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7 Best Movies Based On Real-Life Events

Noah Camarena |
October 23, 2014 | 8:06 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The Social Network Poster (Twitter)
The Social Network Poster (Twitter)

Some of our favorite movies, and often the most emotional ones too, are actually based on real life stories. We are able to relive these moments through these films and through the brilliant performances of the actors who must draw on raw emotion to portray a believable event. Here are some of the best movies based on true stories.

"8 Mile"

This 2002 biopic follows the life of young white rapper Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr. who is played by Eminem. Jimmy just wants to make it as a rapper in an industry that is dominated by African Americans. Jimmy realizes that he cannot blame others for his troubled life and he starts to take things more seriously, including his day job. 

Jimmy befriends a local talent scout named Wink, but that relationship becomes rocky once Jimmy discovers that Wink is working for a group of Jimmy's rivals. Jimmy and his friends get in a fight with this group, known as the Leaders of the Free World, but Jimmy’s friend Cheddar Bob shoots himself in the leg. The relationship becomes even more strained once Jimmy finds Wink having sex with his girlfriend, Alex. Jimmy beats up Wink and Wink officially joins forces with the Free World group. The group ends up jumping Jimmy but Wink stops the altercation once a member of the group pulls out a gun.

Jimmy’s friend Future wants him to get revenge by battling the group at a local rap battle but Jimmy is unable to do so due to his shift at work. He eventually gets the shift covered and ends up going to the battle to seek revenge. Jimmy wins the battle by exposing the weaknesses of the other rappers and owning up to his own weaknesses, leaving the other rappers with nothing to address. After the battle, Jimmy returns to work, feeling a lot more confident about his future.

READ MORE: 9 Memorable Eminem Songs


This 2004 film is about the life and music of Ray Charles, portrayed by Jamie Foxx.

Charles was raised on a plantation in Florida and went blind at the age of seven. This was the second tragedy of his young life, having previously witnessed his younger brother drown. Charles faced a lot of adversity throughout his life but he found his calling in playing the piano. Charles began his journey by touring in smaller venues where African American performers were welcome. These tours gained him a following and then he received worldwide fame by incorporating gospel, jazz and other styles of music into his performances. 

Most of the attention to this film is due to the performance of Jamie Foxx who earned an Academy Award for his portrayal of the gospel star.

"The Pursuit of Happyness"

The 2006 movie is about the life of Chris Gardner and his struggle with homelessness. Will Smith plays Gardner and Jaden Smith plays Gardner’s son Christopher.

The film starts in 1981, when Gardner invests his entire life’s savings into portable bone-density scanners which he believes are much better and more advanced than standard X-rays. The problem lies in the fact that it takes a long time for Gardner to sell these devices, which places a burden on his family financially. This angers his wife, creating a toxic marital relationship.

While he is downtown attempting to sell one of the scanners, Gardner runs into Jay who is a manager for a company called Dean Witter Reynolds. Jay is simply impressed that Gardner is able to solve a Rubik’s cube during their short cab ride. Gardner and Jay leave, but Gardner has no money to pay the fare for the taxi so he runs away and loses one of his scanners in the process. 

Gardner ends up receiving the opportunity to pursue an internship at Jay’s company but he runs into some conflicts along the way. The day before the interview, Gardner paints his apartment to get out of paying the rent, but he is met by the police. They take him to the station because of unpaid parking tickets. Gardner has to spend the night in jail, which forces him to arrive to his interview in paint-covered clothes. While his appearance instantly displeases the interviewers, the interview itself proves to be very impressive and he receives an internship offer and a chance to compete for a paid position as a broker at the company.

The lack of income from the unpaid internship causes his wife to leave to New York, leaving Gardner to look after his son. Unfortunately, the father and son are evicted from their home after the IRS garnishes his bank account. The two spend nights in subways, homeless shelters, and even a bathroom. Luckily, Gardner is able to locate his lost scanner and repairs it and sells it, completing his task.

Gardner starts to reach out to high value customers and does an exceptional job at his position, never mentioning his lowly situation. Gardner ends up receiving the coveted position and he goes on to form his own multi-million dollar broker firm.

Read More: 7 Best Will Smith Movies Of All Time

"Into the Wild"

This 2007 film is based on the story of Christopher McCandless who traveled across North America and spent time in the Alaskan wilderness. McCandless is portrayed by Emile Hirsch.

In May 1992 McCandless sets up camp in an abandoned bus in Alaska. He enjoys the isolation and spends most of his time in the wilderness. Two years prior, McCandless had destroyed all of his personal identification and went cross-country without telling any members of his family. 

On this cross-country trip, his car gets destroyed in Arizona in a flash flood which forces him to continue his journey by hitchhiking. He also decides to burn the rest of his cash and take up a totally new identity. During a stop in Northern California, he helps save the relationship of a hippie couple that he befriends. He also makes his way to South Dakota where he works for a contract harvesting company until the owner is arrested for satellite piracy. 

McCandless ignores the orders of various park rangers and ends up kayaking the Colorado River down to Mexico. Said kayak gets lost and he has to travel back to the country on foot, eventually utilizing freight trains to make his way to Los Angeles. 

