Skip To Content

    17 Movies Based On True Stories That Make Them So, So, So Much Scarier

    Being based on reality adds a whole new layer of horror.

    We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us the scariest movies they've seen that are based on true stories. Here are the bone-chilling results:

    Warning: This post mentions heavy topics including murder, kidnapping, domestic violence, torture, and sexual assault.

    1. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

    Bobby Seale tells the judge the trial's started without his lawyer, and the judge makes a racist response.
    Netflix

    Suggested by: lallcharlie

    Eight people were charged with conspiring to incite riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, but the trial quickly became the Chicago Seven when Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale, after objecting to the fact that he wouldn't receive the lawyer of his choice, was bound and gagged right there in the court room and eventually severed from the case.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Netflix

    2. The Afflicted (2011)

    A mother beating her children with a board she calls the "board of education"
    Nocturnal Features

    Suggested by: camtrejo

    Theresa Knorr was eventually arrested and charged for murdering two of her six children after abusing all of them for years. The abuse included constant beatings, holding a gun to their heads, and force-feeding her daughters, some of which is depicted in The Afflicted.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Nocturnal Features

    3. 3096 Days (2013)

    Scenes of Natscha being abducted and held captive for years
    Midget Entertainment

    Suggested by: lostsocks

    3096 Days is based on Natscha Kampusch's memoir of the same name. In 1998, Natscha was abducted at age 10 when she was walking to school and was held captive in a basement for eight years. She eventually managed to escape in 2006.

    You can watch the trailer below.

    View this video on YouTube

    Midget Entertainment

    4. Scream (1996

    Drew Barrymore talking to the Scream serial killer on the phone
    Dimension Films

    Suggested by: flipjonasblue

    Scream was inspired by Daniel Harold Rolling also known as the Gainsville Ripper. In 1990, he murdered five college students over the course of four days in Gainesville, Florida. He even severed one woman's head and mounted it on her shelf.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Dimension Films

    5. The Girl Next Door (2007) and An American Crime (2007)

    A group of boys stare at a girl blindfolded and hung up by her wrists in a basement, and a young girl being given a cigarette burn by her caretaker
    Starz Home Entertainment / Showtime

    Suggested by: mayaabeysekera and allisonh483206d42

    In 1965, Sylvia Likens and her sister were sent to live with Gertrude Baniszewski, a mother of seven, by their carnival worker payments. They paid Gertrude $20 a week to care for Sylvia and her sister, but when one of their checks arrived late, Gertrude took out her frustrations on Sylvia. She and her children, along with other neighborhood kids, abused Sylvia and eventually killed her three months later. The murder inspired two films: The Girl Next Door and An American Crime, which were both released the same year.

    You can watch the trailer for The Girl Next Door below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Starz Home Entertainment

    And the trailer for An American Crime below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Showtime

    6. Karla (2006)

    Karla and her husband filming a woman that they kidnapped passed out
    Christal Films / Quantum Entertainment

    Suggested by: danijean13

    Married couple Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo kidnapped, tortured, and raped at least three women, whom they kept in their house for days before murdering them. Karla even participated in drugging her 15-year-old sister and filming Paul while he sexually assaulted her. Both were charged and convicted. But Karla took a plea deal and eventually tried to get parole, which is covered in Karla.

    You can watch the trailer below.

    View this video on YouTube

    Christal Films / Quantum Entertainment

    7. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

    Henry telling a woman he killed his own mother because she was a whore
    Greycat Films

    Suggested by: penisburn

    In 1983, Henry Lee Lucas confessed to over 600 murders; and police jurisdictions across the country were eager to close multiple cases, so they eagerly believed him. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is based on his confessed crimes. However, once DNA testing became relevant, evidence proved that many of Henry's confessions were false. However, he did for sure kill his mother, his girlfriend, and his landlord.

    You can watch the trailer below.

