Good Movies Based on True Stories

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 9:53 am

Real-life Tales and Biopics

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy movies that take their plot straight from the pages of the newspaper. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of good movies based on true stories, and I hope my selections will both entertain and inspire you to seek out more information about the events and time periods contained within.

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The Basketball Diaries (1995) – Based on the memoir by musician and author Jim Carroll, this harrowing and ultimately uplifting tale follows Carroll (Leonardo DiCaprio) through his high school years as a member of a championship basketball team. But the pressures of being a teen continue to mount, and he soon turns to heroin use as a means of escape. Lorraine Bracco is his concerned mother, and Bruno Kirby is the coach who’s a little too hands-on. Also starring Mark Wahlberg, Juliette Lewis, Ernie Hudson, and Brittany Daniel.

Enemy at the Gates (2001) – Set during the bloody Battle of Stalingrad in WWII, this war movie stars Jude Law as Vassili Zaitsev, a shepherd turned deadly sniper for the Red Army. Needing to give the people hope, an officer (Joseph Fiennes) comes up with the idea of immortalizing Vassili’s exploits in the newspaper, prompting the Germans to send in their finest marksman (Ed Harris) to crush the morale of the citizens. Yes, there’s a hokey love triangle featuring Rachel Weisz that’s thrown in to sell some extra tickets, but the scenes of snipers stalking one another are filled with suspense. Co-starring Bob Hoskins as Nikita Khrushchev.

Quiz Show (1994) – Based on the book Remembering America, this Robert Redford film details the rise and fall of the game show Twenty One, as seen through the eyes of a Congressional lawyer (Rob Morrow), an excitable former contestant (John Turturro), and the high-class professor (Ralph Fiennes) who allowed answers to be supplied to him by the makers of the show. Nominated for four Oscars and hailed by critics.

The Counterfeiters – After being nabbed by German police, suave forger Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) winds up in a concentration camp where the Nazis plan to use Jews to forge massive amounts of foreign money to help the war effort. Markovics gives a nuanced portrayal, creating a character who’s both a master of survival and obsessed with forging the American dollar. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The Alamo (1960) – In addition to playing the lead role of Davy Crockett, John Wayne sat in the director’s chair for this stirring tale of a small group of freedom fighters taking on thousands of Mexican soldiers in 1836 Texas. The historical accuracy of the production may be on the shaky side, but fans of The Duke should see it nonetheless. Also starring Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, and Richard Boone.

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Ghosts of Mississippi (1996) – Byron De La Beckwith (James Woods) was twice tried for the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, and both trials ended in a hung jury. This film picks up in 1994, when a Mississippi assistant D.A. (Alec Baldwin) decides to pursue the case once again with the help of Evers’ widow (Whoopi Goldberg). Fans of courtroom drama will love Baldwin’s smoothness and Woods’ oily menace. Also starring Virginia Madsen, Craig T. Nelson, Lucas Black, and William H. Macy.

Veronica Guerin (2003) – Joel Schumacher helms this biopic about Veronica Guerin (Cate Blanchett), an Irish journalist whose investigations into the Dublin drug trade resulted in her death in 1996. Look for a cameo from Colin Farrell.

The Tuskegee Airmen (1995) – An inspiring HBO original movie about the first African-Americans to serve as fighter pilots in World War II. Starring Laurence Fishburne, Allen Payne, Courtney B. Vance, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Andre Braugher, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Lithgow, and Vivica A. Fox.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008) – The first of a two-part tale about famed French gangster Jacques Mesrine, this fascinating crime film stars Vincent Cassel as the real-life criminal who terrorized France and Canada during the 1970s. Cassel is at his best, veering between European charm and scowling menace with ease. The second part, Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One is equally entertaining, and viewers with some time on their hands are encouraged to watch both in one sitting. Co-starring Gerard Depardieu and Cecile De France.

Serpico (1973) – Al Pacino simmers as Frank Serpico, a real-life New York cop who goes undercover to expose the corruption within his department. While recent years have seen Pacino descend into self-parody, Serpico serves as an enduring reminder of just how talented he really is. Also starring John Randolph, Tony Roberts, M. Emmet Walsh, and F. Murray Abraham.

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There are plenty more good movies based on true stories out there, but I believe this list is a worthy place to start. From modern tales of crime to events during World War II and before, there’s something here for everyone.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 at 9:53 am and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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