Film narratives don’t always reflect real life at all, but when they do they can provide a powerful means to tell true stories. Sadness is a powerful emotion, and tragedy is a rich source of inspiration. No matter how affecting the film might be, though, sometimes the actual facts are even more potent. Many of the most tear-inducing films ever made were based – at least in part – on fact, but in these cases, the true story is even more upsetting. 1. Goodfellas Goodfellas is a fictional version of the story of New York city mobster Henry Hill and his association with the Lucchese crime family. He worked with them between the years 1955 and 1980, until he became an informant to the FBI in 1980. His testimonies allowed the FBI to capture and secure some 50 convictions. Several of these included key figures of the mob, which include Paul Vario and James Burke. The film is based on the book called Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family. denofgeek.com 2. Deepwater Horizon Deepwater Horizon recounts the true story of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that resulted in a huge offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred on April 20th, 2010. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank due to the explosion and fire that took place, which led to the deaths of 11 workers. 17 others were injured in the explosion as well. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was considered to be the worst and largest accidental marine oil spill to have ever occurred. historyvshollywood.com 3. The People Vs. O.J. Simpson The People vs. O.J. Simpson recounts the story of the famous criminal trial O.J. Simpson faced for the murder of his wife Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. After Simpson became a person of interest and failed to turn himself into the authorities, he was a part of a famously televised car chase, which even interrupted coverage of the 1994 NBA Finals. After he was arrested, he was put on trial in what is considered the “Trial of the Century.” Simpson was found “not guilty” of the murders. Robert Kardashian was one of his lawyers. imdb.com 4. Black Mass Johnny Depp starred in Black Mass as Whitey Bulger, a former organized crime boss who was in charge of the Boston-based Winter Hill Gang. Bulger controlled the majority of the organized crime in South Boston but was challenged by a rival gang, the North End Angiulo Brothers. The FBI claims that Bulger worked as an informant for them, but he had consistently denied this. The FBI frequently turned a blind eye to his organization’s crimes in exchange for information about the Italian-American crime family Patriarca. He was eventually arrested at age 81 and is serving life in jail for his crimes. variety.com 5. The Wolf Of Wall Street Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, which chronicled Belfort’s life story. After being found guilty of committing fraud as well as several other crimes related to stock-market manipulation, Belfort was sentenced to prison and served a 22-month sentence before being released. After his time spent in jail, Belfort decided to write about his story and thus wrote two memoirs: The Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street. He also works as a motivational speaker now. youtube.com 6. Big Eyes The 2014 film Big Eyes chronicles the life of artist Margaret Keane, who is known for her work that portrayed subjects with exceptionally large eyes. Her drawings and paintings are mostly of women, children, and animals and incorporate mixed media. Here is an incredible story due to the fact that her husband Walter Keane began taking credit for her work throughout the 1960’s until she announced on a radio show that she was the real artist behind the work. She sued her then ex-husband and was finally given the recognition for her work after winning the case. time.com 7. Erin Brockovich The biographical film starring Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich tells the story of Brockovich and her fight against Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) as a result of contaminated drinking water caused by waste from PG&E going into the area near the water plant. The case was settled in 1996 for $333 million – the largest settlement in U.S. history. According to Brockovich, the film was 98% accurate, but some critics claim that there were a lot of minor changes made to the real story. imdb.com 8. The Revenant The Revenant is a 2015 film based on the true life of Hugh Glass who was a hunter, frontiersman, trader, and explorer who was mauled by a grizzly bear and then left behind by his companions. Although his story has been disputed due to the lack of written evidence, the story is that he crawled his way over 200 miles to South Dakota and has become somewhat of a legend. hollywoodreporter.com 9. Titanic The ship hit an iceberg during its voyage that was meant to go from Southampton to New York City. There were 2224 crew members and passengers on board, and of those, 1500 people died due to the shipwreck. The disaster is considered one of the deadliest! Many of the characters in the film were based on real people. youtube.com 10. Joy Joy is a film that is loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, who is an inventor, entrepreneur, and businesswoman. She is known for inventing the Miracle Mop. The invention grew to become wildly successful and in 1999, she sold the company to the Home Shopping Network. By 2000, the company was selling $10 million worth of the mops. She later released other inventions that include Huggable Hangers and Forever Fragrant. vanityfair.com 11. The Imitation Game The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, who was a computer scientist, mathematician, and cryptanalyst who is best known for decrypting German intelligence codes during World War II for the British government. He also designed several different methods of speeding up the breaking of ciphers. His decryptions played major roles in crucial moments against the Nazis, for example, the Battle of the Atlantic. His death remains a mystery until this day, and there have been several theories and speculations regarding what actually happened. historyvshollywood.com 12. 