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100 best movies based on true stories

  • Warner Bros.
    1/ Warner Bros.

    100 best movies based on true stories

    Fictional tales aren’t always the most exciting. True stories—including everything from mob tales to war sagas—are often more thrilling than anything a writer could make up. While some flicks get criticized for taking a little too much leeway with the truth—King George IV didn’t stutter that badly and Mel Gibson’s character in “Braveheart” wouldn’t have worn a kilt—many stay true to historical facts.

    Using data from IMDb, Stacker compiled a list of the 100 best movies based on true stories. Each entry needed 25,000 votes for consideration. In the case of a tie, the amount of votes decided which film made the cut. Films where the plot, real names, or settings varied greatly from the original story were not included. Since every movie, even those based on real events, takes creative liberties during production, features that only had small details altered or over-dramatized made the list.

    Click through to see which true tales came back to life on film.

    ALSO: 100 best films of all time, according to critics

  • Working Title Films
    2/ Working Title Films

    #100. The Theory of Everything

    IMDb user rating: 7.7

    Year: 2014

    Director: James Marsh

    “The Theory of Everything,” tells the story of physicist Stephen Hawking—who had Lou Gehrig’s disease, a degenerative neuromuscular condition—from the point of view of his wife, Jane. The film is based on her memoir and mostly sticks to the facts. One deviation from real life: Stephen and Jane didn’t meet until after he was already diagnosed.

  • Paramount Pictures
    3/ Paramount Pictures

    #99. Zodiac

    Year: 2007

    Director: David Fincher

    Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this historical thriller about the Zodiac serial killer. The film shows how the killer detailed his murders in letters to newspapers and police but was never caught. Critics applauded the film’s attention to historic detail.

  • Beverly Detroit
    4/ Beverly Detroit

    #98. Adaptation.

    IMDb user rating: 7.7

    Year: 2002

    Director: Spike Jonze

    Director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman teamed up after the success of “Being John Malkovich” to create “Adaptation,” a film based on Kaufman’s experience with writer’s block as he tried to write a screenplay adapted from Susan Orlean’s non-fiction book “The Orchid Thief.” The movie added some elements of fiction, including the creation of a twin brother for Kaufman. The film also portrayed a romance between Orleans and John Laroche—the subject of “The Orchid Thief”—that never happened.


     

  • Alcon Entertainment
    5/ Alcon Entertainment

    #97. The Blind Side

    IMDb user rating: 7.7

    Year: 2009

    Director: John Lee Hancock

    The film is based on the true story of NFL star Michael Oher, a homeless black teenager taken in by a well-off white family in Tennessee before professionally succeeding in football. This box office hit was praised by the Academy—Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for Best Actress—but some critics didn’t like how the film portrayed race. Oher said the film had a negative impact on his career.

  • Summit Entertainment
    6/ Summit Entertainment

    #96. 50/50

    IMDb user rating: 7.7

    Year: 2011

    Director: Jonathan Levine

    Will Reiser wrote the screenplay for “50/50” based on his own experience after he was diagnosed with cancer at 25. Reiser said he survived the disease with the help of real-life friends like Seth Rogen, who also co-produced and starred in the movie opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played the Reiser character.

  • Warner Bros.
    7/ Warner Bros.

    #95. Argo

    IMDb user rating: 7.7

    Year: 2012

    Director: Ben Affleck

    In “Argo,” the CIA creates a fake movie production company to extract six Americans during the Iran revolution in 1979. While this part of the story is true—and is based on a Wired article by Joshuah Bearman and a memoir by former CIA operative Antonio Mendez—the film downplays Canada’s involvement in the rescue. Alan Arkin’s character was fictional, and the escape from Iran—which involved a myriad of complications at the airport in the film—was not as dramatic as depicted.

  • Columbia Pictures Corporation
    8/ Columbia Pictures Corporation

    #94. The Social Network

    IMDb user rating: 7.7

    Year: 2010

    Director: David Fincher

    Director David Fincher paired up with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing”), who adapted the film from “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal,” written by Ben Mezrich. The film takes a deeper look behind the turmoil surrounding the creation of Facebook. It focuses on founder Mark Zuckerberg, who some say is not as angry in real life as he seems in the film. What the film did get right: the Winklevoss brothers did work with and sue Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin was Zuckerberg’s closest friend, and Sean Parker did play a critical advisement role.

  • Warner Bros.
    9/ Warner Bros.

    #93. 300

    IMDb user rating: 7.7

    Year: 2006

    Director: Zack Snyder

    While there is no way to know if real-life Spartans all had six-packs, the film portrays the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. when King Leonidas of Sparta (Gerard Butler) and 300 of his warriors—along with at least 1,100 Boeotians—fought against the entire Persian army. Snyder claims it is historically accurate, but some critics disagree.

  • Diamond Films
    10/ Diamond Films

    #92. Zulu

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1964

    Director: Cy Endfield

    “Zulu” tells the story of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in 1879 between 150 British soldiers who fought against 3,000 to 4,000 (the exact number varies) Zulu fighters in South Africa. The film is a re-creation of a true event, but some feel it exaggerates the importance of an unnecessary battle.

