You probably realize that movies like Ray and Walk the Line are based on real events, but those aren’t the only movies that have a kernel of truth to them. You might be surprised to learn that the following films were all based on things that really happened:
10. Moulin Rouge!
The movie’s plot isn’t real, but Moulin Rougue actually is a cabaret that was built in Paris in 1889. It is known as the birthplace of the can-can, which is honored by a dance number in the movie. You can still visit Moulin Rouge in Pigalle, a Paris red-light district.
Winona Ryder plays pysch patient Susanna Kaysen in Girl, Interrupted, which is based on Kaysen’s 1993 memoir about her real experiences. The real-life Kaysen is alive and well and has published a number of other books in addition to Girl, Interrupted.
In Hotel Rwanda, Don Cheadle plays hotelier Paul Rusesabagina who tries to protect refugees during the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. While most people realize that the genocide of the Tutsi people actually happened, the events in film really did take place at Hôtel des Mille Collines. Rusesabagina consulted with the writers to ensure that the movie’s screenplay was as accurate as possible.
In the 1960s, Frank Abagnale, Jr. passed 2.5 million in forged checks, had eight different identities, and escaped from the police twice. This was all before he was 21 years old. Today, Abagnale runs a financial fraud company. Catch Me If You Can is based on his autobiography.
Glory isn’t just an inspiring story – it is a real story. During the Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry really was made up of all African American soldiers led by Colonel Robert Shaw. There are some historical inaccuracies, such as the fact that flogging was banned years before this infantry formed, and of the major characters in the movie, only Shaw was a real-life person. In the real battle, about 1/5 of the men died, not 1/2 or more, like is depicted in the film.
The Zodiac Killer really did plague San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s, and the film Zodiac does somewhat accurately represent the real investigation. The real killer was never caught and claimed to have 37 people, but the police have only confirmed 7 of them, including two who survive his attacks. Three of the four ciphers sent to the police were never solved, and the case remains open, though no one has heard from the killer since the early 1970s.
Gustave the crocodile, the star of Primeval, really does exist, and is claiming lives every year in Africa. This giant man-eater is estimated to be around 65 years old and is over 20 feet long. Actually, he isn’t the only huge croc in the world, but he is the largest Nile crocodile on record, and it is said that he’s killed hundreds of people. Residents along the Ruzizi River area have seen him as recently as 2009, but it has been awhile since he’s attacked a human.
In Jaws, swimmers face a terrifying 25-foot great white, and while a shark that size may only be a thing of nightmares, writer Peter Benchley was inspired by a series of real shark attacks that happened in the early 1900s along the New Jersey shoreline. After four deaths and a number of other attacks, a seven-foot great white was finally killed, with human remains found in its stomach.
While the film-makers may have taken some liberties, Blow really is about George Jung, an American cocaine smuggler who experienced his fair share of ups and downs in the 1970s. Jung is actually still alive, serving time in Texas after being caught with 754 pounds of marijuana. He’s set to be released in 2014, at age 72.
While records of the actual Battle of Thermopylae differ slightly, the blockbuster 300 is one director’s retelling of the event. In real life, King Leonidas I, the leader of Sparta, led around 1500 men (including 300 Spartans) into battle against the Persian army, holding them off at a pass which they believed to be the only road through. A local man really did betray the Greek army by showing the Persians an alternate path through the woods.