12 Years A Slave 12 Years A Slave is the story of New York State-born free Solomon Northup who was kidnapped and sold into slavery despite being born to freed slaves. He was held captive and forced to work as a slave in Louisiana. He wrote an account of his 12 years spent in slavery. He was able to escape and regain his freedom after a Canadian working on the same plantation helped get his story to New York, where the Governer Washing Hunt helped him escape and return to New York to live in freedom. His captors never received any punishment. cliffsnotes.com 13. The Danish Girl The Danish Girl tells the story of Lili Elbe, who was a transgender Danish woman and known as one of the first identifiable recipients of gender reassignment surgery ever. She officially transitioned in 1930 after she was born Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener. She began going by the name “Lili” and publicly introduced herself as Einar’s sister before successfully completing the surgery. Before her transition, she was a successful artist and painter. She was married to a woman before her transition. historyvshollywood.com 14. The Pianist The Pianist is a historical drama based on the real life of Wladyslaw Szpilman, who was a Jewish Polish pianist and classical composer. He is known for his story of surviving the German occupation of Warshaw as well as the Holocaust. During the German invasion of Poland, Szpilman was forced into hiding in the Warshaw ghetto for two years. He was able to escape the Holocaust with the help of a German officer who opposed the occupation and policies. dailymail.co.uk 15. Hachi Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is a film based on the true story of the dog Hachiko. Hachiko was an Akita who was born in Odate, Akita Prefecture in Japan. He is known and remembered for his unwavering loyalty to his owner, even after his owner passed away. The dog remained faithful to the owner even nine years after his passing. He is often referred to as “chuken Hachiko,” which translates to “faithful dog Hachi.” He became a symbol of faithfulness, loyalty, and fidelity and is continued to be remembered today. pethelpful.com 16. Schindler’s List Schindler’s List is inspired by Thomas Keneally’s book Schindler’s Ark that told the story of Oskar Schindler. Schindler was an ethnic German who was a member of the Party but who is credited with saving the lives of around 1200 Jews from the horrors of the Holocaust. He was able to help save their lives by giving them employment in his ammunition and enamelware factories. He is the only person to have been a part of the Party to be buried in Mount Zion in Jerusalem. mentalfloss.com 17. Apollo 13 Apollo 13 was the third manned mission meant to land on the moon and the seventh overall manned mission in the Apollo space program. It was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in April 1970. However, the mission did not make it to the moon since an oxygen tank explosion led to a crippled Service Module. This meant that the crew experienced loss of cabin heat, a water shortage, and limited power. Despite this, the crew managed to survive and return home safely. commonsensemedia.org 18. Donnie Brasco Donnie Brasco, who in the film named after him was portrayed by Johnny Depp, was the alias of Joseph “Joe” Pistone, who was an FBI agent who spent six years working undercover with the Bonanno crime family. He also infiltrated the Colombo crime family. He worked as an FBI agent for 27 years. Pistone helped pioneer FBI undercover work and helped prove just how crucial going undercover can be as a law enforcement tool. Pistone was able to go undercover due to his Sicilian heritage and his fluency in Italian. imdb.com 19. War Dogs War Dogs is 2016 that is loosely based on the actions of two arms dealers, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who supplied munitions for the Afghan National Army after receiving a US Army contract to do so. They supplied the Afghan National Army with nearly $300 million worth of munitions. The two were caught trying to re-brand and re-package Chinese ammunition that are prohibited and after getting caught they ended up serving time for their crimes. Packouz spent seven months under house arrest and Diveroli spent four years in prison. rollingstone.com 20. Gangs Of New York The film Gangs of New York was inspired by the nonfiction book of the same name that described the 19th century New York City gangs that were prominent in the time period. The gangs were the city’s main contributors of crime and came before the rise of the Mafia during the Prohibition period in the 1920’s. The book focused on describing the daily activities of the gangs, which included gambling dens and saloon halls and also described the Five Points area of Lower Manhattan. reelrundown.com 21. Bridge Of Spies Yet another epic film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg, “Bridge Of Spies” tells the story of James B. Donovan, a lawyer during the Cold