7 best Netflix movies based on true stories

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
(Image credit: Alamy)

Some of the best films of all time are based on stories that are so unique, they could only be based on a true story. In an era marked by the limitless possibilities of fantastical storytelling featuring superheroes and larger-than-life characters, there's a definite allure to films that draw inspiration from real events, offering audiences a grounded perspective on the world as it exists or once existed. 

From riveting dramas that chronicle the triumphs and tribulations of remarkable individuals to heartwarming comedies that find humor in the quirks of reality, these are the best movies on Netflix that are based on true stories, ranked. 

7. Vice

Former Vice President Dick Cheney doesn’t immediately come across as a compelling subject for a film. However, Vice, from writer-director Adam McKay takes an absurdist tone to the secretive VP’s time as a politician, with moments of Shakespearean dialogue, an end-credits fake-out right in the middle of the movie, and perhaps one of the most jarring fourth wall breaks in recent cinema history. The film stars an almost unrecognizable Christian Bale as Dick Cheney, with Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Justin Kirk, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, and Jesse Plemons rounding out its all-star ensemble cast. 

The film may be unorthodox in its approach to the biopic, but it was a hit with critics when it was released in 2018, garnering eight nominations at the Oscars that year, including for Best Picture, Best Director (Adam McKay), and Best Actor (Christian Bale). It may be one of the weirder titles on this list, but you could argue that the life of this cryptic politician was also stranger than fiction, which is why it makes the 

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6. Hacksaw Ridge

Andrew Garfield gives a career-defining performance in Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond Doss, a real-life conscientious objector who served as a medic during World War II who refused to carry a weapon. This gripping drama shows how Doss’ beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist cause his superiors to try and attempt to force him to leave the military. 

However, Doss perseveres and plays a critical role at the Battle of Okinawa, particularly the assault on the Maeda Escarpment (also known as "Hacksaw Ridge"), rescuing 75 wounded soldiers under heavy enemy fire, earning him the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration in the United States. 

The film does not shy away from portraying the brutal and harrowing nature of warfare, but its overall message about the power of peace is one that will deeply resonate with audiences today. 

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5. Dolemite is my Name

A more traditional biopic, Dolemite is my Name stars Eddie Murphy and is based on the life of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian, singer, and film producer in the 1970s. Inspired by the stories he hears at a record store, Moore creates the character Dolemite, a flamboyant and raunchy pimp. After debuting the character successfully on stage, Moore is determined to bring him to the silver screen via a blaxploitation film. However, when production issues and a distribution shut-out threaten to derail his plans, Moore takes the future of Dolemite into his own hands, refusing to give up on his dream of bringing the character to life on film.

The film seamlessly blends humor with a heartfelt story, and seeing how the real-life Moore overcame incredible obstacles to bring his vision to movie theaters makes this a hilarious movie that is surprisingly full of heart. 

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4. The Social Network

You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. 

The tagline from David Fincher’s The Social Network perfectly encapsulates the tone of this film, which chronicles not only the rise of Facebook but also the lengths co-founder Mark Zuckerberg went to keep control of what would become the world’s largest social media platform. 

Jesse Eisenberg plays young Mark Zuckerberg, who audiences first meet in the film as a student at Harvard University. The film then goes on to explore the creation of the social media giant, as well as the role that Zuckerberg’s associates Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield) and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) played in its development. The film uses a unique, non-linear structure, which weaves together multiple timelines and legal depositions to underscore just how competitive and cutthroat the creation of Facebook truly was. 

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3. BlacKKKlansman

Spike Lee’s 2018 movie BlacKKKlansman follows the incredible true story of Ron Stallworth, played by John David Washington, a Black police detective in Colorado Springs, who successfully infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.

In the film, Stallworth poses as a white supremacist over the phone and uses his Jewish colleague, Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver), to attend Klan meetings in person. Together, they work undercover to expose the Klan's activities and prevent potential acts of violence.

Though the movie takes place in the 1970s, Lee draws sharp parallels to the modern era. The film’s final sequence features an impactful double dolly shot that transports audiences in a way that may be uncomfortable, but hammers home the film’s themes in a very unique and powerful way. 

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2. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorcese tackles the excess of the 1990s with The Wolf of Wall Street, which follows the story of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who committed massive securities fraud in the 1990s to get obscenely rich very quickly. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Belfort as a cocky, uniquely driven borderline-sociopath who not only tries to convince other characters on screen that he’s the smartest guy in the room, but also the audience as well, through the use of frequent fourth-wall breaks where he addresses them directly. 

The film is unflinching in its examination of the culture of greed and excess prevalent on Wall Street not only during the 1990s but in the modern day as well. It also features strong performances from its stacked supporting cast, which includes Margot Robbie, Matthew McCougnahey, and Jonah Hill. 

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1. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Directed by Aaron Sorkin, 2020’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 is based on the real-life court case that charged a group of seven people with conspiracy related to anti-Vietnam War protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Though primarily a courtroom drama, the film weaves in flashbacks to the events leading up to the protests, providing context for the motivations and actions of the defendants as it shows how a fundamental right as basic as the right to protest was under attack during this time period. Featuring strong performances from an ensemble cast that includes Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Jeremy Strong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Frank Langella, this film is a stark reminder of the power of free speech, and how it can often come under threat from those tasked with its protection.

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Amanda Kondolojy

Amanda Kondolojy is an entertainment journalist based in Florida with over 15 years of experience covering film, TV, theme parks and more. When not in front of a screen you can find her reading something at the beach (usually by Neil Gaiman, Grady Hendrix or Brandon Sanderson) or dancing around the kitchen to her favorite showtunes.