True crimes that inspired movies
1237 8.5 8.51. M (1931)
M is supposedly based on the real-life case of serial killer Peter Kürten, the "Vampire of Düsseldorf", whose crimes took place in the 1920s,although Lang denied that he drew from this case."At the time I decided to use the subject matter of M there were many serial killers terrorizing Germany — Haarmann, Grossmann, Kürten, Denke," Lang told film historian Gero Gandert in a 1963 interview.
500 7.9 8.12. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Anatomy of a Murder is an American trial court drama film.It was directed by Otto Preminger and adapted by Wendell Mayes from the best-selling novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver. Voelker based the novel on a 1952 murder case in which he was the defense attorney.
941 8 8.13. Rope (1948)
Rope is a 1948 American crime film based on the play Rope (1929) by Patrick Hamilton and adapted by Hume Cronyn (treatment) and Arthur Laurents, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Sidney Bernstein and Hitchcock as the first of their Transatlantic Pictures productions.The original play was said to be inspired by the real-life murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.
Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb,more commonly known as "Leopold and Loeb", were two wealthy University of Michigan alumni and University of Chicago students who murdered 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks in 1924 and were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The duo were motivated to murder Franks by their desire to commit a perfect crime. Once apprehended, Leopold and Loeb retained Clarence Darrow as counsel for the defense. Darrow’s summation in their trial is noted for its influential criticism of capital punishment and retributive, as opposed to rehabilitative, penal systems.
3468 8.3 8.64. Psycho (1960)
Psycho is based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch and based on the case of convicted serial killer Wisconsin Ed Gein.
Edward Theodore "Ed" Gein was an American murderer and body snatcher. His crimes, which he committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, garnered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered Gein had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin.After police found body parts in his house in 1957, Gein confessed to killing two women: tavern owner Mary Hogan in 1954, and a Plainfield hardware store owner, Bernice Worden, in 1957.
1293 7.7 7.95. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
The film considerably simplifies the facts about Bonnie and Clyde, which included other gang members, repeated jailings, other murders and a horrific auto accident which left Parker burned and a near invalid. One of the film's major characters, "C.W. Moss", is a composite of two members of the Barrow Gang: William Daniel "W.D." Jones and Henry Methvin.
100 7.2 7.16. The Boston Strangler (1968)
The Boston Strangler is a 1968 film based on the true story of the Boston Strangler and the book by Gerold Frank.The Boston Strangler is a name attributed to the murderer (or murderers) of several women in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, in the early 1960s. Though the crimes were attributed to Albert DeSalvo, investigators of the case have since suggested the murders (sometimes known as the silk stocking murders]
were not committed by one person.
704 7.9 7.97. Badlands (1973)
Badlands is a 1973 film written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. Warren Oates and Ramon Bieri are also featured. Malick has a small speaking part although he does not receive an acting credit.
The story, though fictional, is loosely based on the real-life murder spree of Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, in 1957.
1512 7.3 7.58. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre[note 1] is a 1974 American independent horror film directed by Tobe Hooper and written by Hooper and Kim Henkel. While it is presented as a true story involving the ambush and murder of a group of friends on a road trip in rural Texas by a family of cannibals, the film is entirely fictional. It is the first of six pictures in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre film franchise, which features Leatherface (Hansen), a character modeled after Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein
1461 8 8.19. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
The film was based on the story of John Wojtowicz and adheres to the basic facts of what happened, according to the Life article "The Boys in the Bank". According to the article, Wojtowicz, along with Sal Naturile, held up a Chase Manhattan Bank branch in Brooklyn, New York on August 22, 1972.
After being apprehended, Wojtowicz was convicted in court and sentenced to twenty years in prison, of which he served fourteen.Wojtowicz wrote a letter to The New York Times in 1975 out of concern that people would believe the version of the events portrayed in the film, which he said was "only 30% true". Some of Wojtowicz's objections included the portrayal of his wife Carmen Bifulco, the conversation with his mother that Wojtowicz claimed never happened, and the refusal of police to let him speak to his wife Carmen (unlike what was portrayed in the film). He did, however, praise Al Pacino and Chris Sarandon's portrayals of him and his boyfriend Ernest Aron as accurate.Also, Sal was 18 years old, yet is played in Dog Day Afternoon by a 39-year-old.
