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20 Great Movies Based on a True Story

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
IMAGE COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS/ COURTESY OF AMAZON
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Pretty much any movie can be "based off a true story," but there are a select few that take real-life events and turn them into cinematic masterpieces. From The Wolf of Wall Street to Catch Me If You Can, here are 20 films based on true stories that are worth a watch.

Hidden Figures (2016)


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Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson work as human computers at NASA in the 1960s, playing a vital role in the effort to send astronauts into space despite widespread, systematic discrimination.

Out of Africa (1985)


Based on the memoir by Baroness Karen von Blixen (also known as Isak Dinesen), the movie tells the story of a Danish aristocrat who buys a coffee plantation in Kenya, where she falls in love with an American big-game hunter played by Robert Redford. This Best-Picture winner has sumptuous scenery, Meryl Streep doing an accent, and, well, Robert Redford.

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Capote (2005)


A towering performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman defines this film about Truman Capote, the author of Breakfast at Tiffany's, as he sets out to write a piece for the New Yorker about the brutal murder of a family in Kansas. He is accompanied by his good friend Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird) and his work eventually becomes In Cold Blood.

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Reversal of Fortune (1990)


Icy Claus von Bülow is convicted of the attempted murder of his wife, wealthy American socialite Sunny von Bülow in 1979, but after hiring Alan Dershowitz (upon whose book this movie is based), von Bülow's conviction is overturned and he is later acquitted. This story is simultaneously a saga of wealth and betrayal---which earned Jeremy Irons an Oscar for Best Actor---and a story of the American court system and the fundamental rights of all who stand accused of a crime.

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Spotlight (2015)


What could have been a boring procedural is instead a gripping ensemble thriller about a team of Boston Globe investigative reporters who uncover the decades-long effort by the local Catholic church to suppress information about scores of abuse charges against priests.

All the President's Men (1976)

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Despite grim warnings, two dogged reporters investigate a connection between a White House staff member and the attempted 1972 burglary of the Democratic Party Headquarters at Watergate, with the help of a mysterious source. Their reporting ultimately leads to the resignation of President Nixon.

Goodfellas (1990)


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An adaptation of Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, Goodfellas chronicles the life of young Mafia mobster Henry Hill as he ruthlessly climbs his way to the top, oblivious to the effects his actions have on others and on himself.

12 Years a Slave (2013)


A story of historic malevolence and survival, 12 Years a Slave portrays the cruelty of slavery in the South in the years before the Civil War through the eyes of a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.

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American Hustle (2013)


FBI ABSCAM investigation, American Hustle tells the story of two con men on a sting operation in New Jersey. From the dance moves to the double-crossing, the hustle of crime might bring everyone's world crashing down.

United 93 (2006)


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United 93 recounts the events of September 11, 2001 as they took place on United Airlines Flight 93, one of four planes seized by Al-Qaeda terrorists. The film, which makes use of real 911 calls and other audio, follows the passengers as they decide to take action. Flight 93 was the only plane not to hit its intended target, but instead went down in a field in Pennsylvania.

Into the Wild (2007)


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Based on the book by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild tells the story of a Christopher McCandless, a recent Emory University graduate who gives up all of his material possessions and journeys alone out into the Alaskan wilderness.

Apollo 13 (1995)


Based on the scheduled Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970, Ron Howard's film follows the story of three astronauts desperately struggling to bring their ship back into Earth's orbit after an oxygen tank explodes, threatening their survival.

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Zodiac (2007)


Starring Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., and Jake Gyllenhaal, this 2007 mystery-thriller follows the investigation into the identity of the infamous 1960s Zodiac killer in San Francisco.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)


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Based on the memoir of fraudulent stockbroker Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street makes crime look fun (or at least exhilarating) as Martin Scorcese's film follows the young broker's hedonistic lifestyle of sex, drugs, and white-collar crime.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)


A skilled con man and forger, 17-year-old Frank Abagnale, Jr. becomes the most successful bank robber in the U.S. He is pursued by FBI Agent Carl Hanratty, and Abagnale has to resort to increasingly desperate gambits has to stay one step ahead.

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Schindler's List (1993)


Businessman and Nazi party member Oskar Schindler works to save innocent lives when he protect the Jewish workers that staff his factory during World War II.

Erin Brockovich (2000)


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Tough-talking Erin Brockovich becomes a clerk to a lawyer in a small California town, eventually becoming instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993.

127 Hours (2010)


James Franco stars as hiker Aron Ralston in this heartwrenching true story about an adventurer who finds himself trapped under a boulder for five days. Based on Ralston memoir, the film chronicles his agonizing decision to amputate his own arm in order to survive.

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The Pianist (2002)


An adaptation of Wladyslaw Szpilman's autobiography, The Pianist follows a glamorous Jewish pianist who is forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, separated from his family, and made to hide in various locations in the city's ruins during the German occupation of Poland during World War II.

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Hotel Rwanda (2004)


When Hutu military forces initiate a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Tutsi minority in Rwanda, hotel owner Paul Rusesabagina struggles to protect Tutsi refugees and his wife as the violence around them escalates into what is known as the Rwandan genocide.

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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