20 best movies based on true stories you can find on Netflix

20 best movies based on true stories you can find on Netflix

Fascinating films often come in different genres, but there is something that is distinctively satisfying about watching a movie based on a true story. The best movies based on true stories take facts and weave astounding and inspirational storylines that get viewers to the edge of their seats.

true story movies
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Athletes, musicians, serial killers, fighters, and scholars are some of the personalities who form the subjects of the best true story movies. These films are usually a welcome break from the countless fiction movies. What are some of the best true story movies?

Top 20 movies based on true stories

What movies on Netflix are based on true stories? Here is a look at some of the most thrilling Netflix films based on true events.

20. The Imitation Game (2014)

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  • Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking)
  • Written by: Graham Moore
  • Directed by: Morten Tyldum
  • Released on: 28th November 2014
  • Studio: The Weinstein Company
  • Runtime: 114 minutes

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The Imitation Game tells the story of British war hero, mathematician, and cryptanalyst Alan Turing who is credited with cracking the codes of Germany’s Enigma machine during World War II.

19. The Amityville Horror (2005)

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  • Rating: R (for violence, disturbing images, language, brief sexuality and drug use)
  • Written by: Scott Kosar
  • Directed by: Andrew Douglas
  • Released on: 15th April 2005
  • Studio: MGM
  • Runtime: 89 minutes

Are you looking for one of the best horror movies based on true stories? Look no further than The Amityville Horror. The film is based on the real-life account of a couple that moved into a beautiful, stately home in New York only to discover that the house had demonic inhabitants.

Years before the couple moved in, the house was the scene of multiple ghastly murders. The Amityville Horror is irrefutably one of the most thrilling scary movies based on true stories.

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18. The Social Network (2010)

based on true story movies
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  • Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language)
  • Written by: Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher
  • Directed by: David Fincher
  • Released on: 1st October 2010
  • Studio: Columbia Pictures
  • Runtime: 120 minutes

The film explores the moment when Facebook was invented. The story is told from the perspectives of young inventors who all claimed to have been there during the invention.

By embracing different points of view, the movie is able to capture the conflicting narratives surrounding the early days of Facebook.

17. Come Sunday (2018)

  • Rating: NR
  • Written by: Marcus Hinchey
  • Directed by: Joshua Marston
  • Streaming: 13th April 2018
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Runtime: 106 minutes

Internationally-renowned pastor Carlton Pearson -experiencing a crisis of faith- risks his church, family and future when he questions church doctrines and finds himself branded a modern-day heretic.

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16. The Ruthless (2019)

  • Rating: NR
  • Written by: Valentina Strada, Federico Gnesini and Renato De Maria
  • Directed by: Renato De Maria
  • Streaming: 19th April 2019
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Runtime: 90 minutes

The Ruthless takes a look at several years in the world of Italian mafia through the eyes of a rebellious teen who grow up to become one of the most determined criminals in Milan.

15. Walk. Ride. Rodeo. (2019)

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  • Rating: NR
  • Written by: Sean Dwyer, Greg Cope White
  • Directed by: Conor Allyn
  • Streaming: 8th March 2019
  • Runtime: 99 minutes

The movie is based on the life of Amberley Snyder whose dreams of a professional rodeo career and college scholarship are brought to a halt when she suffers a horrible injury.

Unable to use her legs, Amberley refuses to give up and chooses to do whatever it takes to get back to competitive racing.

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14. Friday Night Lights (2004)

true stories on netflix
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  • Rating: PG-13 (for thematic issues, sexual content, language, some teen drinking and rough sports action)
  • Written by: Peter Berg and David Aaron Cohen
  • Directed by: Peter Berg
  • Released on: 8th October 2004
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Runtime: 117 minutes

Friday Night Lights is based on the 1998 season of a Texas football team known as the Permian High Panthers of Odessa. It explores the struggles and conflicts of families, fans, pastors, coaches, and football players as the team fought for a state championship.

