10 Best Movies on Netflix Based on True Stories

Updated June 14, 2022 • Staff

Movies based on true events spark true interest: knowing that the story actually happens changes the experience completely. Below we count down our best recommendations based on a true story which are available to stream on Netflix.

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10.

The Impossible (2012)

A heart-wrenching tribute to victims of natural disasters that is one of despair, suffering, and hope. And it wouldn’t be so damning if it weren’t based off a true story surrounding the tragedy that killed more than 230,000 people. Boxing Day 2004 was one of the most memorable dates for wedded couple, Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (Naomi Watts, for an Oscar nominated performance). Just two days prior, they arrived at Orchid Beach Resort in Thailand to celebrate the Christmas holidays together with their three children. After a squabble with the crew regarding their room reservations, they are granted the privilege of staying in a peaceful villa and all seems to be well. Nature had other plans in mind, though, and facing it head-on is the bittersweet reality.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Actor: Douglas Johansson, Ewan McGregor, Geraldine Chaplin, Gitte Witt, Harry Holland, J.A. Bayona, Johan Sundberg, John Albasiny, Jomjaoi Sae-Limh, Marta Etura, Naomi Watts, Nicola Harrison, Oaklee Pendergast, Ploy Jindachote, Samuel Joslin, Sonke Mohring, Tom Holland
Director: J.A. Bayona
Rating: PG-13
Go to Netflix
9.

A Cop Movie (2021)

In the Mexican film A Cop Movie, director Alonso Ruizpalacios mixes fact and fiction, documentary and narrative, to tell the tale of Teresa and Montoya, two police officers whose dreams are dashed by the corruption of their trade and who, eventually, find love and comfort in each other.

Ruizpalacios takes thrilling risks in structuring this genre-bending story—cutting stories into parts, jumping back and forth between the harrowingly real and captivatingly non-real. For all the experimental maneuvers he makes, however, the through-line is always Teresa and Montoya: particularly, their love for each other and for an institution that should have, in an ideal world, supported them and the people they vowed to protect. 

To its credit, instead of merely humanizing the controversial police force, A Cop Movie adds some much-needed nuance to the big picture. At the end of the day, they’re no different than any other underpaid laborers working desperately to make end meets. A Cop Movie doesn’t gloss over the fact that the police, like so many other workers, are stuck in a rotten system that’s long overdue for a major overhauling. 

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Action, Crime, Documentary, Drama, Thriller
Actor: Leonardo Alonso, Mónica Del Carmen, Raúl Briones
Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Rating: R
Go to Netflix
8.

On My Skin (2018)

This Netflix production is based on a case that rocked public opinion in Italy. Stefano Cucchi was arrested for a minor drug charge and died five days later from police brutality. The movie takes its time to expose what Cucchi went through, which might lead some viewers to find On My Skin slow, and rightfully so. Thinking about the issues at hand here, it’s easy to understand why the director made that choice. In fact, Italians’ complex relationship with the Carabinieri, a division of the Italian army that carries out domestic policing, is delicate to explain and requires meticulous unveiling. Nominated to nine David di Donatello Awards (the equivalent of the Academy Awards in Italy), of which it won three.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Aleksandros Memetaj, Alessandro Borghi, Alessio De Persio, Andrea Lattanzi, Antonio Gargiulo, Bernardo Casertano, Daniela Amato, Daniele Amendola, Dora Romano, Elodie Treccani, Emanuele Cerman, Federico Tocci, Gaetano Aronica, Giuseppe Ragone, Italo Amerighi, Jasmine Trinca, Marco Giuliani, Massimiliano Tortora, Mauro Conte, Max Tortora, Milvia Marigliano, Orlando Cinque, Paolo D Bovani, Roberta Sferzi, Rodolfo Bigotti, Vincenzo Tanassi, Walter Nestola
Director: Alessio Cremonini
Rating: TV-MA
Go to Netflix
7.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019)

This movie’s energy is completely intoxicating.

It’s the directorial debut of renown British/Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, but it feels like the work of a veteran.

In a true story told in English and Chichewa (a language from Malawi), a young boy is expelled from school because his parents couldn’t afford tuition. At the same time, his village is struck by a variety of natural circumstances that bring them the threat of drought and famine.

The young boy sneaks into the library in the hopes of making a windmill and saving his village, and you can guess what follows from the title.

