs on a floor in the guise of a newspaper on an official poster for Spotlight
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

Boston, 2001: A team of Boston Globes investigative journalists exposes child abuse cases in the Catholic Church. The deeper the journalists dig, the bigger the scale of the scandal seems to be.


#5: ‘The Revenant’ (2015)

Merciless Survival Western with Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio in a production of The Revenant
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

North Dakota, 1820: Trapper Hugh Class (Leonardo DiCaprio) is badly wounded by a bear attack. His group, directed by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) leaves Class, however, to dying in the wild. But Class does not die. He pulls himself up for a more than 300-kilometer hellish trip through the icy wilderness to take revenge on John Fitzgerald …


#4: ‘Lion’ (2016)

Moving drama with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman

Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar on an official poster for Lion The Long Way Home
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

A village in India: The five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) loses his family and accidentally gets on a train in the 1,600 kilometers away Calcutta. There Saroo struggles to survive as a street kid. An orphanage finds Saroo and sends it to adoptive parents in Australia. 20 years later, the adult Saroo (Dev Patel) is obsessed with finding his missing family again.



#3: ‘Argo’ (2012)

Spy thriller with and by Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck in a scene from Argo
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

Iran, 1979: After the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian people arrested 52 hostages in the US embassy. The dictator who fled to the US should be extradited. However, five Americans escaped the hostage-taking and are now hiding in the Canadian embassy. CIA Agent Mendez (Ben Affleck) gets the mission to escort the five Americans alive from Iran – disguised as a Canadian film crew.


#2: ‘Apollo 13’ (1995)

Thrilling and ultra-authentic astronaut thriller with Tom Hanks

Bill Paxton, Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon in a production scene from Apollo 13
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

USA, 1970: After Apollo 11 it should be the second moon landing of NASA, but the flight of Apollo 13 is pursued by misfortune: Halfway to the moon, the space capsule is badly damaged. The crew of astronauts, led by James A. Lovell (Tom Hanks) has to improvise to land safely on earth again …


#1: ‘Schindlers Liste’ (1993)

Shocking and formative historical drama by Steven Spielberg with Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson in a scene from Schindler's list
Best Movies Based on a True Stories

That’s what it’s about:

Krakow, during World War II: Oscar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a German businessman who houses Polish Jews from the Krakow ghettos in his factory, thus protecting them from the Holocaust. But the brutal SS officer Amon Göth (Ralph Fiennes) keeps an eye on Schindler.

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