60 Movies Based On A True Story: Ranked Worst To Best

The cinema is a great place to unwind and take a break from real life, but sometimes a great movie is actually based on a true story. A great movie doesn’t always need high action scenes and over the top comedy. Sometimes, telling the truth is more interesting and fans love a good movie based on real life. Life can be complex and exciting, and for the movies we have listed, the true stories captivated audiences around the world. From Cool Runnings, to Schindler’s List, we’ve rated the top 60 movies based on true events. Whilst the budgets for some of these movies will shock you, you’ll be amazed that the top 5 are actually based on true stories.

60. The Pursuit Of Happiness

Released Dec 14, 2006 – Budget: $55,000,000

The true story of Christopher Gardner, who invests heavily in a device known as a ‘Bone Density Scanner’, only to find himself struggle to sell the product as it’s just marginally better than the current technology, and much more expensive. His wife leaves him, he loses his house, bank account and credit cards and, now forced to live out in the streets with his young son, he’s desperate to find a steady job. He takes on a job as a stockbroker but, before he can receive pay, he needs to go through 6 months of training, and must sell his devices.

59. Cool Runnings

Released Sep 30, 1993 – Budget: $14,000,000

Cool Runnings is an American film from director Jon Turteltaub from 1993 about the first Jamaican Olympic bobsled team.

58. United 93

Released Apr 28, 2006 – Budget: $15,000,000

A real time account of the events on United Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked on 9/11 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania when passengers foiled the terrorist plot.

57. Walk The Line

Released Sep 13, 2005 – Budget: $28,000,000

A chronicle of country music legend Johnny Cash’s life, from his early days on an Arkansas cotton farm to his rise to fame with Sun Records in Memphis, where he recorded alongside Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

56. Mandella – Long Walk To Freedom

Released Dec 6, 2013 · Budget: $35,000,000

A chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

55. Mao’s Last Dancer

Released Oct 1, 2009 · Budget: $25,000,000

At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet.

54. Coach Carter

Released Jan 14, 2005 – Budget: $30,000,000

Based on a true story, in which Richmond High School head basketball coach Ken Carter made headlines in 1999 for benching his undefeated team due to poor academic results.

53. Cinderella Man

Released Jun 2, 2005 – Budget: $88,000,000

The true story of boxer, Jim Braddock who, in the 1920’s after his retirement, has a surprise comeback in order to get him and his family out of a socially poor state.

52. Black Hawk Down

Released Dec 28, 2001 – Budget: $92,000,000

When U.S. Rangers and an elite Delta Force team attempt to kidnap two underlings of a Somali warlord, their Black Hawk helicopters are shot down, and the Americans suffer heavy casualties, facing intense fighting from the militia on the ground.

51. Ali

Released Dec 11, 2001 – Budget: $107,000,000

In 1964, a brash new pro boxer, fresh from his Olympic gold medal victory, explodes on to the scene: Cassius Clay. Bold and outspoken, he cuts an entirely new image for African American’s in sport with his proud public self confidence and his unapologetic belief that he is the greatest boxer of all time. Yet at the top of his game, both Ali’s personal and professional lives face the ultimate test.

50. The Perfect Storm

Released Mar 15, 2000 – Budget: $120,000,000

In October 1991, a confluence of weather conditions combined to form a killer storm in the North Atlantic. Caught in the storm was the sword-fishing boat Andrea Gail. Magnificent foreshadowing and anticipation fill this true-life drama while minute details of the fishing boats, their gear and the weather are juxtaposed with the sea adventure.

49. Saving Private Ryan

Released Jul 24, 1998 – Budget: $70,000,000

As U.S. troops storm the beaches of Normandy, three brothers lie dead on the battlefield, with a fourth trapped behind enemy lines. Ranger captain John Miller and seven men are tasked with penetrating German-held territory and bringing the boy home.

48. A League Of Their Own

Released Jul 1, 1992 – Budget: $40,000,000

Small-town sisters Dottie and Kit join an all-female baseball league formed after World War II brings pro baseball to a standstill. When their team hits the road with its drunken coach, the siblings find troubles and triumphs on and off the field.

47. JFK

Released Dec 20, 1991 – Budget: $40,000,000

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison discovers there’s more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.

46. Born On The Fourth Of July

Released Dec 20, 1989 – Budget: $14,000,000

The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.