  • BreakThru Productions
    11/ BreakThru Productions

    #91. Loving Vincent

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2017

    Directors: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman

    “Loving Vincent” depicts the life and death of Vincent van Gogh by transforming van Gogh’s works into a painted animation brought to life with added (famous) voices. The plot begins one year after Vincent van Gogh’s suicide, as a postman delivers the artist’s last letter to his brother, Theo.

  • 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
    12/ 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks

    #90. BlacKkKlansman

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2018

    Director: Spike Lee

    Director Spike Lee shows how Ron Stallworth, the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan during an undercover investigation in the late 1970s. Stallworth (John David Washington) sends his white colleague (Adam Driver) to pose as him during in-person meetings while Stallworth himself fools KKK director David Duke (Topher Grace) on the phone. While most of the film is accurate, Stallworth said no bombings took place during his investigation. His love interest in the movie also didn’t exist in real life.

  • BBC Films
    13/ BBC Films

    #89. Pride

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2014

    Directors: Matthew Warchus

    In 1984, a group of British LGBT activists worked together to raise money for striking miners and their families during a gay pride march in London. The activists identified with the miners against what they felt were repressive, abusive tactics by Margaret Thatcher.

  • Twentieth Century Fox
    14/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #88. The Longest Day

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1962

    Directors: Ken Annakin, Darryl F. Zanuck, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, Gerd Oswald

    This epic war film depicts the events of the D-Day landing during World War II on June 6, 1944 in Normandy. The black-and-white movie features an ensemble cast including John Wayne, Richard Burton, and Henry Fonda. Some events are fictionalized, but the crux of the story is true.

  • OLC / Rights Entertainment
    15/ OLC / Rights Entertainment

    #87. The World's Fastest Indian

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2005

    Director: Roger Donaldson

    This film tells the story of Burt Munro, an aging New Zealander who rebuilt a 1920 Indian Twin Scout motorcycle that helped him set a world record for land speed at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967. The real Munro had children, though they were not mentioned in the film.

  • Studio Ghibli
    16/ Studio Ghibli

    #86. The Wind Rises

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2013

    Director: Hayao Miyazaki

    “The Wind Rises” is a controversial animated biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane, which Japan used during Pearl Harbor in World War II. The film shows Horikoshi’s skill and dedication as an engineer.

  • Universal Pictures
    17/ Universal Pictures

    #85. October Sky

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1999

    Director: Joe Johnston

    Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Homer H. Hickam Jr. in this drama based on the lives of four men in Coalwood, West Virginia, who experimented with creating their own rockets. In real life, Hickam became a NASA engineer and wrote “Rocket Boys.”

  • Recorded Picture Company (RPC)
    18/ Recorded Picture Company (RPC)

    #84. The Last Emperor

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1987

    Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

    The life of Puyi, the last emperor of China, is depicted in this biographical drama. In 1908, 3-year-old Puyi, became the Lord of Ten Thousand Years. The film follows the emperor though his life, including his childhood and imprisonment by Russia after World War II.

  • FilmFour
    19/ FilmFour

    #83. The Motorcycle Diaries

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2004

    Director: Walter Salles

    Based on the memoir of a 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara, “The Motorcycle Diaries” shows Guevara's life in the years before he became known as Che, the internationally famous Marxist leader. The story follows a young Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado as they travel across South America.

  • Artists Entertainment Complex
    20/ Artists Entertainment Complex

    #82. Serpico

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1973

    Director: Sidney Lumet

    Al Pacino portrays Frank Serpico, an officer with the New York Police Department. Serpico uncovers and exposes police corruption in the 1960s and 1970s. Like in the movie, his real-life efforts led to the creation of the Knapp Commission, which investigated the NYPD.

  • Philip D'Antoni Productions
    21/ Philip D'Antoni Productions

    #81. The French Connection

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1971

    Director: William Friedkin

    This fictionalized crime thriller is based on a work of nonfiction with the same name that tells the story of two NYPD detectives. The real life partners—Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso—were portrayed as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo. The film follows the detectives as they search for a French heroin smuggler named Alain Charnier (whose name in real life was Jean Jehan).

  • Warner Bros.
    22/ Warner Bros.

    #80. Empire of the Sun

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1987

    Director: Steven Spielberg

    The film tells the story of Jamie “Jim” Graham (Christian Bale), a spoiled young boy from a wealthy British family in Shanghai who becomes a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp during World War II and is later separated from his parents. The film follows Jim as he tries to survive on his own.

  • Morgan Creek Entertainment
    23/ Morgan Creek Entertainment

    #79. The Last of the Mohicans

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1992

    Director: Michael Mann

    Set in 1757, “The Last of the Mohicans” depicts the French and Indian War in the Ohio River Valley. The film, written and directed by Michael Mann, is based on an 1826 novel by the same name. One historian applauded Mann’s attention to detail in costumes and liked his use of French and Indian language, but she criticized the historical accuracy of some of the dialogue.

  • Fox 2000 Pictures
    24/ Fox 2000 Pictures

    #78. Hidden Figures

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2016

    Director: Theodore Melfi

    “Hidden Figures” shines a light on three black female mathematicians—Katherine Goble (later Johnson), Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan—working at NASA during a time when racial segregation and workplace sexism were still the norm. The film is based on a nonfiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly—who consulted on the film—and centers on the story of Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson) who confirmed, by hand, the formula that helped John Glenn make the first human trip around the Earth. Shetterly said that while the main plot of the movie is true, there were far more people who worked on the space projects than depicted in the movie.