13. Coach Carter (2005)

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  • Rating: PG-13 (for violence, sexual content, language, teen partying and some drug material)
  • Written by: John Gatins and Mark Schwahn
  • Directed by: Thomas Carter
  • Released on: 14th January 2005
  • Studio: Paramount Pictures
  • Runtime: 136 minutes

Coach Carter is based on the life story of Ken Carter, a basketball coach who taught his players a valuable life lesson; that there is more to life than basketball.

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He benched an entire unbeaten team because some of the players were performing poorly in class. The decision elicited mixed reactions from various stakeholders at Richmond High School.

12. Unbroken (2014)

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  • Rating: PG-13 (for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and brief language)
  • Written by: William Nicholson, Richard LaGravenese, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
  • Directed by: Angelina Jolie
  • Released on: 25th December 2014
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Runtime: 137 minutes

The film tells the story of renowned war hero and Olympian, Louis “Louie” Zamperini, who survived for 47 days at sea on a raft. The ordeal happened after a near-fatal plane crash.

Zamperini’s troubles escalate when he and his crew are arrested by Japanese forces and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

11. The Revenant (2015)

based on true story movies
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  • Rating: R (for brief nudity, assault, images, violence, and combat)
  • Written by: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith
  • Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu
  • Released on: 25th December 2015
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Runtime: 156 minutes

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The Revenant is a film inspired by real-life events. The film tells the story of one man’s quest for survival and the astonishing power of the human spirit.

Renowned explorer Hugh Glass is brutally attacked by a bear and abandoned by members of his hunting team. He endures inconceivable anguish, surviving in extreme cold in an unyielding attempt to stay alive and find redemption.

The Revenant is undoubtedly one of the best adventure movies based on true stories.

10. First They Killed My Father (2017)

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  • Rating: NR
  • Written by: Loung Ung and Angelina Jolie
  • Directed by: Angelina Jolie
  • Released on: 15th September 2017
  • Studio: Netflix Originals

First They Killed My Father is a documentary film that tells the story of a Cambodian human rights activist and her attempts to survive the tyrannical Khmer Rouge rule.

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At age five, the future activist embarks on a traumatic quest for survival amidst the chaos caused by the Khmer Rouge rise to power.

9. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

true story movies
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  • Rating: PG-13 (for some language)
  • Written by: Steven Conrad, Gabriele Muccino
  • Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
  • Released on: 15th December 2006
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • Runtime: 117 minutes

The Pursuit of Happyness is a movie based on true story inspired by Chris Gardner, a talented and bright salesman. Gardner is evicted from his apartment, leaving him and his five-year-old son stranded.

He lands an unpaid internship at a brokerage firm as he embarks on a journey to create a better life for himself as well as his young son.

8. The Big Short (2015)

true story movies on netflix
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  • Rating: R (for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity)
  • Written by: Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
  • Directed by: Adam McKay
  • Released on: 23rd December 2015
  • Studio: Paramount Pictures
  • Runtime: 130 minutes

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The Big Short tells the story of a group of crafty opportunists who made fortunes during the 2008 subprime housing market crash in the US. These investors sniffed out the imminent collapse and bet against the banks.

This financial true story movie tells the story of the economic collapse from a different perspective; that of the biggest beneficiaries of the collapse.

7. Pain & Gain (2013)

based on a true story
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  • Rating: R (for bloody violence, crude sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use)
  • Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
  • Directed by: Michael Bay
  • Released on: 26th April 2013
  • Studio: Paramount Studios
  • Runtime: 129 minutes

Pain & Gain is among the most amazing, based on true story movies directed by Michael Bay. The film features Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg in a story about a group of personal trainers in the 1990s who got caught up in a web of crime.

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6. GoodFellas (1990)

based on true story movies
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  • Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
  • Written by: Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi
  • Directed by: Martin Scorsese
  • Released on: 19th September 1990
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Runtime: 146 minutes

GoodFellas is one of the best-written crime dramas based on a true story. The film is based on the real-life account of Henry Hill, a renowned FBI informant and mobster.

