Top 10 Movies Surprisingly Based On A True Story



Top 10 Movies Surprisingly Based On A True Story

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Andy Hammersmith
These movies were inspired by actual events that weren't as widely known or advertised. For this list, we'll be looking at any film that people didn't realize was based on reality. Our countdown includes “Footloose”, "Heat", “The Conjuring”, and more!

Top 10 Films Surprisingly Based on a True Story

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Films Surprisingly Based on a True Story.

For this list, we’ll be looking at any film that people didn’t realize was based on reality. These movies were inspired by actual events that weren’t as widely known or advertised. Just to be safe, there's a spoiler warning for the following films.

Did we forget one of your favorite movies? Let us know in the comments below.

#10: “Footloose” (1984)

This popular 1980s dance film borrowed its storyline from an actual Oklahoma town. Elmore City banned public dancing for fear that it gave teenagers unholy ideas. Since religion ruled the day in that town, they didn't hold dances for over 80 years. High school students, much like the ones in the film, finally convinced the local government to overturn the ban in 1980. This story motivated writer Dean Pitchford to create a movie based around a similar town. It resulted in the enduring hit "Footloose," which spawned the career of actor Kevin Bacon and a successful soundtrack. While the views of Elmore City changed over the years, this narrative famously questioned their puritanical views.

#9: “50 First Dates” (2004)

"50 First Dates" was a romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Barrymore's character suffered from a kind of amnesia that reset her brain's memory each day. Some thought that her brand of amnesia wasn't possible, but real life begged to differ. Michelle Philpots survived two traumatic accidents, each injuring her head and inducing regular seizures. All of this contributed to her inability to keep new memories more than a day, or even a few minutes. Her tragic condition made Lucy's plight in the film seem tame. While it hasn't been officially verified that Philpots herself influenced "50 First Dates," her case did provide proof that a similar condition existed, meaning the story is still based in reality and making it eligible for our list.

#8: “Cheaper by the Dozen” (2003)

Not only was "Cheaper by the Dozen" a remake, it was based on a semi-autobiographical book. Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and her brother Frank Gilbreth Jr. wrote the novel about their family of twelve. The large family lived in New Jersey and their parents had much different professions than shown in the film. Frank Gilbreth Sr. and Lillian Moller Gilbreth juggled a dozen kids and their work in engineering and psychology. Apparently, the father had a good sense of humor that made the casting of Steve Martin especially apt. The original book, along with the 2003 film, received a successful sequel that carried on the family adventures.

#7: “Eight Below” (2006)

"Eight Below" featured an inspiring story about sled dogs surviving in Antarctica. The film was a remake of a 1983 film named "Antarctica," which recounted a 1958 Japanese expedition. Originally, a research team on the frozen continent were forced to abandon sled dogs to escape a bad storm. Upon their return, two of the fifteen animals survived. The 2006 movie updated the story to the 1990s in a Disney facelift with Paul Walker. Regardless of the changes, both the genuine and fictional tales demonstrated the dangerous Antarctic conditions and the brave sled dogs that traversed them.

#6: “The Conjuring” (2013)

"The Conjuring" delved into the age-old horror tale of haunted houses. In the film, a terrified family invited paranormal investigators to examine their Rhode Island home. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga played the ghost hunters in question, based on the lives of Edward and Lorraine Warren. Their New England Society for Psychic Research explored alleged supernatural cases including the infamous Amityville haunting. Their accounts of paranormal activity at the Perron household and the exorcism mostly rang true for surviving members of the actual family depicted. Skeptical members of the public disagreed, but the fact that there's a kernel of truth in "The Conjuring" made it all the more freaky.

#5: “Newsies” (1992)

"Newsies" brought song and dance to a vintage New York setting. It also depicted events surrounding the Newsboys' strike of 1899 in the city. While they might not have sung in real life, this Disney retelling gave people a glimpse into the struggle. Their brave actions forced the New York Journal and New York World papers to take notice, ensuring better treatment and wages for the young workers. Director Kenny Ortega and composers Alan Menken and J.A.C. Redford captured the spirit of the movement in a series of compelling musical numbers. Not an immediate success, the movie and story lived on through a Tony-Award-winning musical.

#4: “Rope” (1948)

Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film "Rope" examined two men that planned the "perfect crime." Adapted from a play, the inspiration for the killers was fashioned around the crimes of Leopold and Loeb. They too wanted to test their deadly theory about getting away with murder. Instead of hiding a victim in an apartment, they drove a young victim into the country and killed him. Their methods were changed for the fictional version, partly due to the one-location staging and Hitchcock's long camera take experiments. The film engaged in theories about their complex relationship and twisted philosophies. In the end, the movie explored a more concise and theatrical version of the events.

#3: “A Few Good Men” (1992)

Aaron Sorkin wrote down "A Few Good Men" on cocktail napkins before he became famous. He turned the scribblings into a play, then adapted it for the screen in a hugely successful film. Some people didn't know that Sorkin's lawyer sister Deborah told him about the events that would inspire his first major work. The author's sibling was a defense lawyer for the accused soldiers in the real case. Based around a Marine hazing incident at Guantanamo Bay, the author altered the original tale for creative purposes. Giving the courtroom drama an authentic bent, the movie felt all the more authentic for its connection to reality.

#2: “Heat” (1995)

Director Michael Mann spent the runtime of "Heat" examining the relationship between criminals and law enforcement. Robert De Niro's central bank robber was built around the life of Neil McCauley. His escapades eventually brought him down much like the protagonist of the movie. McCauley was also pursued by a detective not unlike Al Pacino's character. Mann's extensive research on real criminals provided an additional authenticity to the storytelling. It went behind the scenes with thieves and replicated their home lives. One of the many reasons "Heat" resonated with audiences was its ability to expertly capture the emotions of people on both sides of the law.

#1: “The Terminal” (2004)

Steven Spielberg's comedy/drama about an Eastern European man stuck in JFK International Airport drew inspiration from a real man. An Iranian refugee named Mehran Karimi Nasseri wound up stuck in Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport. While Viktor Navorski spent less than a year in the title location, Nasseri remained for a whopping eighteen years. The film tapped into the natural humor of the unlikely situation, with jokes centering around Tom Hanks' fish-out-of-water character. While it transplanted the nationality and setting, the central story dug into the absurdity of living in a terminal. Its blend of pathos and comedy made the unexpected premise believable and enjoyable.