  • Jerry Bruckheimer Films
    25/ Jerry Bruckheimer Films

    #77. Remember the Titans

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2000

    Director: Boaz Yakin

    Denzel Washington portrays Herman Boone, a black coach who led the first integrated football team at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1971. Washington portrayed Boone as an inspirational character, but some say the real-life Boone wasn’t quite so nice or the cause of the team’s success. The movie also claims that they only played white teams, but many other high school teams were integrated.

  • Imagine Entertainment
    26/ Imagine Entertainment

    #76. Changeling

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2008

    Director: Clint Eastwood

    The film was based on the events surrounding the 1928 Wineville Chicken Coop Murders in Mira Loma, California. Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, whose 9-year-old son goes missing. Collins is institutionalized by authorities when she declares that a boy claiming to be her son is an imposter. Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski, a former journalist, pieced the story together from newspaper files and historical records from City Hall.

  • Mandalay Entertainment
    27/ Mandalay Entertainment

    #75. Donnie Brasco

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1997

    Director: Mike Newell

    Donnie Brasco follows the true story behind a real-life FBI agent whose name was Joseph Pistone. Like in the film, Brasco goes undercover to infiltrate the Bonanno crime family.

  • Paramount Pictures
    28/ Paramount Pictures

    #74. The Big Short

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2015

    Director: Adam McKay

    “The Big Short” tells the backstory of how subprime mortgages led to the 2008 housing catastrophe—and subsequent financial crisis—and how signs of an impending crisis were ignored. The film is based on the nonfiction book of the same title written by Michael Lewis. While most names have been changed, the film stays true to the book’s description of the main characters and the timeline of events. What is true to life: Michael Burry (Christian Bale) was a stock market investor who went shoeless and listened to trash metal.

  • Closest to the Hole Productions,
    29/ Closest to the Hole Productions,

    #73. The Fighter

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2010

    Director: David O. Russell

    Mark Wahlberg stars as Micky Ward, a boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, who turned his losing streak around and won the WBU light welterweight title in 2000. Ward’s family—a chain-smoking mother, seven sisters, and a crack-addicted half brother—are major forces in the film. Ward said the movie actually toned down the group.

  • Universal Pictures
    30/ Universal Pictures

    #72. American Gangster

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2007

    Director: Ridley Scott

    Denzel Washington plays Frank Lucas, a drug lord from the 1970s. While the film portrayed Lucas descending into the jungles of Southeast Asia during Vietnam and smuggling drugs inside soldiers’ caskets, these events never actually happened.

  • Scott Rudin Productions
    31/ Scott Rudin Productions

    #71. Captain Phillips

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 2013

    Director: Paul Greengrass

    The film depicts the actions of Capt. Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), whose cargo ship was taken hostage by Somali pirates. It is based on Phillips’ memoir, “A Captain’s Duty.” Two things the movie fictionalized: Phillips and the crew did not trick one of the pirates with broken glass on the ground, and he did not feel sorry for any of the captors. Crew members aboard the real-life ship allege Phillips wasn’t the hero he made himself out to be.

  • Twentieth Century Fox
    32/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #70. Titanic

    IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Year: 1997

    Director: James Cameron

    Director James Cameron tells the story of the sinking of the Titanic. While the character or Margaret Brown (Kathy Bates)—who tried to get unfilled lifeboats to take on more people—is based on a real-life passenger, Jack and Rose (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) were Hollywood creations. Another fact: the violinist continued to play as the boat sank.

  • Goldcrest Films International
    33/ Goldcrest Films International

    #69. The Killing Fields

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1984

    Director: Roland Joffé

    This biographical drama is based on the experiences of an American journalist, Sydney Schanberg, and his Cambodian fixer, Dith Pran, during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in 1984. The film stays true to real-life events, including the aftermath in Neak Loeung, a town the Americans accidentally bombed in 1973.

  • The Ladd Company
    34/ The Ladd Company

    #68. The Right Stuff

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1983

    Director: Philip Kaufman

    The film tells the story of the Mercury Seven, the first astronauts of the United States space program. While the film—which is based on Tom Wolfe’s book of the same name—leaves out some controversy surrounding Virgil “Gus” Grissom, it sticks to historical facts about the space race.

  • Warner Bros.
    35/ Warner Bros.

    #67. Badlands

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1973

    Director: Terrence Malick

    While the movie and character names are fictional, it is based on the murder spree of Charles Starkweather and his accomplice Caril Ann Fugate in 1958. Fugate, at 14 years old, didn’t murder anyone, but accompanied Starkweather as he killed 11 people in the Badlands of Wyoming and Nebraska.


     

  • Ferndale Films
    36/ Ferndale Films

    #66. My Left Foot

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1989

    Director: Jim Sheridan

    Daniel-Day Lewis plays Christy Brown, an Irish man born with cerebral palsy who could only control his left foot. Brown grew up poor and mostly paralyzed, but he became a writer and painter. The film left out the not-so-happy ending with Brown’s real-life wife and nurse, Mary Carr.

