Incredible True Stories That Inspired Movies


A lot of hit movies today are actually based on true stories.

Audiences today say that film creators have a lack of new ideas, as many recent releases are remakes or sequels.

However, sometimes filmmakers look at other “unoriginal” ideas – real life.

These films immortalize the real-life true stories of some of the most inspiring people to ever live.

If done correctly, these films also become a legacy in their own right.

Let’s take a look at some unbelievable true stories that were recreated as Hollywood blockbusters.

Moneyball

Billy Beane was a revolutionary in the sport of baseball.

As the Oakland A’s manager, he used computer-generated analytics, called sabermetrics, to evaluate players.

It was the first time this software was ever done in order to pick new players.

His use of the technology led to the team having on of the league’s lowest player salaries but one of the best records.

His true stories were transcribed into a book, and later a movie.

In the 2013 film, Billy Beane was portrayed by Brad Pitt.

The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Martin Scorsese 2014 film The Wolf of Wall Street was a box office hit and received 5 Oscar nominations.

The story told the true stories of real life of Jordan Belfort, who was played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Belfort was the founder of Stratton Oakmont, which sold itself as a stock brokerage firm.

However, in actuality, the company was a boiler room operation that marketed penny stocks.

While living an extremely lavish lifestyle, he was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering.

He cut a deal with the FBI and spent 22 months in jail.

Belfort wrote a memoir in jail, which became the basis for the film. After leaving jail, Belfort became a motivational speaker and is in the process of paying back $100m to defrauded investors.

Catch Me If You Can

Another movie, which Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed a real person was Catch Me If You Can.

The story chronicles the life of con-man Frank Abagnale.

From 15 to 21 years old, Abagnale became an expert impersonator, check forger, and confidence trickster.

During those 6 years, he posed as a pilot, a physician, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent, a lawyer, and many other professions, making for incredible true stories.

Not to mention, he escaped police custody twice!

However, once he was permanently captured, he was sentenced to prison.

He only served 5 years, as he cut a deal and agreed to work for the federal government.

He currently still works for the FBI as a consultant and lecturer, as well as, runs Abagnale & Associates, a financial fraud consultancy company.

The Founder

The Founder, starring Michael Keaton, tells the story of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s.

Before McDonald’s, Kroc sold milkshake mixers.

Luckily, he made a sale of 8 mixers to brothers and store owners, Richard and Maurice McDonald.

Kroc realized the McDonald’s brothers has a restaurant with a potential to explode.

The brothers recruited Kroc to franchise their small chain.

Kroc opened the first McDonald’s chain in Des Plaines, Illinois and the restaurant boomed.

Kroc eventually bought the chain from the McDonald’s brothers for $2.7 million and turned it into the largest fast food chain in the world.

He revolutionized the fast food industry with his idea of granting a franchise the right to only one store location at a time.

His life was filled with many true stories that inspired the film.

Big Eyes

Big Eyes portrays the life of artist Margaret Keane, who was played by Amy Adams.

Margaret’s painting is known for her subjects being painted with very large eyes.

She normally painted women, children, and animals in oil or mixed media.

However, her story is more compelling than just her amazing art. In the 1960s, her husband Walter sold the paintings as his own.

However, after their divorce, she publicly announced she was actually the artist and sued her husband.

A reporter in San Francisco set up a “paint-out” in Union Square to prove who was the true artist.

Walter did not show, which paved the way for Margaret to take control of her work.

Joy

The 2015 comedy-drama film, Joy, is based on the real-life true stories of Joy Mangano.

Mangano, who was portrayed by Jennifer Lawerence, is a self-made millionaire by creating various inventions.

Her fortune began with her first invention, the Miracle Mop.

The Miracle Mop was the first self-wringing mop on the market.

In 1992, she appeared on QVC and she sold 18,000 in less than an hour.

After that appearance, the mop became wildly successful and by 2000, her company was selling $10 million worth of mops per year.

Following her success, she continued to make new inventions such as the Huggable Hangar and Forever Fragrant.

Unbroken

Directed by Angelina Jolie, Unbroken tells the true stories behind USA Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini.

Louie, played by Jack O’Connell, represented the U.S. in the 5000-meter race in the 1936 Olympics.

He placed 8th. In 1941, he became a lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces.

Unfortunately, during a search and rescue mission, his plane suffered mechanical difficulties and crashed into the ocean.

He survived 47 days on a raft until he was found by Japanese.

He was sent to several Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, where he was tortured.

However, he always stayed strong and never divulged any sensitive information.