The triumph of engineering and a boy with a dream; mix in an incredibly interesting culture, full of unique family dynamics and a thought-provoking intersection between religion, tradition, and technology. The result is a delicate but uplifting movie, not to be missed.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Drama, Family, History
Actor: Aissa Maiga, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Edwin Chonde, Felix Lemburo, Fredrick Lukhere, Joseph Marcell, Kelvin Chimpokoser, Khalani Makunje, Latifa Tambala, Lemogang Tsipa, Lily Banda, Maxwell Simba, Noma Dumezweni, Philbert Falakeza
Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Rating: TV-PG
Go to Netflix
6.

RRR (2022)

Set in 1920s India, RRR follows two revolutionaries who strike up an unlikely bond and fend off the British regime from their home. In their epic journey to protect their people, they encounter a number of setbacks that prompts them to put their incredible combat skills on full display. 

Despite its three-hour run, RRR never drags, thanks in large part to its breathtaking action sequences and eye-popping visuals. It may contain all the familiar beats of a blockbuster, but RRR is notably grounded in its central, political theme of anti-colonialism, the sincerity of which keeps the film's big heart beating palpably throughout. 

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Action, Drama
Actor: Ahmareen Anjum, Ajay Devgn, Alexx O'Nell, Alia Bhatt, Alison Doody, Chatrapathi Sekhar, Edward Sonnenblick, Makrand Deshpande, N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Olivia Morris, R. Bhakti Klein, Rahul Ramakrishna, Ram Charan, Ray Stevenson, S. S. Rajamouli, Samuthirakani, Shriya Saran, Varun Buddhadev
Director: S. S. Rajamouli
Rating: Not Rated
Go to Netflix
5.

Official Secrets (2019)

Keira Knightley stars in this incredible true story of an Iraq War whistleblower who remains relatively little-known in the U.S. Katharine Gun was working for the communications office for the British government when she received a memo in the months leading to the war that showed that the U.S. requested illegal wiretapping assistance from the U.K. on U.N. diplomats. In a heroic act, she chooses to share this memo, hoping that it would stop her government (then led by Tony Blair) from going to war. Spoiler alert: didn't happen, but this decision, which first seemed like a personal sacrifice, has severe implications on her family as the government finds out that she was behind the leak. A compelling political mystery of a case that deserves much more attention than it once got.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Actor: Adam Bakri, Andrew Marr, Angus Wright, Brett Allen, Chris Larkin, Chris Reilly, Clive Francis, Conleth Hill, George W. Bush, Hanako Footman, Hattie Morahan, Indira Varma, Jack Farthing, Janie Dee, Jeremy Northam, Jodie McNee, John Heffernan, Katherine Kelly, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Cranham, Lindy Whiteford, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Monica Dolan, MyAnna Buring, Niccy Lin, Peter Guinness, Raad Rawi, Ralph Fiennes, Raquel Cassidy, Ray Panthaki, Rhys Ifans, Shaun Dooley, Tamsin Greig, Tony Blair, Vinta Morgan
Director: Gavin Hood
Rating: R
Go to Netflix
4.

The Disaster Artist (2017)

A hilarious and smart comedy that is almost impossible to hate. It doesn’t matter if you liked The Room or not; or if you’ve even heard of it, you will find The Disaster Artist extremely enjoyable. Same applies for James Franco, it’s irrelevant if you think he’s the hottest man walking or a complete waste of screen-time - this movie is better approached without any preconceived ideas. It follows the true events surrounding Tommy Wiseau’s making of The Room, a movie so bad it actually became a worldwide hit. Tommy’s character, played by Franco, is 100% mystery. He pops out of nowhere and does and says things that contain little to no logic. Capitalizing on this, the movie is both absolutely hilarious and intriguing from beginning to end.

Our staff rating: 8.6/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Adam Scott, Adwin Brown, Alison Brie, Amechi Okocha, Andrew Santino, Ari Graynor, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Gelman, Brian Huskey, Bryan Cranston, Cameron Brinkman, Casey Wilson, Cate Freedman, Charlyne Yi, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Danny McBride, Dave Franco, David DeCoteau, Dree Hemingway, Dylan Minnette, Eliza Coupe, Erin Cummings, Frankie Ponce, Frederick Keeve, Greg Sestero, Hannibal Buress, Ike Barinholtz, J.J. Abrams, Jacki Weaver, James Franco, Jason Mantzoukas, Jason Mitchell, Javi Sánchez-Blanco Boyer, Jenna Curtis, Jerrod Carmichael, Jessie Ennis, Joe Mande, John Early, Jolie Mitnick Salter, Josh Hutcherson, Judd Apatow, June Diane Raphael, Kara Gibson, Kate Upton, Katherine Neff, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Oxford, Kether Donohue, Kevin Smith, Kristen Bell, Lauren Ash, Lizzy Caplan, Megan Ferguson, Megan Mullally, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Fielder, Nicole Gordon-Levitt, Paul Scheer, Peter Gilroy, Ramona Tibrin, Randall Park, Ricky Mabe, Seth Rogen, Sharon Stone, Slim Khezri, Steven Liu, Sugar Lyn Beard, Tamzin Brown, Taylor DeVoe, Tom Franco, Tommy Wiseau, Tudor Munteanu, Xosha Roquemore, Zac Efron, Zach Braff, Zhubin Rahbar, Zoey Deutch
Director: James Franco
Rating: R
Go to Netflix
3.