  • Romulus Films
    37/ Romulus Films

    #65. The African Queen

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1951

    Director: John Huston

    Katharine Hepburn plays Rosie, a missionary who chooses to stay in the Congo as the First World War starts. She receives her supplies from Charlie Allnutt (Humphrey Bogart) and his boat the “African Queen.” In real life, the boat was originally named the “Livingston.”


     

  • Warner Brothers/Seven Arts
    38/ Warner Brothers/Seven Arts

    #64. Bonnie and Clyde

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1967

    Director: Arthur Penn

    The film follows the true story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, who went on a crime spree that ended after a six-month manhunt. The film accurately portrays Bonnie as a waitress in Texas who runs off with Clyde—already familiar with prison—and that the two become famous after a major shootout with police. In reality, it’s not clear just how involved Bonnie was with the actual shooting, or if she and Clyde were more than travel companions.

  • Bryna Productions
    39/ Bryna Productions

    #63. Spartacus

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1960

    Director: Stanley Kubrick

    This epic historical drama is based on life story of Spartacus, the leader of a slave revolt who died in 71 B.C., and the events of the Third Servile War. The film follows Spartacus as he leads thousands of former slaves as they defeat Roman attacks with early guerrilla warfare.

  • TriStar Pictures
    40/ TriStar Pictures

    #62. Glory

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1989

    Director: Edward Zwick

    Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman play soldiers in the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Army—a unit made of free black volunteers—during the Civil War who are commanded by a white officer, Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick). The film tells the story of the unit’s efforts at the assault on Fort Wagner.

  • Warner Bros.
    41/ Warner Bros.

    #61. Letters from Iwo Jima

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 2006

    Director: Clint Eastwood

    The film tells the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers. It is based on two nonfiction books. While some characters are fictional, the overall battle, as well as some commanders, are based on actual people and events.

  • Touchstone Pictures
    42/ Touchstone Pictures

    #60. The Insider

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1999

    Director: Michael Mann

    “The Insider” is based on the true story between Jeffrey Wigand, a research scientist at a major tobacco company, and a producer at CBS, Lowell Bergman, who helped Wigand speak out on the harmful effects of nicotine. The film is adapted from Marie Brenner’s Vanity Fair article “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”


     

  • Touchstone Pictures
    43/ Touchstone Pictures

    #59. Ed Wood

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1994

    Director: Tim Burton

    Director Tim Burton casts Johnny Depp as filmmaker Ed Wood. Burton portrayed Wood, who was an alcoholic and a womanizer, as a more sympathetic character in the film than he was in real life.

  • Universal Pictures
    44/ Universal Pictures

    #58. Straight Outta Compton

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 2015

    Director: F. Gary Gray

    This biopic tells the story of N.W.A., the controversial gangsta rap group that started in the 1980s whose members included Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. The latter two were producers as was Eazy-E’s widow. Ice Cube is played by his actual son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. While some details are changed in the film, one fact is true: Dr. Dre did get Eazy-E to bail him out of jail, and Dre later produced a track for Eazy-E to return the favor.

  • Fox 2000 Pictures
    45/ Fox 2000 Pictures

    #57. Walk the Line

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 2005

    Director: James Mangold

    “Walk the Line” tells the story behind one of country music’s most famous love stories: Johnny Cash and June Carter. Johnny Cash’s daughter Kathy objected to how her mother—Cash’s first wife, who he had four children with—was portrayed in the film. Kathy Cash said her mother was supportive of the musician until he started using drugs and stopped coming home.

  • Paramount Pictures
    46/ Paramount Pictures

    #56. The Untouchables

    IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Year: 1987

    Director: Brian De Palma

    Set during Prohibition in 1930, this drama is based on the story of crime boss Al Capone—who kept the liquor flowing in Chicago—and Eliot Ness, a Prohibition agent assigned to stop Capone. The film was based on a book co-authored by Ness with the same name.

  • Werner Herzog Filmproduktion
    47/ Werner Herzog Filmproduktion

    #55. Aguirre, the Wrath of God

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 1972

    Director: Werner Herzog

    Herzog’s film is a fictionalized work based on Lope de Aguirre, a Spanish adventurer in the 16th century who sought El Dorado (the city of gold), and the failed expedition of the conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro. While the events in history are true, Herzog created the characters that appear in the movie.

  • Goskino
    48/ Goskino

    #54. Battleship Potemkin

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 1925

    Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein

    This silent film is based on a mutiny that occurred in 1905 on the Russian battleship Potemkin. In the film, the crew revolted after they were given maggot-filled meat. However, many parts of the movie plot were embellished.

  • Paramount Pictures
    49/ Paramount Pictures

    #53. Stalag 17

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 1953

    Director(s): Billy Wilder

    “Stalag 17” is a comedy war film set in a German prisoner-of-war camp. It was adapted from a based-on-real-life Broadway play written by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski—Air Force sergeants who were prisoners in Stalag 17B in Austria.

  • Sogepaq
    50/ Sogepaq

    #52. The Sea Inside

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2004

    Director: Alejandro Amenábar

    This heart-wrenching tale is based on the real-life battle of Ramón Sampedro, who fought for 30 years to get the right to end his life after an accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. The film shows various friends and family administering Sampedro cyanide poison and the life-ending event that he filmed.

