15 Netflix Movies Based On True Stories That Will Have You Googling The Facts

Perhaps they have to be seen to be believed.

by Mary Kate McGrath, Shannon Barbour and Grace Wehniainen
Originally Published: 
Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial Of The Chicago 7 on Netflix.

Many of Hollywood's most memorable movies are based on real-life stories, making them all the more captivating. Viewers can track the real events, Google while watching, 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. Yes, the streaming platform does offer devastating dramas like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, but it also has several biographical character studies like Mank and Steve Jobs. There are comedies like The Disaster Artist and adventure films like Adriftand even movies like The Harder They Fall, which blend truth and fiction and inspire you to keep researching. 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 true story movies on Netflix to get you started.


Get on Up

Before he was T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther, the late Chadwick Boseman received critical acclaim for his turn as Godfather of Soul James Brown in Get on Up. The 2014 biopic explores Brown’s complicated story and iconic music via snapshots of his life. In an interview with The Guardian, Boseman revealed that he spent eight hours a day perfecting Brown’s dance moves — including, of course, the Mashed Potato.


The Harder They Fall

David Lee/Netflix

If you’re looking for a historically rooted film that isn’t shy about taking creative liberties, The Harder They Fall may be for you. As a card advises at the start of the Netflix original, “While the events of this story are fictional... These. People. Existed.” And that, they did — Nat Love, Rufus Buck, and Stagecoach Mary are just a few of the figures whose stories come to life in this thrilling Western. It may not be a straight-up biopic, but it’s definitely one of the best Netflix movies based on true stories and has received serious acclaim since debuting this October.


The Dirt

Based on Mötley Crüe’s candid 2001 autobiography, The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band, Netflix’s nonstop debauchery-filled title stars Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly) as drummer Tommy Lee, Daniel Webber as lead singer Vince Neil, Douglas Booth as bassist Nikki Sixx, and Iwan Rheon as guitarist Mick Mars. Speaking about the themes presented in the book, Baker thought, “Whoa, this is dark. What are people going to think about this? But there’s something about the truth in that book — the fact that you do fall in love with these people [who] then do this giant nose dive into this dark place." The movie certainly explores some of the band’s darkest moments, but since it’s “based” on a true story by a group of unreliable narrators, the exact facts are a bit off.


Dolemite Is My Name

If you’re into true stories about artists and entertainers navigating the creative process (and the practical side of showbiz, too), Dolemite Is My Name can’t be missed. Eddie Murphy stars as Rudy Ray Moore, the real-life comedian who fights an uphill battle to make 1975’s Dolemite and endear the character to audiences. Spoiler alert, it works — to hilarious (and heartfelt) effect.


Steve Jobs

The streaming platform has no shortage of films about men doing business — shoutout to Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. But if you’re looking for a success story, Steve Jobs offers a closer look at the founder of Apple. For those who know little about the man behind his iconic turtleneck and the technology so many use today, this might be of interest.


Into The Wild

Many readers may recognize Christopher McCandless’s story from the countless adventurers who attempt to emulate him on dangerous treks and from Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction book of the same title. The story documents McCandless’s 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 excursion that cost him his life.



Adrift will offer a nice change of pace from the historical biographies on the list, depicting the true story of a couple (Richard Sharp and Tami Oldham Ashcraft) who are set adrift in the Pacific after sailing through Hurricane Raymond. When Sam Claflin’s character is thrown overboard, Shailene Woodley’s character must overcome her hallucinations and navigate the dilapidated yacht to Hawaii.


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 United States federal government amid countercultural protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The 2020 film dramatizes the trial, which came amid opposition to the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.



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.


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.


A Futile & Stupid Gesture

If you’re a major fan of comedy history — or simply love learning about the people behind pop culture institutions — this 2018 dramedy biopic is a great option. Will Forte and Domhnall Gleeson star as Douglas Kenney and Henry Beard, respectively, the college classmates who co-founded the National Lampoon franchise and bolstered the careers of the comedians who would go onto become the inaugural cast of Saturday Night Live. Though the movie might be about very funny people, it also gets super real — and you might end up crying as much as laughing.


The Dig

Based on John Preston’s 2007 novel The Dig, this movie features Mulligan as Edith Pretty, a wealthy widow who hires amateur archaeologist Basil Brown (played by Ralph Fiennes) to uncover what’s buried beneath the protruding masses on her expansive estate. It doesn’t take long before a team of professionals attempts to nudge Brown off the project, but Mulligan remains faithful in his skillset. Amid the digging comes multiple sharp realizations for Lily James’s Peggy Piggott, who is told she was only hired for her petite frame and ability to work on the fragile structure without damaging it but excavates pivotal pieces from the historic 1939 Sutton Hoo discovery. Further, Peggy becomes involved in a love triangle that comes to a head when WWII arrives on Britain’s doorstep. A story inspired by Preston’s aunt, the accomplished Margaret “Peggy” Preston, who participated in the excavation, this film is a fascinating snapshot of the times.



For a plot that’s just as entertaining as it is to say the sharp title, Mank has you covered. Starring Gary Oldman as Herman J. Mankiewicz, Mank takes viewers through his writing of the mold-breaking and precedent-setting Citizen Kane and the dispute over crediting him as a co-writer along with Orson Welles (played by Tom Burke). After suffering production delays, the Netflix Original went on to win an Academy Award, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice Award for Best Production Design.



Another movie that seeks to recreate the “golden age” of an industry, Rush stars Marvel icons Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl as famed racers and rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda, respectively. This high-octane biopic depicts the excess and dangers of Formula One racing, how the competitors pushed the other to achieve their best, and the lavish lifestyle one of the stars comes to value more than racing itself.


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

When William Kamkwamba’s Malwai village was faced with drought (and, as a result, extreme poverty), the young inventor took it upon himself to find a solution — designing a prototype windmill that was ultimately able to power farming in the famine-stricken land. In addition to starring as William’s father, Trywell, Chiwetel Ejiofor made his directorial debut with this inspiring true story.

Additional reporting by Shannon Barbour.

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