The film shows Sonny making out a will to give Leon his life insurance so that even if Sonny should be killed, Leon might still be able to pay for the operation. The real-life Wojtowicz was paid $7,500 plus 1% of the film's net profits for the rights to his story, $2,500 of which he gave to Ernest Aron to pay for her sexual reassignment surgery.Aron became Elizabeth Debbie Eden and lived out the rest of her days in New York. She died of complications from AIDS in Rochester in 1987.Wojtowicz himself died of cancer in January 2006.
The bank where the robbery took place was a branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank at Avenue P in Brooklyn, at the cross street of East 3rd Street, in Gravesend Brooklyn.
502 6 6.210. The Amityville Horror (1979)
The story is based on the alleged real-life experiences of the Lutz family who buy a new home on 112 Ocean Avenue, Long Island, a house where a mass murder had been committed the year before. After the family move into the house, they experience a series of frightening paranormal events. These events have been the subject of much controversy
557 7.1 7.111. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a 1986 film (released in 1990) directed by John McNaughton about the random crime spree of a serial killer who seemingly operates with impunity.
In prison, Henry Lee Lucas confessed to over 600 murders, claiming he committed roughly one murder a week between his release from prison in 1975 to his arrest in 1983. While the film was inspired by Lucas' confessions, the vast majority of his claims turned out to be false.A detailed investigation by the Texas Attorney General's office was able to rule out Lucas as a suspect in most of his confessions by comparing his known whereabouts to the dates of the murders he confessed to.Lucas was convicted of 11 murders, but law enforcement officers and other investigators have overwhelmingly rejected his claims of having killed hundreds of victims. The "Lucas Report" asserted that reliable physical evidence linked Lucas to three murders.Others familiar with the case have suggested that Lucas committed a low of two murders to — at the most — about 40 killings.The hundreds of confessions stemmed from the fact that Lucas was confessing to almost every unsolved murder brought before him, often with the collusion of police officers who wanted to clear their files of unsolved and "cold cases." Lucas reported that the false confessions ensured better conditions for him, as law enforcement officers would offer him incentives to confess to crimes he did not commit.Such confessions also increased his fame with the public.
In the end, Lucas was convicted of 11 murders and sentenced to death for the murder of an unidentified female victim known only as "Orange Socks". His death sentence was later commuted to life in prison by the then Governor of Texas George W. Bush in 1998. Lucas
died in prison of heart failure on March 13, 2001
2954 7.8 8.212. Fargo (1996)
"We weren't interested in that kind of fidelity. The basic events are the same as in the real case, but the characterizations are fully imagined...If an audience believes that something's based on a real event, it gives you permission to do things they might otherwise not accept."
349 6.5 6.613. Summer of Sam (1999)
Summer of Sam is a 1999 crime-drama based around the Son of Sam serial murders. It was directed and produced by Spike Lee.
David Richard Berkowitz (born Richard David Falco; 1 June 1953), also known as Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, is an American serial killer and arsonist whose crimes terrorized New York City from July 1976 until his arrest in August 1977.
Shortly after his arrest in August 1977, Berkowitz confessed to killing six people and wounding several others in the course of eight shootings in New York between 1976 and 1977; he has been imprisoned for these crimes since 1977. Berkowitz subsequently claimed that he was commanded to kill by a demon who possessed his neighbor's dog.Berkowitz later amended his confession to claim he was the shooter in only two incidents, personally killing three people and wounding a fourth. The other victims were killed, Berkowitz claimed, by members of a violent satanic cult of which he was a member.
1583 7.2 7.614. Boys Don't Cry (1999)
Boys Don't Cry is a 1999 American independent drama film directed by Kimberly Peirce and co-written by Andy Bienen. The film is a dramatization of the real-life story of Brandon Teena, a transgender man played by Hilary Swank, who pursues a relationship with a young woman, played by Chloë Sevigny. Brandon Teena is raped and murdered by male acquaintances after they discover he is biologically female.