  • Twentieth Century Fox
    51/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #51. Patton

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 1970

    Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

    This epic biopic is based on the life of Gen. George S. Patton during World War II. Some of the military props in the film are inaccurate, and it also shows Patton scolding a soldier—who had malaria—for being a coward and only begrudgingly apologizing when he found out the soldier was sick. In real life, Patton felt bad about his comments.

  • Warner Bros.
    52/ Warner Bros.

    #50. All the President's Men

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 1976

    Director: Alan J. Pakula

    Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman star as the journalistic duo of Woodward and Bernstein, The Washington Post reporters who exposed President Richard Nixon with their coverage of the Watergate scandal. The film is based on the nonfiction book of the same name written by Woodward and Bernstein. While the movie pays close attention to factual details, the scene where Bernstein lures a receptionist away from her boss (Ned Beatty) with a fake phone call never happened.

  • Pathé Renn Productions
    53/ Pathé Renn Productions

    #49. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2007

    Director: Julian Schnabel

    The film tells the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of French Elle magazine who suffered a stroke in 1995. He was in a coma for 20 days after which he woke up completely paralyzed with a condition known as locked-in syndrome. The film is based on the process and content of Bauby’s memoir, which he dictated by blinking his left eye to a transcriber to convey letters.

    Some differences between real-life and the film are that Bauby did not write about a bevy of women surrounding him after his stroke. His real girlfriend also didn’t call to say she couldn’t visit, and she actually spent time with him in the hospital.

  • Corona-General
    54/ Corona-General

    #48. Papillon

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 1973

    Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

    Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Henri Charriere, “Papillon” depicts the life of a prisoner (who was framed for murder) and sentenced to the French Guiana penal colony of Devil’s Island. He then plots his escape with a fellow convict. Some doubt the authenticity of Charriere’s story. However, the author stuck by his story until his death in 1973.

  • Warner Bros.
    55/ Warner Bros.

    #47. JFK

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 1991

    Director: Oliver Stone

    Director Oliver Stone mixes historical facts with conspiracy theories in his film about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The official story is that JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, who acted alone. One point of fiction in the film: David Ferrie, a real person, confesses his involvement, but he maintained his innocence in real life.

  • Universal Pictures
    56/ Universal Pictures

    #46. Cinderella Man

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2005

    Director: Ron Howard

    Director Ron Howard shows the story of Irish-American heavyweight boxing champion James L. Braddock. The Chicago Tribune claimed Howard glorified Braddock and inaccurately portrayed Braddock’s opponent, boxer Max Baer, as an “evil, unredeemable man.” Baer also didn’t train that much, making the upset by Braddock less impressive in real life, the critic noted.

  • Beijing ShengShi HuaRei Film Investment & Management Co.
    57/ Beijing ShengShi HuaRei Film Investment & Management Co.

    #45. Ip Man

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2008

    Director: Wilson Yip

    This martial arts biopic is modeled on Ip Man, a Wing Chun master and teacher to Bruce Lee. The film is only loosely based on the martial artist, with some fights and life events embellished for the big screen.

  • Warner Bros.
    58/ Warner Bros.

    #44. Dog Day Afternoon

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 1975

    Director: Sidney Lumet

    A real-life failed bank robbery in 1972 by John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturale inspired this crime drama. In the film, Al Pacino portrays Sonny Wortzik (the Wojtowicz character) as they attempt to rob the First Brooklyn Savings Bank (in real life, it was a Chase Manhattan Bank) that ends in a 14-hour hostage crisis.

  • Truth Entertainment (II)
    59/ Truth Entertainment (II)

    #43. Dallas Buyers Club

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2013

    Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

    Matthew McConaughey portrays Ron Woodroof, an AIDS patient in the mid-1980s. Woodruff starts the Dallas Buyers Club to distribute treatments not yet approved by the FDA to fellow HIV/AIDS victims. While much of the story is true to life, some things were fictionalized. For example, Woodruff never actually competed in rodeos, and the characters played by Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto weren’t real people.


     

  • Columbia Pictures Corporation
    60/ Columbia Pictures Corporation

    #42. The Pursuit of Happyness

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2006

    Director: Gabriele Muccino

    Will Smith portrays Chris Gardner, an entrepreneur and single father who tries to raise his son—played by Smith’s real son Jaden—while homeless. An interview with Gardner appeared on “20/20” before the film, based on his memoir, hit theaters.

  • Warner Bros.
    61/ Warner Bros.

    #41. Dunkirk

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2017

    Director: Christopher Nolan

    This war film is based on the true story of the evacuation of Allied soldiers at the French port of Dunkirk during World War II and how civilian boats had to rescue soldiers from the beach, as the water was too shallow to accommodate Royal Navy ships. In the film, actual WWII-era ships were used, but all the characters are fictionalized.

  • See-Saw Films
    62/ See-Saw Films

    #40. The King's Speech

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2010

    Director: Tom Hooper

    Colin Firth plays King George VI, who must give radio broadcasts, as he struggles to overcome stuttering. Some criticize the film for avoiding to point out that George VI once supported Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s concessions to the Nazis. The film also portrays a contentious beginning relationship between speech teacher Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and the King, but they became fast friends in real life.

