Cinema often draws from real life, bringing to the big screen amazing characters or stories that may seem extraordinary, but that are inspired by reality. And a movie that tells a true story is almost always more exciting and moving! Here are the best movies based on true stories, from the touching story of A Beautiful Mind’s mathematical genius to the fun adventures of the unlikely couple in The Intouchables.
A Beautiful Mind
The life of mathematical genius and Nobel Prize Winner John Forbes Nash Jr gave life to one of the most striking biopics: A Beautiful Mind, directed by director Ron Howard.
The story begins in Princeton, where a young Nash turns out to be a brilliant but very introverted student. After publishing a revolutionary essay on mathematical principles, he is welcomed at the MIT and simultaneously involved with the Defense Department during the Cold War’s stiffest stretch between Usa and the Ussr. From this moment on, the scientist falls into an obsessive state that will be diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia: he must learn to live with his hallucinations, distinguishing reality from the symptoms of the illness through a tough and laborious work on himself, in order to keep the illness at bay and continue pursuing his dreams.
An exciting plot that alternates dramatic and moving moments with hilarious scenes is the highlight of this movie based on a true story: that of the tetraplegic Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his caretaker Yasmin Abdel Sellou.
The film begins with rich Philippe, tetraplegic, looking for a caretaker. Among the many candidates for this job is Driss, a rough guy with an unclean past; however, Philippe is curious and decides to hire him. After the initial difficulties and misunderstandings, a relationship of friendship and mutual respect will arise between the two.
The Social Network
Who doesn’t know the world’s most famous and used social network, the one that has changed the concept of a friend?
The Social Network is about the birth of Facebook and the story of its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, who, thanks to his idea, became the youngest billionaire of all times and a model to follow for all aspiring startuppers. Like many movies based on true stories, the one directed by David Fincher draws from a biography, in this case that by Ben Mezrich, following the path of a young Mark, a brilliant student but unlucky with girls and with an inferiority complex compared to the more athletic guys. The controversial invention of Facebook – it in fact has been the subject of a long battle for its paternity – could be his redemption, but Zuckerberg remains an extremely lonely, arrogant and success driven person, moved by a feeling of revenge on those he perceives as enemies.
Another extraordinary life inspires the biographical movie Selma. We are talking about Martin Luther King and in particular about the marches he organized from Selma to Montgomery to peacefully protest against the impediments suffered by African Americans who wanted to exercise their right to vote in the Southern states of the US. The beatings to which blacks were subjected during their peaceful march move and disgust the United States, and this contributes to the president’s decision to accept King’s demands.
Coco Before Chanel
To Coco Chanel, on the other hand, is recognized the merit of “freeing” women through her innovative creations, which call for the undermining of cultural conditioning and the possibility to express oneself even through clothes.
In this movie based on a true story, actress Audreu Tautou intriguingly interprets this stylist who learned to sew and embroider in an orphanage, tracing the story that leads her from poverty to the creation of her high fashion maison, without losing her more human side, and Coco’s great love story.
The Wolf of Wall street, 2013
The real story of New York broker Jordan Belfort: from being a newbie to becoming one of the most powerful manipulators of Wall Street. Directed by Martin Scorsese, this is one of Leonardo di Caprio’s best performances which in 2013 got the critique talking, as it received five Oscar nominations.
Big Eyes, 2015
Another of Tim Burton’s creations, except this time he couldn’t completely let his imagination run wild as Big Eyes is based on the story of painter Margaret Kean and husband Walter Keane in the 1960s. Their artwork is famous all over the world, for the distinctive big eye the children portrayed have. Theirs is a story of abuse, and of secrets, as the Walter had always claimed he was the hand behind the paintings.
Big Eyes, 2015
The Big Short, 2015
Not only is this movie based on a real story, the financial crisis in America between 2006 and 2008, but it does also look into the specific dynamics of how it all happened: Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Brad Bitt talk numbers and finance to explain us how the housing bubble triggered one of most catastrophic events in America’s – and world – economy.
Black Mass, 2015
One of Johnny Depp’s incarnations is Jimmy Bulger, a gangster that tormented the streets of Boston between the 70s and the 90s. Directed by Scott Cooper, it’s the story of how one of most vicious gangster ever seen in the city gets away with a lot thanks to his partnership with the FBI in trying to shut the Italian mafia down.
Spotlight is the actual name of Boston Globe’s team of journalists who investigated on the Catholic Church cover up in the case of 70 local Roman Catholic priests’ child sexual abuse scandal. With Mark Ruffalo, directed by Tom McCarthy, the movie triggered the critique from the Church about a possible misrepresentation of how these cases are handled.
The Danish Girl, 2015
Based on David Ebershoff’s novel ‘The Danish girl’, this biopic drama is about the story of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili Elbe is also one of the first people to be ever identified with the term ‘transsexual’ and to go through sex change. Directed by Tom Hooper, the movie has been presented to 72nd Venice International Film Festival.
Frida Kahlo, 2002
Selma Hayek dresses the iconic looks of Frida Kahlo, one of the most famous artists coming out of Mexico: from her bus crash that leaves with severe injuries that will affect here for the rest of her life, to her two high profile marriages, the ambiguous society she lives in, the one in Mexico in the 1920s, between lesbianism and loud clubs. Directed by Julie Taymor.
It’s the true story of Canadian Caper, the secret operation carried out by joint forces United States and Canada to free six American hostages who found rescue at the Canadian Embassy in Teheran, after the Iranian revolution in 1979. Based on the book Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA by former CIA agent Tony Mendez, it’s a detailed depiction of a true story that received three Academy awards.
Erin Brockovich, 2000
Julia Roberts is an unemployed single mother who finds herself fighting against major electric company Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the scandal related to hexavalent chromium, a carcinogenic substance that is present the groundwater in Hinkley: she finds so many cases of the residents getting sick that she can file a class act. Directed by Steve Soderbergh, the movie was a major box office success.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley
An inspiring story on how the will of a single man can change the fate of many lives: Oskar Schindler turns his factory into a refuge for Jews during World War II, managing to save 1100 of them. This true story is one that saw a little girl playing the protagonist (the one in the red coat), which caused many concerns on how unethical it is to employ child-actors in movies containing strong concepts or even gruesome.
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon
After reaching the moon, a routine mission should come as walk in the park for the crew of the Apollo 13. But their story is ill-fated and astronauts Lovell, Haise and Swigert are drifting in space trying to find a way to make back to earth using all their perseveration, determination and simply love for life.
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay
Adapted from the autobiography ‘The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945,” this movie is based on the true story of radio station pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, who witnesses the gradual transformation of Warsaw and Poland during World War II. Hiding and being separated from his family are some of the moving elements of a story depicting some of the darkest pages of human history.
Into the Wild
Director: Sean Penn
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener
We have written a full article about those brave enough to pack their bags and leave everything behind in search of the ultimate travel experience, to say the least, or their true soul, to use a euphemism. This exactly what graduate Christopher McCandless does: empties his bank account and gives it to charity to then set off to the sunset, or better to the winter wilderness of Alaska.
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Robert Downey, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo.
Based on real events, Zodiac is a must movie on Netflix following the story of a cartoonist – Jake Gyllenhaal – who turns detective in trying to trace the steps of a serial killer, the Zodiac Killer. Directed by David Fincher, it also stars Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo.
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
How many times have you gone out of this house without letting anyone know your whereabouts? Plenty we guess. And this is the beginning of the tragedy for Aron Ralston: no one knows he is trapped by his arm in an isolated canyon in Utah. The 65 foot fall isn’t the only things separating him from survival: in order to make it out of there he has to elaborate the most daring plan.