45. The Last Emperor

Released Oct 21, 1987 – Budget: $23,000,000

A dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the Emperors of China, from his lofty birth and brief reign in the Forbidden City, the object of worship by half a billion people; through his abdication, his decline and dissolute lifestyle; his exploitation by the invading Japanese, and finally to his obscure existence as just another peasant worker in the People’s Republic.

44. Raging Bull

Released Nov 14, 1980 – Budget: $18,000,000

When Jake LaMotta steps into a boxing ring and obliterates his opponent, he’s a prizefighter. But when he treats his family and friends the same way, he’s a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at any moment. Though LaMotta wants his family’s love, something always seems to come between them. Perhaps it’s his violent bouts of paranoia and jealousy. This kind of rage helped make him a champ, but in real life, he winds up in the ring alone.

43. Dog Day Afternoon

Released Aug 11, 1975 – Budget: $1,800,000

A man robs a bank to pay for his lover’s operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus.

42. Milk

Released Nov 26, 2008 – Budget: $20,000,000

The story of California’s first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, who became an outspoken agent for change, seeking equal rights and opportunities for all. His great love for the city and its people brought him backing from young and old, straight and gay, alike – at a time when prejudice and violence against gays was openly accepted as the norm.

41. Gandi

Released Nov 30, 1982 – Budget: $22,000,000

In the early years of the 20th century, Mohandas K. Gandhi, a British-trained lawyer, forsakes all worldly possessions to take up the cause of Indian independence. Faced with armed resistance from the British government, Gandhi adopts a policy of ‘passive resistance’, endeavoring to win freedom for his people without resorting to bloodshed.

40 . The Queen

Released Sep 15, 2006 – Budget: $15,000,000

The Queen is an intimate behind the scenes glimpse at the interaction between HM Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair during their struggle, following the death of Diana, to reach a compromise between what was a private tragedy for the Royal family and the public’s demand for an overt display of mourning.

39. The Iron Lady

Released Dec 30, 2011 – Budget: $13,000,000

A look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, with a focus on the price she paid for power.

38. Jobs

Released Aug 16, 2013 – Budget: $12,000,000

The story of Steve Jobs’ ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century.

37. Lady Diana

Released Oct 19, 2013 – Budget: $15,000,000

During the last two years of her life, Princess Diana (Naomi Watts) campaigns against the use of land mines and has a secret love affair with a Pakistani heart surgeon (Naveen Andrews).

36. Glory Road

Released Jan 13, 2006 – Budget $30,000,000

In 1966, Texas Western coach Don Haskins led the first all-black starting line-up for a college basketball team to the NCAA national championship.

35. Flight

Released Nov 2, 2012 – Budget: $31,000,000

Commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker has a problem with drugs and alcohol, though so far he’s managed to complete his flights safely. His luck runs out when a disastrous mechanical malfunction sends his plane hurtling toward the ground. Whip pulls off a miraculous crash-landing that results in only six lives lost. Shaken to the core, Whip vows to get sober — but when the crash investigation exposes his addiction, he finds himself in an even worse situation.

34. 12 Years A Slave

Released Oct 18, 2013 – Budget: $20,000,000

In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty as well as unexpected kindnesses Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.

33. Julie & Julia

Released Aug 6, 2009 – Budget: $40,000,000

Julia Child and Julie Powell – both of whom wrote memoirs – find their lives intertwined. Though separated by time and space, both women are at loose ends… until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible.

32. Hotel Rwanda

Released Sep 11, 2004 – Budget: $17,500,000

Inspired by true events, this film takes place in Rwanda in the 1990’s when more than a million Tutsis were killed in a genocide that went mostly unnoticed by the rest of the world. Hotel owner Paul Rusesabagina houses over a thousand refuges in his hotel in attempt to save their lives.

31. Saving Mr Banks

 

Released Nov 16, 2013 – Budget: $35,000,000

Author P.L. Travers travels from London to Hollywood as Walt Disney Pictures adapts her novel Mary Poppins for the big screen.

30. My Week With Marilyn

Released Oct 17, 2011 – Budget: $6,400,000

Sir Laurence Olivier is making a movie in London. Young Colin Clark, an eager film student, wants to be involved and he navigates himself a job on the set. Film star Marilyn Monroe invites Colin into her inner world, where she struggles with her fame, her beauty and her desire to be a great actress.

