The following films are examples of movies that are based on real events and are made with a journalistic approach to accurately depict the truth as closely as possible. These films can include dramas about significant historical events, true crime stories inspired by magazine headlines, character studies, and trippy experiences that suggest the truth is subjective. All of these films demonstrate that the truth can be more bizarre and interesting than fiction, making for excellent movies.
1. All the President’s Men (1976)
Did you know that the Watergate scandal, in which two reporters brought down a US president, actually happened in 1974? Alan Pakula’s film about the event, a journalism procedural, is still captivating today and perhaps even more relevant given that some current leaders have labeled the press “the enemy of the people.” The film, which was shot and acted with a realistic style typical of the 1970s, focuses solely on the investigation and does not delve into the personal lives of Woodward and Bernstein (played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) or speculate about what was happening inside the White House. Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman believed that the excitement of watching professionals work under high stakes was enough, and they were right.
2. In Cold Blood (1967)
Before true crime podcasts and television programs like Dateline NBC, Truman Capote’s account of the 1959 massacre of a family in Kansas shocked the public with its depiction of random, unspeakably violent acts. The book, In Cold Blood, was a pioneering work of long-form narrative journalism, and the film adaptation directed by Richard Brooks is just as groundbreaking. The movie details the murders and their aftermath with a realism that was rare in Hollywood at the time. Conrad Hall’s black and white cinematography removes any hint of cinematic artifice, and Robert Blake and Scott Wilson give intense and convincingly terrifying performances.
3. Hustlers (2019)
Hustlers is a unique depiction of a recession that is neither a tear-jerking drama about farmers losing their homes nor a political commentary on greedy wealthy individuals. Instead, it is an energetic story about economic survival set in New York strip clubs, which were particularly affected by the 2008 financial crisis. The movie, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, is based on a New York magazine article about a group of dancers who drugged their financially cautious Wall Street clients and charged their credit cards. It is visually striking, with a style that combines the energy of Scorsese with the aesthetic of a 1990s rap video. Jennifer Lopez, who plays the leader of the group, received praise for her charisma on the pole and her guarded demeanor off of it.
4. Argo (2012)
Argo was a surprising film for many people, despite Ben Affleck’s previous directorial success with Gone Baby Gone and The Town. The movie tells the true story of a CIA agent who, at the beginning of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, comes up with a plan to smuggle six diplomats out of the country by pretending to film a fake science fiction movie there. The high stakes of the situation are balanced with the absurdity of the plot, making for a thrilling and widely appealing film. Argo won the Oscar for Best Picture, but Affleck was overlooked for his own performances, which was a notable oversight.