The 20 Best Movies Based On True Stories On Netflix

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20 Best Movies Based on True Stories on Netflix

Watching a movie that is entertaining can be a thrilling escape, especially when you have some of the best Netflix movies to choose from. But when that film is based on a true story? It takes a film to the next level.

Some of Hollywood's most memorable movies are based on real-life. There are plenty of great movies based on true stories on Netflix that you need to see. Whether the movie’s plot is based on family dynamics, a historical event, or even horror, these real-life stories are worth seeing!

1. I, Tonya

I, Tonya follows the real life of figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. The award-winning film is a dark comedic tale portraying Harding’s white-trashed rise to fame, and her ex-husband’s grotesque plan to attack Kerrigan.

Allison Janney, who plays Harding's mother LaVona Golden, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and Margot Robbie receive a nomination for Best Actress.

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2. Roxanne Roxanne

At the age of 14, Roxanne was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend as she hustled to provide for her family while defending herself from the dangers of the streets of the Queensbridge Projects in NYC. Chanté Adams plays rapper Roxanne Shanté in the dramatic biopic that also stars Mahershala Ali and Nia Long.

3. Captain Phillips

This film is the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the U.S.-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. The truth is so thrilling that screenwriters hardly needed to add any extra drama to the script.

Tom Hanks’ Phillips employs almost all the same strategies in the film’s depiction that the real-life captain did to save his crew and himself from the armed pirates.

4. 8 Mile

The #1 box office hit 8 Mile is based loosely on Eminem's actual upbringing, and follows white rapper B-Rabbit (Eminem) and his attempt to launch a career in a genre dominated by African-Americans. 8 Mile was also a commercial success; Eminem won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Lose Yourself."

5. Wild

Wild is a film based on the chronicle of one woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent personal tragedy. Based on Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the film stars Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, alongside Laura Dern (as Strayed's mother).

6. Spotlight

Spotlight won Best Picture at the 2016 Academy Awards and rightfully so! The film tells the story of a team of journalists at The Boston Globe who uncover a sexual abuse scandal within the Roman Catholic Church.

Led by editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), the news team investigates John Geoghan, a priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys.

7. Monster

Monster is based on the life of Aileen Wuornos, a Daytona Beach prostitute who became a serial killer. Actress Charlize Theron gained 30 pounds by doing things like eating Krispy Kreme donuts, and with the help of makeup artists, she changed her glamorous self into a dead ringer Wuornos, who was convicted and then executed in Florida. Theron won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2004.

8. Lion

Lion is another film that made waves at the Oscars, receiving six nominations in 2017 including Best Picture. The film tells the remarkable story of a young Indian boy, Saroo, who gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of miles across India, away from home and family.

After being lost and left to fend on his own, he is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman). With only a distant memory of his family, he sets out to find his birth parents more than two decades later.

9. The Impossible

The Impossible is a film based on the true story of one family who were caught in the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami. The story surrounds one of the survivors, Maria Belon, a Spanish tourist who was lounging by a pool in Thailand along with her husband and three young sons when the tsunami hit.

Belon has high praise for director Juan Antonio Bayona, who she says has made an accurate account of her harrowing story for the big screen. Naomi Watts and Tom Holland, who play mother and son, Maria and Lucas, were immersed in a massive water tank for five weeks of filming. Watts received a nomination for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her portrayal.

10. Miracles From Heaven

Based on the book of the same name written by Christy Beam, Miracles from Heaven recounts the true story of her young daughter who had a near-death experience and was later cured of an incurable disease. The film stars Jennifer Garner who portrays Beam, a Texas mama whose Christian faith is tested by her child's potentially fatal diagnosis.

11. A River Runs Through It

Fly-fishing stands for life in this movie. A River Runs Through It is a true story taken from the book written by Norman MacLean about his youth in a small town in Montana in the 1920s where he lived with his father, mother and extroverted younger brother. This 1992 coming-of-age drama is directed by Robert Redford and stars Brad Pitt and Tom Skerritt.

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12. Seven Years in Tibet

Jean-Jacques Annaud's Seven Years in Tibet takes the true story of a bright and powerful young boy who meets a stranger from a different land. The film is based on the book Seven Years in Tibet: My Life Before, During and After by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, portrayed by Brad Pitt, and is based on his real life experiences in Tibet between 1944 and 1951 during the Second World War.

13. Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station is based on the events leading to the death of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was killed in 2009 by a while police officer in Oakland. The incident, captured on video by onlookers, incited protest and unrest. The film stars Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant with Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray.

14. Veronica

In this Spanish horror film, a teenager unleashes a demonic presence after attempting to use a Ouija board to summon her father’s spirit. Veronica is based on the true story of Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro, a real girl who died in 1992.

She had reportedly used a Ouija board in an attempt to contact the spirit of her recently deceased boyfriend, and friends say that she suffered seizures and hallucinations for months afterward. Her parents also claimed that their house was haunted.

15. The Conjuring 2

Based on a true story, The Conjuring 2 follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren as they travel to Britain to assist the Hodgson family who are experiencing poltergeist activity at their Enfield council house in 1977. The film is a sequel to the wildly popular and true-story-based, The Conjuring.

16. Walt Before Mickey

If you're looking for something less terrifying and more lighthearted, this Walt Disney biopic delves into the story of how he became the pioneer of the animation industry and one of America's most influential creative geniuses.

17. The Monster of Mangatiti

Real events are dramatized in the unthinkable story of a resilient teenager held prisoner by a seasoned predator on a remote farm in the 1980. This movie is based on real life events, when Heather Walsh was held prisoner by Bill Cornelius for about six months, forced to endure torture and abuse at the hands of the sadistic, depraved man.

The Monster of Mangatiti focuses on how Walsh was able to endure and survive, avoiding falling into the usual exploitation traps and telling a powerful story in the process.

18. 37

This biopic looks into how Kitty Genovese was raped and murdered outside her home in front of 37 witnesses without anyone stopping to help. The film, inspired by the true story set in 1964 in New York, peeks into the lives of three disparate families, the lonely neighbor and the doorman.

Viewers connect with the neighbors and understand their decisions not to act by following their day-to-day struggles. They deal with their personal lives the same way they deal with the murder — if they don't talk about it, it didn't happen.

19. First They Killed My Father

First They Killed My Father is a biographical historical thriller film directed by Angelina Jolie, and written by Jolie and Loung Ung, based on Ung's memoir of the same name. Set in 1975, the film depicts 7-year-old Ung who is forced to be trained as a child soldier while her siblings are sent to labor camps during the Communist Khmer Rouge regime.

Jolie caused some controversy when she cast local Cambodian children with no previous acting experience, asking them to connect their own painful experiences with those presented in the movie.

20. The Exorcism of Emily Rose

When a horror film is based on a true story, it automatically becomes even more frightening. Although a lot of it is sensationalized further to make it scarier, the story behind The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on Anneliese Michel, a young woman who began to experience hallucinations in the '70s.

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Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year:Because Moms Need a Little TLC, Too!” available at and Barnes & Noble and publisher of, a lifestyle blog for women.  

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