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10 Films Inspired By Chilling True Stories

by Estelle
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Whether good or bad, there is always something about a particular movie to discuss. Maybe it’s the terrible or excellent acting, the plot holes or lack thereof, or the boring or shocking story line. The same goes for movies which were inspired by true stories. Debates can go on for days about details left out or extra scenes added which weren’t part of the original narrative.

On this list are just some of the stories around which both good and bad movies have been based. Naturally, it is up to the reader/viewer and their personal opinion to decide into which category the following films fall. Potential spoilers lie ahead!

Featured image credit: Warner Bros.

10 The Haunting In Connecticut

The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) – Official Trailer

Moving to a new house for predetermined reasons, experiencing paranormal activity, and then remaining skeptical until the demon or ghost shows its face is the normal trope for dozens of horror movies. It is no different with The Haunting In Connecticut, in which a family moves into a Victorian house to be closer to their son’s cancer treatment clinic. Soon, they realize their new home isn’t just any ordinary house, as it used to be a funeral parlor where unspeakable horrors took place.[1]

This story becomes fairly disturbing, however, when you consider that there is some creepy truth behind it. In 1986, the Snedeker family moved to Southington, Connecticut, to be near the hospital that provided their son, Philip, with cancer treatment. However, their joy at living in a big, affordable house while caring for their child soon turned to terror when they started experiencing extreme temperature changes, saw specters of the dead roaming around, and started hearing unexplained noises. After finding mortuary tools and discovering a graveyard at the back of their house, they realized they were living in what used to be a funeral home. Further eerie incidents included water turning red, flickering lights (even after the light bulbs were removed), and dishes disappearing and reappearing.

Philip was greatly affected by this and told his parents that the spirits in the house were talking to him. After violently attacking his cousin, he was taken to a psychiatric facility for almost two months. Well-known paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called in to assist. Their conclusion was that mortuary workers back in the day committed necrophilia, which caused evil to be let loose in the home.

9 Fire In The Sky

Fire in the Sky (2/8) Movie CLIP – Beamed (1993) HD

Alien movies are extremely popular; just think of Arrival, Independence Day, Aliens, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Some are better than others, but the essence of these movies stays the same: interaction with extraterrestrial beings. Fire in the Sky seems like just another of these types of films. A guy witnesses something strange, investigates, and gets abducted by an alien spaceship.[2]

However, this one hits close to home for Travis Walton, around whose story the movie was constructed. Walton and his colleagues were driving down a road in Arizona in November 1975 when they saw something strange hovering in the air before them. Walton got out of the vehicle to investigate. The next moment, a bright light shone from the UFO and hit Walton, throwing him through the air. Walton’s coworkers, fearing he had been killed, fled.

A manhunt ensued over the next five days, with suspicion falling on Walton’s coworkers. Everyone was stunned when Walton suddenly reappeared inside a phone booth with an account too wild to be true. Walton alleged that he woke up inside the spaceship surrounded by short alien beings which were busy examining him. He also remembered being suffocated by something that felt like a sheet of plastic.

While there are naturally many skeptics out there, Walton has never wavered in his retelling of what happened back in 1975. He ended up writing a book about it, in which he detailed everything he could remember about the ordeal. His coworkers also underwent polygraph tests and passed them (save one, whose test was inconclusive), indicating that something weird really did happen out there in Arizona.

8 The Ghost And The Darkness

The Ghost and The Darkness – Trailer

This jungle movie scored a tame 50-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In it, a British engineer gets more than he bargained for when he is commissioned to build a railroad bridge in the East African wilderness. He ends up having to fight two especially vicious lions after they attack his team of construction workers.[3]

In 1898, construction workers in the Tsavo region of Kenya were picked off by two maneless lions, dubbed “the Ghost” and “the Darkness” by the locals. Their reign of terror lasted nine months, during which it has been claimed they killed as many as 135 people. Eventually, Colonel John Henry Patterson put an end to the horror, shooting and killing both lions in December 1898. Articles and books followed the incident, and later on, movies were made, including the above-mentioned.

It has long been speculated that the lions simply killed so many people because of hunger, but new research in 2017 seems to point to tooth and jaw injuries suffered by the lions, which would have led them to hunt down slower and weaker prey, i.e. humans as opposed to large herbivores.

7 The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm (2000) Official Trailer – George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg Movie HD

Nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects, The Perfect Storm made quite a splash at the box office when it was released back in 2000. The movie tells the story of fishermen aboard the Andrea Gail who get stuck out at sea during a harrowing storm.[4]

The true story played out in 1991, when the “No-Name Storm” hit the ocean and traveled from Nova Scotia down North America’s eastern coast, killing 13 people in total. The storm was so strong that it even lifted a house from the ground and dumped it in the water. The Andrea Gail, with six fishermen on board, was caught up in the storm during a swordfishing trip in Newfoundland. After three days of complete silence on the fishermen’s side, the owner of the boat knew something was wrong. The Coast Guard was called upon to search for the vessel. Ten days later, the search was called off. There was never even a distress call; it was as if the boat disappeared into the waves in complete surrender and silence. Only a small amount of wreckage was eventually found.

A book about the tragedy was published in 1997, with the movie following three years after. The Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial has engraved on it the names of the fishermen who were never found again, among thousands of others who’ve lost their lives at sea.

6 Alive

Alive (1993) – Plane Crash Scene

Alive is a gut-wrenching drama about a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashes in the Andes Mountains. What follows is two months of extreme conditions and extreme decisions, including eating the bodies of the deceased to survive.[5]

If only this was just a heartbreaking fictional story thought up by an imaginative scriptwriter. Unfortunately, this movie is based on the true story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, carrying a rugby team as well as friends and family, that crashed in the Andes on October 13, 1972. Some passengers died on impact when the plane crashed, while others died from the cold or their injuries.