War who was assigned to the negotiations of the release of Francis Gary Powers – an Air Force pilot whose spy plane (U-2) was shot down above the Soviet Union in 1960. Some critics have stated that shortening the timespans throughout the film was misleading, while others state that the film’s slight diversion from the real story was permissible. biography.com 22. The Founder The Founder tells the story of fast food chain McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. He opened the first McDonald’s Inc. restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois when the McDonald brothers recruited him in order to help out with franchising. Once Kroc had successfully franchised out the restaurants, he bought the company from the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million. Kroc was the one to ensure that operations would be standardized in order to have consistency from restaurant to restaurant. By the time of his passing away, there were 7500 McDonald’s franchises open around the world. netflixmovies.com 23. Finding Neverland Playwright J. M. Barrie decided to commemorate his relationship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan. Still, the film openly acknowledges on both the opening and closing credits that it is only inspired by true events and that it has happily condensed or eliminated characters for the sake of the story. Furthermore, with a striking cast list like Johnny Depp playing James Matthew Barrie and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies played by Kate Winslet, it’s safe to say the movie was bound to be a huge success from the start. pinterest.com 24. Girl, Interrupted Best-selling American author Susanna Kaysen wrote her 1993 memoir and titled it Girl, Interrupted. As a young woman submitted to a psychiatric hospital for a year and a half in the 1960s, Kaysen jotted down her experiences. Some say the movie is a loose adaptation of the book, although both book writer and lead movie character go by the same name, are diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder after a nervous breakdown, and take an overdose of pills with a bottle of vodka. screencrush.com 25. Cinderella Man Cinderella Man is a film titled after heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock and inspired by his life story. Real life Braddock, the Cinderella Man, has to lead a gripping, brimming life and lived to tell his tale of a rising star with the shattered dream, his fall from greatness and one of the most epically legendary comebacks in history. Since the true tale is unbelievably engaging as it is, little if any Hollywood-esque features were introduced into the silver-screen version. imdb.com 26. Remember The Titans This American sports film takes place in Alexandria, Virgina and is based on the true story of African-American coach Herman Boone and his attempt to integrate the T. C. Williams High School football team in 1971. While this movie is fundamentally based on real-life events, many claim it has strayed from the actual facts. For example, Boone was hardly the coach that actor Washington was – many former Titans players said real Boone was harsh to the extent of causing some players to quit. The film also wrongfully portrays Sheryl Yoast as an only child. pinterest.com 27. Unbroken Unbroken is a film directed by Angelina Jolie that tells the story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, who was first an Olympic track star and later became a World War II hero. His survival story is incredible, beginning with his surviving a plane crash in the Pacific theater. He then managed to survive for 47 days while drifting on a raft. Afterwards, he was taken as a prisoner of war where he survived three different Japanese prisoners of war camps over two and a half years. screencrush.com 28. Munich Spielberg’s narrative describes the dark event of the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympics when Palestinian terrorists held 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage. There was an attempted rescue, which went horribly wrong and resulted in the death of all 11 athletes. The movie then shows a hastily assembled covert assassination team gathered by Israel’s Prime Minister. The team is provided with a list of 11 targets – supposedly, the men responsible for the attack. Some claim the film is lacking credibility, due to tweaks were done in a Spielberg-y manner to make a blockbuster instead of revealing the truth. theguardian.com 29. Escape From Alcatraz The film depicts the June 1962 escape from Alcatraz – the only successful escape from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in history. Inmates Clarence Anglin, John Anglin, and Frank Morris made paper-mâché replicas of their heads and put them in their beds before escaping the building via the deserted utility corridor. Critics have often pointed out that even though the film made it seem like the escape was successful, it was never confirmed that the escapees survived; evidence, however, suggests that it’s possible that they did, in fact, make it out alive. nydailynews.com 30. Walk The Line In Walk The Line, Joaquin Phoenix portrays legendary singer Johnny Cash. Cash rose to stardom right at the beginning of the rock n’ roll craze of the late 1940’s and early 50’s. Although he was already married, while on tour he met singer June Carter and fell in love with her. The two would go on to perform together as Cash continued to pursue her. He began to struggle with substance abuse, and eventually, it began to affect his personal and professional life. mtv.com 31. Seabiscuit Seabiscuit