“Based on a true story” – how many times have we heard that? It’s the most overused tagline in cinema, but it never stops us from flocking to the theatres. It’s eye-catching and head-turning, I can never resist. (As long as I think the film looks like it will be good).
So, I’m going back through the years and highlighting five movies, based on true stories, that are well worth your time.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Let’s start with Remember the Titans. As with a lot of films based on true stories, this movie strays from the actual events of coach Herman Boone’s attempt to racially integrate a High school American football team. But, the basic plot is taken from what happened in 1971 at a school in Washington.
I liked that this film isn’t just a story about sport, but a story about race. Maybe it’s a little too “light” on the subject of racism because, by the end, this film makes you feel really good. On and off the field, it’s deeply compelling with every actor bringing so much passion and spirit to their role.
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
There’s nothing bad you can say about Hotel Rwanda. It’s an absolute must-see. I was so emotionally involved when I watched this film that I completely shut everything else off. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide is depicted with so much realism, but the real story is Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle). He was a hotel manager and his efforts to save over one thousand Hutu and Tutsi refugees is the basis of the film.
It’s very well made and directed with no Hollywood involvement. It was produced and distributed independently, so don’t expect any wishy-washy rubbish in this film.
Alpha Dog (2007)
If you love Justin Timberlake, go see Alpha Dog! In all seriousness though, this is an unflinching portrayal of a real-life kidnapping, that I thought was very well done. This will resonate with the younger generation because of its themes of youth, drugs, sex and music.
While JT gives a noteworthy performance, it’s the late Anton Yelchin as Zack, who’s the shining light. He’s the only one you have any real empathy for. Considering he gets kidnapped by a group of drugs dealers for ransom, it’s not hard to feel sorry for him, but Yelchin captures the innocence and naivety of a fifteen-year-old kid perfectly.
If a bad actor had played the role, this film might have fallen apart, in terms of building a strong connection between the viewer and the protagonist. I really enjoyed Alpha Dog – it’s dramatic, surprising and sometimes funny.
Is there anything Tom Hardy can’t do? In Bronson, he plays … you guessed it, Charles Bronson, one of the most notorious criminals in the UK. This film is an exaggerated account of his life, starting with short scenes from when he was a kid. He had a normal upbringing with ordinary parents, but for some reason, he loved violence.
So, he ends up in prison and the whole film is narrated with dark humour by Hardy himself. It was directed by Nicholas Winding Refn who’s a machine when it comes to startling, unexpected images. If you’ve seen Drive or The Neon Demon, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. But if not, then I must let you know that Refn has a brutal directing style. Bronson is entertaining but it’s no easy watch.
127 Hours (2010)
127 Hours is not just another “How will he survive?” movie, it’s much more than that. Danny Boyle transforms a simple story about a man trapped by a boulder, into a poignant statement about the will to live. This film wouldn’t be the same without James Franco as Aron Ralston.
This is easily a career best for Franco. His acting in this film is outstanding. I’m yet to see a better performance from him and maybe I never will. As a whole, the film is an intensely visual experience, as Boyle gives you a look into Aron’s state of mind, while he’s stuck in the same spot for 127 hours.
There are some inventive techniques used to keep the drama moving forward and it doesn’t ever get tiresome. The real Aron Ralston, who was trapped in Blue John Canyon for five days straight is a legend in my book. So, the portrayal of his story needs to be seen by all.
I hope you enjoyed the list! What’s your favourite film based on a true story? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.
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