The greatest movies and shows based on true stories

movies based on true stories

Today, we are in a golden age of television and movies. Thanks to the streaming wars, which see companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney all compete for subscribers, studios are investing billions in producing quality content. Many of the biggest hits on these platforms are works of fiction, including Netflix’s Money Heist, Disney+’s Star Wars, and Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. However, we’re also seeing a swing toward shows that are based on true stories. 

Often, these productions turn out to be just as gripping and exciting as those that have been conjured up in the minds of producers and scriptwriters. Of course, this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon, as there have also been plenty of great movies and TV shows that have told stories stranger than fiction. Out of them all, here are the greatest. 

21 (2008)

Card counting is a concept that many people are aware of but few understand exactly how it works. Some believe it to be banned by casinos, but most are accepting of the practice and many Vegas casino gift shops even sell books that promise to help you learn the skill.

Many films have touched on card counting, including Rain Man (1988) and The Hangover (2009). 21 (2008) is a little different from these in that it retells the story of the MIT Blackjack Team, a group of academics who became professional card counters and toured the USA and the world playing blackjack and counting cards. 

The game of blackjack is the same right around the world, requiring players to make a hand that is as close to 21 as possible without going over. In more recent years, casinos have begun to augment this with additional elements like the 21+3 side bet which requires the player to try and make a three-card poker hand. However, in this instance, the uniformity of the game meant that the team could put their counting skills into practice in just about every casino on the planet. 21 is a dramatised depiction of the team doing exactly that, with some personal animosity and some additional jeopardy.

Drive To Survive

Drive to Survive is a Netflix documentary series that is based on the Formula 1 World Championship. However, the show has been criticised by some fans and drivers for being edited so much that it no longer reflects reality. 


The main reason for this editing is to enhance the drama at races and create rivalries between drivers. For example, the season that covered the 2020 championship suggested that there was a lot of tension between McLaren drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris even though the two are good friends. With this in mind, it’s perhaps fairer to say that Drive to Survive is a show that’s based on a true story rather than a true documentary that reports only facts. 

However, the show has been credited with boosting interest in the sport in the United States and helping to attract a new younger audience. The show itself continues to be a huge success among fans and even non-fans alike, providing a way for people who don’t enjoy motor racing to still experience the thrill of Formula 1. 

Apollo 13 (1995)

Starring Tom Hanks, Apollo 13 (1995), is a movie that recreated the events of how NASA and its astronauts narrowly avoided disaster. 

After take-off, an onboard explosion meant that the spacecraft was devoid of most of its life-sustaining resources, including oxygen. What followed was one of the most high-profile and high-risk troubleshooting sessions in history with the astronauts and ground control looking for a way to get the craft on course to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere safely. 

As we all know, Apollo 13 did eventually make it back to earth, but the movie tells the story in a way that reflects the reality of what happened both from the technical and emotional perspectives.  Ron Howard, who directed Apollo 13, was very careful to make it as authentic as possible, something that many critics have praised him for.

Images: MacLaren racing car by Tim Carey on Unsplash