Black Mass

Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp, chronicles the life of Whitey Bulgar, the former organized crime boss of the Winter Hill Gang in Boston.

The FBI reports that Bulgar served as an informant on the rival crime family, the Patriarchs (a claim Bulgar denies).

The FBI says this was the main reason why they “turned a blind eye” to Bulgar’s crimes.

However, in 1997, the media exposed the FBI’s connection to Bulgar, which led to a big embarrassment of the bureau.

The FBI indicted Bulgar.

However, Bulgar was tipped off by his former FBI handler and was able to flee FBI.

He remained at large for 16 years.

Bulgar was arrested in Santa Monica California, at the age of 81.

His conviction was for 31 counts of racketeering and the involvement of 11 murders.

He is now in prison serving two consecutive life terms.

Deepwater Horizon

The 2016 film Deepwater Horizon is a dramatization of the explosion of the offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, which led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

After a malfunction occurred with the drilling riser, a series of explosions took place on the ship.

Approximately 36 hours after the initial explosion, the Deepwater Horizon sunk.

At the time of the explosion, there were 126 crew on board, 11 of which were killed.

The film is created from true stories from the point of view of Chief Electronics Technician, Mike Williams.

In the film, Williams is played by Mark Wahlberg.

Goodfellas

Gangster movie Goodfellas is actually based on a series of true stories.

Henry Hill, Jr. was a New York City mobster that worked with the Lucchese crime family.

However, in 1980, he became an FBI informant and helped secure the convictions of 50 people, including mob captain Paul Vario and James Burke.

His life was featured in the true crime book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family.

The book was later the basis of the film Goodfellas.

In the film, Hill is portrayed by Ray Liotta.

Seabiscuit

Seabiscuit is a compelling underdog story of a thoroughbred racehorse.

The film, which is named after the real horse, tells the story of a small horse and an unlikely champion.

However, despite all odds stacked against him, he and his jockey, Red Pollard (played by Tobey Maguire) went on to win multiple races.

During the Great Depression, Seabiscuit became a symbol of hope when many Americans most needed it.

Walk The Line

The 2005 drama Walk the Line chronicles the true stories behind the life and career of country music artist Johnny Cash.

Cash, portrayed by Joaquin Pheonix, rose to fame in the mid-1950s.

Both his career and personal life had its success and failures.

One specific part of his life, that was also featured in the film, was his relationship with his wife, June Carter (who was played by Reese Witherspoon).

Despite his struggles, Cash is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and is one of the best-selling artist of all time.

Gangs Of New York

Herbert Asbury wrote the non-fiction book The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, which was published in 1927.

The book is about 19th-century gangs in the Five Points district of Lower Manhattan.

The novel describes the true stories of the main criminals of the city, before the rise of the Mafia in the Prohibition period.

This book became the basis of the 2002 Martin Scorsese film, Gangs of New York.

Both the book and film evoke the destitution and violence of the time. The film starred actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Cameron Diaz.

Titanic

The RMS Titanic was a British passenger ship that sank in the Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg in 1912.

Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew that were on board, 1,500 died.

The tragedy is considered the deadliest commercial maritime disasters in history.

The sinking of this ship was immortalized in the 1997 film, Titanic.

Many of the characters in the film were based on real people who were on the ship, such as the captain Edward Smith, who was portrayed by Bernard Hill.

 

War Dogs

War Dogs, starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill, is based on the true stories of two young men who became arms dealers, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli.

Packouz and Diveroli won a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to arm the Afghan National Army.

In order to complete the deal, the two decided to re-brand and re-package Chinese ammunition.

However, at the time the U.S. government had banned Chinese ammunition.

They were convicted of their crimes and went to prison.

The Revenant

Leonardo once again landed the starring role in a film based on true stories.

In 2015, Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed hunter, frontiersman, trader, and explorer, Hugh Glass in the film The Revenant.

Glass was attacked by a grizzly bear and was left alone to die by his traveling companions.

It was reported that Glass crawled 200 miles to South Dakota in order to survive.

However, there is no physical evidence to prove if this story is true or not.

Donnie Brasco

The 1997 film, Donnie Brasco, is about the true stories of an FBI undercover agent that infiltrates the mob and finds he is more fit for the mob rather than the FBI.

Donnie Brasco, who is portrayed by Johnny Depp, took the alias of Joseph “Joe” Pistone and spent years infiltrating the Bonanno crime family.

Brasco was a pioneer in undercover work and helped convince the FBI that working undercover was a crucial tool in law enforcement. Brasco was an agent for 27 years.

