5 Movies Very Loosely Based on True Stories

Kenny D February 19, 2013 2

based on a true storyI always chuckle when I see a movie advertising itself as if it’s “based on a true story.” Typically, after the movie ends, I do some personal research into what is true and what is completely fabricated. By personal research, I obviously mean wikipedia. When movies claim to be non-fiction, I now understand that to mean that 5% of the story to be true. It’s far more accurate to say “Inspired by Real Events.” Anchorman says it best when the movie claims, (The following is a true story)…Only the names, locations, and events have been changed.

The following movies aren’t necessarily bad, but they’ve been caught red-handed as liars. These are some of the most guilty embellishers (not a word…yet) in movie history.

5 – A Beautiful Mind

a beautiful mindIn A Beautiful Mind, John Nash is losing it, to say the least. He is decoding secret government messages and seeing imaginary friends that he trusts are real. All the while, his patient wife stays by his side. There is actually a PBS documentary “A Brilliant Madness” which gives a closer account of actual events. Turns out that Nash is kind of a d-bag, in addition to his paranoid schizophrenic problems. He took off when a nurse he slept with told him that she was pregnant with his kid. He was then only married to his patient wife for 6 years. The movie shows them together their entire lives. Nash never sees imaginary people, only hears them in his head. He stops taking medication in 1970, whereas the movie says that he is helped by new medication. Oh, and he’s also a voracious anti-Semite. He and his wife did get remarried in 2001. And he did get a Nobel prize, but was not invited to speak because he may embarrass himself and others with an “episode.”

We’ll call this “Based on a dark story, but we’ll call it triumphant…”

4 – The Exorcist

the exorcistThis movie is commonly known as one of the most disturbing horror films of all time. It’s quite dated, but entirely effective. William Peter Blatty wrote the original terrifying novel and became an overnight success. After a great deal of scrutiny, he admitted that he was inspired by the 1949 Washington Post headline “Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held In Devil’s Grip.” Blatty claims he contacted the priest, Father Halloran, several times for a copy of his exorcist’s journal but never received it. Then one day, out of the blue, Blatty claims that he read the journals and wrote the book. Though Halloran, says the possessed boy (not Regan) never changed his voice, urinated, had strange markings on his body, or did any of the devilish stuff we associate with possessions. In fact, Halloran admitted there wasn’t much of anything happening.

Let’s file this one under “Inspired by a scary sounding newspaper headline.”

3 – Open Water

open waterThis movie terrified me. I have been afraid of sharks since day one. Day One! This movie took a documentary-style approach to the two divers who were left behind while scuba diving and the nightmarish few days that followed. It’s a real downer of a movie. But here’s the thing, no one knows what actually happened to this couple. Who’s to say if this married couple were stalked by sharks for days. There are even theories that Tom and Eileen Lonergan faked their own deaths. The end of the movie shows a fishing crew gutting a shark and finding their camera. This never happened. But a few of their things did start to drift ashore. Six months after their disappearance, a underwater communication dive slate was found and it had contact information for Eileen’s dad and the horrifying words, “PLEASE HELP US OR WE WILL DIE. JANUARY 26, 8:00 A.M.”

Filed under “Based on a creepy theory.”

2 – Remember the Titans

remember the titansI blame this movie for the modern revitalizing of inspirational sports dramas. There are very few sports movies that aren’t true-ish stories (Warrior being an exception). We seem to like knowing that the little guy really can win in reality. Even if that reality is only loosely based on fact. The movie shows the upheaval as T.C. Williams High School starts embracing integration in 1971. In truth, the school and most in the area had adopted integration in 1965. The movie then shows the underdog Titans taking on all-white high school football teams. In truth, the Titans were an amazing team and trounced every team they played, and those teams were also integrated. There are plenty more examples, but essentially Disney took a story of a really good high school football team in 1971 and made it a racial-embracing victory story.

This is “Inspired by the fact that people play football and segregation was once a problem in high schools.”

1 – The Strangers

the strangersI am a fan of this movie. It’s a great horror movie for those people who aren’t afraid of ghosts, but of insane people. Hearing that this movie was inspired by true events scared me to death. But when I learned the truth, it made the movie much less cool. The director Bryan Bertino (Brian Boitano?) basically remembered stories from his childhood. I wish I made the following up because it’s very disappointing. He said that some people knocked on his door and his sister answered. They asked for someone that didn’t live there. Then, a few days later, Bertino heard that a few homes in the neighborhood suffered break ins. Ugh. I’m cool with a movie about psychopaths stalking a couple, but don’t actually tell us it’s based off someone knocking on the wrong door.

“Inspired by a legend the director told his buddies when he was little.”


  1. Sarah February 19, 2013 at 5:30 pm -

    An equal offender is when it is “based on a book” but doesn’t follow the book at all. I am totally fine with The Exorcist being only based on a news headline! I haven’t seen the movie, but I know plenty about it, and I’m fine with it being largely fictitious!

  2. Vincent February 6, 2014 at 6:05 pm -

    I would also nominate “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.” It’s one of my favorite movies, but almost completely fictional.

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