Calista’s Cinema Conversations: Movies based on true stories


This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Sam Rockwell, left, and Sandy Martin in a scene from "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."  (Merrick Morton/Fox Searchlight via AP)

This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Sam Rockwell, left, and Sandy Martin in a scene from “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”  (Merrick Morton/Fox Searchlight via AP)

Since the Oscars took place last night and many of the nominated films, such as “The Darkest Hour,” “The Post,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “I, Tonya,” are stories based on true events, I have decided to dedicate this week to the best and worst movies based on true stories.

Any of this year’s Oscar-nominated true stories are extremely good, and most critics and fans of the films agreed that, for the most part, the films were intriguing adaptations of their real-life material. The characters and events are praised for their accuracy, but even these films tend to overexaggerate or change some of the plot in order to keep the audience’s attention. Often times, the time shifts that take place in the film are skewed and there is added suspense to important plot points.

Other notable films are the ones based on a specific person’s life, also known as a biopic. A few examples of biopic films are “I Saw the Light,” “Nightcrawler,” “The Social Network” and “The Theory of Everything,” all of which follow the lives of completely different real-life figures. “I Saw the Light” is based on the country music star Hank Williams, while “Nightcrawler” is based on the journalist Louis Bloom. “The Social Network” focuses on the inventor of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg and “The Theory of Everything” looks at the life of the famous physicist Stephen Hawking. The directors of these films tend to focus on the protagonist and how they are able build on their relationships with others and how they evolve through certain circumstances during the film. These are fairly accurate representations of the historical events as the films have little to focus on other than the characters and the events that occur in their lives.

Many films based on famous serial killers such as “Zodiac,” “The Black Dahlia” or “All Good Things” are entertaining films to watch, but fall short on the realistic and true side of their stories. The directors of these films tend to romanticize the hunt for serial killers. The events that take place in the movie are created mostly for dramatic flair and less for historical accuracy. Therefore, if you’re looking for some suspenseful films that have some reference to an actual serial killer in history, these are the films for you. If you’re looking for a documentary-like depiction of a murderer with a completely authentic retelling of these events, maybe you should skip over these films.

War films that are based off of true stories are often met with critical praise, films like “Saving Private Ryan” and the 2018 Oscar-nominated film “Dunkirk” are known for very accurate depictions of the horrors of wars throughout history. These films usually focus less on developing specific characters and more on looking at how these characters are affected by the war both during and after. 

Overall, many real-life adaptations in films are entertaining from a cinematography standpoint, but do not score as high in the historically-accurate category. This does not mean that the films are not worth watching. In fact, I would say the opposite, but they are not films to base research off of.

Calista Giroux is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at

Leave a Reply