Movies that are based on actual events have that unique trait that no other fictional screenplay can bring to the table. When you witness a crime being done on the screen and then think about it for a second, realizing that an actual person did that to someone – that can really send shivers down your spine.
That is why movies that include crime, mystery, and violence have always been interesting to people, not because they enjoy such things by default but because they tell us extra about human nature.
When you watch films that involve gambling, it’s not that you enjoy placing thousands of dollars in wagers but that you like the underdog story, the thrill of unexpected scenarios, and entertaining settings.
Below are some of the best movies inspired by real-life criminals, so make sure to check them out whenever you get the chance.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Although the crimes committed by Jordan Belfort didn’t include guns and violence, he did ruin many people’s lives with his manipulative tactics and shady stock selling. Leonardo Dicaprio portraying the corrupt broker who’s also a drug addict made everybody question how in the world did he not get an Oscar for that role.
The story of booze, drugs, money, luxury lifestyle, and sex, of course, will not disappoint to entertain and force us to question some of our beliefs about life, money, and ethics.
Watching Leonardo sharing the screen with Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie will give you an insight into the mind of one of the biggest financial crooks of the late 90s.
2. Narcos (2015-2017)
The true-life presentation of how the cocaine drug cartels grew and expanded over the world was told in Narcos, a hit series produced by Netflix, along with the law enforcement efforts to confront them head-on in a murderous war that shook up Mexico.
There isn’t anyone who hasn’t heard of the legend of Pablo Escobar and the notorious reputation he earned during his reign as the undisputed king of drug trafficking. Some of the estimates go on to say that at the peak of his global market share, he earned $250 million per day, which is absolutely crazy when you think about it.
The series revolves around Steve Murphy, a DEA agent dispatched to Colombia on a U.S. mission to arrest and ultimately murder Pablo Escobar, the infamous Colombian drug kingpin.
3. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
The plot of this movie is placed in the USA, where a teenage boy Frank Abagnale commits to learning all kinds of frauds. He forgers money, plane tickets, degrees, and pretty much any document he might need to achieve his goals.
The problem arises when he scams so many government institutions and banks that the amounts exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars, forcing FBI agents to get involved. The young Frank, portrayed by Leonardo Dicaprio, has to find his way out while the biggest security experts in the country are after him.
Besides Leonardo, the cast consists of legendary actors Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Robert Sheen, and Brian Howe.
4. Legend (2015)
Most mafia movies were centred around the Italian mob from the 20th century. But England had a couple of unicorns that would make the Italians look like your local neighborhood thugs.
Brothers Kray, Ronald and Reginald were twins that spread fear around London in the 60s and took over the city’s underground in a matter of months.
The masterful portrayal of Tom Hardy will pull you into the story of violence, murder, extortion, and desperate attempts to express love to a woman too innocent for the world of the Kray brothers – Frances Shea, played by a beautiful actress Emily Browning.
5. Dahmer (2022 – 2024)
The USA movie market has always been open for serial killer stories, and one of the most disturbing people that have marked the twentieth century was undoubtedly Jeffrey Dahmer, also known as the Milwaukee monster.
The story centres around his childhood traumas and the causes of events that might have led to the cracks in his already messed-up psyche. What adds to the chilling effect is seeing the humanized version of Jeffery Dahmer, meaning that once, he was just an average adolescent with problems no worse than probably your neighbour’s kid.
The point of the series was to show how accumulated traumatic events and the laziness of law enforcement led to one of the biggest killing sprees in the USA history.
One thing is sure, Evan Peters nailed the role of a disturbed criminal and deserved a lot of credit for the show’s positive critiques and global recognition. Some of the episodes are still being shot for the remaining season – you’ll have enough time to catch up before the official release.
6. Mindhunter (2017-2019)
Mindhunter is a critically acclaimed Netflix series that delves into the world of criminal profiling and the early days of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. Inspired by true events and based on the book by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, the show follows FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as they interview imprisoned serial killers to better understand their motives and develop psychological profiles. The series masterfully combines elements of true crime, psychology, and suspense to offer a chilling exploration of the human psyche and the birth of modern criminal profiling.
7. Zodiac (2007)
Directed by David Fincher, Zodiac is a gripping film based on the true story of the elusive Zodiac Killer, who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The movie follows a cartoonist named Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and a relentless journalist (Mark Ruffalo) as they become obsessed with solving the Zodiac’s cryptic messages and unmasking his identity. With its meticulous attention to detail and atmospheric tension, Zodiac offers a haunting portrayal of an unsolved mystery that continues to captivate audiences.
8. Making a Murderer (2015-2020)
Making a Murderer is a groundbreaking true crime documentary series that explores the case of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was wrongfully convicted of a crime and subsequently accused of another. The show meticulously examines the evidence, the legal system’s flaws, and the impact of media coverage on the case.
The series raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of justice and the potential fallibility of the criminal justice system. Gripping and emotionally charged, Making a Murderer has sparked widespread debate and shed light on the complexities of the legal process and its impact on individuals and communities.
True crime stories have always held a certain allure. The captivating mix of mystery, suspense, and real-life events has inspired filmmakers and TV producers to adapt these stories onto the big and small screens. In this article, we explored five gripping true crime tales that made their way into movies and TV shows, leaving audiences enthralled and eager for more.
From white-collar criminals to drug lords, from con artists to serial killers, these true crime stories have left an indelible mark on popular culture. They remind us that evil can lurk in unexpected places and that the line between fact and fiction can often blur. The popularity of these adaptations speaks to our collective fascination with the darker aspects of human nature.
As the true crime genre continues to captivate audiences, it is clear that these stories will keep inspiring filmmakers and TV producers for years to come. Their success lies not only in their ability to entertain but also in their power to shed light on the darkest corners of our society.