449 6.7 715. Bully (2001)
The film is based on the July 15, 1993 murder of Bobby Kent at a remote area in Weston, Florida, south of Alligator Alley. Four of the convicted teens, known as the Broward County Seven, were released after serving brief prison terms. Today, only three are still serving prison sentences. The book, Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge by Jim Schutze was released in 1998.
2240 6.7 6.816. From Hell (2001)
From Hell is a 2001 American thriller film about the Jack the Ripper murders, loosely based on the graphic novel of the same title by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.
"Jack the Ripper" is the best-known name given to an unidentified serial killer who was active in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. The name originated in a letter, written by someone claiming to be the murderer, that was disseminated in the media. The letter is widely believed to have been a hoax, and may have been written by a journalist in a deliberate attempt to heighten interest in the story. Other nicknames used for the killer at the time were "The Whitechapel Murderer" and "Leather Apron".
Attacks ascribed to the Ripper typically involved female prostitutes from the slums whose throats were cut prior to abdominal mutilations. The removal of internal organs from at least three of the victims led to proposals that their killer possessed anatomical or surgical knowledge. Rumours that the murders were connected intensified in September and October 1888, and letters from a writer or writers purporting to be the murderer were received by media outlets and Scotland Yard. The "From Hell" letter, received by George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, included half of a preserved human kidney, supposedly from one of the victims. Mainly because of the extraordinarily brutal character of the murders, and because of media treatment of the events, the public came increasingly to believe in a single serial killer known as "Jack the Ripper".
Extensive newspaper coverage bestowed widespread and enduring international notoriety on the Ripper. An investigation into a series of brutal killings in Whitechapel up to 1891 was unable to connect all the killings conclusively to the murders of 1888, but the legend of Jack the Ripper solidified. As the murders were never solved, the legends surrounding them became a combination of genuine historical research, folklore, and pseudohistory. The term "ripperology" was coined to describe the study and analysis of the Ripper cases. There are now over one hundred theories about the Ripper's identity, and the murders have inspired multiple works of fiction"
2809 8.3 8.717. City of God (2002)
City of God is a 2002 Brazilian crime film directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, released in its home country in 2002 and worldwide in 2003. It was adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins. It depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the '60s and the beginning of the '80s, with the closure of the film depicting the war between the drug dealer Li'l Zé and criminal Knockout Ned.
1590 7.1 7.218. Elephant (2003)
Elephant is a 2003 American drama film written and directed by Gus Van Sant. It takes place in the fictional Watt High School, in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, and chronicles the events surrounding a school shooting, based in part on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The film begins a short time before the shooting occurs, following the lives of several characters both in and out of school, who are unaware of what is about to unfold.
The 2005 Red Lake High School Massacre was briefly blamed on the film Elephant as it was watched by gunman Jeff Weise 17 days prior to the shooting.A friend of Weise said that he brought the movie over to a friend's house and skipped ahead to parts that showed two students planning and carrying out a school massacre. Although they talked about the film afterwards, Weise said and did nothing to make anyone suspect what he was planning.
72 5.5 5.519. The Manson Family (2003)
The movie covers the lives of Charles Manson and his "family" of followers
Charles Milles Manson (born November 12, 1934) is an American criminal who led what became known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune that arose in California in the late 1960s.He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders carried out by members of the group at his instruction. He was convicted of the murders through the joint-responsibility rule, which makes each member of a conspiracy guilty of crimes his fellow conspirators commit in furtherance of the conspiracy's object.
Manson is associated with "Helter Skelter", a term he took from the song "Helter Skelter", written and recorded by the The Beatles. Manson misconstrued the lyrics to be about an apocalyptic race war he believed the murders were intended to precipitate. From the beginning of his notoriety, this connection with rock music linked him with a pop culture in which he ultimately became an emblem of insanity, violence, and the macabre. The term was later used by Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi as the title of a book he wrote about the Manson murders.