    View this video on YouTube

    Greycat Films

    8. Spotlight (2015)

    Open Road Films

    Suggested by: megana459810788

    Spotlight is based on the Boston Globe news team that brought the Catholic child abuse scandal to light in 2002. Priests accused of sexual abuse and misconduct were being systematically removed and allowed to work in other parishes, and the journalists identified up to 12 priests before going after the Catholic Church as a whole.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Open Road Films

    9. Changeling (2008)

    Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins being tortured and gaslighted for trying to find her son
    Universal Pictures

    Suggested by: megana459810788

    In Changeling, Angelina Jolie plays real-life Christine Collins, who, in 1928, discovered that her son had gone missing. A few months later, a boy claiming to be her son popped up in Illinois. The LAPD, who had done a real crap job of finding Christine's son, arranged a public reunion between the two. But when Christine saw the boy, she realized he wasn't her son. Despite her having concrete evidence to prove the boy wasn't her son, the LAPD captain had Christine arrested and sent to a psychiatric ward, where she was tortured. Eventually, it came out that Christine's son was most likely abducted by a serial killer and the fake son confessed, but DAMN.

    You can watch the trailer below.

    View this video on YouTube

    Universal Pictures

    10. Cleveland Abduction (2015)

    Lifetime

    Suggested by: childrenofthecornbread

    Ariel Castro abducted and tortured 21-year-old Michelle Knight, 16-year-old Amanda Berry, and 14-year-old Gina DeJesus in the early 2000s. Each woman got in the car with him because he was their friend's father. Castro held the women captive in his home for nearly 11 years, and Knight even gave birth while trapped in Castro's home. They managed to escape in 2013.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Lifetime

    11. Monster (2003)

    Newmarket Films

    Suggested by: dracomalfoyandhamilton

    Aileen Wuornos killed seven men between 1989 and 1991. She would approach her victims for a ride before robbing them, shooting them down, and stealing their vehicles. Aileen committed her crimes with the help and blessing of her partner Tyria Moore. Monster takes an unflinching look at their relationship, as well as Moore's betrayal of Wuornos.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Newmarket Films

    12. Zodiac (2007)

    Paramount Pictures

    Suggested by: nicolem4dc590154

    Who could forget the infamous Zodiac Killer who terrorized San Francisco in the late '60s and early '70s? After each murder, the killer sent taunting letters to San Francisco newspapers and made phone calls to police mocked them for not being able to find him. The letters often included complex codes and symbols that seemed to have no rhyme or reason. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a newspaper employee trying to decipher the codes in Zodiac.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Paramount Pictures

    13. Pain & Gain (2013)

    Paramount Pictures

    Suggested by: cazboline

    Pain & Gain is based on the Sun Gym Gang, who were all ex-convict gym rats who kidnapped and tortured three Miami millionaires to extort them for money. The torture included sleep deprivation, taser jolts, and even waterboarding. They murdered two of the three victims, chopped up their bodies, and tossed their remains into the Everglades.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Paramount Pictures

    14. The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

    IFC Films

    Suggested by: megana459810788

    In 1971, 24 male college students took part in the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. Based on a flip of a coin, they were separated into "prisoners" and "guards," and were tasked with living out a simulated prison scenario for two weeks. Within 24 hours, the guards began physically and psychologically abusing the prisoners. It became so intense that the experiment was shut down after six days, and inspired the 2015 film of the same name.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    IFC Films

    15. My Friend Dahmer (2017)

    FilmRise

    Suggested by: nicolew4dad774d7

    Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men between 1978 and 1991. He would lure them back to his home and give them alcohol laced with drugs before strangling them to death. He would then often commit sex acts on their corpses before disposing of the bodies, often keeping body parts as souvenirs. My Friend Dahmer is based on the graphic novel by John Backderf, who was friends with Dahmer in high school.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    FilmRise

    16. And The Black Dahlia (2006)

    Universal Pictures

    Suggested by: katie2117union

    The Black Dahlia takes a look at is one of the most infamous and gruesome murders in Los Angeles history. Elizabeth Short, an aspiring actor, was found dead and dismembered on a quiet street in Leimert Park in 1947. Her intestines were removed, her blood had been drained, and her mouth was slashed from ear to ear. It caused a huge media frenzy and the case still remains unsolved.

    You can watch the trailer below:

    View this video on YouTube

    Universal Pictures

    Do you know any movies based on chilling true stories? Share them in the comments below.

    TV and Movies

    Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

    Newsletter signup form