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8 Best True-story-based Movies to Watch

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Some of the best black actors working today team up for When They See Us - the list includes Michael K William (Omar Little from The Wire) Jovan Adepo (Fences) and Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight). And as most on-camera faces in this miniseries are recognizable (there is also Felicity Huffman and Michael Peña), so is the writer, director, and creator of the show, Ava DuVernay. She is the director of Selma, for which she became the first female black director to ever be nominated for an Oscar. I’m spending a lot of time on credentials because the performances and high-quality direction are one of the few things that will get you through this show. It’s a tough watch - chronicling the story of five black teenagers who get falsely accused of rape. The case, known as The Central Park Five, was also made into an excellent documentary by the same name (available on Amazon Prime). When They See Us goes through the mechanisms and details of how the U.S. justice system framed these teenagers. It also pays special attention to their time in prison, and their family relationships. It’s an excruciating but incredibly important watch.

9.4

Netflix is stopping at nothing to collect the best true crime stories around, a bit like an African dictator looking for aid programs. The latest addition is the incredible thriller mini-series, “The Staircase.” It originally aired in 2004, but Netflix took the same director and allowed him to add new episodes in 2018 to complete the story. The plot: A famous American novelist’s wife is found dead, and he is accused of killing her. His life comes under scrutiny as everyone asks whether she died in an accident or was murdered. If you liked their other hit, “Making a Murderer,” you will love this. You should also definitely check out “The Keepers” or Netflix’s binge-worthy crime documentary, “Evil Genius.”

8.2

A dramatic take on the life and capture of Ted Kaczynski, popularly known as UNABOMBER(UNiversity and Airline BOMber) from the eyes of an FBI profiler. Kaczynski was responsible for 16 bombings, and it took 17 years for the FBI to catch him. To date, he's the target of the most expensive chase the FBI has ever launched. The show is not a mystery (facts are the matter of public domain) and doesn't even pretend to be one. Instead, it focuses on the complex motives of the UNABOMBER, as well as the bureaucracy that the FBI ran through trying to catch him. It's a really well-made, engrossing show that's hard not to watch in one take. It's 8 episodes of 40 minutes, so pick the time you start it wisely.

9.4

A Netflix documentary mini-series that follows the relocation of a cult from India to a small town in Oregon and the ensuing events. It's a completely true story, but the events it portrays are so bizarre and unexpected that they have to be seen to be believed. The cult, led by a controversial Indian guru, drew worldwide attention to its beginnings in India and then to its conflict with the locals once it relocated to the United States. If you were a contemporary, you must know that the town is Antelope and the guru is Bhagwan or Osho, but if you were not, it is very unlikely you've even heard of it. What was a very significant moment in American media and history has been long forgotten, and is retold here in a captivating way. An extremely well-executed and a powerful account of a very unlikely story.

9.8

A captivating documentary series on the struggling state of the police department in Flint, Michigan; and by extension a large proportion of American cities. The town that had made the news for its water crisis is home to another crisis that dates back further: an exponential rise in crime.  The police department, however, keeps losing funding year over year, so much so that they can only have less than 9 one-officer cars patrolling the (large) city at any one time.  A sobering and impressive account that follows officers facing not only harrowing situations in a failing city, but also the constant fear of being laid-off.

8.2
Also see: Best Films
Best Films are our staff picks, they're all movies rated 8.0 and above. Here, we selected three for you.
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