  • Regency Enterprises
    63/ Regency Enterprises

    #39. The Revenant

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2015

    Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

    “The Revenant” tells the story of Hugh Glass, a 19th-century fur trapper who trudged through 1,500 miles of wilderness to exact revenge on the men who abandoned him after a grizzly bear attack. In the film, Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), is shown dragging himself and eating raw meat killed by wolves. Based on the book, “The Oregon Trail,” these events actually happened. In real life, no violence occurred once Glass reached the end of his nine-month journey.

  • Black Bear Pictures
    64/ Black Bear Pictures

    #38. The Imitation Game

    IMDb user rating: 8

    Year: 2014

    Director: Morten Tyldum

    Based on the biography “Alan Turing, The Enigma,” Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the father of computer science in “The Imitation Game.” In real life, and in the movie, Turing helped break the code of the German military's Enigma machine. Since not much is known about the personal life of Turing—a closeted gay man—much of the film is embellished. However, Turing was forced to become chemically castrated because his homosexual activity was illegal, and he committed suicide with cyanide.

    What wasn’t true? Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) didn’t fight with her parents about cracking codes for the government, and she never completed a crossword puzzle test to get the job.

  • Werner Herzog Filmproduktion
    65/ Werner Herzog Filmproduktion

    #37. Fitzcarraldo

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 1982

    Director: Werner Herzog

    The film is based on Carlos Fitzcarrald, an Irish-American who became a rubber baron dead set on transporting a heavy steamship over the mountains in Peru. The movie changes the real-life character’s name to Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, also known as Fitzcarraldo. Much like the natives the real Fitzcarraldo exploited in real life, the film crew experienced hardships while making the film.


     

  • Casbah Film
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    #36. The Battle of Algiers

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 1966

    Director: Gillo Pontecorvo

    “The Battle of Algiers” is based on historical events surrounding the fight against French colonial rule in Algeria. The film uses fictionalized characters, but some actors were real veterans.

  • 2.4.7. Films
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    #35. Persepolis

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2007

    Director: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud

    Director Marianne Satrapi tells the story of her rebellious youth in in this animated feature. The film, which depicts a girl who wants to become an Islamic prophet, is based on Satrapi’s eponymous autobiographical graphic novel.

  • CJ Entertainment
    68/ CJ Entertainment

    #34. Memories of Murder

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2003

    Director: Bong Joon-ho

    “Memories of Murder” depicts the events surrounding the first serial murders in South Korea, starting in 1986. The detective characters are fictional, but like in real life, the film’s murderer was never caught.

  • Universal Pictures
    69/ Universal Pictures

    #33. In the Name of the Father

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 1993

    Director: Jim Sheridan

    The film is based on the true story of the Guildford Four, a group who were wrongly convicted of bombings by the IRA that killed five people and injured 65 in 1974. Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Gerry Conlon, who wrote the autobiography the film was based on. The film fictionalized some characters, and some of its historical accuracy have been called into question.

  • Melodrama Pictures
    70/ Melodrama Pictures

    #32. Mary and Max

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2009

    Director: Adam Elliot

    This animated comedy is based on the real-life relationship between the director and his pen pal of 20 years. The film tells the story of a young Australian girl who writes to an obese man living with Asperger's. While there are true aspects of life in the characters, they are fictionalized.

  • The Weinstein Company
    71/ The Weinstein Company

    #31. Lion

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2016

    Director: Garth Davis

    “Lion” tells the true story of Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his family in India. He gets lost trying to find his way home, ending up in an orphanage and later adopted by an Australian family. Decades later, he uses Google Earth to track down his family. What isn’t true is the love affair with Lucy (Rooney Mara), whose real character didn’t exist.

  • Twentieth Century Fox
    72/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #30. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 1969

    Director: George Roy Hill

    Robert Redford and Paul Newman play Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, train robbers from the early 1900s who try to escape to South America after a failed robbery. One thing not true in the film: the character of Native American tracker Lord Baltimore didn’t exist.

  • International Film Investors
    73/ International Film Investors

    #29. Gandhi

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 1982

    Director: Richard Attenborough

    Ben Kingsley stars as nonviolent activist Mahatma Gandhi—the father of modern India—in this epic biopic that attempts to condense 50 years in the Indian leader’s life into three hours. Much of the film showed actual events from Gandhi’s life, but critics didn’t like the villainous portrayal of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was a staunch supporter of Muslim rights in South Asia.

  • United Artists
    74/ United Artists

    #28. Hotel Rwanda

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2004

    Director: Terry George

    “Hotel Rwanda” is based on the story of Paul Rusesabagina and his wife Tatiana who sheltered refuges in the Hotel des Mille Collines during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Rusesabagina was awarded the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize in 2011, but some critics say he may not have had as much to do with saving Rwandans as the film leads viewers to believe.

  • Cross Creek Pictures
    75/ Cross Creek Pictures

    #27. Hacksaw Ridge

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2016

    Director: Mel Gibson

    This war drama tells the story of Private Desmond Doss, an American pacifist combat medic, during World War II. The film is based on the documentary “The Conscientious Objector.” Doss refused to carry a weapon in the war, but saved around 75 men (he says 50, his battalion says 100) after they came under gunfire at Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa. Some characters are fictionalized and the cliff in the film isn’t the actual Hacksaw Ridge.