29. The Butler

Released Aug 16, 2013 – Budget: $25,000,000

A look at the life of Cecil Gaines who served eight presidents as the White House’s head butler from 1952 to 1986, and had a unique front-row seat as political and racial history was made.

28. Captain Phillips

Released Oct 10, 2013 – Budget: $55,000,000

The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.

27. Hyde Park On Hudson

Released Dec 7, 2012 – Budget: $9,000,000

The story of the love affair between FDR and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley, centered around the weekend in 1939 when the King and Queen of the United Kingdom visited upstate New York.

26. Hitchcock

Released Nov 22, 2012 – Budget: $28,000,000

Hitchcock follows the relationship between director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville during the making of his most famous film “Psycho” – and the trials and tribulations the director faced from Hollywood censors.

25. Argo

Released Oct 11, 2012 – Budget: $44,500,000

As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

24. Zero Dark Thirty

Released Dec 19, 2012 – Budget: $40,000,000

A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May, 2011.

23. Miracle

Released Feb 6, 2004 – Budget: $28,000,000

In 1980, the United States Ice Hockey team’s coach, Herb Brooks, put a ragtag squad of college kids up against the legendary juggernaut from the Soviet Union at the Olympic Games. With the world watching, the team rose to the occasion, prompting broadcaster Al Michaels’ now famous question to the millions viewing at home: “Do you believe in miracles?” Yes!

22. Patch Adams

 

Released Dec 25, 1998 – Budget: $50,000,000

Meet Patch Adams, a doctor who doesn’t look, act or think like any doctor you’ve met before. For Patch, humor is the best medicine, and he’s willing to do just anything to make his patients laugh – even if it means risking his own career.

21. The Wolf Of Wall Street

Released Dec 25, 2013 – Budget: $100,000,000

A New York stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, corporate banking world and mob infiltration. Based on Jordan Belfort’s autobiography.

20. Erin Brockovich

Released Mar 13, 2000 – Budget: $52,000,000

A twice-divorced mother of three who sees an injustice, takes on the bad guy and wins — with a little help from her push-up bra. Erin goes to work for an attorney and comes across medical records describing illnesses clustered in one nearby town. She starts investigating and soon exposes a monumental cover-up.

19. Eat Pray Love

Released Aug 12, 2010 – Budget: $60,000,000

Liz Gilbert had everything a modern woman is supposed to dream of having – a husband, a house, a successful career – yet like so many others, she found herself lost, confused, and searching for what she really wanted in life. Newly divorced and at a crossroads, Gilbert steps out of her comfort zone, risking everything to change her life, embarking on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery. 

18. Pearl Harbor

Released May 21, 2001 – Budget: $140,000,000

The lifelong friendship between Rafe McCawley and Danny Walker is put to the ultimate test when the two ace fighter pilots become entangled in a love triangle with beautiful Naval nurse Evelyn Johnson. But the rivalry between the friends-turned-foes is immediately put on hold when they find themselves at the center of Japan’s devastating attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

17. Apollo 13

Released Jun 30, 1995 – Budget: $52,000,000

The true story of technical troubles that scuttle the Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1971, risking the lives of astronaut Jim Lovell and his crew, with the failed journey turning into a thrilling saga of heroism. Drifting more than 200,000 miles from Earth, the astronauts work furiously with the ground crew to avert tragedy.

16. Alpha Dog

Released Jan 27, 2006 – Budget $35,000,000

Johnny Truelove likes to think he’s tough. He’s the son of an underworld figure and a drug dealer. Johnny also likes to get nasty when things don’t go his way. When Jake Mazursky fails to pay up for Johnny, things get worse for the Mazursky family, as Johnny and his ‘gang’ kidnap Jake’s 15 year old brother and holds him hostage. Problem now is what to do with ‘stolen boy?’

15. Finding Neverland

Released Oct 17, 2004 – Budget: $25,000,000

Finding Neverland is an amusing drama about how the story of Peter Pan and Neverland came to be. During a writing slump play writer J.M. Barrie meets the widowed Sylvia and her three children who soon become an important part of Barrie’s life and the inspiration that lead him to create his masterpiece “Peter Pan.”