At the time the Family began to form, Manson was an unemployed ex-convict, who had spent half of his life in correctional institutions for a variety of offenses. Before the murders, he was a singer-songwriter on the fringe of the Los Angeles music industry, chiefly through a chance association with Dennis Wilson, founding member and drummer of The Beach Boys. After Manson was charged with the crimes he was later convicted of, recordings of songs written and performed by him were released commercially. Artists, including Guns N' Roses and Marilyn Manson, have covered his songs in the decades since.
Manson's death sentence was automatically commuted to life imprisonment when a 1972 decision by the Supreme Court of California temporarily eliminated the state's death penalty.California's eventual reestablishment of capital punishment did not affect Manson, who is currently incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison
1617 7.1 7.320. Monster (2003)
574 5.9 6.321. Wolf Creek (2005)
Wolf Creek is a 2005 independent Australian horror film written, co-produced and directed by Greg McLean. The story revolves around three backpackers who find themselves held captive by a serial killer in the Australian outback. It is loosely inspired by the murder of Peter Falconio in 2001. The film was marketed as being "based on true events".
The abduction of British tourist Peter Falconio and the assault of his girlfriend Joanne Lees in July, 2001 by Bradley John Murdoch in the Northern Territory are cited as influences.Murdoch's trial was still under way at the time of the film's initial release in Australia, and for this reason the Northern Territory court placed an injunction on the film's release there in the belief that it could influence the outcome of the proceedings.
2138 7.2 7.622. Munich (2005)
Munich is a 2005 historical fiction film about the Israeli government's secret retaliation attacks after the massacre of Israeli athletes by the Black September terrorist group during the 1972 Summer Olympics. The film stars Eric Bana and was produced and directed by Steven Spielberg. It was written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth.
The Black September was a Palestinian paramilitary group, founded in 1970. It was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli athletes and officials, and fatal shooting of a West German policeman, during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, their most publicized event. They are ultimately responsible for the creation of permanent, professional, and military-trained counter-terrorism forces of major European countries, like GSG9 or GIGN, or the reorganization of already standing units to such a group, like the Special Air Service of the UK.
1376 7 7.423. Capote (2005)
Capote is a 2005 biographical film about Truman Capote, following the events during the writing of Capote's non-fiction book In Cold Blood.
The book details the brutal 1959 murders of Herbert Clutter, a wealthy farmer from Holcomb, Kansas, and his wife and two of their children. When Capote learned of the quadruple murder before the killers were captured, he decided to travel to Kansas and write about the crime. He was accompanied by his childhood friend and fellow author Harper Lee, and together they interviewed local residents and investigators assigned to the case and took thousands of pages of notes. The killers, Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith, were arrested not long after the murders, and Capote ultimately spent six years working on the book. It is considered the original non-fiction novel, although other writers had already explored the genre, such as Rodolfo Walsh in Operación Masacre.
The book examines the complex psychological relationship between two parolees, who together commit a mass murder, an act they were not capable of individually. Capote's book also explores the lives of the victims and the effect of the crime on the community where they lived. In Cold Blood is regarded by critics as a pioneering work of the true crime genre.
829 6.8 7.724. United 93 (2006)
United 93 is a 2006 film written, co-produced, and directed by Paul Greengrass that chronicles events aboard United Airlines Flight 93,which was hijacked during the September 11 attacks. The film attempts to recount with as much veracity as possible (there is a disclaimer that some imagination had to be used) and in real time (from the flight's takeoff) what has come to be known in the United States as an iconic moment of heroism. According to the filmmakers, the film was made with the cooperation of many of the passengers' families (though there are some notable exceptions.
1071 6.6 6.925. Alpha Dog (2006)
Alpha Dog is a crime drama film written and directed by Nick Cassavetes, first screened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2006, with a wide release the following year on January 12, 2007. The film is based on the true story of the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz and related events in 2000.
1319 5.4 5.626. The Black Dahlia (2006)
The Black Dahlia is a 2006 crime film directed by Brian De Palma. It is based on the novel of the same name by James Ellroy, writer of L.A. Confidential. The story is based on the murder of Elizabeth Short.
