There’s nothing quite like watching a movie that’s based on a true story—the intrigue of seeing how events unfold, the emotional journey of being able to relate to what you’re seeing and hearing, and the satisfaction of knowing that there was some type of happy ending. In this list of the top five true story movies, you’ll see exactly why the stories behind these movies made such an impact on millions of people around the world.
Though it is a movie about World War II, Schindler's List was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. What sets Schindler's List apart from most war movies is its focus on saving individual lives versus saving countries or ideologies. Oskar Schindler worked hard to save as many Jews as he could, first by opening his factory as a shelter and then by trying to claim them via lottery when they began to be transferred out of Poland en masse. Steven Spielberg doesn't shy away from depicting intense violence in his films (the man has done Jaws and Saving Private Ryan), but he also depicts humanity at its best moments.
Released in 2004, Hotel Rwanda follows Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a hotel manager who is forced to choose between saving his family or protecting his hotel. In 1994, a civil war breaks out in Rwanda, leading to widespread violence and genocide. Although Rusesabagina's actions are dramatized for Hollywood, he was awarded a Medal of Honor from former president Bill Clinton for putting his life on the line to save more than 1,200 people during those tumultuous times. If you've been inspired by Rusesabagina’s heroism and selflessness, consider visiting Hotel Rwanda's website to learn how you can get involved or donate to their cause.
The Freddie Mercury biopic, Queen is a surprisingly inspirational rags-to-riches tale about a man who overcame incredible hardship to become one of Britain’s most beloved entertainers. Rami Malek was awarded Best Actor at both Golden Globes and BAFTAs for his portrayal of Mercury. The movie has been highly praised by critics (97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and as such is a must watch for all lovers of true story movies. The film, directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Peter Morgan tells the real life events surrounding Mercury’s life, particularly his fight against AIDS. Enjoy an exhilarating live performance by Queen while watching what was until now Hollywood’s most accurate portrayal of their iconic lead singer's life.
In June 2012, Jeremy Scahill, a national security correspondent for The Nation magazine and author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army , received an unusual request from his editor. Can you leave [Afghanistan] and go investigate JSOC? he was asked. Scahill recalls telling his editor that he was going to try. His assignment: write a 10,000-word exposé on Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), one of America’s most secretive military units. When asked about it now, Scahill laughs at how bold it was for The Nation to give him such a broad assignment for which he had no idea how to prepare.
All is Lost
Director J.C. Chandor crafts a minimalist masterpiece in All is Lost, following a man stranded at sea as he fights for his life against Mother Nature and his boat’s failing systems. It’s harrowing to watch Robert Redford struggle as he tries to save himself, and it only gets more intense as time passes without rescue in sight. As someone who was taught not to give up no matter what, it's hard not to find hope watching Redford hold on—despite certain death staring him down. As an arthouse action flick, All is Lost delivers thrills while making an important point about getting off your butt and taking care of yourself if disaster strikes.
The above movies are an excellent way to learn more about World War II, whether it’s a side of war that isn’t often covered or a well-known event explored from an unexpected angle. You don’t need to be an expert on war or even history to get something out of these films. Instead, they tell powerful stories filled with heroic acts and amazing characters—all of which makes them easy to enjoy and watch over and over again. If you want to learn more about world events while also being entertained, any one of these movies is worth your time.
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