In order for those who were still alive to survive, they cut up the flesh of the deceased passengers into bite-size strips and left it to dry before consuming it. Seventy-two days after the crash, and after two of the passengers traveled for ten days across the Andes to look for help, they came across a muleteer who fed them and then alerted the authorities. Out of the 45 passengers, only 16 survived and were eventually rescued on December 23, 1972.

5 A Nightmare On Elm Street

Johnny Depp horror scene from a nightmare on elm street

Freddy Krueger, clad in his green and red sweater, caused quite a few sleepless nights for moviegoers around the world when A Nightmare on Elm Street was released in 1984. One of the inspirations for this iconic horror film came from a personal experience of Wes Craven. When he was a young boy, he woke up one morning to find a drunk man staring at him through his window. Walking backward toward the door of the apartment Craven was in, he never took his eyes off the scared boy. He eventually disappeared, having done no damage but having given Craven food for thought which he used in later years.[6]

The biggest inspiration for the movie, however, came from a series of unexplained deaths during the 1970s and 1980s. Refugees from Cambodia were dying in their sleep for no apparent reason. The deaths were dubbed “Sudden Nocturnal Death Syndrome.” One of the cases grabbed and held Craven’s attention to the extent that he created a full-blown movie monster that killed people in their sleep. The case involved a 21-year-old man who refused to go to sleep for an entire week. He insisted that something bad would happen if he did. He refused to accept sleeping pills from his family and drank coffee to stay awake. Inevitably, however, he fell asleep—and promptly died.

4 Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) Official Trailer – “Believe” – Andrew Garfield

Hacksaw Ridge is a celebrated war movie that won two Oscars after its release in 2016. It tells the unusual tale of a man named Desmond T. Doss, who refused to carry a firearm during battle and became the first conscientious objector in US history to receive the Medal of Honor in spite of this.[7]

The real Desmond Doss was drafted into the US Army Medical Corps in 1942 after refusing to bear arms. He was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church and took the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill” to heart. He wanted to save lives and not take them. His fellow soldiers mocked him and didn’t want to be seen associating with him. They threw shoes at him while he prayed. Some even threatened to kill him. This behavior was exacerbated by the fact that Doss refused to do any work on Saturdays, as his belief was that the Sabbath day should be kept holy and that he should devote himself to prayer the entire day.

Instead of fighting during World War II, Doss tried to help the injured, including Japanese soldiers. In the midst of heavy gunfire, he stayed on a ridge while most of his battalion retreated, in order to help wherever he could. He saved at least 75 of his comrades. He was eventually shot by a Japanese sniper and left 90-percent disabled. He spent five years in and out of hospitals and lost five ribs and a lung due to tuberculosis. He lived in silence for more than 12 years after going deaf in 1976. He received a cochlear implant in 1988. Desmond Doss died in 2006, ten years before the great movie about his life saw the light of day.

3 Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday – Trailer

Bloody Sunday is a documentary-style drama that retells the events of January 30, 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland. The true-life story saw a protest march marred by the killing of 13 protestors by British troops.[8] This tragic incident also inspired the U2 song “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

Twenty-eight unarmed civilians took part in the march, which was against internment. Most of the victims were shot down as they were fleeing from the soldiers, while others were shot as they were trying to help their friends who had already been wounded. Thirteen people were shot dead that day; a 14th victim died of his injuries four months later. Two other protestors were mercilessly run down by army vehicles, while others were beaten with batons and shot with rubber bullets.

In 2010, David Cameron admitted that the British Army acted unlawfully on that terrible day. This came after years of whitewashed reports and inquiries into the killings.

2 Compliance

Compliance Official Trailer #1 (2012) Independent Movie HD

Compliance is an uncomfortable movie to sit through. The plot involves a young girl employed at a fast food restaurant who gets accused of stealing from a customer. The accusation comes via phone from someone who claims to be a police officer. The girl, Becky, is taken to a back room in the restaurant to be searched. From there, the story takes a terrible turn. The person on the phone scams the rest of the employees into humiliating and assaulting Becky in a sexual manner.[9]

The inspiration for this film comes from a real-life incident that took place in Kentucky in 2004. An 18-year-old McDonald’s employee was detained at the restaurant, after which she was stripped and sexually abused, all because a person on the phone told the restaurant manager and her fiance to do so. The caller also pretended to be a police officer. The manager and her fiance received a five-year prison sentence, and the 18-year-old victim received an undisclosed amount of money from the company.

1 Alison

ALISON | Official Trailer (2016) | Amazon Prime & Showmax

Alison details the harrowing story of a woman who was raped, stabbed, and left for dead miles from where anyone would be able to find her.[10]

On December 18, 1994, Frans du Toit and Theuns Kruger abducted Alison Botha in front of her home in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. They proceeded to rape her and stab her in the stomach more than 30 times. They also slashed her throat from side to side 16 times and left her on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth in the bushes next to a deserted road. Alison, barely alive, had to hold her head onto her shoulders and her intestines inside her stomach as she crawled into the road to find help. By what can only be described as a miracle, the knife missed her main arteries, and she was able to keep breathing through her trachea, even though it was sliced in half. She collapsed on the road. A car eventually stopped next to her, and the driver called for help.

Alison pulled through and has since turned her horrific ordeal into something positive. She is a sought-after public speaker, traveling worldwide to share her story as well as how she became whole again physically and mentally after what happened to her. Alison is determined to help other victims of violence overcome their fear and rebuild their lives.

Estelle lives in Gauteng, SA.

fact checked by Jamie Frater

Estelle is a regular writer for Listverse.