TV & Movies

15 Movies On Netflix That Are Based On True Events

Perhaps they have to be seen to be believed.

Netflix
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Many of Hollywood's most memorable movies are based on real-life stories, which makes them all the more captivating. Viewers can track the real events, Google while they watch, and see how the actors stack up against the real people. If that's your thing, there a ton of true story movies on Netflix you probably haven't already viewed that are worth a watch.

While fans might have preconceived notions about true-to-life films always being serious dramas, the range of Netflix’s offerings might be a surprise. While the streaming platform does offer devastating dramas like First They Killed My Father, The Theory of Everything and Fruitvale Station, it also has some biographical character studies like Saving Mr. Banks, Steve Jobs, and Trumbo. There are even comedies like The Disaster Artist and adventure films like Adrift. But regardless of genre, each of these movies is a lesson in compelling storytelling, made even more bracing by the fact that it's based on real events. Below, 15 movies to get you started.

1

Fruitvale Station

While many fans might know Michael B. Jordan best for his roles in Black Panther or Creed, he delivers a standout performance in this biographical drama. The actor plays Oscar Grant, who was killed in 2009 by a BART police officer in the Fruitvale district station in Oakland, California. Director Ryan Coogler wanted audiences to know Grant better as a person, saying amid the politicization of the event his "truth was lost" in an interview with The Washington Post. It's a heartbreaking film that highlights the issue of police brutality.

2

The Social Network

The Social Network documents the origin story of Facebook, beginning with founder Mark Zuckerberg's early years at Harvard and following him through the personal and legal issues that plagued his success. In an era where Facebook's role in our lives is under new scrutiny, it's more illuminating than ever to revisit the social media platform's beginnings.

3

The Theory of Everything

This biographical film documents the early life of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, including the early days of his relationship with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde and his eventual diagnosis of the motor neuron disease ALS.

4

Steve Jobs

The streaming platform has no shortage of films about men doing business. Steve Jobs offers a closer look at the founder of Apple and might be of interest to anyone who knows little about his life beyond his iconic turtleneck.

5

Into The Wild

Many readers may recognize Christopher McCandless’ story from Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction book of the same title. The story documents McCandless’ decision to give up the trappings of contemporary life and explore the wilderness. In the film, Emile Hirsch portrays the complicated McCandless, whose restless nature ultimately led him to the adventure that cost him his life.

6

Spotlight

If you’re a fan of movies about journalism, Spotlight is arguably among one of the best, documenting how a team of journalists at the Boston Globe uncovered a decades-long cover-up of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

7

Adrift

Adrift will offer a nice change of pace from the historical biographies on the list, depicting the true story of a couple who are set adrift in the Pacific after sailing through Hurricane Raymond. When one of them is thrown overboard, the other must navigate the dilapidated yacht to Hawaii.

8

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Often, historical films can offer an illuminating context for the current moment. Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7 follows seven defendants who are charged by the federal government amid countercultural protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The film dramatizes the trial, which came amid opposition to the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

9

Suffragette

This historical drama follows the early days of the suffragette movement in the U.K., including the push for the right to vote. The movie has a cast full of big-time names, including Carey Mulligan, who plays a working mother who joins political activist Emmeline Pankhurst, portrayed by Meryl Streep. While Mulligan's character is fictional, she stands in for many of the women living in the unjust society of the era.

10

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

This biographical crime drama is about serial killer Ted Bundy, told through the perspective of his former girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall, who refused to believe the truth about him for years. Based on the memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy, this eerie film stars Zac Efron as Bundy and Lily Collins as Kendall, taking place predominantly during the murder trial.

11

The Disaster Artist

Tommy Wiseau's The Room is a notorious movie - and now there's another movie to explain the question many viewers ask, which is, how did this get made? The Disaster Artist stars James Franco as Wiseau, documenting him funding, writing, directing, and starring in the cult-classic movie that made him a part of cinematic history.

12

Trumbo

If you're looking for more cinema history, Trumbo is another Hollywood biography, documenting the career of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo, an active member of the Communist Party of the USA, was subpoenaed by the House Committee of Un-American Activities and served time in prison. The film documents his efforts to succeed in the entertainment industry despite being blacklisted for his beliefs.

13

The Iron Lady

Many viewers of The Crown might be curious to learn more about Margaret Thatcher's controversial legacy in the U.K. The Iron Lady stars Meryl Streep as Thatcher, and offers more context for how the conservative prime minister's set the stage for the polarizing right-wing political positions shaping politics in the country today.

14

Molly's Game

Don't worry, true-crime fans - Aaron Sorkin's crime drama Molly's Game is the true story of Olympic skier Molly Bloom, who went on to run a high-stakes poker game that became the target of an FBI raid. The movie, which stars Jessica Chastain as Molly, documents how the game, which drew movie stars, business titans, and sports stars, came to be as well as its founder's court trial.

15

The Founder

There's been no shortage of biographical dramas on this list, but The Founder looks at a lesser-known origin story of McDonald's. Even though the golden arches are nearly universally recognizable, most people probably know little about Ray Kroc, a traveling milkshake machine salesman who teams up with the two McDonald brothers to form the fast-food empire.

This article was originally published on