was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse that inspired the 2003 equestrian film that was named after him. The film starred Tobey Maguire as his jockey, Red Pollard. Although he was first overlooked due to his small nature, Seabiscuit proved to be a true underdog story when he became a champion horse. His unlikely success brought many people hope, as his success came around the time of the Great Depression. He became a symbol of prosperity during the tough economic times. nola.com 32. Dallas Buyers Club The heartbreaking film tells the story of a real-life AIDS patient – Ron Woodroof – who was diagnosed in the mid-80s when the treatment was under-researched and practically unavailable and experimental. Woodroof smuggled unapproved medication into Texas for his symptoms and soon would start to distribute it to other people with AIDS – a group that became known as the “Dallas Buyers Club”. Although Rayon and Dr. Eve Saks are fictional, their characters were based on interviews with transgenders AIDS patients, activists, and doctors for the film. entertainment.time.com 33. United 93 Back in 2001, tragedy struck in New York that affected people all over the world, leaving everybody shaken to their core. The film documents United Airlines Flight 93, one of the flights hijacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists as a part of the September 11 attacks. Paul Greengrass, the director of the film, used any available information to create this film, including stories from surviving family members, cockpit recordings, and a few other sources. This flight was the only one that didn’t reach the hijackers’ target as a result of passengers regaining control of the aircraft. independent.co.uk 34. Hidden Figures Hidden Figures is a biographical drama film that tells the story of three brilliant female African American mathematicians who worked at and made great contributions to NASA during the Space Race. The women depicted in the film are Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. The film covers important events such as when Katherine Johnson calculated flight trajectories for missions such as Project Mercury. Although the story has mostly remained true to reality, several liberties have been taken in order to create a bit more drama for the film. pinterest.com 35. American Hustle The film American Hustle is based on the real-life events that took place in the FBI ABSCAM (Abdul Scam) operation in the late 70’s and 80’s. It told the story of how the Feds used a real con man to help them track down which public officials were willing to allow an Arab sheik (who was a fake set up by the Feds themselves) to bribe them into giving him a fast-track citizenship as well as other illegal favors. 19 people, including several congressmen, a mayor, and a senator were convicted in the case. thetruthnews.info 36. Beauty And The Beast The beloved Beauty and the Beast story is actually based on a true, and rather heartbreaking, story. Obviously, the actual story did not involve a curse, but instead, a man who suffered from a genetic condition called hypertrichosis that caused an abnormal amount of hair growth on his body, including his face. He was brought as a gift to Paris to the court of King Henry II of France, where he was given an education and later married off to a beautiful woman named Catherine. They had seven children, four of which were also affected by hypertrichosis. historyvshollywood.com 37. The Terminal The film The Terminal was inspired by the true story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who spent 18 years living in Terminal 1 of the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. He lived there between the years of 1988 until 2006. Nasseri is a refugee from Iran and after being expelled from his home country, found himself without anywhere to go. Since he legally entered the airport, he could not be sent out, but he could not enter France legally either, so he had to live in the airport for all of those years. pinterest.com 38. Jackie Natalie Portman portrays former first lady Jackie Kennedy in the film Jackie, which tells the story of her life following the assassination of her husband, John F. Kennedy. The film is based off an interview she gave with Life magazine in Hyannis Port by Theodore H. White. Jackie stayed at the White House for two weeks following the event and also requested from newly inaugurated Lyndon B. Johnson that the space center in Florida would be renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center. worldation.com 39. Hacksaw Ridge Hacksaw Ridge chronicles the life of Desmond Doss, who was a pacifist combat medic who served during World War II. As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, Doss did not agree to carry or use any weapons or firearms. Doss made history when he became the first person to receive that Medal of Honor as a conscientious objector after he made many contributions during the Battle of Okinawa. Andrew Garfield portrayed Doss in the film and received an Academy Award for Best Actor. presidentmommy.com 40. American Gangster American Gangster fictionalizes the true story of Frank Lucas, who was a drug lord and gangster from North Carolina who became known for smuggling hard drugs into the United States on American service planes who were coming back from the Vietnam War. He became prominent during the 1960’s and 70’s in Harlem and was notorious for cutting out the middleman and buying the substances directly himself from the source in the Golden Triangle. mashpedia.com Credits: newsd.co Share this story on Facebook with your friends.