  • Participant Media
    76/ Participant Media

    #26. Spotlight

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2015

    Director: Tom McCarthy

    The film is based on The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, a set of investigative journalists. The reporters exposed the behavior of Catholic priests who had molested children and the subsequent coverup by the Boston archdiocese to protect their priests. While much of the film is accurate, a former Globe reporter said the movie underscored just how much other reporters at the paper had already reported on the priest scandal.


     

  • Exclusive Media Group
    77/ Exclusive Media Group

    #25. Rush

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2013

    Director: Ron Howard

    “Rush” tells the story of two Formula One race car drivers—British James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). While the film makes it seem like the two were adversaries, they were actually friends in real life. The opening scene where Hunt hooks up with a nurse after a jealous husband punches him never happened, but he was indeed a ladies man.

  • Paramount Vantage
    78/ Paramount Vantage

    #24. Into the Wild

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2007

    Director: Sean Penn

    The film is based by the eponymous nonfiction book written by Jon Krakauer. It chronicles the journey of Christopher McCandless in the Alaskan Wilderness. McCandless was found dead in an abandoned bus north of Denali National Park, but toxic mushrooms—what killed him in the film—may not have been the cause of his demise.

  • Regency Enterprises
    79/ Regency Enterprises

    #23. 12 Years a Slave

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2013

    Director: Steve McQueen

    “12 Years a Slave” tells the tragic story of Solomon Northup, a black free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1841. The film is based on Northup’s 1853 memoir of the same name. The gritty screenplay stays true to the book, depicting it accurately in the film. One heart wrenching, but believable, scene is fiction: when Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) asks Northup to kill her.  

  • DreamWorks
    80/ DreamWorks

    #22. Catch Me If You Can

    IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Year: 2002

    Director: Steven Spielberg

    Director Steven Spielberg shows the story of Frank Abagnale, a teenage con man who served almost four years in prison after getting caught for posing as a Pan Am pilot (he wanted free tickets but never flew) and cashing forged checks. According to his autobiography, Abagnale also posed as a doctor, sociology professor, and an assistant district attorney. Though these characters are depicted in the film, some of his outlandish cons are unverified.  

  • Mosfilm
    81/ Mosfilm

    #21. Andrei Rublev

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 1966

    Director(s): Andrei Tarkovsky

    This black-and-white art-house film is based on Andrei Rublev, a 14th-century Russian painter and monk. “Andrei Rublev” presents a bleak but artistic story of Russia during the artist’s time.

  • Société générale des films
    82/ Société générale des films

    #20. The Passion of Joan of Arc

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 1928

    Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

    This 1928 French silent film depicts the 1431 heresy trial of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc), a peasant who led battles during the Hundred Years’ War and claimed she’d been giving a mission by God to save France. Like in real life, the film shows Joan confessing, recanting that confession, and being burned at the stake.

  • Filmco International Productions
    83/ Filmco International Productions

    #19. The Message

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 1976

    Director: Moustapha Akkad

    This historical drama tells the story of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Honoring Islamic rules about the depiction of the prophet, the film does not show his face or project his voice.

  • Brooksfilms
    84/ Brooksfilms

    #18. The Elephant Man

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 1980

    Director: David Lynch

    Director David Lynch based his film on Joseph Merrick, a man with a severe facial deformity that led many to believe he lacked intelligence. He is referred to as John in the film because, like in real life, his doctor accidentally called him by the wrong name in his memoir. Actor Bradley Cooper, who plays the Elephant Man in the Broadway play of the same name, credits the film with inspiring him to become an actor.

  • The Mirisch Company
    85/ The Mirisch Company

    #17. The Great Escape

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 1963

    Director: John Sturges

    This 1963 epic World War II film shows the escape of Allied prisoners of war from a German camp. The film is based on a nonfiction book by Paul Brickhill of the same name, which tells his account of the mass escape from Stalag Luft III in Poland. While the film includes Americans in the escape, this didn’t happen in real life.

  • Chartoff-Winkler Productions
    86/ Chartoff-Winkler Productions

    #16. Raging Bull

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 1980

    Director(s): Martin Scorsese

    Robert De Niro plays Jake LaMotta, an Italian middleweight boxing champion who fought from 1949 to 1951. The film is based on LaMotta’s 1970 autobiography. In the film, LaMotta’s brother Joey (Joe Pesci) is actually a combination of two people from the boxer’s life.

  • Constantin Film
    87/ Constantin Film

    #15. Downfall

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 2004

    Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

    “Downfall” is based on historical accounts of the final 10 days of Adolf Hitler’s rule in Nazi Germany. Some of the film’s scenes are so famous, they have become parodies known as Hitler rants.

  • Universal Pictures
    88/ Universal Pictures

    #14. Casino

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 1995

    Director: Martin Scorsese

    Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese join forces again in this epic crime drama. While the names have been changed, some characters are based on real people. Robert De Niro’s character is based on Frank Rosenthal, who ran casinos in Las Vegas.

  • Warner Bros.
    89/ Warner Bros.