Apollo 13

Apollo 13 was the 7th manned mission in the Apollo space program and the 3rd scheduled to land on the moon.

The shuttle was launched on April 11, 1970. Unfortunately, the lunar landing had to be aborted as the shuttle’s oxygen tank exploded.

Luckily, after multiple obstacles, the team was able to make enough temporary fixes in order to return safely to Earth, on April 17.

The astronauts on the shuttle were Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert, respectively played by Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon.

Schindler’s List

Multi-Oscar winning film, Schindler’s List was based on the book Schindler’s ArkSchindler’s Ark told the true stories of Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson in the film) who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.

Schindler, who was a member of the Nazi party, owned an ammunitions and enamelware factory.

In order to save people, he would give them jobs.

Oskar Schindler is the only person that was in the Nazi Party that is buried on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

Hachi

Dog lovers – this is one of those true stories will definitely pull on your heartstrings.

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is a true story based on a dog, Hachiko and his undying love and loyalty for his owner.

Hachiko was adopted by a professor at the University of Tokyo.

Every day Hachiko would greet his owner at the Shibuya Station after his work day.

Sadly, one day the professor suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, during a lecture, and died.

For the next 9 years, 9 month and 15 days Hachiko would await his owner’s return at the station.

He was given the name “chuken Hachiko,” which translates to “faithful dog Hachi.”

The Pianist

Władysław Szpilman was a Jewish Polish pianist and classical composer, who survived German occupation of Warsaw and the Holocaust.

Szpilman’s story of survival is portrayed in the film The Pianist, which stars Adrien Brody.

The film shows how the composer spent 2 years hiding in the Warsaw ghetto and was later helped by a German officer who actually hated Nazi policy.

After the war ended, Szpilamn continued his career on Polish radio and continued composing music.

The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl chronicles the story of Lili Elbe, a transgender Danish woman. Elbe, played by Eddie Redmayne, is also considered one of the first identifiable recipients of gender reassignment surgery.

Born Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener, she was a successful painter. However, after the transition, she stopped painting. Elba unfortunately died after complications with a uterus transplant.

12 Years A Slave

Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the 2013 film) was a New York State free-born African-American man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

He was sold to a white man and forced to work in Louisiana.

He remained a slave for 12 years until he met a Canadian working on the same plantation.

This man was able to get word to New York, where state law provided aid to free New York citizens kidnapped into slavery. Unfortunately, none of his captors were ever punished. In order to truly tell his story, he wrote a memoir and lectured on behalf of the abolitionist movement.

The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch played the starring role of Alan Turing in the film The Imitation Game.

Turing was a computer scientist, mathematician, and cryptanalyst who was hired by the British government to crack the German intelligence code.

He designed several machines in order to do so. His decryptions lead to the discovery of high sensitive German intelligence and ultimately lead to the success of the Allied powers. Unfortunately, Turing was gay which was a crime in Britain. He accepted chemical castration instead of prison. He died in 1954 from cyanide poisoning. Unfortunately, his feats were not reported until many years after his death.

American Gangster

American Gangster follows the criminal activity of former drug lord and gangster, Frank Lucas. Lucas, portrayed by Denzel Washington, became infamous for smuggling drugs in the pallets hidden underneath the coffins of dead American servicemen. He became an expert in his trade and learned how to cut out the middleman and bought directly from the Golden Triangle. He was convicted in 1976 and sentenced to 70 years, however only served 5. Later, he was arrested again in 1984, but released after he served his 7 year sentence.

The Pursuit Of Happiness

One of the first times father-son duo, Will, and Jaden Smith,  appeared on film together was in the true story of The Pursuit of Happiness. The story shows the life of Chris Gardner and how he raised in son while living in poverty. In order to one day provide for his son, he took an unpaid training position at a stock brokerage firm that could possibly lead to a full-time job. After the training was complete, he was awarded the job and was able to build the life he and his son deserved.

Everest

Everest is the story of Beck Weather’s and his fight to survive the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. In May 1996, Weathers and 7 other people were being guided through the terrain of Mount Everest. However, Weathers had just had radial keratotomy surgery, which led to him being blinded by the high altitude. He was left behind and blizzard struck. Despite his handicap and the weather conditions, he was able to survive.