Elizabeth Short(July 29, 1924 – ca. January 15, 1947) was an American woman and the victim of a gruesome and much-publicized murder. She acquired the moniker The Black Dahlia posthumously by newspapers in the habit of nicknaming crimes they found particularly colorful. Short was found mutilated, her body severed at the waist, on January 15, 1947, in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, California. Short's unsolved murder has been the source of widespread speculation along with several books and film adaptations.
257 6.3 6.527. Them (2006)
2925 7.1 7.728. Zodiac (2007)
Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery-thriller film directed by David Fincher and based on Robert Graysmith's non-fiction book of the same name.
Zodiac tells the story of the hunt for a notorious serial killer known as "Zodiac" who killed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s, leaving several victims in his wake and taunting police with letters and ciphers mailed to newspapers. The case remains one of San Francisco's most infamous unsolved crimes.
511 7 7.429. An American Crime (2007)
An American Crime is a 2007 American crime-drama film starring Ellen Page and Catherine Keener. Based on the true story of the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens by Indianapolis housewife Gertrude Baniszewski.
Sylvia Marie Likens (January 3, 1949 - October 26, 1965) was an American murder victim from Indiana. She was tortured to death by Gertrude Baniszewski (née Van Fossan), Gertrude's children, and other young people from their neighborhood. Her parents, carnival workers, had left Likens and her sister Jenny in the care of the Baniszewski family three months before her death in exchange for $20 a week. Baniszewski, two of her children, Paula and John, and two neighbor youths, Coy Hubbard and Richard Hobbs, were charged and convicted of the crime. Her torture and murder were described by the prosecutor in Baniszewski's trial as the most terrible crime ever committed in the state of Indiana.
227 7.4 7.530. Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (2008)
Mesrine is a two-part 2008 French-language film directed by Jean-François Richet and written by Abdel Raouf Dafri and Richet. The first part's script was based on the autobiographical book L'instinct de mort by French gangster Jacques Mesrine, while the second part detailed Mesrine's criminal career after his escape from prison, and his subsequent brutal end.
Jacques Mesrine (French pronunciation: [28 December 1936–2 November 1979) was a French criminal who was also briefly active in the United States and Canada. He was responsible for numerous bank robberies, burglaries, and kidnappings, and claimed in an autobiography he wrote from prison to have committed upwards of forty murders. He was adept at disguising himself (earning himself the moniker "The Man of a Hundred Faces") and making successful escape attempts from prison.
Jacques René Mesrine was born in Clichy-la-Garenne near Paris on 28 December 1936. He studied at the prestigious Catholic school Collège de Juilly, but was expelled for his aggressive behavior. He married Lydia De Souza (who was of Portuguese origin) in Clichy in 1955, and the couple divorced a year later. After serving with the French Army during the Algerian War, Mesrine returned to France in 1959. He married Maria De La Soledad in 1961 in Paris.
Mesrine was arrested for the first time in 1962 when, with three accomplices, he attempted to rob a bank in Neubourg. By that time he had been a professional criminal for a number of years. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and was released in 1963. He got a job in an architectural design company but was let go following a downsizing in 1964, and he returned to a life of crime.
In December 1965, Mesrine was arrested in the villa of the military governor in Palma de Majorca. He was sentenced to six months in jail and later claimed that Spanish authorities believed he was working for French intelligence.
Mesrine's life was the subjectof an acclaimed pair of films which came out in 2008
1859 7.5 7.731. Milk (2008)
Milk is a 2008 American biographical film on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, and one of the first three in the United States as a whole, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black
2445 6.8 732. Public Enemies (2009)
Public Enemies is a 2009 American crime film directed by Michael Mann and written by Mann, Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman. It is an adaptation of Bryan Burrough's non-fiction book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34. Set during the Great Depression, it follows the final years of notorious bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) as he is pursued by Bureau of Investigation agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). It also depicts Dillinger's relationship with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), as well as Purvis' pursuit of Dillinger associates and fellow criminals Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff) and Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham).
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