This top 10 list of the best crime movies based on true stories would not only keep you entertained but teach you a thing or two about real-life events.
Crime movies are often quite shocking and exciting on their own, but what’s even more amazing are the best crime movies based on true stories and events. With these movies, we not only get entertainment but learn the history of the crime, and discover what really happened to the characters and protagonists in real life.
No genre better illustrates the evolution of cinema than crime movies. In the 90s, Hollywood used to make crime movies based on true stories and best-selling novels, then little by little, the stories of murders and crimes begin to make their way to television, such as “The Sopranos”, “The Wire”, “Breaking Bad”.
It’s interesting that the best crime movies based on true stories Hollywood have always made criminals look fascinating and intriguing. The big screen loves bad guys but it is also true that crime and transgression are equally a part of cinema and real life.
And now, let’s take a look at the top 10 crime movies based on true stories that keep you glued to your seat from beginning to end:
Top 10 Best Crime Movies Based on True Stories and History
Table of Contents
- 1. Memoirs of Murder (2003)
- 2. American Hustle (2013)
- 3. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)T
- 4. American Gangster (2007)
- 5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
- 6. Zodiac (2007)
- 7. Public Enemies (2009)
- 8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
- 9. Monster (2003)
- 10. Foxcatcher (2014)
1. Memoirs of Murder (2003)
Before South Korean director Bong Joon-ho made international hits like the movies Snowpiercer and Parasite, he directed this murder mystery gem, based on South Korea’s first serial murders. Bong Joon-ho showed off his characteristic black humor in this story of two detectives trying to solve these mysterious killings that took place between 1986 and 1991 in Gyeonggi province.
2. American Hustle (2013)
The great director David O. Russell portrays the FBI’s 1970s ABSCAM operation in style with American Hustle, one of the best crime movies based on true stories. The events that inspired the film, based on the controversial scandal known as ABSCAM, turn out to be far stranger and more scandalous than Hollywood could ever imagine.
The film is full of twists and turns coming from the characters involved in the controversial corruption investigation. which took place from Jersey to Florida in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Despite being nominated for 10 Oscars, the movie did not win any.
3. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the memoir of the same name by Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker famous for being accused and found guilty of manipulation of the stock market, money laundering, and other financial crimes.
This white-collar crime saga is slightly less violent than other true-crime movies but no less shocking. We witness Belfort’s meteoric rise as he conspires to earn millions of dollars through illegal means, ultimately culminating in a chaotic personal life filled with criminal charges. A surprising amount of details in the movie are based on reality.
4. American Gangster (2007)
Directed by Ridley Scott, American Gangster introduces us to Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas, a criminal mastermind leading a huge ring of Harlem crooks funded by his thriving drug business.
In real life, Lucas made big profits on imported heroin from Southeast Asia, cutting out the middlemen, but he denied hiding the drug inside the coffins of US soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. The movie shows how Lucas becomes an important informant for corrupt cops and fellow drug dealers once he was caught. The real Lucas denied this part of the story.
5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film tells the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., who, before turning 19, managed to forge a large number of checks worth millions of dollars by posing as a pilot for the Pan Am company, as a doctor, and even as a lawyer.
The film recounts in true-to-life detail how Abagnale evades the police while continuing his crimes with great precision. It is impossible to forget Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Amy Adams, or Martin Sheen as the cast ensemble in one of the best crime movies based on true stories.
6. Zodiac (2007)
Zodiac is a film that narrates the process of all those people who tried to unmask the Zodiac Killer from California (USA), who terrorized this part of North America between 1968 and 1969. Meticulously studied and impeccably executed, Zodiac, directed by David Fincher, becomes something bigger and more foreboding than an avalanche of murders.
7. Public Enemies (2009)
Directed by Michael Mann, the story tells us how the Feds try to take down famous American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Pretty Boy Floyd during a crime wave that was booming in the 1930s.
The true events represented in the movie are based on the popular bank robber John Dillinger being hunted by FBI agent Melvin Purvis and Dillinger’s relationship with Billie Frechette, singer and criminal in equal measure.
8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Director Andrew Dominik directs this 2007 western starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, based on the 1983 book by Ron Hansen. The story is based on the real-life downfall of one of America’s most famous outlaws. After inviting Robert Ford into his gang to carry out a series of robberies, Jesse James was shot in the back of the head in order to collect a bounty.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is one of the great best crime movies based on true stories of the modern era, capturing the cruelty and lawlessness of the time with a poignant and sad lens.
9. Monster (2003)
This great biopic introduces us to the serial killer Aileen Wuornos, fabulously played by Charlize Theron, a prostitute who kills a number of clients, claiming that each one was trying to rape her. Wuornos confesses when it appears her lover, Tyria Moore (played by Christina Ricci) may be involved in the crimes. Wuornos was executed by lethal injection in 2002.
10. Foxcatcher (2014)
The film starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo dramatizes the relationship between John du Pont (billionaire and mentor) and two wrestlers (brothers) who trained and lived in his facilities at Foxcatcher, even killing one of them.
In real life, du Pont was convicted of said murder (third-degree murder mitigated by mental illness), but the details of his relationship with the Schultz brothers differ from the movie: for example, the two never lived on the estate at the same time.