Jackie

Former First Lady Jackie Kennedy was portrayed by Natalie Portman in the 2016 film, Jackie. The film depicts Jackie’s life after the assassination of her husband and U.S. President, John F. Kennedy. Despite her mourning, Jackie remained strong for her husband and her country. She stayed at the White House in the two weeks following the assassination, and had the new President Lyndon B. Johnson name the space center in Florida to the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

McFarland, USA

McFarland, USA is a true underdog story. It follows the teacher and coach James White, as he tries to create a track at McFarland High School. The team, who no one expected to succeed, proved everyone wrong and won 24 CIF Central Section championships. Sadly, their winning streak was broken when the team was pushed to Division 1 and had to complete against school that had 2.5 times the population. However, their story was already written and the original team became legends. Coach White was portrayed by Kevin Costner.

The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring was a group of 8 teenagers who burglarized the homes of many celebrities between 2008-2009. The film titled after the group depicted their criminal behavior. The group was able to steal around $3 million worth of cash and personal belongings from multiple celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Megan Fox, and Lindsay Lohan. Taissa Farmiga and Emma Watson were just some of the stars that portrayed some of the greedy teens.

Lion

Lion tells the real life story of Saroo Brierly. Saroo, when he was 5 years old, was separated from his biological family after he fell asleep on a train. He traveled all across the country  of India looking for his brother and family until he was picked up by an orphanage. An Australian family adopted him, but after struggling with his identity, he decided to find his biological mother. Using the internet, he was able to locate his old village and reunite with his mother and sister.

Monster

Charlize Theron was turned into the serial killer Aileen Wuornos for the film Monster.

Wuornos was a prostitute turned serial killer, who murdered 7 men during the 1980s and 1990s.

She claimed she was acting in self-defense as the men she killed were allegedly sexually abusing her.

However, she was convicted of the murder of 6 of the men and executed by lethal injection for her crimes.

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada gives audiences an inside look into what its like to work in the editorial fashion world.

The film is based on the novel by the same name, written by Lauren Weisbeger.

Weisberger was actually Anna Wintour’s (the character in which Miranda Priestly is based on) personal assistant.

Wintour is known for her demanding yet wildly successful management decisions, and the film was based on true stories from her life.

Beauty And The Beast

Brought to life in the Disney cartoon and most recently live-action film, Beauty and the Beast is actually loosely based on true stories.

Although not royalty, a ma suffered from the genetic condition hypertrichosis. His condition caused him to grow abnormal amounts of facial hair all over his body.

He was captured and given as a gift to King Henry II of France.

However, he was treated well by the King and given an education and later married off to a beautiful woman named Catherine.

American Hustle

American Hustle depicts the true stories of the FBI sting operation ABSCAM.

Abscam took place during the 1970s and 1980s and was originally created to target trafficking in stolen property.

However, it was later converted to a public corruption investigation.

Undercover officers were able to get videotapes of several public officials accepting bribes from a fraudulent Arabian company in return for various political favors.

Of the 30 political figured that were investigated, 7 were convicted.

Hacksaw Ridge

Andrew Garfield portrays World War II veteran Desmond Doss in the film Hacksaw Ridge.

Doss, who was a combat medic during the war, was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.

Therefore, he refused to carry any weapons.

After his service was over, he became the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Garfield received the Oscar for Best Actor for this performance.

The Terminal

In 2004, Tom Hanks played Viktor Navorski, an eastern immigrant who found himself stranded in JFK airport and was forced to temporarily live there.

The film was based on a man named Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who spent 18 years living in Terminal 1 of the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France.

Nasseri was a refugee from Iran when he landed in France.

However, he was not allowed to enter France, therefore he had to live in the airport as he had nowhere else to go.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is the true story of a team of African-American female mathematicians who served a vital role for NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.

The film mainly follows 3 women: Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson (respectively played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe.) Each woman made amazing developments to the space program, which lead to feats that would not have been possible without them. 

The Blind Side

The 2009 film The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron, told the true stories of professional football player Michael Oher.

The story was actually discovered through a book that was released in 2006, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. 

The book looks at football strategy as well as Michael’s real-life true stories.

The book discusses Michaels tough childhood, and adoption by the Touhy family, as well as chronicles his football career through high school and college.

Last of the true stories – Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club gave audiences a glimpse into the true stories behind the life of a man living with AIDS and his fight for survival.

Ron Woodruff, played by Matthew McConaughey in the 2013 film, was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s.

Once he discovered a treatment for HIV was widely unavailable, he created a group called “Dallas Buyers Club.”

The group’s mission was to find, obtain (sometimes illegally), and distribute treatment to those who needed it.

Sadly, in 1992, Woodruff died from pneumonia that was brought on by AIDS.

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