    #13. Heat

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 1995

    Director: Michael Mann

    “Heat” is based on the story of Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson and his pursuit of thief Neil McCauley. It is known for being the first film where Al Pacino and Robert De Niro appeared on screen together.

  • Red Granite Pictures
    90/ Red Granite Pictures

    #12. The Wolf of Wall Street

    IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Year: 2013

    Director: Martin Scorsese

    Leonardo DiCaprio plays Wall Street financier Jordan Belfort, who wrote the book that the movie is based on. The film mostly sticks to events that actually happened, including Belfort’s rise to success in a penny stock house. However, Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) is a fictional character who is a composite of real people. The names of Belfort’s wives were also changed.

  • Horizon Pictures (II)
    91/ Horizon Pictures (II)

    #11. Lawrence of Arabia

    IMDb user rating: 8.3

    Year: 1962

    Director: David Lean

    “Lawrence of Arabia” is based on the life of T. E. Lawrence, a British officer who led the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War I. Most of the film’s characters were also based on real people. However, the timeline is questionable and some attack scenes were fictionalized.


     

  • AMLF
    92/ AMLF

    #10. Amadeus

    IMDb user rating: 8.3

    Year: 1984

    Director: Milos Forman

    “Amadeus” is a fictional film based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, including his relationship with Italian composer Antonio Salieri. Critics claim the movie plays fast and loose with historical facts, claiming the rivalry depicted between Mozart and Salieri may have been more rumor than reality.

  • Bryna Productions
    93/ Bryna Productions

    #9. Paths of Glory

    IMDb user rating: 8.4

    Year: 1957

    Director: Stanley Kubrick

    This 1957 anti-war film set in World War I is based on Humphrey Cobb’s novel of the same name. It accurately begins on the French front in 1916. Some characters are fictional—including Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas), but the story is based on real events during the war.

  • The Ladd Company
    94/ The Ladd Company

    #8. Once Upon a Time in America

    IMDb user rating: 8.4

    Year: 1984

    Director: Sergio Leone

    This crime drama, another one starring Robert De Niro, is based on the lives of David “Noodles” Aaronson and Maximilian “Max” Bercovicz. The film tells the story of how these two Jewish immigrants, and best friends, became prominent Jewish gangsters in the New York mob scene.

  • Icon Entertainment International
    95/ Icon Entertainment International

    #7. Braveheart

    IMDb user rating: 8.4

    Year: 1995

    Director: Mel Gibson

    Mel Gibson directs and stars in this film based on the real-life Sir William Wallace, a 13th-century warrior who led the Scottish resistance. Historians have pointed out that since Wallace was a lowland Scot, he probably wouldn’t have worn a kilt.

  • Shinchosha Company,
    96/ Shinchosha Company,

    #6. Grave of the Fireflies

    IMDb user rating: 8.5

    Year: 1988

    Director: Isao Takahata

    This 1988 animated film, based on a semi-autobiographical short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, tells the story of Japanese cities that were firebombed during World War II. The film shows events from the point of view of two fictionalized orphans trying to survive in the wreckage as the war comes to an end.

  • Cristaldifilm
    97/ Cristaldifilm

    #5. Cinema Paradiso

    IMDb user rating: 8.5

    Year: 1988

    Director: Giuseppe Tornatore

    Director Giuseppe Tornatore based his movie off a real-life person named Mimmo Pintacuda. Referred to as Alfredo in the film, the projectionist teaches Salvatore (a young Tornatore) how to operate a film projector in a small Sicilian village. The Italian film won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.


     

  • R.P. Productions
    98/ R.P. Productions

    #4. The Pianist

    IMDb user rating: 8.5

    Year: 2002

    Director: Roman Polanski

    “The Pianist,” based on a memoir by the same name, tells the story of a Polish-Jewish pianist and composer named Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Holocaust survivor. The film follows Szpilman during Nazi-occupied Poland, as he avoids getting sent to Auschwitz and deals with the guilt of surviving.

  • Quad Productions
    99/ Quad Productions

    #3. The Intouchables

    IMDb user rating: 8.5

    Year: 2011

    Directors: Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano

    The film was inspired by the true story of an unlikely friendship between Philippe Pozzo di Borgo—who became a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident—and his Algerian-born caregiver Abdel Sellou. The directors discovered the story after they saw the two men in a documentary. Di Borgo was an adviser to the film.

  • Warner Bros.
    100/ Warner Bros.

    #2. Goodfellas

    IMDb user rating: 8.7

    Year: 1990

    Director: Martin Scorsese

    Director Martin Scorsese co-wrote “Goodfellas” with Nicholas Pileggi, author of “Wiseguy,” a work of nonfiction about mob associate and informant Henry Hill. Hill’s name stayed the same, but the names of some real-life gangsters were altered for the film.

  • Universal Pictures
    101/ Universal Pictures

    #1. Schindler's List

    IMDb user rating: 8.9

    Year: 1993

    Director: Steven Spielberg

    Liam Neeson stars as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman credited with saving more than 1,000 Jewish lives when he employed them in his factory, in this epic historical drama. A historian, however, claims that the real-life Schindler had nothing to do with the list and may have helped Nazis invade Poland.



     

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