Philomena (2013)

An inspired by true events tale about an elderly Irish woman trying to find the child she was forced to give up many years earlier. Steve Coogan co-wrote the script and, though the base story is a tragic one, his special brand of very subtle, wry wit is apparent in the dialogue throughout. Judi Dench plays the mother who had kept her “sinful” past a secret for fifty years and, being Judi Dench, I don’t need to bother going on about her exemplary talent, suffice to say she’s charming beyond measure in the role. Steven Frears directs, as usual, deftly, and keeps the story compelling scene after scene, intensifying the emotions inherent to each, whether they be heart-warming, comedic, or outright enraging. Whoever decided to let Steve Coogan have his way with the script, it was a brave and wise choice and together this cast and crew have produced a wonderful and important piece of cinema.

Our staff rating: 8.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Amber Batty, Anna Maxwell Martin, Barbara Jefford, Cathy Belton, Charissa Shearer, Charles Edwards, Charlie Murphy, Elliot Levey, Florence Keith-Roach, Frankie McCafferty, Judi Dench, Kate Fleetwood, Mare Winningham, Michelle Fairley, Nicholas Jones, Paris Arrowsmith, Peter Hermann, Ruth McCabe, Sara Stewart, Sean Mahon, Simone Lahbib, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Steve Coogan, Wunmi Mosaku
Director: Stephen Frears
Rating: PG-13
Go to Netflix
2.

Frost/Nixon (2008)

A relevant and deeply entertaining movie that only has the appearance of being about politics. In reality, it is about television, and one brilliant journalist’s pursuit of the perfect interview.  Richard Nixon stepped away from the public eye after the Watergate scandal, and was counting on a series of interviews three years later to redeem himself. His team assigns an unlikely reporter to sit in front of him, a British reality TV host named David Frost. Both men have everything to gain from this interview by going against each other, as Frost tries to extract a confession of wrongdoing in Watergate that Nixon never gave.  Who will win? The master manipulator or the up-and-coming journalist? Frost / Nixon was originally a play, and this adaptation is full of drama and boosts great dialogue.

Our staff rating: 8.8/10
Genre: Drama, History
Actor: Andy Milder, Clint Howard, Eloy Casados, Frank Langella, Gabriel Jarret, Gavin Grazer, Geoffrey Blake, Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Jim Meskimen, Kate Jennings Grant, Keith MacKechnie, Kevin Bacon, Mark Simich, Matthew Macfadyen, Max Elliott Slade, Michael Sheen, Oliver Platt, Patty McCormack, Penny L. Moore, Rance Howard, Rebecca Hall, Sam Rockwell, Simon James, Toby Jones, Wil Albert, Yvette Rachelle
Director: Ron Howard
Rating: R
Go to Netflix
1.

Operation Odessa (2018)

The movie opens with a guy called Tarzan, saying in a Russian accent: “I called my friend Michel, and I said can I buy a submarine, a used one?” Apparently, two days later he called him back asking: “With, or without missiles?” This should give you a decent idea of how the protagonists of this Tiller-Russell-directed documentary roll. Operation Odessa is the crazy true story of how the FBI, Pablo Escobar, and the Russian Mafia were played by three criminal outsiders in a $35 million submarine deal. Strictly speaking, it belongs in the true crime documentary genre, but it can also be treated as a real-life black comedy. The protagonists are so audacious, it is hard to believe that most of this story is true. The submarine deal story is only the tip of the iceberg here. Crazy, funny, and just really well done!

Our staff rating: 8.9/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Juan Almeida, Kristy Galeota, Ludwig Fainberg, Nelson Tony Yester, Richard Gregorie, Tony Galeota
Director: Tiller Russell
Rating: TV-MA
Go to Netflix

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