True Crime on the Silver Screen: 10 Films Inspired by Real-Life Crimes

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From serial killers to con artists, these 10 films bring real-life crimes to the silver screen.

1. “Zodiac” (2007) – The Zodiac Killer

Set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, “Zodiac” chillingly portrays the real-life crimes surrounding the elusive Zodiac Killer, who tormented the San Francisco Bay Area with a series of gruesome murders.

With Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Jake Gyllenhaal on the cast list, this movie brilliantly captures the obsession and frustration of those trying to decipher the killer’s cryptic messages.

2. “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) – Frank Abagnale Jr.

American ex-forger and security expert Frank W. Abagnale Jr. at the CEDIA Expo 2007

Steering away from the murder and mayhem and into the world of con artist Frank Abagnale Jr., impressively played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The film, directed by Steven Spielberg, showcases how Abagnale successfully forged millions of dollars’ worth of checks while impersonating a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a legal prosecutor.

3. “Monster” (2003) – Aileen Wuornos

In this harrowing film, Charlize Theron gives an Oscar-winning performance as Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who became a notorious serial killer in Florida.

“Monster” presents a deeply troubling look into Wuornos’s life, exploring the circumstances that could lead someone down such a violent path.


4. “Goodfellas” (1990) – Henry Hill

Henry Hill, mugshot, 1980 (FBI)

Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” is based on the real-life crimes of Henry Hill, a mobster turned FBI informant.

With an all-star cast including Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta, the film is a riveting look into the allure and ultimate disillusionment of life within the mafia.

5. “The Bling Ring” (2013) – The Bling Ring

True Crime on the Silver Screen: 10 Films Inspired by Real-Life Crimes

This Sofia Coppola film tells the audacious story of a group of teenagers obsessed with fame who burgled the homes of several celebrities in the late 2000s.

The film, based on a Vanity Fair article, explores the toxic allure of celebrity culture and the lengths some will go to feel a part of it.

6. “In Cold Blood” (1967) – The Clutter Family Murders

Robert Blake, centre, stars as Perry Smith (Columbia TriStar)

“In Cold Blood” is a chilling adaptation of Truman Capote’s ground-breaking true crime novel.

It follows the brutal murder of the Clutter family in Kansas, and the subsequent capture, trial, and execution of killers Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock and Perry Smith.

7. “All Good Things” (2010) – Robert Durst

True Crime on the Silver Screen: 10 Films Inspired by Real-Life Crimes

Inspired by the life of wealthy real estate heir Robert Durst, “All Good Things” chronicles the disappearance of Durst’s wife Kathie, his friend Susan Berman’s murder, and the death of his neighbour Morris Black.

Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst deliver captivating performances in this haunting film.

8. “Changeling” (2008) – Wineville Chicken Coop Murders

Directed by Clint Eastwood, “Changeling” tells the unsettling story of Christine Collins, a mother whose son Walter goes missing.

The LAPD returns a boy claiming to be Walter, but Collins refuses to accept him as her son. Her search leads to the horrific discovery of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders.

9. “Foxcatcher” (2014) – John du Pont

“Foxcatcher” tells the real-life crimes of John du Pont, a wealthy but mentally unstable man who builds a wrestling team and forms an unhealthy relationship with Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz.

The film culminates in du Pont’s shocking murder of Mark Schultz’s brother, fellow Olympian Dave Schultz. Steve Carell’s transformative performance as du Pont is both disturbing and compelling.

10. “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) – Jordan Belfort

True Crime on the Silver Screen: 10 Films Inspired by Real-Life Crimes

Last but certainly not least, we explore the greed-fuelled rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Belfort, whose notorious career involved rampant corruption and fraud on Wall Street that ultimately led to his downfall.

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