Stranger than Fiction? Movies based on true stories


Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

The temperatures have dropped and it has become the season of couch cuddles and movie marathons.

After a crazy year of watching more movies than you ever thought possible, choosing what to what on your movie night might be harder than ever.

I don't know about you, but for me, I find nothing more riveting than a movie based on true events.

Sure Hollywood has a tendency to exaggerate the details a bit, but who doesn't?

Below I've curated a list of movies that are (somewhat loosely) based on true events.

If you haven't seen them yet they are definitely worth a watch. If you have, rewatch them with a renewed fascination of just how crazy real-life can be!

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)

During the 70's America was being terrorized by the serial killer Theodore (Ted) Robert Bundy. Before his ultimate capture in 1978, Bundy managed to murder at least 30 people (although the number might be higher).

Watching the handsome, likable Zac Efron play this character very jarring. It is made even more eery by the fact that Bundy is charismatic himself, half the reason he got away for so long.

Photo by Mauro Sbicego on Unsplash

The Imitation Game (2014)

The world owes a great deal to Alan Turing.

Lauded as the father of theoretical computer science, he was crucial in helping the Allies win World War II.

It is difficult to know just how important Turing's work was, but it has been estimated that he shortened the war by 2 years and saved 14 million lives!

Sadly, Turing was born during a period where homosexuality was still considered a crime. He ultimately took his own life (there is speculation if it was state murder) at only 41 years old.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a delight to watch as he plays the awkward and eccentric Turing, although the accuracy of the film is under dispute.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

I absolutely love Leonard DiCaprio in this movie.

Based on the real-life of Frank Abagnale. He notoriously managed to assume the identity of 8 different identities. From the age of 15 to 21, Frank pretended to be an airline pilot, physician, US agent, and lawyer. On top of this, he defrauding a host of banks and checks.

After his eventual capture and release from prison, he actually became a fraud consultant to the banks he used to scam!

This movie is a classy affair and with the added talent of Tom Hanks and Christopher Walkins.

The World's Fastest Indian(2005)

This movie is a little more obscure than the rest of the big Hollywood blockbusters.

That is probably because it is about an obscure man, from an obscure town, at the bottom of New Zealand.

Having grown up an hour from this small town, I was delighted to find out Anthony Hopkins would be playing such a humble role.

The movie explores the attempts of Burt Munro to break the land speed records on his 1920 Indian Scout Motorcycle during the 1960s.

The pace of the movie is slower than others on this list, but the heart it portrays as it develops the character more than makes up for the pace.

Strap your helmet on, as you see the true potential of a keen spirit and a bit of backyard DIY.

Into The Wild (2007)

As an avid adventurer, this movie spoke to the wilder parts of my soul.

The story of Chris McCandless (portrayed by Emile Hirsch) as he becomes disenchanted with modern life is as much inspiring as it is cautionary.

Chris "Alexander Supertramp" heads off to remote Healy Alaska, content to live off the land in an abandoned bus. Woefully unprepared he learns some brutal life lessons as well as ultimately coming to terms with his life.

Having worked in an outdoors store for years... I still remember cringing at some of the basic mistakes Christopher makes.

This movie captures the spirit of the wilderness while showing how a little extra preparation can make all the difference.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

If I was to take away anything from Hollywood movies, it would be that genius always comes with the burden of a tortured mind.

No movie tells this better than a beautiful mind.

John Nash is a brilliant mathematician, Nobel prize laureate, and suffers from Schizophrenia. Throughout his life, his schizophrenia starts taking over and affecting his work and family life. Often blurring the line between real and imagined you are left feeling as unsure as John just what is real.

I am speechless about how he managed to live like this and ultimately take control of his life.

Winning 4 academy awards and getting nominated for more, this film is a celebration of everything the mind is capable of.

Photo by Arie Wubben on Unsplash

The Aviator (2004)

Leonardo DiCaprio seems to love playing eccentric millionaires.

In this biopic, he takes on the story of Howard Hughes. A pioneer in aviation and also famously directing "Hells Angels", one of the highest-grossing of the silent films era.

Howard suffers from progressively severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as he tries to navigate aviation contracts from the government as well as a scandalous but ultimately successful career as a director.

The movie is both inspiring and also eye-opening into just how deep a hole a person can go. Watching Hughes pull himself together after 3 months in self-imposed quarantine is no mean feat.

The climax of watching the "spruce goose" actually take flight is a testament to the power of the human mind.


These movies are all classics in their own right and have stood the test of time. Something about truth just ages better...

If you haven't seen any of the films on the list I implore you to give them a shot. If you have, rediscovering just how eccentric and amazing these stories truly are would go a miss.

On that note, I'm going to go pop some popcorn right now.

Happy viewing.

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On a journey to discover better ways of living and succeeding in the modern world. Writing articles about my discoveries on the way!


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