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18 Best Movies Based on True Events

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Crime films, with their gripping narratives and complex characters, have long captivated audiences worldwide. Their allure often stems from the shocking realization that these stories are not mere fabrications but are rooted in the gritty reality of our world. In recognizing the profound impact that real-life events have on the cinematic landscape, we’ve curated a list of the 18 best films based on real events, especially focusing on the crime genre. These films not only entertain but also offer a reflection on the complexities and often the darkness of human nature. They remind us that the most captivating stories are those that emerge from the truths of our existence, showcasing the unpredictable and sometimes unbelievable courses our lives can take.

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18. Casino (1995)

Genre: drama, crime

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci

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The spirit of this underrated Martin Scorsese film is reminiscent of Goodfellas, and the cast includes the legendary duo of Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. The story is based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Pileggi and Larry Shandling. At the same time, the authors themselves wrote their work, inspired by an article in the Las Vegas Sun newspaper from 1980 about one of the scandals between Frank Rosenthal, a master of betting, and his wife Geri McGee, a former stripper.

17. American Hustle (2013)

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Crime

Directed by: David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper

The plot is based on a real anti-corruption operation code-named ABSCAM, conducted by the FBI in the 70s of the last century. The picture, filled with unexpected twists and double transitions, elegantly presents the atmosphere of that time with its pop songs and trendy dances.

16. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Genre: Crime, Biography, Comedy

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken.

It’s not Steven Spielberg’s best film, but definitely one of the most entertaining. The film follows Frank Abignale, a documentary security expert who in the 1960s stunned the world with his daring scams. In the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio, the hero came out incredibly charming, and the actor himself was nominated for a Golden Globe.

15. All the President’s Men (1976)

Genre: thriller, drama, history

Directed by: Alan J. Pakula

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden

The film is based on the documentary book of the same name by The Washington Post journalists who investigated the Watergate scandal in 1973. The main roles were played by the incomparable Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, and the film won four Oscars.

14. Wolf Creek (2004)

Genre: horror, thriller

Director: Greg McLean

Starring: John Jarrett, Cassandra Magrath, Kesti Morassi.

This is one of the best horror films of the 21st century, after which you will hardly want to go to Australia. Three students arrive in this country to find a meteorite crater shrouded in mysticism, but end up becoming part of a horrifying story themselves. This crater is real and is called Wolf Creek. However, the main feature of the film is its unwavering directness.

13. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Genre: Drama, Crime, Biography

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie

Martin Scorsese together with screenwriter Terence Winter, he embodied on the screen the most sensational passages from the memoirs of the broker Jordan Belfort, convicted of manipulating the stock market and organising trading in cheap stocks. Perhaps the most rambunctious film of the director proves that crimes can be told and fun, but at the same time do not forget to show the world of people, mired in luxury and debauchery and counting other people’s money as their own.

12. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Genre: drama, detective

Directed by: Otto Preminger

Starring: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara.

James Stewart is flawless in the way he balances the comic and the dramatic in Otto Preminger’s drama based on a novel inspired by the lawyer’s own cases. Few films capture the ambiguity of the legal system with such realism and tension.

11. Spotlight (2015)

Genre: drama, crime, biography

Director: Tom McCarthy

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams

The film tells about the investigation of The Boston Globe journalists about sexual harassment in the Catholic Church, which led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law. The film won Oscars in the categories “best film” and “best screenplay”.

10. The Untouchables (1987)

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime

Director: Brian De Palma

Starring: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Charles Martin Smith

One of Brian De Palma’s best films starred Kevin Costner as FBI agent Eliot Ness and Robert De Niro, who played the famous American gangster Al Capone. The film is based on real events, and the director was inspired by the silent Soviet film “Battleship Potemkin”.

9. F for Fake (1973)

Genre: documentary

Directed by: Orson Welles, Gary Graver, Oya Kodar

Starring: Orson Welles, Oya Kodar, François Reischenbach

Orson Welles’ latest and greatest work is a pseudo-documentary about the complex dialectic of the true and the false in art. The director runs his own narrative and occasionally appears on camera. It is his personal funny and extremely intellectual postmodernism.

8. Ai no korida (1976)

Genre: biography, for adults, melodrama

Directed by: Nagisa Oshima

Starring: Eiko Matsuda, Tatsuya Fuji, Aoi Nakajima.

If you watch Empire of the Senses without knowing the backstory, you’ll wonder what kind of psychopath wrote such a thing. But the script of this film is based on the story of a real-life Japanese geisha named Sada Abe, who strangled her boss-lover in a fit of passion and took his body parts as souvenirs.

7. Badlands (1973)

Genre: Action, Drama, Crime

Directed by: Terrence Malick

Starring: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates.

A stunning film debut from director Terrence Malick, “Badlands” is based on the story of Charles Starkweather and Caryl Fugate, a loving couple who committed a series of murders in Nebraska and surrounding states in 1958. The film was released in the early 1970s, when stories of lovers on the run were at the height of popularity after the release of Bonnie and Clyde.

6. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Genre: crime, biography, action film

Directed by: Arthur Penn

Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard.

“Bonnie and Clyde” – a special, monumental film about one of the most famous couples in American history. The film stands out for the fact that never before in cinema themes of crime and sex have not been discussed so openly and without harsh condemnation. The sharp, bloody climax of the film is revolutionary to this day.

5. Munich (2005)

Genre: thriller, drama, history

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Kieran Hynds.

This is not Steven Spielberg’s most famous three-hour film. The story centres on the revenge of Israeli spies against Palestinian terrorists who staged an attack at the 1972 Olympics, the victims of which were 11 members of the Israeli team. “Munich” makes sense and attempts to answer important questions – and has a place for humanism.

4. M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (1931)

Genre: thriller, crime, detective

Directed by: Fritz Lang

Starring: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut.

The genre of serial killer films owes much to German director Fritz Lang for his striking 1931 film, which is based on the true story of the investigation of the Düsseldorf maniac Peter Kürten. The portrait of a criminal underworld whose members are trying to catch one of “their own” is astonishing to this day.

3. Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut (1956)

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Military

Director: Robert Bresson

Starring: François Leterrier, Charles Le Clenche, Maurice Bérbloc.

Robert Bresson’s classic film tells the story of a criminal who escapes from prison in Nazi-occupied France. The story is based on the memoirs of soldier André Devigny. Like Bresson’s other works, this film is so calibrated that it feels like a documentary.

2. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Genre: horror

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain. Partain

This now classic work by Tobe Hooper interprets the crime story of serial killer and necrophiliac Ed Geen very, very loosely. But despite the fact that the Leatherface maniac is a fictional character, this film is in our ranking for its realism.

1. Goodfellas (1990)

Genre: drama, crime, biography

Director: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci.

If this is not Martin Scorsese’s best film (and it could be), it is at least one of his best: there are time jumps, the inflated ego of Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), and the life of the mafia itself. No one else could have made a picture like this, and every gangster film will always be compared to this legendary film.

 

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