11 Movies You Never Knew Were Actually Based On Real-Life Events

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you felt as if your life was suddenly just like a movie?

For the real-life folks who inspired each of the flicks below, that’s exactly what happened when their stories made it onto the big screen.

True-story movies run a range of emotions, from inspiring to terrifying or heartbreaking.

Of course, writers and directors do tend to take a few liberties with their translations, especially for those that delve into the supernatural realm. Still, you have to be impressed that even those were able to touch base with reality before going full-on fantasy.

I have to admit, I was particularly surprised by how the sci-fi flick in #8 was apparently inspired by real life, even if it does sound pretty far fetched.

Take a look to see how many films you probably never realized were actually based on true stories and real events.

Be sure to SHARE the surprising film trivia with your friends!

Thumbnail Source: YouTube / Movieclips

1. Chicago

1. <i>Chicago</i>

The original 1926 play by Maurine Dallas Watkins got its inspiration from two women named Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner who were both separately tried and acquitted for murder, which Maurine covered as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

2. Psycho

2. <i>Psycho</i>

Notorious murderer Ed Gein has been the inspiration behind several terrifying characters in films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and as part of the characteristics of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.

But before either of those hit the big screens, Norman Bates focused on Ed’s domineering, deceased mother and the shrine to her that he kept isolated in his home.

3. The Great Escape

3. <i>The Great Escape</i>

The film takes plenty of liberties fictionalizing the actual mass escape by prisoners of war during World War II, detailed by Australian fighter pilot Paul Brickhill in his firsthand account.

Most changes were made to increase drama, such as Steve McQueen’s motorcycle stunt (which he specifically requested), while other details were excluded to keep from jeopardizing any future attempted POW escapes.

4. Dirty Harry

4. <i>Dirty Harry</i>

This is one of the many films based on the infamous Zodiac killer, who left behind a string of murders in the San Francisco Bay Area of California between December 1968 and October 1969.

The Clint Eastwood version, however, changes the killer’s name to “Scorpio,” while Clint Eastwood’s titular Harry Callahan is based on the detective who investigated the case, Dave Toschi.

5. The Exorcist

5. <i>The Exorcist</i>

The adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel was based on a 1949 case of demonic possession known as the “Exorcism of Roland Doe” that the author claimed to have heard about while studying at Georgetown University in 1950.

6. Jaws

6. <i>Jaws</i>

Though many believed the novel and film were based on the 1916 shark attacks on the Jersey Shore that claimed four lives, author Peter Benchley has stated that he was actually inspired by the 4,500-pound shark captured by shark fisherman Frank Mundus in 1964.

7. Goodfellas

7. <i>Goodfellas</i>

Ray Liotta portrays real-life mob-associate-turned-FBI-informant Henry Hill in the Martin Scorsese-directed flick that follows Henry’s involvement with both organizations spanning from 1955 to 1980.

8. The Blob

8. <i>The Blob</i>

This one might be especially difficult to believe, but back in 1950, two police officers from Philadelphia claimed to see something like a parachute falling from the sky. When they approached the area to investigate, they saw what they described as a large, purple orb filled with crystals that apparently dissolved after being touched by one of them.

9. 50 First Dates

9. <i>50 First Dates</i>

Drew Barrymore’s character is based on a woman named Michelle Philpots who actually has the same condition depicted in the film, anterograde amnesia. Michelle suffered head trauma from two separate automobile accidents, leading to the condition.

10. A Few Good Men

10. <i>A Few Good Men</i>

Aaron Sorkin penned the script after his sister, Debbie, who was a military lawyer in the 1980s, told him about representing a defendant in court who nearly killed a fellow officer when hazing got out of hand.

Several of Debbie’s fellow JAG Corps officers have claimed to be the inspiration for Tom Cruise’s character.

11. Almost Famous

11. <i>Almost Famous</i>

Writer and director Cameron Crowe drew from his own experiences as a teen writer for Rolling Stone magazine for this nostalgic rock-and-roll flick.

Though the young man only tours with one band in the film, in reality Cameron joined rowdy bands like the Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Did you know all of these movies were based on real life? Be sure to SHARE the surprising true stories with your friends!