No matter what movie you’re watching, the most important thing is an exciting story. Everyone has different taste, but no one likes to watch a boring film. Some people love fantasy stories that take place in different worlds, while others prefer something a little more realistic – and sometimes, something a little more scandalous.
All of the movies on this list tell true stories of crimes and deception, and they’re all very exciting. These might not be feel-good movies, but your mind will definitely escape to somewhere else.
Spotlight won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2015, and it tells an impactful true crime story. The movie follows the team of journalists who exposed the history of sexual abuse in the Catholic church, and how the church had helped cover it up. The Boston Globe team won a Pulitzer Prize for their work, but it didn’t come easily. They received push-back from church officials at every turn, and no one wanted to believe that all of the abuse was true. Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo lead a strong ensemble cast, and the story is amazing.
15. All The President’s Men
This 1976 classic tells the story of the Watergate Scandal, the mess that was responsible for bringing down Richard Nixon’s Presidency. The movie came out just a few years after the scandal rocked the country, so everyone was eager to see the dramatized adaptation. Hollywood legends Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman starred as the journalistic team of Woodward and Bernstein, who helped break the Watergate story. 40 years later, we’re in the midst of another Presidential investigation, which will no doubt be turned into a movie in years to come. Hopefully, it’ll be just as crazy as All The President’s Men.
14. Catch Me If You Can
Leonardo DiCaprio stars again in this movie based on the life of conman Frank Abagnale. Abagnale stole millions of dollars while pretending to be an airline pilot, committing check fraud around the world. He was caught eventually, but he was so skilled in the con game that the FBI eventually started using him to help catch other criminals. In Catch Me If You Can, Tom Hanks plays the FBI agent tasked with tracking down Abagnale. This cat-and-mouse game is very entertaining to watch, and it’s all true.
Capote tells two fascinating true stories, one inside of the other. The movie tells the story of famous author Truman Capote as he heads to Kansas to write his classic true crime book In Cold Blood. The book tells the story of a normal family’s brutal murder, and Capote becomes enthralled in finding out what happened. Philip Seymour Hoffman has a career-best performance in the title role, perfectly capturing the unique voice and mannerisms of the author. In Cold Blood is a gripping book, and the story of its creation is equally as interesting.
12. Bonnie and Clyde
This 1967 film follows the famous real-life crime duo of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are cinematic magic as the couple who goes on a robbery spree during the Great Depression. They can’t stay on the run forever, but this movie will probably never get old. At the time it was released, it was revolutionary in the way it depicted sex and violence, and it sparked a new era of realism in Hollywood movies.
There have been multiple movies that cover the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but JFK dives deep into the conspiracy theory realm. Lee Harvey Oswald was officially found responsible for the crime, but there have always been those who suspect that he did not act alone. The mystery is further investigated in the film, and this investigation results in a criminal case against a potential second gunman. When the movie came out in 1991, it was criticized for some historical inaccuracies, but regardless, it’s a truly intriguing scenario.
With true stories, there’s often a lot going on beneath the surface. That’s the case in Munich, Steven Spielberg’s film about the tragic events of the 1972 Olympics and their aftermath. At the Olympics, a Palestinian terrorist group kidnapped and murdered 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team. The movie recounts these events before telling the story of Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli government’s secret plan to retaliate. Munich was well-received and got a Best Picture nomination, but certain Israeli groups were understandably upset with their portrayal in the movie.
9. The French Connection
Gene Hackman stars in this epic chase movie, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1971. The movie follows two NYPD detectives as they pursue a high-level French heroin smuggler, and it’s pretty relentless from start to finish. The gritty, tough New York displayed here is much different than the bright lights that we think of today. Both sides here are willing to go to any lengths to get what they need, and it’s thrilling right down to the end. After watching this movie, I’m pretty confident that I don’t have what it takes to be a detective.
When you think of classic mobster movies, The Godfather is probably the first thing that comes to mind. That one might be slightly more iconic, but you can’t beat the fact that Goodfellas is based on a true story. This epic crime movie follows the rise and fall of Henry Hill over a period of 25 years, and a lot can happen in that time. There’s murder, drug operations, heists, what more could you want? Robert De Niro is at his very best as Jimmy Conway, and it’s one of director Martin Scorsese’’s best films.
7. Alpha Dog
Alpha Dog, released in 2006, is an unflinching portrayal of the true events surrounding a tragic kidnapping and murder. In 2000, 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz was killed as a result of a feud over drug money, which is just so unbelievably stupid. Anton Yelchin stars as Zack, a fictionalized version of Nicholas, and the cast also includes Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Olivia Wilde. When the movie was first announced, Nicholas’s parents weren’t supportive of it, but they ended up attending the premiere and were moved by Anton’s portrayal of their late son. The movie is pretty intense, but the intricacies of the story are just insane.
Ben Affleck really came into his own as a director with this 2012 Best Picture winner. This might just be the craziest true story on this list. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was stormed by activists, and many of the staff were taken hostage. Six people avoid capture and are instead secretly sheltered in the Canadian embassy. The ensuing plot to get these six Americans safely out of Iran is stranger than anything you could just come up with. The plot involves a fake movie, some fake Canadians, and a lot of nervous energy. It’s an exciting story, and the movie is superb.
As you can probably imagine, the people who run casinos aren’t too happy when mobsters start moving in on their profits. Casino is an epic look at the world of crime in Las Vegas, and there’s plenty of drama happening. There are multiple mafia groups at work here, and they don’t like to play nicely together. Robert De Niro is great, but it’s Sharon Stone who really steals the show here, winning a Golden Globe for her performance. This is Martin Scorsese’s third entry on this list, so you might be starting to sense that he’s drawn to a certain kind of projects…
4. Dog Day Afternoon
This classic ’70s movie follows the events of one crazy afternoon. Three friends attempt to rob a bank in Brooklyn, but pretty much everything goes wrong. This is far from the perfect crime. One of the robbers chickens out and has to leave, there’s barely any cash in the vault, and they start a fire that immediately puts the police on alert. Those might seem like they would be major spoilers, but that’s just the beginning of the movie. Stories like this are just a little too good to be made up, and this one is all true.
3. The Last King of Scotland
Idi Amin was a ruthless dictator, wreaking havoc on the people of Uganda for eight years in the 1970s. The Last King of Scotland follows a very specific time in Amin’s rule, but it paints a terrifying picture of all the crimes he committed. Forest Whitaker is incredible in the role, commanding every scene he’s in. This harrowing story involves torture, hostages, and a military coup, all of which are well-documented real events. Dictators nearly always make compelling movie characters, and this is one of the best.
2. American Hustle
Released in 2013, American Hustle features some of Hollywood’s top talent at their very best. Christian Bale and Amy Adams star as a pair of con artists, who are forced by an FBI agent to work to bring down corrupt politicians. The story that follows is a crazy ride with lots of over the top humor, but it’s pretty much all true. Jennifer Lawrence also stars as Christian Bale’s volatile wife Rosalyn, in one of her most fun roles. The ’70s costumes and hair are also a huge part of what makes this true story so fun to watch.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street came out the same year as American Hustle, so the two movies competed for the major awards. They’re both jaw-dropping true stories that are tough to believe. If you didn’t think people were effed up already, that awards season truly proved it. In this movie, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who strikes it rich through crazy corruption. This movie is a nonstop homage to rampant consumerism, and Margot Robbie and Jonah Hill are hilarious in supporting roles. This movie didn’t win Leo his Oscar, but it’s pretty wild nonetheless.