16 Movies Most People Don’t Know Are Based On True Stories.

This article is based on "Top 10 Movies You Wont Believe Are Based On True Stories" and "6 Movies You Won't Believe Are Based on Insane True Stories". If you're interested in reading more, check out the links at the bottom of the article.



Two years after the death of his mother, his sole remaining family member, he began to exhume corpses from a local graveyard and make trophies of their bones and skin. Between 1947 and 1952 he exhumed 10 graves of recently buried middle-aged women who resembled his mother and took their bodies home to create a "woman suit", so he could become his mother and literally crawl into her skin. He also killed two women: a tavern owner and hardware store owner. The investigation into the latter's death lead authorities to discover Gein and his lifestyle. Though originally deemed unfit for trial he was found guilty and legally sane, and confined in psychiatric institutions for life.

2/16 American Hustle

The 2013 crime film is a fictionalized account of the ABSCAM sting operation that took place in the 1970s and 80s to investigate stolen property and art. The FBI employed convicted conman Melvin Weinberg and girlfriend Evelyn Knight, who both faced a prison sentence unless they cooperated with the authorities. The two helped FBI agents pose as fictional Arab sheiks and videotaped politicians accepting bribes from a fake Arabian country in return for political favours. Seven congressmen and one US senator were convicted.

3/16 The Blob

Screenwriter Irvine H. Millgate used an actual police report from Philadelphia as inspiration for the 1958 horror film. In 1950 two policemen reported the discovery of a quivering mass of jelly, 6 feet wide and 1 foot thick, in a field. When they tried to pick it up it dissolved into an odourless sticky mess and eventually dissolved leaving no trace. The substance is now known as "star jelly" and there have been numerous reports of its appearance in the United States since. It's been speculated to be from meteor shower, the remains of amphibians, and even the paranormal, though a definite explanation has not been found.

4/16 Chicago

Inspiration for Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly came from two separate 1924 court cases involving female murderers. Belva Gaertner (Velma Kelly) shot and killed her lover, Walter Law. At the scene she confessed that she had been drinking and driving but was arrested for murder. In the end her defence attorney convinced the court that Walter may have killed himself with the gun and Belva was acquitted.

Beulah Annan (Roxie Hart) was married to Albert Annan but having an affair with Harry Kalstedt. One evening after a heated argument they both reached for Harry's gun but Beulah got to it first and shot him before he left the apartment. Over the course of the trial her story changed from murder to self-defence. Albert stood by her the entire time because she had called him immediately after the murder to say Harry had attacked her, but she left him the day after her acquittal.



5/16 Hunt for the Red October

The 1984 Tom Clancy novel and subsequent film were inspired by the soviet navy anti-submarine frigate Storozhevoy. Valery Sablin, the commissar of the ship attached to the Soviet Baltic fleet, wanted to protest corruption in the Brezhnev era. He planned to seize the ship and steer it out into water where he could broadcast a nationwide address against the government. He successfully gained control of the vessel and was trying to win support of seamen when the Kremlin found out and sent half the Baltic fleet after him. Their attacks stopped the submarine dead in the water, and the Kremlin found Sablin shot and detained in the hull of the ship. Eventually he and his second-in-command were tried and convicted, and Sablin was executed. The rest of the mutineers were dishonorably discharged.

6/16 Man Behind The Sun

Though it may appear to be an average horro film, this 1988 Hong Kong-Chinese movie is actually a historical depiction of one of the most notorious war crimes committed in Japan. It depicts the Unit 731 research unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that performed lethal human experimentation during WWII. Due to its graphic content it was the first film in Hong Kong to be rated III (aka NC-17).

7/16 Jaws

Peter Benchley's 1974 novel that inspired the film was based on the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attacks. That summer a heat wave drove an abnormal amount of people to seaside resorts, and over a period of 12 days four people were killed and one person critically injured by separate shark attacks. A wave of panic led to a shark hunt aimed at eradicating "man-eating" sharks, though no one knew the actual species of shark or how many sharks were related to the attacks. After the resorts closed the public beaches, a taxidermist and lion tamer caught a 7.5-foot, 325-pound rogue shark. When gutted the shark appeared to have what looked like bones inside and the attacks stopped.

8/16 The Soloist

This 2009 British-American film is based on the true story of Nathaniel Ayers, an American musician who studied double bass at Julliard School until suffering a mental breakdown. He was institutionalized for a brief period of time, then lived with his mother where he underwent electroshock therapy until his mother passed away. He moved to LA to find his father but was unsuccessful, leaving him homeless with nothing to do but play music on the streets. LA Times columnist Steve Lopez met Ayers on the street and detailed their conversations and Ayers story in his articles. Ayers assisted Lopez as he transitioned out of homelessness and their friendship was later made into a book.



