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Movies Based on Real Life Events

Kulbhushaan Raghuvanshi
It is true that movies and reality are two opposite poles, but there certainly have been instances in which cinema has brilliantly captured the essence of realism. This story lists out movies which have depicted reality in the most profound manner.
Do you know what is common between Schindler's List, Argo, A Beautiful Mind, The Pianist, and Goodfellas? They all are true stories. Inspired by real life events and characters, these and many more films are regarded as amazing cinematic experiences that have been loved by people and have featured in the list of esteemed critics and fanatics.
No disrespect to films like The Godfather, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump here, but a film that is based on real life events just takes the excitement, fun, and inspiration to a whole new level for the audience. Also, it is generally easy for such movies to make an instant connection with the viewers.
So for all who prefer realism or non-fiction flicks, here is my pick on the world's best movies inspired by real life events.

The opinions expressed in this story are solely of the author and doesn't undermine the work of others who are associated with this profession.

Serpico, 1973

One of the most inspiring tales of heroism, Serpico narrates the tale of NYPD officer Frank Serpico, who went undercover and exposed corruption in the police department.
The movie was made on a tight budget of just $1 million, but was a critical and commercial success and further cemented Al Pacino's legacy as a bankable star. His performance also won him his first Golden Globe.

Raging Bull, 1980

A brilliant sports drama from Scorsese, Raging Bull uncovers the story of boxer Jake LaMotta, and how his violent rage destroyed his relationship with his loved ones. The movie is a brilliant depiction of how rage, violence, and ego can destroy a man and adversely affect his surroundings.
When released, the movie received mixed reviews but it went on to gather universal acclaim, and is regarded as one of the most important sports films ever made. It won two Oscars.

My Left Foot, 1989

In My Left Foot, Daniel Day-Lewis plays Christy Brown, a renowned Irish painter and writer who suffered from cerebral palsy, and was able to write or type only with the toes of his left foot.
The movie is inspired from his autobiography, and was lauded with praise and acclaim when released. Daniel Day-Lewis was praised universally for his memorable performance, and took home the Oscar.

Goodfellas, 1990

Gangster films just don't get better than Goodfellas. The movie simply defines great cinema, and shows movie fanatics the genius of Martin Scorsese. The plot is based on the book Wiseguy, that narrates the tale of the rise and fall of three men in the Lucchese crime family.
Scorsese co-wrote the screenplay with the author Nicholas Pileggi, to ensure that movie didn't drift too far from reality. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and won one for the 'Best Supporting Actor' category.

Schindler's List, 1993

The true story of Oskar Schindler, and his quest to save almost 700 Jews from Nazi concentration camps is probably the most inspiring tale of humanity ever heard. Directed by Spielberg, critics regard this masterpiece his best work and I couldn't agree more.
The movie won seven Academy Awards, and is probably one of the most important films inspired from World War II.

Titanic, 1997

Inspired from ill-fated voyage of RMS Titanic, James Cameron's Titanic remains the second-highest grossing movie of all time. A critical and commercial success at release, Titanic broke all records, and is regarded as one of the few movies that can 'make men cry'. The film also won 11 Oscars.

A Beautiful Mind, 2001

One of my favorite Russell Crowe films, A Beautiful Mind is perhaps the best cinematic example on the complexities of the human mind.
The movie portrays the life of a brilliant mathematician, John Nash, and how paranoid schizophrenia brings along devastating changes to his life and illustrious career. It is often regarded one of the best movies of 2001, and won four Academy Awards.

Catch Me If You Can, 2002

Catch Me If You Can is based on the life of con artist Frank Abagnale, who before his 19th birthday, had amassed millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a doctor, and a parish prosecutor.
The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks as the primary characters, and is directed by Steven Spielberg. Upon release, it was a commercial and critical success with critics particularly being impressed with DiCaprio's performance.

8 Mile, 2002

The most popular and successful movie on hip-hop, 8 Mile is loosely based on certain events that occurred in Eminem's life when he resided in Detroit, Michigan.
The movie shows the hardships encountered by Eminem while trying to launch his rap career in a genre dominated by African Americans. The movie was hailed as a critical and commercial success, and Eminem became the first rapper to win an Academy for 'Original Song'.

