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    17 Movies That Were Actually Based On True Stories

    Prepare for your mind to be blown.

    1. 50 First Dates

    Happy Madison Productions

    The movie may be a light-hearted rom com, but it's actually based on the real-life story of Michelle Philpots. After incurring two serious head injuries, she now has an extremely rare form of amnesia which prevents her from forming or retaining any short-term memories. This means she has no recollection of any events post-1994, and since her memory resets when she's asleep, her husband must remind her of the accident and their marriage by showing her wedding photos each morning.

    2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

    New Line Cinema

    While most of the movie is entirely fictional, some of the plot and the character Leatherface were based on the real-life serial killer Ed Gein. In fact, the house in the movie and its gruesome contents were based on what was discovered in Gein's home in 1957, when police encountered hundreds of trophies and keepsakes made from the skin and bones of both Gein's victims and other bodies he'd exhumed from local graveyards.

    Bonus fact — the same serial killer also inspired the movie, Psycho.

    3. The Notebook

    New Line Cinema

    It's regarded as one of the most romantic movies of all time, but The Notebook was actually inspired by the relationship between Nicholas Sparks' wife's grandparents — a couple who were together for over 60 years. The decision to centre the book on two individuals whose love had lasted a lifetime came after a visit to the grandparents the day after Sparks married his wife, during which they told the story of how they met and fell in love. Many of the details were then included in the book.

    But for Sparks, the true inspiration came from witnessing how the pair treated each other that day. Writing on his website, Sparks revealed: "The way his eyes shined when he looked at her. The way he held her hand, the way he got her tea and took care of her. I remember watching them together and thinking to myself that after sixty years of marriage, these two people were treating each other exactly the same as my wife and I were treating each other after twelve hours. What a wonderful gift they’d given us, I thought, to show us on our first day of marriage that true love can last forever."

    4. Catch Me If You Can

    Dreamworks Studios

    The movie was based on the life of Frank Abagnale who, by the age of 19, had pulled off cons worth millions of dollars by posing as an airline pilot, a doctor, a physician and an attorney. Within six years he had assumed eight different identities and was wanted by 12 different countries by the time of his arrest. He spent five years in jail, and after his release became a security consultant for the federal government before setting up a financial fraud consultant company.

    5. The Sound of Music

    20th Century Fox

    While it's one of the most well-known and loved movies of all time, The Sound of Music was actually based on the real-life events in Maria Von Trapp's memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. It told the story of how 19 year-old Maria was sent by her Abbess to tutor the seven children of widowed naval commander Georg Von Trapp. Unlike his portrayal in the movie, however, Georg wasn't cold-hearted and tyrannical and the family enjoyed singing together from the off-set. After a popular soprano heard their abilities and advised them to perform together, "The Trapp Family Singers" were born and soon became a popular touring act all over the world. And, while the family did indeed flee Austria when the Nazis sought to recruit Georg, they didn’t do so by climbing over the mountains. Instead, they caught a train to Italy and from there moved to the US.

    6. The Shining

    Warner Bros

    While many people had reported inexplicable paranormal activity at The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, it wasn't until Stephen King stayed there in 1974 that it became the basis for a book and subsequent movie. During his stay, King experienced a nightmare in which his son was being chased down the hall of the hotel by a possessed fire hose. The nightmare was so out of the ordinary that it formed the basis for the book, which centres on a writer being driven to insanity by spirits in a haunted hotel.

    7. The Big Sick

    Film Nation Entertainment

    The movie centres on the story of two people who had been casually dating when the woman falls into a coma. It sounds like the standard premise of a rom-com but it was actually based on the true story of its writers, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Unlike the movie, however, Nanjiani and Gordon hadn't broken up, but were eight months into their relationship when she fell sick and was put into a medically-induced coma. She was then diagnosed with Still's disease — a systemic auto-inflammatory disorder that can shut down major organs if left untreated. Nanjiani was at Gordon's side throughout the ordeal and when she awoke, was ready to marry her.

