ByMike Larson, writer at

In honor of true stories in cinema I thought it would be fun to look back at the last 20 years in movies and list what I consider the 20 Best "True Story" Films of the Last 20 Years (in chronological order). So wind your clocks back to 1995 when a suspense film about the lunar space program rocketed it's way into our hearts.

1: APOLLO 13 (1995)

The film's dialogue between ground control and the astronauts is almost exactly what can be heard in audio recordings from the real mission, but one specific line was added by the filmmakers: "Houston, we have a problem."

2: Braveheart (1995)

Screenwriter Randall Wallace drew inspiration from Blind Harry's 15th Century Epic Poem The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, which scholars have deemed historically inaccurate. Mel Gibson defends his decision to twist history to make events throughout the film more "cinematically compelling."

3: Private Parts (1997)

Howard Stern relives his life in front of us. Maybe it didn't happen exactly like we see in the movie, but it's a rare treat. Stern won "Favorite Male Newcomer" at the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards. What the hell is a Blockbuster Entertainment Award?

4: The Insider (1999)

The Insider was based on a Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner called "The Man Who Knew Too Much." I guess that means it's pretty true. The Insider was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and won none of them. I'm calling bullsh*t.

5: Catch Me If You Can (2002)

While Frank Abagnale never reunited with his father after he ran away from home, Spielberg believed Frank's desire to continue pleasing his father and making him proud would give Abagnale a strong motivation.

6: Shattered Glass (2003)

Writer/Director Billy Ray based his script for Shattered Glass on a 1998 Vanity Fair article by H. G. Bissinger. It chronicles the rise and fall of a fraudulent journalist...who doesn't write for Vanity Fair.

7: The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004)

This small indy follows the tragic downfall of Samuel Byck, who tried to kill Richard Nixon in 1974. He did not succeed in the film nor in real life.

8: The Aviator (2004)

John Logan based his screenplay on the book Howard Hughes: The Secret Life by Charles Higham, following Hughes from the set of Hell's Angels in the late 1920s to his paranoid spiral into obsessive-compulsive disorder in the 1940s.

9: The New World (2005)

Terence Malick merges history with popular myth in this lyrical romance about the English settlers in Jamestown. Malick includes the legend that Pocahontas fell in love with Captain John Smith even though there is no historical evidence to support this.

10: United 93 (2006)

Paul Greengrass' horrifying film of United flight 93 is told with as much attention to realism as possible. Though the film has a disclaimer that some imagination was used in the telling of this story, the filmmakers assure that all of the passengers' families cooperated in the making of the film.

11: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Writer/Director Andrew Dominik adapted his film from Ron Hansen's 1983 novel, dramatizing the complicated love/hate relationship between Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), across the final year of James' life.

12: Into the Wild (2007)

Writer/Director Sean Penn adapted his film from Jon Krakauer's 1996 book based on the travels of Christopher McCandless across North America and the Alaskan wilderness.

13: Zodiac (2007)

Director David Fincher, producer Brad Fischer, and screenwriter James Vanderbilt, spent one and a half-years prior to physical production conducting their own investigation into the Zodiac killings.

14: Milk (2008)

Following the success of the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk and Randy Shilts's book, The Mayor of Castro Street, filmmakers struggled endlessly to retell the amazing story of Harvey Milk - the first openly gay politician elected to public office. The final film was so powerful that it received two Oscars: Best Screenplay for Dustin Lance Black, and Best Actor for Sean Penn.

15: The Social Network (2010)

Though the film portrays him as an evil greedy bastard, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg publicly stated that much of the film's plot was not factual. Well, I'm convinced. : /

16: Bernie (2011)

Having seen Bernie, an Attorney in Austin named Jodi Cole met with Writer/Director, Richard Linklater, and began work to give the confessed killer Bernie Tiede another chance. As a result of her efforts, Tiede was released from his life sentence on $10,000 bail in 2014 under the stipulation he live with Linklater at his home in Austin.

17: Moneyball (2011)

While most of the film is accurate, there's all kinds of inaccuracies in terms of when certain players started playing for the Oakland A's. So this gets some baseball stuff wrong... I don't care.

18: Argo (2012)

Even though Argo won Best Picture at the Oscars, a lot of people have been critical of Ben Affleck's portrayal of events. Especially diminishing the role of the Canadian embassy in the Argo mission and for overly dramatizing the threat the Americans faced before exiting the country.

19: 12 Years a Slave (2013)

While many reviews praised 12 Years a Slave as one of the most accurate portrayals of slavery to ever be filmed, a handful of critics attacked the real Solomon Northup, who some speculated could have taken artistic liberties with his auto-biography from which the film was based.

20: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Screenwriter Terence Winter crafted the screenplay for one of Scorsese and DiCaprio's finest collaborations based on Jordan Belfort's insane autobiography. If Belfort is as slick a salesman as DiCaprio portrays him in the film, I'd expect most of his stories to be bold faced lies. But who knows...truth is stranger than fiction.

Which True Story Movies should I add to my list? Let me know in the comments below.


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