The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006

Inspired from the memoirs of Chris Gardener, The Pursuit of Happyness tells a story of an average American facing unemployment and homelessness for over a year.
It is an awesome tale of inspiration that shows that relentless hard work leads to success and happiness. Hailed as Will Smith's best performance till date, The Pursuit of Happyness was showered with awards, praise and commercial success.

The Girl Next Door, 2007

This gruesome flick is inspired from the true events surrounding the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens. Adapted from the book of the same name by Jack Ketchum, The Girl Next Door is definitely not for people who get easily disturbed. Hard to believe all this happened, but it sure did.

Zodiac, 2007

Based on the murders that haunted San Francisco in the 1960s, the Zodiac brings the audiences face-to-face with one of the most famed serial killings in the world.
The movie, inspired from Robert Graysmith's book of the same name, also reveals the cat-and-mouse game the killer plays with the cops and media. Upon release, it gathered significant acclaim especially for David Fincher for his mature directing style.

Frost/Nixon, 2008

A chilling political drama, Frost/Nixon is inspired by the Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977. The movie primarily focuses on the Watergate scandal, and the interviews conducted between David Frost and President Nixon, prior to his 1974 resignation speech. Upon release, it was hailed as one of the best movies of 2008 and won many awards.

The Blind Side, 2009

A feel-good sports drama film, The Blind Side is based on a true story of an upper class couple who take in a homeless teenager and change his life for good. The movie is inspired from the life of Michael Oher, an offensive lineman of the NFL. The movie was a commercial and critical success and won Sandra Bullock her first Academy Award.

The Social Network, 2010

A must watch for Facebook fanatics, The Social Network is a brilliant film that shows the origin of a great idea getting tangled into courtroom battles because of mistrust, anger, and jealousy among friends.
Witness some of the most important events unfold in the lives of Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Sean Parker, and the Winklevoss brothers. The movie was inspired from Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal, and won three Oscars.
Apart from the choices above, here are some more brilliant films that have been inspired from real life events.
  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Rope (1948)
  • The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  • Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • The Amityville Horror (1979)
  • The Elephant Man (1980)
  • Gandhi (1982)
  • The Last Emperor (1987)
  • The Untouchables (1987)
  • The Accused (1988)
  • Dead Ringers (1988)
  • Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)
  • Bugsy (1991)
  • JFK (1991)
  • Rudy (1993)
  • Ed Wood (1994)
  • Apollo 13 (1995)
  • Braveheart (1995)
  • The Basketball Diaries (1995)
  • Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
  • Amistad (1997)
  • Boogie Nights (1997)
  • Gia (1997)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  • Boys Don't Cry (1999)
  • Girl, Interrupted (1999)
  • The Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
  • Erin Brockovich (2000)
  • Remember the Titans (2000)
  • Ali (2000)
  • Black Hawk Down (2001)
  • Blow (2001)
  • City of God (2002)
  • The Pianist (2002)
  • Monster (2003)
  • Seabiscuit (2003)
  • The Aviator (2004)
  • Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  • Der Untergang aka Downfall (2004)
  • Open Water (2004)
  • Ray (2004)
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
  • Cinderella Man (2005)
  • Munich (2005)
  • Walk the Line (2005)
  • Gridiron Gang (2006)
  • The Last King of Scotland (2006)
  • World Trade Center (2006)
  • American Gangster (2007)
  • Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
  • Into the Wild (2007)
  • The Counterfeiters (2007)
  • Milk (2008)
  • Notorious (2009)
  • Public Enemies (2009)
  • Invictus (2009)
  • Temple Grandin (2010)
  • 127 Hours (2010)
  • The Fighter (2010)
  • The King's Speech (2010)
  • Unstoppable (2010)
  • Moneyball (2011)
  • Compliance (2012)
  • The Impossible (2012)
  • Argo (2012)
  • Lincoln (2012)
So there you have it, the best movies inspired from real life events. Movie fanatics who feel that they can contribute some more names, feel free to create an AMP Story an on this website.