Tabi Jackson Gee | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Best Films To Watch That Are Based On A True Story

Best Films To Watch That Are Based On A True Story

The Debrief: From Schindler's List to The Wolf Of Wall Street, here's the true story behind the films.

It’s practically impossible not to watch a film that isn’t somehow ‘based on a true story’ these days. But some are of course more real than others, and all films were not created equal. So here’s your lowdown on the very best films to watch that are based on a
 true story.

The one to watch when you’re not at all sad and/ or hungover: Schindler’s List

Steven Spielberg’s black and white masterpiece won him seven Oscars, and is arguably his best film to date. Starring the (relatively unknown at the time of casting) Liam Neeson, it tackles a subject most young actors and directors would steer well clear from, and is arguably one of the best films ever made about this terribly dark time in the history of the Europe.

The story is based on is of Oskar Schindler, a powerful man who became concerned for his Jewish workforce after watching them get persecuted by the Nazis. He used his own influence within the party to save thousands of Jewish lives, by recruiting them to work in his Polish factory.

This story went largely untold until the 1980s and without a series of fortunate events might never have have been told at all. Those events went as follows: in October 1980 an Australian author called Thomas Keneally visited a leather goods shop of Rodeo Drive. The owner of the shop, when he found out Keneally was a writer, told him a story which he described as 'the greatest story of humanity man to  man.' He told him the story of how his family had been saved by Schindler, Keneally wrote a book called Schindler’s Ark, and the rest is history.

Spielberg famously relinquished his salary for the film, using it instead to start the Shoah foundation - to honour and remember survivors of the Holocaust.

The one to watch if you want to restore your faith in humanity (kind of): Milk

Milk is one of those films that not enough people have seen. Based around the story of Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn) who was the first openly gay man to be elected to office in the US in 1975 when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in for District 5. He was also only the third openly gay man to enter US politics in the US.

If you don’t know the story, here’s the top line: Milk was an incredibly important public figure fighting for human rights in a time of civil unrest in the US, when old habits and prejudices were dying hard (and still are, to many extents.)

Starring James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch, part of what makes the film so great is how real it feels - helped by the fact that it was largely based around a documentary about Milk.


The one to watch if you want to escape The Man (just don’t do what he did): Into the Wild

Sean Penn again. This time Madge’s ex was behind the camera, directing Emile Hirsch (yep him again too) in one incredible story that’s as sad as it is powerful.


Into The Wild is a film based on a book based on an essay called ‘Death of an Innocent.’ It’s about Christopher Johnson McCandless, a guy who grew up with wealthy parents in Virginia. After graduating he stopped communicating with his parents, gave his $25,000 college fund to Oxfam and headed out across the Western US, working and travelling. He then headed out into Alaska with nothing but a gun, ammunition, a bit of rice and a book on edible plants. I won’t ruin the story by telling you what happened, but it’s a bloody brilliant watch. Even if the truth of it has been questioned by various parties, including McCandless’ sister…

The one to watch if you’re questioning your purpose in life: Erin Brokovich

Erin. So yes, maybe recent reports have suggested the IRL lady isn’t quite the heroine Julia Roberts made her out to be but you know what, no one’s perfect. And what she did do - taking on the US behemoth Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993 for contaminating drinking water - with no official legal training to speak of, was nothing short of heroic.

The film itself won the lovely Jules a bunch of awards and gave the real Erin a platform from which she’s become a big media personality, helping consult on other similar cases.

[Disclaimer: if you’re questioning what you’re doing with your life, you’re probably better off just going to watch Geordie Shore instead.]

The one to watch if you’re feeling superficial: The Wolf Of Wall Street

Yes, that crazy film you watched a couple of years ago is all based on real life. The film was adapted from a book by Jordan Belfort, whose found fame by telling the story of his drugs, corruption and manipulation and consequently making a shit load more  money out of it.

Anyway, a great one to watch and rewatch if you want to indulge in a bit of pre-Oscar winning Leo. Sit back, put your feet up and watch the high (literally) drama unfold…

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

From Romy & Michele To She's All That, 7 Of The Best Dance Routines In Film

Oscars Red Carpet 2016: If Dresses Could Talk

How I Became A... Cinematographer

Follow Tabi on Twitter @Tabijgee

Tags: Film