50 Best Movies Based on True Events

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Audiences often go to the movies to escape the humdrum of day-to-day monotony. Yet some of the greatest movies are based on everyday life stories. While added drama may occasionally be necessary to bring these stories up to cinematic standards, the fact remains that the truth is often more interesting than fiction.

Though these movies are based on true events, they are often based on the lives of exceptional individuals. Such is the case with David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), which is based on the life of British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence, and “Amadeus” (1984), which is based on the life of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Characters with the nuances of living persons can be far more compelling than an invented character such as Superman, as evidenced by the Academy Awards and critical praise these films often win.

Other films, including Steven Spielberg’s World War II-based “Saving Private Ryan” — one of the best movies of all time, according to a 24/7 Tempo rank — may take a less direct approach to interpreting true events. While the movie is based on an actual soldier named Fritz Niland — the titular character, James Francis Ryan — Niland was never lost and did not require rescue. Spielberg more loosely uses Niland’s story as a way to represent the events of the D-Day invasion of Normandy and the army’s “sole-survivor policy.”

24/7 Tempo has identified the 50 best movies that are based on true events. The ranking is based on audience and critic ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and Internet Movie Database.

To determine the best movies based on true stories, 24/7 Tempo ranked movies within the biography genre and those tagged on IMDb as being “based on a true story.” For each movie, we considered the Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes’ average audience rating, and IMDb average user rating. To be considered, each film had to have at least 10,000 user ratings on both IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes and 10 approved Tomatometer critic reviews.

We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and weighted them by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating. Box office data came from IMDb and is not adjusted for inflation.