    8. Philomena


    The movie tells the true story of an Irish Catholic woman who got pregnant as a teenager and was sent to live in a convent where the nuns put her baby up for adoption without her consent. Many years later, Philomena enlisted the help of an investigative journalist to help find her son who was sold by the church and adopted into an American family. Tragically, however, he'd died 10 years earlier and had been searching for her prior to his death.

    9. Jaws

    Universal Pictures

    Although the dramatics were added for the sake of the movie, Jaws was actually based on the most unique series of shark attacks ever recorded. In 1916, a great white shark killed four people on the Jersey Shore over the course of two weeks, despite experts at the time believing that sharks in temperate climates were relatively harmless. The attacks led to the people of New Jersey launching a massive hunt for the shark to protect the city's tourism industry, and the idea for a movie was born.

    10. Good Will Hunting


    You probably know that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote the screenplay for Good Will Hunting, but you might not know that one of the scenes was based on a real-life incident involving Damon's brother, Kyle. He was visiting a physicist at the M.I.T campus and came across an equation written on a chalkboard in a hallway. Being artistic, he decided to complete the equation using entirely fake numbers, and it looked so impressive that the artwork remained untouched for months.

    11. Hidden Figures

    20th Century Fox

    This movie was based on the true-life story of the black female mathematicians who helped revolutionise NASA during the Space Race. And it turns out that one of the scenes in the movie happened word-for-word in real-life too. The scene in question depicts John Glenn — the man who went on to become the first American to orbit the earth thanks in large part to the work of the women — encountering issues with the flight's trajectory. Not trusting the computers he had access to, Glenn told the head engineers: "Get the girl to check the numbers. If she says the numbers are good, I'm ready to go." That girl was the mathematician, Katherine Johnson.

    12. Marley and Me

    20th Century Fox

    When journalist John Grogan’s rambunctious dog died after 13 years with his growing family, he wrote a column dedicated to Marley's memory in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It generated over 800 responses from readers expressing sympathy and sharing their own experiences of owning pets. As a result, Grogan was prompted to write a memoir about his family's life with Marley which swiftly became a best-seller and was then adapted into a movie.

    13. The Exorcism of Emily Rose

    Screen Gems

    The movie is based on the story of Anneliese Michel, a German woman who underwent a series of Catholic exorcism rites over the course of a year after people around her believed she'd been possessed. While the girl in the movie dies from injuries pertaining to the exorcism, Annaliese died due to malnourishment and dehydration at the hands of her parents and the priests involved in her "treatment." They were later convicted of negligent homicide and sentenced to jail.

    14. The Pursuit of Happyness

    ‎Relativity Media‎

    The movie starring Will Smith and his son Jaden was actually based on the real-life story of Chris Gardner and his two-year-old son who were homeless for a year in San Fransisco. While Gardner was enrolled in a trainee scheme at a stock brokerage, he didn't have enough money for the deposit to rent an apartment so he and his son would sleep anywhere they could find. Despite the adversity, however, Gardner thrived at work and was eventually offered a full-time job and his career soon went stratospheric — nowadays he's worth $48 million.

    15. A Beautiful Mind

    Imagine Entertainment

    While some of the intimate details were omitted entirely from the movie, it was fundamentally based on the true story of mathematician John Nash, who suffered delusions and was hospitalised for paranoid schizophrenia. After being subjected to insulin shock therapy he was released from hospital and thanks to support from his wife and friends, experienced a dramatic remission and went on to win the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994.

    16. Cool Runnings

    Walt Disney

    The movie was very loosely based on the real Jamaican bobsled team — made up of sprinters from the Air Force — that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Unlike the film, however, none of the other athletes mocked the inexperienced team, and their participation in the event became a point of national pride.

    17. The Terminal

    Dreamworks Studios

    What's ostensibly a cute rom-com is actually based on the completely wild true-life story of Iranian refugee, Merhan Karimi Nasseri. He arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in 1988 with the intention of travelling to the UK, but was turned away by immigration officials because he didn't have a passport. However, since he couldn't be returned to his origin country either, Nasseri spent the next 16 years living in an airport lounge.

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