I’ll be honest here when I say that I’m way more of a movie person than a TV show person. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching TV shows, but if they’re in a new season, I don’t have the patience to wait every single week for the next episode. It just irritates me to no end. But with movies, I don’t have to feel that type of frustration, unless it’s where the story continues on in the sequel and the one after that; like Lord of the Rings. Most movies though aren’t like that, and knowing that I can relax for a couple of hours and enjoy a good flick is everything to me. Though they usually aren’t my favorite type of movie, I do enjoy movies every now and then that are based on true events. I’m often quite picky with them, as they have to be about something that captures my interest, or involves a part of history that I appreciate. I’ve chosen six amazing movies based on true events, that, in my opinion, are just too good to pass up on.
I remember when I was in college that I changed my minor at least two or three times, before finally settling on history. I’ve always had a great love for history, especially that of the Old West. Funnily enough, when people today think of the Old West, they’re thinking of a period of time that only lasted for about 20 years or so. Most Western movies and TV shows are based in this space of time, and that also includes the amazing movie of Tombstone. If you’ve never seen this cult classic Western, I implore you to watch it as soon as you can. Tombstone is loosely based off of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. A shootout happens between the lawmen of Tombstone, a town in the Arizona Territory, and a group of outlaws called the Cowboys in 1881. The movie follows the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, and the events that led up to the Wild West’s most famous gunfight. This amazing movie is chalk-full of action, some humor and yes, a little bit of love; there always has to be some sort of love interest in 97% of movies. In my opinion, Kurt Russel does a fantastic job of portraying the famous lawman Wyatt Earp. There are also some other famous actors in this movie that you may be familiar with, like Bill Paxton, who plays Morgan Earp, Sam Elliot, who plays Virgil Earp and Val Kilmer, who plays Doc Holliday. If you’re looking for a solid Western that’s based on a true story to watch, Tombstone should be at the very top of your list.
Now, I’ve seen countless movies and TV shows about the events of World War II, as it’s my favorite war to study. When I was in college, I tried to take as many history courses as I could that focused on this period of time. I wanted to learn as much as I could about that era of war. I’m actually lucky enough to have my grandma, who’s coming up on 94, still recall the events of the second world war in perfect clarity. She was only 14 years old when the U.S. joined the war after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The recent 2019 movie about the turning point of the Pacific Theater of WWII retells the Battle of Midway in a way like I’d never seen it before. The Battle of Midway was fought six months after the tragic events at Pearl Harbor. Visually, it was stunning to watch, and at some points during this amazing movie, I felt as if I were actually there experiencing the joys, frustrations and heart breaks alongside these brave U.S. soldiers. Some big names you may recognize in this movie are Woody Harrelson, who portrays Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Dennis Quaid, who portrays Vice Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and Aaron Eckhart, who portrays Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. I honestly thought that Director Roland Emmerich did a fairly decent job with staying true to the events of one of the Pacific Theater’s most famous battles.
3. Catch Me If You Can
This was actually a movie that grew on me over the years. The first time that I remember watching this was after it came out on DVD in 2003, and I was only 10 years old, so I really didn’t understand the gist of the movie. I didn’t watch Catch Me If You Can again until I was in college, because I’d honestly forgotten about it for a while there. I did quite enjoy the second time I watched it due to me being old enough to get the plot, and that’s when I also found out that this amazing movie is based on a true story. The movie follows extremely skilled conman Frank Abagnale, and how he successfully forged tons of checks under different guises, one of which includes posing as a PanAm World Airways pilot, and alluded the FBI for quite some time. Some big names in this movie are Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Frank Abagnale, Tom Hanks, who plays FBI agent Carl Hanratty, Christopher Walken, who plays Frank Abagnale Sr. and Martin Sheen, who plays attorney Roger Strong. I love the fast-pace of the plot, where there’s never a dull moment, and the wittiness of the main character Frank Abagnale, especially in regards to how he views Agent Hanratty. This majorly successful movie is one non-stop chase from beginning to end.
Alright, I’ll be honest here when I say that I didn’t see this movie until the beginning of this year. I just found no other reason to watch it before 2020. I really wish that I had seen this amazing movie sooner, because if it’s not already obvious, I absolutely loved it! I’m actually surprised that I didn’t see Goodfellas earlier, since I’ve always been interested, from a historical aspect, about the Mafia. One thing for sure that I can say about this movie, is that it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat for the whole 146 minutes. Goodfellas focuses mostly on Henry Hill, who worked his way as a young kid into the Italian-American Mafia, and as Henry got older the more heinous crimes he committed to stay in favor. Naturally, with being involved with the Mafia, things begin to spiral out of control for Henry. Knowing who trust becomes his greatest enemy, and soon he begins to act recklessly against some of those who took him in. Sometimes, I feel like the Mafia was never real to begin with; organized crime is just a very odd concept to me. Some recognizable names in this film are Robert De Niro, who plays Jimmy Conway, Ray Liotta, who plays Henry Hill, Joe Pesci, who plays Tommy DeVito and Paul Sorvino, who plays Paulie Cicero. I definitely agree with the critics that Goodfellas is one of the greatest films ever made; it’s truly a work of art.
5. Erin Brockovich
I remember the first time that I watched this movie was out at my grandparent’s house in Northern Nevada, at about eight or nine years old. Now, being that young I didn’t really understand a lick of what was going on throughout the whole movie. When I watched it again as a teenager in high school, the plot became much clearer to me, and I was instantly fascinated with this amazing legal drama. The film follows unemployed single mother Erin Brockovich, and how she comes to work for her lawyer’s office, where she feels that he owes her for losing her court case. She soon uncovers a mass coverup by Pacific Gas and Electric Company in regards to contaminated ground water in a small California town. Throughout the film, we watch Brockovich struggle, with not just her boss, but with the reluctant townspeople as well. She has to convince them that all their illnesses are linked to the contaminated ground water, and that it’s not as safe as PG&E touts it to be. Even though I would never want to be a lawyer, I’ve always been intrigued by huge legal cases such as this one, because you want to see justice brought to the people who were most hurt. If you have never seen this amazing movie, I beseech you to watch it.
6. Young Guns & Young Guns II
I had to save the best for last, as these are my two favorite films that are based off a true story; I’ve always been enamored with the tale of Billy the Kid. I actually wrote a historical paper on him for my American West course that I took my senior year of college, and I remember how my professor absolutely loved it. Again, these two amazing movies take place in that popular 20 year period of time in what was then the New Mexico Territory. These films follow the short life of one William H. Bonney, and how he is hired by an English cattle rancher, John Tunstall, as a Regulator to work for and live with him along with five other Regulators. Billy soon finds himself involved with the Lincoln County War when a rival of Tunstall’s, Lawrence Murphy, sends his men to kill Tunstall in cold blood. Naturally the Kid wants revenge, along with some of the other Regulators, and they soon find themselves made outlaws after Billy deems he can’t wait for justice. He murders those who were involved with killing his employer, and Billy the Kid spirals out of control from there. He becomes known as one of the most famous outlaws in the Old West, killing eight men before his own death by Pat Garrett at the age of 21. Some famous names in these films are Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid, Kiefer Sutherland as Doc Scurlock, Lou Diamond Phillips as Chavez, Charlie Sheen as Dick Bowdre, Christian Slater as Arkansas Dave and William Petersen as Pat Garrett. These two amazing movies are definitely at the very top of my based on true stories list!