In 1991, McCandless runs into his hippie friends who he had met in the year before and also ends up denying a romantic relationship with a girl because she is underage. McCandless also befriends an older gentleman who teaches him how to do leatherwork and even offers to adopt him as a grandchild, but McCandless just continues on his way to Alaska.

Back alone in the wilderness, McCandless decides that he can never be truly happy alone and that he must find happiness to share with others. McCandless tries to return to civilization but he is trapped by the very wilderness that he loves. He ends up eating a poisonous plant and accepts his evident death. He writes a goodbye letter to the world and his body is found in his sleeping bed two weeks later.

"The Blind Side"

The film from 2009 is based on the upbringing of future NFL player Michael Oher. His “mom” in the film is played by Sandra Bullock who ended up receiving an Academy Award for her emotional performance.

Michael grows up in various homes throughout his childhood as his mother struggles with drug addiction. He ends up getting enrolled in a local Christian school despite his poor academic records because the football coach was impressed with his size and athleticism. Michael becomes friends with a boy named SJ, despite their obvious physical differences. SJ affectionately calls his friend Big Mike.

Michael’s father dies and thus Michael is now officially homeless. He takes shelter at a laundrette and eats his meals by picking up leftover food on tables. 

One night driving home, SJ’s mom Leigh Anne notices Michael walking home in the cold. She pulls over the car and asks if he has a place to stay. He said he was going to the gym because it was warm but then Leigh Anne takes Michael home and he sleeps on the family’s couch. Michael ends up becoming a part of the Tuohy family and Leigh Anne starts to seek legal guardianship of the boy.

Michael had been struggling on the football field until Leigh Anne tells him that he has to protect his players. This new mindset brings out an entirely new Michael and he starts to perform extremely well on the field. His improved play starts to earn him an opportunity to play at the college level, so the family hires him a tutor to help improve his grades. Both the tutor and his new mom want him to play for Ole Miss. 

Leigh Anne has a face-to-face conversation with Michael’s biological mother and eventually gets her approval to continue with the adoption process.

Michael gets his grades up and decides to play for Ole Miss, where Mr. Tuohy played ball and Mrs. Tuohy was a cheerleader. This leads to investigations centered around the allegation that the Tuohys only want Michael to help benefit their alma mater. While being interviewed about the matter, Michael runs away to his birth mother where he is greeted by two thugs who try to insinuate that Michael had sexual relations with Leigh Anne and her daughter. This really upsets MIchael and he ends up attacking the two guys. He then goes home and realizes that the Tuohys are his true family who love him. He ends up going to Ole Miss before being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.

"The Social Network"

The film from 2010 follows the creation of the website Facebook and its creator Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg.

After being dumped by his girlfriend, Harvard student Zuckerberg creates a website called Facemash where people can rate the attractiveness of girls at the university. The traffic to the website even causes Harvard’s network to crash, for which Zuckerberg is give six months of academic probation. The website gets the attention of three other students who invite Zuckerberg to work on a website dedicated to dating for Harvard students.

He agrees to work on the project created by the two twins, but he also confides in his friend Eduardo an idea called Thefacebook which would be a site solely dedicated to Ivy League students. Eduardo puts in the initial thousand dollars to fund the site which immediately takes off. The Winklevoss twins think this is an obvious stealing of their idea and they feel hurt and bothered by the act. 

Zuckerberg meets Napster co-founder Sean Parker who gets Zuckerberg to drop the “the” and become Facebook. Zuckerberg also moves the company to Palo Alto. 

Because Facebook expands to other campuses outside of Harvard, the twins decide to sue the company for theft of intellectual property. Eduardo does not agree with the direction of the company or the fact that Zuckerberg makes all decisions and he decides to sue him for all the company’s shares, arguing that his shares were unfairly diluted. The lawyer decides to side with Eduardo who receives a settlement of an unknown amount and has his name restored as co-founder. And we all know how Facebook turned out. 


The 2011 movie is about the Oakland Athletics and their manager Billy Beane’s unique way of building a team during the 2002 season. Beane is played by Brad Pitt.

Beane is upset after his team loses in the 2001 playoffs and some of his star players leave the team during free agency. Beane somehow has to build a competitive team despite the limited payroll of the team. Beane ends up hiring a young economics graduate from Yale named Peter Brand who is played by Jonah Hill. Brand has new ideas of how to assess a player’s value that Beane thinks could help his franchise.

Brand is not thought of highly by the other scouts on the team as he almost solely bases his assessment of players on their on-base-percentage. Beane listens to Brand’s advice despite tension coming from the manager of the team. To avoid any conflict, Beane trades away the players that the manager wants to play, forcing him to utilize the unorthodox strategy. 

The team initially struggles but then improves and even sets an American League record for wins in a row. While this pleases Beane, he is still upset when they lose in the postseason yet again. Beane gets offered the job to be the general manager of the Red Sox, who think his method of scouting is the future of baseball, but he turns down the offer and continues to run the team in Oakland. 

Contact Staff Reporter Noah Camarena here and follow him on Twitter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

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