Famous Hollywood films like Into the Wild and The Imitation Game draw inspiration from real-life stories of triumph over adversity and survival. This list of true story films captures the essence of the people, places, and things that inspired them.
1. ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ (1979)
Located on San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was the most guarded jail of its time. In 1962, three daring men (played by Clint Eastwood, Fred Ward, and Jack Thibeau) attempted to get out of it, and they were successful. There is some debate about how successful they were, but this gripping story is an excellent exploration of both the facts and the fictions.
2. ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)
As with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899), Apocalypse Now is based on real-life events that the author experienced. Willard (Martin Sheen) is dispatched on a risky mission into Cambodia during the Vietnam War to kill an insane renegade colonel (Marlon Brando) who has established himself as god among a tribal tribe and is considered to be insane. It’s a wonderful piece of music by The Doors, too.
3. ‘The Imitation Game’ (2014)
Benedict Cumberbatch (AKA Sherlock) plays Alan Turing, a computer scientist who seeks to crack the Enigma code employed by the Nazis during World War II to protect their radio communications. Even though Turing was a brilliant programmer, his low opinion of his coworkers made him a difficult coworker to have. However, if he is to succeed, he will need to overcome both the mathematical and social challenges.
4. ‘Into the Wild’ (2007)
True narrative about a man’s spiritual journey into the wilderness, Into the Wild reflects the numerous tensions and challenges that worry those who are uneasy with a materialistic life. It’s rooted in the desire to be self-sufficient and autonomous, to break free of social expectations, and to find meaning in the natural world. Emory University alumnus Christopher McCandless threw away his belongings and donated his entire $24,000 savings account to charity, then hitched a ride to Alaska to pursue his lifelong passion. Cue the legend that was to be: Alexander Supertramp.
5. ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1962)
Thomas Edward Lawrence, a Welsh diplomat and military commander serving in the Arabian Peninsula during World War I, tells his story in this biographical drama. It depicts the officer’s inner conflicts with war’s inherent violence, his own sense of self, and his conflicted allegiances to Britain and the Arabian Desert tribes to which he belonged. It’s a genuinely epic work of art.
6. ‘Midnight Express’ (1978)
The true story of Billy Hayes, a college student from the United States who was arrested and imprisoned for smuggling drugs out of Turkey, is told in the film Midnight Express. Despite Billy’s best efforts, he is repeatedly apprehended and viciously beaten by the guards in the film’s title, which is prison slang for an escape attempt. The film’s soundtrack, which received the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1979, is one of the most recognizable aspects of the picture.
7. ‘Spartacus’ (1960)
For me, being a free man in a group of like-minded men and having to walk for miles to get there is better than being the richest citizen in Rome, plump and surrounded by slaves. That’s just one of the movie’s most memorable and uplifting lines, taken from its portrayal of the world’s most famous slave insurrection. The film, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is widely regarded as one of the best depictions of the Roman Empire ever created.
8. ‘Catch Me If You Can’ (2002)
Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks star in this biopic about the life of Frank Abagnale Jr. A master of forgery and disguise, the young Abagnale was able to cash millions of dollars’ worth of checks while also posing as a Pan Am pilot, medical doctor, and even a prosecutor in the process. What’s more, he accomplished all of this before becoming 19 years old, and the main reason he did so was to reunite his estranged parents, who had become separated due to financial difficulties. The movie had a great mix of humor and action, and DiCaprio deserved to win the Oscar for best actor.
9. ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993)
Liam Neeson plays Oskar Schindler, a Nazi businessman who has a change of heart and ends up saving over 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust as a result of his efforts. Steven Spielberg directs the film, which stars Ralph Fiennes as the famed Nazi executioner commandant Amon Goeth, the film’s starring protagonist. The film was widely acclaimed, winning the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture that year.
10. ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2001)
When it comes to John Forbes Nash Jr., the narrative of a mathematical genius, the line between genius and crazy can be a fine one. As performed by Russell Crowe, the audience gets a close-up look at the life of Nash, a brilliant but troubled man whose schizophrenia severely impacted his personal connections with his family and friends, as well as his career.
11. ‘American Sniper’ (2014)
In Clint Eastwood’s film depiction of Chris Kyle’s life story, the Navy SEAL sniper’s pinpoint accuracy saved many lives and made him a hero during the Iraq War. Kyle, on the other hand, was unable to shake the horrific memories of war and death when he returned to his wife and children after serving in the military.
12. ‘The Pianist’ (2002)
The Pianist, starring Adrien Brody and directed by Roman Polanski, tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish musician who was forced to flee the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. This critically praised film took home three Oscars, the Palme d’Or, and a slew of other prestigious honors for its outstanding performance and production values.
13. ‘Erin Brockovich’ (2000)
Julia Roberts earned an Oscar for her role as Erin Brockovich, a small-town lawyer and single mother of three children. Brockovich is employed as a lawyer despite her lack of formal education. She comes onto a large case of water contamination in her town, which has resulted in numerous cancer cases, and she decides to take on the big corporations. It’s a gripping and fascinating story.
14. ‘300’ (2006)
Leonidas and his 300 soldiers fought the Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae, which took place between Greece and Persia (modern-day Iran) in 480BC. This video tells the historical account of this battle. History comes to life in this film, starring Gerard Butler as king and Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey as his queen, which features magnificent cinematography and excellent acting.
15. ‘12 Years a Slave’ (2013)
Solomon Northup, a free black man from Upstate New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 in this biographical drama. The film 12 Years a Slave won the Academy Award for Best Picture and was hailed as a masterpiece by critics and moviegoers alike. It was not only masterfully directed by Steve McQueen; it also had a touching and genuine storyline.