Sometimes an event, a group, or person comes along with a tale so fascinating and engaging (for one reason or another) that it captivates the world. More times than not when that happens, those stories are turned into riveting movies detailing people's strengths (and weaknesses), merits, and other aspects, creating amazing cinematic experiences in the process.
Below is a collection of more than a dozen of the best movies based on true stories and how you can watch them streaming on services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and several other popular platforms. These titles range from the best sports movies to great political dramas and everything in between.
Outmatched by the big market teams when it comes to being able to attract and pay high-profile players, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), and his assistant Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), come up with a revolutionary system that looks at players not because of their names or previous accomplishments, but instead by their potential (and situational hitting). Based on the true story of the 2002 Oakland A’s, a team that won 20 consecutive games and punched a ticket to the postseason, Bennett Miller’s Moneyball shows what can happen when you leave conventional wisdom on the bench.
The Social Network (Amazon Prime)
What starts out as a response to getting dumped while attending Harvard University turns into the world’s largest (and most controversial) social media platform in this retelling of the founding of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg). David Fincher’s thrilling 2010 biographical drama, The Social Network, explores the formative years of Facebook, a time when the social media company and its founder’s biggest problems were those that dealt with issues over friendship and money, and not being accused of being detrimental to democracy, and society as a whole.
Schindler's List (Showtime)
Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) goes from a shrewd factory owner living in Nazi Germany who hires Jewish workers to keep down his costs, to someone who risks everything to save the lives of his employees and their families during the horrors of the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is based on the dramatic story of a Nazi who decided to go against the grain no matter the cost, and ended up saving approximately 1,200 lives from slaughter.
Apollo 13 (Amazon Prime)
One year after Apollo 11 made Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins household names, three astronauts, led by Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) try to escape the shadow of giants and make their own mark on history. The astronauts in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 do achieve that goal, but for all the wrong reasons, after their spacecraft experiences a catastrophic failure halfway to the moon.
Into The Wild (Netflix)
Upon graduating college, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) doesn’t start a family, a career, or anything like that, but instead embarks upon a solitary journey to discover freedom and himself in the great wilderness and lesser-travelled roads of the American landscape. Sean Penn’s biographical drama, Into the Wild, explores the real-life story of the self-described Alexander Supertramp and how he became one of the cult heroes of the late 20th Century.
Raging Bull (Showtime)
Boxing legend Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) rises through the ranks of the prizefighting world while his life at home becomes more complicated, temperamental, and violent. Martin Scorsese’s 1980 Academy Award winner Raging Bull remains one of the most beautifully shot and scripted boxing movies, even if its characters and violent outbursts are hard to stomach.
Hidden Figures (Disney+)
Three brilliant, yet unrecognized, African-American NASA mathematicians set out to prove they shouldn’t be pushed to the wayside because of their race or gender when they help send John Glenn into orbit and forever change modern history. Theodore Melfi’s 2017 motivational drama, Hidden Figures, is one of those movies with a story so good it would be easy to dismiss it as something dreamt up in Hollywood.
Almost Famous (Amazon Prime)
High school reporter William Miller (Patrick Fugit) goes out on the road with up-and-coming band Stillwater to write a piece for Rolling Stone magazine, only to discover a great deal about life, love, and rock and roll. Cameron Crowe’s 2000 drama, Almost Famous, which is loosely based on his own experiences as a young journalist, does have elements that haven’t aged well over the years, but it remains one of the premier coming-of-age stories of this century.
Dunkirk (HBO Max)
Stranded on a French beach after a battle has gone awry, Allied soldiers are rescued by British civilians attempting to cross the English Channel before the quickly approaching German forces reach them. Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic, Dunkirk, recounts the call to action and heroism exhibited by everyday people when it was needed most during one of the most daring rescue operations in modern military history.
A Beautiful Mind (Starz)
Accomplished mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe) begins to lose touch with reality as the stresses in his life get the better of his fragile mental state, which is made worse by the onset of paranoid schizophrenia. One of the best Russell Crowe movies, Ron Howard’s harrowing 2001 biographical drama, A Beautiful Mind, does a tremendous job of discussing mental illness in a thoughtful way.
Dolemite Is My Name (Netflix)
Following a chance encounter with an alcoholic hobo who can tell a mean story, struggling singer-turned-comedian Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) adopts a raunchy on-stage persona known as Dolemite before becoming an underground celebrity. Craig Brewer’s 2019 biopic, Dolemite Is My Name, which is one of the best movies on Netflix, sees Eddie Murphy in a return to form as the blaxploitation pioneer willing to risk anything and everything to achieve fame for himself and his friends.
The Farewell (Amazon Prime)
When it’s discovered that her beloved grandmother has been diagnosed with cancer and only given a few weeks to live, Billi (Awkwafina) and her family travel to China to say their goodbyes, but under the guise that they are visiting for a wedding. Based on events in director Lulu Wang’s life, The Farewell perfectly blends comedy and drama about goodbyes, new beginnings, and family secrets.
Boys Don't Cry (Hulu)
After fleeing his hometown after being threatened with exposure, transgender man Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank) escapes to rural Nebraska in hopes of finding a better life, but only finds more fear and hate from the locals. Based on the true and heartbreaking story of a young man trying to find his way, Kimberly Price’s Boys Don’t Cry is just as meaningful now as it was upon release more than 20 years ago.
The Disaster Artist (Netflix)
Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) set out to prove Hollywood (and the world) wrong by creating a one-of-a-kind drama, one that ends up making the mysterious filmmaker more infamous than famous. James Franco’s hilarious yet extremely heartfelt 2017 biopic, The Disaster Artist, shares all of the details concerning The Room and how it became the ultimate cult film of the 21st Century.
All The President's Men (HBO Max)
Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) break the biggest presidential scandal of the 20th Century when they uncover details of the infamous break-in at the Watergate Hotel and Richard Nixon’s involvement. Released not even two years after Nixon’s August 1974 resignation, Alan J. Pakula’s All The President’s Men remains one of the most important films about journalism of all time.
Fruitvale Station (Netflix)
Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) sets off to ring in the new year with his family in the San Francisco Bay area only to find himself caught in a tense situation on public transit. The heartbreaking story of the death of Oscar Grant is told in swift yet moving fashion in Ryan Coogler’s directorial debut, Fruitvale Station.
A police detective, reporter, and political cartoonist embark upon their own personal journeys while trying to identity and catch the sadistic Zodiac Killer. David Fincher’s 2007 drama, Zodiac, explores how the infamous serial killer impacted not only the lives of those he injured and killed but also those who gave up everything to find justice for his victims.
The Big Sick (Amazon Prime)
Kumail Nanjiani (playing a fictionalized version of himself) and Emily Gardner’s (Zoe Kazan) budding relationship is put to the ultimate test when Emily falls into a coma after contracting a mysterious illness. One of the best movies on Amazon, Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick is based on the actual start of Nanjiani and Emily Gordon’s relationship and how they stuck with it despite cultural differences and the drama brought on by the medical nightmare.
This is just barely scratching the surface of all the great movies based on true stories. With titles being added to streaming services everyday, expect to see numerous additions to this list in the very near future.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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