14. The Aviator

Released Dec 25, 2004 – Budget: $116,000,000

Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning biopic about the life of film-maker and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes from 1927 to 1947, showcases the time when he became a successful film producer and an aviation magnate while simultaneously growing more unstable due to severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

13. Remember The Titans

Released Sep 29, 2000 – Budget: $30,000,000

The year is 1971. After leading his team to 15 winning seasons, football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is demoted and replaced by Herman Boone (Denzel Washington), tough, opinionated, and as different from the beloved Yoast as he could be. How these two men overcome their differences and turn a group of hostile young men into champions, plays out in a story full of soul and spirit.

12. Soul Surfer

Released Apr 8, 2011 – Budget: $18,000,000

Soul Surfer is the inspiring true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton. Bethany lost her left arm in a shark attack and through her sheer determination and unwavering faith she courageously overcame all odds to become a champion again.

11. 127 Hours

Released Nov 5, 2010 – Budget: $18,000,000

127 Hours is the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s remarkable adventure to save himself after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next five days Ralston examines his life and survives the elements to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary, scale a 65 foot wall and hike over eight miles before he is finally rescued. 

10. The Social Network

Released Sep 30, 2010 – Budget: $40,000,000

On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room as a small site among friends soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history… but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.

9. Good Fellas

Released Sep 12, 1990 – Budget: $25,000,000

Henry Hill is a small time gangster, who takes part in a robbery with two gangsters who have set their sights a bit higher. His two partners kill off everyone else involved in the robbery, and slowly start to climb up through the hierarchy of the Mob. Henry, however, is badly affected by his partners success, but will he stoop low enough to bring about the downfall of Jimmy and Tommy?

8. J. Edgar

Released Nov 9, 2011 – Budget: $35,000,000

As the face of law enforcement in America for almost 50 years, J. Edgar Hoover was feared and admired, reviled and revered. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life.

7. Moneyball

Released Sep 22, 2011 – Budget: $50,000,000

The story of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane’s (Brad Pitt) successful attempt to put together a baseball team on a budget, by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.

6. Catch Me If You Can

 

Released Dec 25, 2002 – Budget: $52,000,000

Frank W. Abagnale Jr. is a cunning con man – posing as a doctor, lawyer and pilot all before turning 21. He’s also a master forger, and his work attracts the attention of FBI agent Carl Hanratty, who makes it his mission to put Frank behind bars. But Frank not only eludes capture, he revels in the pursuit, even taking time to taunt Carl by phone.

5. The Blind Side

Released November 20, 2009 – Budget 29,000,000

Michael Oher, a homeless black teen, has drifted in and out of the school system for years. Then Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw), take him in. The Tuohys eventually become Michael’s legal guardians, transforming both his life and theirs. Michael’s tremendous size and protective instincts make him a formidable force on the football field, and with help from his new family and devoted tutor, he realizes his potential as a student and football player.

4. Titanic

Released Nov 18, 1997 – Budget: $200,000,000

84 years later, a 101-year-old woman named Rose DeWitt Bukater tells the story to her granddaughter about a story set in 1912, on a ship called Titanic when young Rose boards the departing ship with the upper-class passengers and her mother and her fiancé. Meanwhile, a drifter named Jack Dawson win third-class tickets to the ship in a game. She explains the whole story from departure until the death of Titanic on its first and last voyage April 15th, 1912.

3. A Beautiful Mind

Released Dec 11, 2001 – Budget: $60,000,000

At Princeton University, John Nash struggles to make a worthwhile contribution to serve as his legacy to the world of mathematics. He finally makes a revolutionary breakthrough that will eventually earn him the Nobel Prize. After graduate school he turns to teaching, becoming romantically involved with his student Alicia. Meanwhile the government asks his help with breaking Soviet codes, which soon gets him involved in a terrifying conspiracy plot. Nash grows more and more paranoid until a discovery that turns his entire world upside down. 

2. The King’s Speech

Released Sep 6, 2010 – Budget: $15,000,00

The King’s Speech tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George (‘Bertie’) reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded stutter and considered unfit to be king, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue. Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country into war.

1. Schindler’s List

Released Nov 29, 1993 – Budget: $22,000,000

The true story of how businessman Oskar Schindler saved over a thousand Jewish lives from the Nazis while they worked as slaves in his factory during World War II.

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