9/16 Rope

The 1929 British play by Patrick Hamilton and 1948 Alfred Hitchock film were based on the murders committed by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. In 1924 the two kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy, a crime committed as a demonstration of their intellectually superiority which they thought made them capable of carrying out the perfect crime. They planned the crime for seven months. They coaxed the boy into their car where they gagged and killed him. Later they took him to a culvert where they poured acid on his face and other identifying features. They called in a ransom, cleaned the mess, and went back to Loeb's house to play cards. They were identified when the police found a distinctive pair of glasses near the victim that lead them back to Nathan. Both were sentenced to life in prison, where one was killed by a fellow prisoner and the other was released on parole.

10/16 50 First Dates

Though it's never been identified as source material, the case of Michelle Philpots bears a striking resemblance to 50 First Dates. After two car accidents in 1985 and 1990, Philpots experienced retrograde amnesia: she can recall everything prior to 1994 but everything after is forgotten on a daily basis. She uses post-it notes and alarms on her phone to remind her of appointments and duties. Her phone is programmed with her address in it in case she forgets while she's out. And just like the movie, her husband reminds her every day that she's married by showing her photos in their wedding album.

11/16 Good Morning Vietnam

The 1987 comedy film is loosely based on the experience of AFRS radio DJ Adrian Cronauer when he was a Saigon-based DJ during the Vietnam War. He served from 1965-1966 and was featured live on the "Dawn Buster" program. He pitched his story as a sitcom but TV networks weren't interested until he tried it for TV movie of the week. Producer Larry Brezner was impressed with his story but took many fictional liberties with his life for comedic effect.

12/16 The Conjuring

This 2013 horror film is based on the true experiences of Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators made famous for their involvement in the Amityville Horror series. This movie is based on their investigation of the Perron family in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Ed Warren played a tape of Lorraine's original interview with Carolyn Perron for producer Tony Derosa-Grund and he was hooked.

In 1971 the Warrens deemed the home of the Perron family to be haunted by a witch, Bathsheba, who had lived there in the early 19th century. Bathsheba Sherman was the subject of a court case in 1812 when an infant died in her care and thought to be impaled by one of her knitting needles. The court found her innocent but the public did not.

Carolyn Perron told Ed and Lorraine about an incident of feeling pierced in her calf when lying on the couch, looking down, and seeing blood seeping from a circular wound shaped like a sewing needle on her leg. The Perrons knew previous owners had supernatural experiences, called the Warrens to investigate, and the rest is history... or film.



13/16 Almost Famous

The 2000 American drama film is a semi-autobiographical account of writer/director Cameron Crowe's experience writing for Rolling Stone. During his teenage years he toured with bands like Poco, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, etc. and had many "growing" experiences like losing his virginity and falling in love. He was Rolling Stone's youngest ever contributor and later turned that experience into this film, using a composite of the bands he met to create the film's band Stillwater.

14/16 Delta Force

This 1986 action-thriller is loosely based on the hijacking of TWA flight 847 from Cairo, Egypt to San Diego, USA in 1985. The plane was hijacked by members of Islamic Jihad shortly after a pit stop in Athens and demanded the release of 700 Shi'ite muslims from Israeli custody in exchange for the passengers. As seen in the movie, hijackers demanded that Jewish passengers be separated from the rest and eventually executed US navy diver Robert Stetham by beating him, shooting him, and dumping him on the runway.

15/16 The Exorcist

The 1971 novel and 1973 supernatural film was inspired by the 1940 exorcism of "Roland Doe" by members of the Roman Catholic Church. After Roland's aunt passed away, family members reported strange noises and objects levitating when Roland was in the room. Fearing demonic possession the family turned to priests who performed numerous exorcisms. On one occasion Roland broke a bedspring from under his mattress and slashed the priest's arm during the event. One priest reported that the words "evil" and"hell" appeared on the body during one such event. In the end Roland went on to live a relatively normal life and it's thought that his demonic possessions were simply acting out or temper tantrums. There's little evidence to support the possessions or even the exorcisms due to little documentation or fact-checking.

16/16 Nacho Libre

The 2006 American comedy film is inspired by the true story of Sergio Gutierrez Benitz, a Mexican priest who supported his orphanage for 23 years by working nights as a lucha libre wrestler. He wore a mask to conceal his identity and used the name Fray Tormenta, meaning "Friar Storm". He himself was inspired by two Mexican films of his childhood where priests would support their orphanages and communities by anonymously wrestling.

Sources: 1, 2


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