In , director Martin Scorsese explores the intricate world of organized crime. Henry Hill was a Sicilian-Irish kid who grew up in New York hanging around mobsters. In his teens, he got inducted into the world of petty crime.

Hill later becomes an FBI lieutenant and soon becomes the target of the mobsters as well as fellow feds. The film received numerous award nominations.

5. 22 July (2018)

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  • Rating: R (for disturbing violence, graphic images, and language)
  • Written and directed by: Paul Greengrass
  • Released on: 10th October 2018
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Runtime: 143 minutes

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22nd July is arguably one of the saddest true story movies on Netflix. It tells the story of the events surrounding the deadly 2011 terrorist attack in Norway during which 77 people lost their lives.

A far-right terrorist detonated a bomb in Oslo before going on a mass shooting rampage at a teen leadership camp. The film’s storyline unfolds from the perspective of one of the survivors.

4. The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

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  • Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic elements, sexual content and some violent images)
  • Written by: Peter Morgan
  • Directed by: Justin Chadwick
  • Released on: 29th February 2008
  • Studio: Sony Pictures/Columbia
  • Runtime: 115 minutes

The Other Boleyn Girl tells the story of two viciously ambitious women competing to win over the English king, Henry VIII. This comes after the king’s marriage faces problems following the lack of a male heir to the throne.

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3. Southside With You (2016)

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  • Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language, smoking, a violent image and a drug reference)
  • Written and directed by: Richard Tanne
  • Released on: 26th August 2016
  • Studio: Miramax and Roadside Attractions
  • Runtime: 84 minutes

The film is based on the first interaction between Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. Southside With You tells the story of a warm summer day in 1989 when the former US president approached a young lawyer named Michelle.

The daylong date took the duo to a screening of Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee. The day ended with the pair’s first kiss right outside an ice-cream parlour.

2. The Two Popes (2019)

based on true story movies
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  • Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content and some disturbing violent images)
  • Written by: Anthony McCarten
  • Directed by: Fernando Meirelles
  • Released on: 27th November 2019
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Runtime: 125 minutes

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The Two Popes is undoubtedly one of the best movies based on true stories on Netflix. The film is loosely based on the events surrounding Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict.

Cardinal Bergoglio is upset with the direction of the church and approaches Pope Benedict seeking permission to retire. Pope Benedict turns to his harshest critic and future successor to reveal a secret that could very well shake the entire Catholic Church.

A struggle ensues pitting progress and tradition, forgiveness and guilt, and two very different men. The two popes must deal with their pasts and help create a future for billions of Catholic faithful all over the world.

1. Captain Philips (2013)

true stories on netflix
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  • Rating: PG-13 (for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use)
  • Written by: Billy Ray
  • Directed by: Paul Greengrass
  • Released on: 11th October 2013
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • Runtime: 134 minutes

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Captain Philips tells the story of the 2009 hijacking of the American ship, Maersk Alabama, by a group of Somali pirates. Much of the story revolves around the interaction between the ship’s captain (Captain Richard Philips) and the pirate captain, Muse.

A standoff ensues more than 100 miles off the Somali coast. Muse and Philips soon find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.

Captain Philips is based on a screenplay which is in turn based on a book titled A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea.

What are some fascinating Lifetime movies based on true stories?

Here are some excellent films based on real-life events available on Lifetime today.

  • A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story (2015)
  • Abducted: The Carlina White Story (2012)
  • Betty and Coretta (2013)
  • Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story (2018)
  • Flint (2017)
  • Girl in the Bunker (2018)
  • I Am Elizabeth Smart (2017)
  • Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner Killer (2017)
  • The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story (2016)
  • Who Killed JonBenet? (2016)

Are you looking for something to watch on an afternoon, evening or long weekend? The above collection of fascinating movies based on true stories has something for every type of viewer. Which film did you find most exciting?

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