"Hello. I'm Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth? The answer is... no."
Basing a book
on a true story
is a handy way to get some publicity for a project. But hey! Why not save time and effort by cutting out the middleman? Just come up with your own, entirely fictional story and tell
everyone that it actually happened. Who's going to find out?
Everyone who visits the IMDb
, for a start.
The best case scenario is that you get a wry chuckle from your fans and a nod in a couple of papers. A worse case scenario is that some folks get together and sue you for selling the story to them under false pretenses. The worst
case scenario is when your supposedly true story is actually very close to someone else's actual
true story, and you end up losing every penny of your profits in a humiliating lawsuit because nobody believes your sudden recantation. Best solution? Just say that it's fiction all along.
The net result of this trope is that viewers have to be wary of works that present themselves as a true story, as the creators may only be doing so because it makes people pay attention more. And in works that are combinations of real events and fictional ones, it is all too easy to get confused about what actually happened and is possible in real life, and what is just artistic license. This may be a major source of Common Knowledge
; if it happened in a story that really took place, it must be true, right?
Based on a Great Big Lie is a specific type of Dan Browned
. The author may make heavy use of From a Certain Point of View
to justify himself. For the Sub-Trope
, see Documentary Of Lies
Compare Very Loosely Based on a True Story
. Contrast Roman à Clef
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Films — Animated
- The story of Pocahontas used by Disney and others is pretty much entirely bunk despite it being billed in its original form (the writings of John Smith) as true. Researchers reviewing Smith's other works quickly realized he had a penchant for making up absolutely insane stories about himself and passing them off as fact (if taken as true, Smith was a demi-god of manliness and combat skill who found success, riches and sex wherever he went). Conveniently, the story wasn't published until after Pocahontas had died, leaving Smith's claims and exaggerations uncontested.
- While Disney never claimed it was actually a true story, their version wasn't even true if you take Smith's story at face value. Among other things, Disney's Pocahontas is pretty clearly around 18 or so while Smith claims she was about 12, and The Other Wiki's engraving of the historical Pocahontas/Rebecca Rolfe (who was at the time of the engraving about 21) has a lot more in common with voodoo god Baron Saturday than with the Disney hottie.
- According to the animation team, they're on this page on purpose, deliberately throwing out the research they did do in order to make a legend rather than just a story.
Films — Live-Action
- Roots, Alex Haley's history of his family, which was a bestseller and adapted into a hugely popular TV miniseries. While Haley's book was classified as a novel and much of the plot was Haley's invention, he claimed that he had in fact traced his ancestry to an African named Kunta Kinte who was kidnapped by slavers and sold into slavery in the American South. As The Other Wiki notes, most of the follow-up research contradicts Haley's story. There is little basis in fact for Haley's account of his history prior to his great-great grandfather "Chicken George" Lea.
- In the 1970s, the book The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail (retitled Holy Blood, Holy Grail in the United States) claimed to reveal the truth about a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene that was hidden in various Renaissance paintings. It was later revealed to be completely fictional, but not before hundreds of thousands of people had been conned.
- That book heavily inspired The Da Vinci Code, which caused an identical resurgence in public interest. Amusingly, the authors of the first book sued Brown for plagiarism, but it was pointed out that either they claim that the book is true, thus destroying their own case, as you cannot copyright history and facts; or that it was false, thus destroying whatever credibility they had and losing anyway as you can't copyright ideas. Needless to say, they lost. Holy Blood, Holy Grail got a name drop in The Da Vinci Code, as one of Teabing'snote resources on the Grail yet many people seem to squall about the book being "ripped off" without ever noticing its acknowledgment within the book that apparently ripped it off so entirely. The ideas posited in Holy Blood, Holy Grail were essentially used as a MacGuffin in the story, as various Holy Grails so often are. The mistake Dan Brown made was the same mistake the authors of Holy Blood made, which was claiming it was all based on fact instead of what could amount to Epileptic Trees.
- Holy Blood, Holy Grail is itself based on the earlier frauds about Rennes-le-Château invented by local restauranteur Noël Corbu as a publicity stunt, and the mythical Priory of Scion created by Pierre Plantard out of Corbu's own story.
- Lucian's True Story is a very old example of this. The clue to it not being what it says it is, is the fact that it is the earliest known story about a trip to the moon. It ends with a promise that the protagonist's further adventures will be described in a sequel, which is also a lie.
- It's also a wonderful piece of satire. Lucian was apparently annoyed by contemporary historians who reported just about everything they heard or read as facts, in response he wrote a "true" story that was as ludicrous as he could imagine.
- There are some that actually believed that Kensuke's Kingdom really was based on Michael Morpurgo's childhood. Made all the worst by the epilogue, where he writes about "himself" going to meet Kensuke's grandson after writing the book. Really, Michael?
- James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. This caused no small headache for Oprah after she plugged the book for Oprah's Book Club. First she denied the idea that parts of the book were false, then she tried to claim that essential truth was more important than factual truth, which honked off the general public until she finally rescinded her recommendation and verbally castigated the author on her show. In the end it turned out to be more Very Loosely Based on a True Story than anything, as Frey made massive embellishments in order to get the book published, but the story does have truth to it if widely stretched. Despite this Frey has gone on to some success, including as one half of the pseudonym Pittacus Lore in the I Am Number Four series, which has led at least one critic to comment that at least we know for a fact he can write fiction.
- Karl May is best known for his stories about 'his' travels through the American West and the Middle East long before he actually visited the US and the Orient in person. Today that's no longer a major issue, but some of his contemporaries took it less well at the time.
- House of Leaves plays with this, with the framing manuscript claiming to be a critical analysis of a documentary that the editor of the manuscript assures us doesn't really exist, about a photojournalist who documents footage of his very strange house...
- There's a story that still pops up every once in a while, based on a pamphlet written by a woman in the 19th century, detailing the horrific abuse she supposedly endured at the hands of the Mormons in Salt Lake City. Apparently she was held prisoner inside the temple and used as a sex slave, until one day she managed to escape by jumping out of an upper window into the Great Salt Lake and swimming to safety. For those unfamiliar with local geography, the temple is at the center of the city, and the lake is more than 30 km away.
- Les Liaisons Dangereuses has two prefaces, both written by the author. The author's preface is called the 'Editor's', and claims all the letters in the book are true, he's just edited out boring bits. The publisher's preface warns it's all false, but in a deliberately ridiculous way — the "publisher" claims the story obviously can't be true because nobody in this country, in this oh-so-enlightened era, would ever behave as these characters do. (So the real message is that yes, the story itself is fiction, but it's a satire on how people really do act.)
- Then there's the Holocaust memoir "Angel at the Fence." The author really is a Holocaust survivor, but the parts about his future wife secretly meeting him and sneaking him food were pure fiction. Oprah was fooled by this one, too.
- Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird was a fiction book that was supposedly based on the author's Real Life war experiences in German-occupied Poland. Which turned out to be false; i.e., the couple who took care of him as a boy alongside other Jewish children that they protected, were depicted as abusers and rapists. (They were pissed when they found out, logically.)
- The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl claims to be a true story, only with a few names changed. Given that the title character exercises clairvoyant powers, it's reasonable to assume that he did not exist by any name.
- Similar to the James Frey controversy, JT Leroy was actually the pen name of a middle-aged woman, Laura Albert, whose fictional persona was of a young transgender prostitute. Albert even hired her sister-in-law to make public appearances dressed up in drag in order to portray a post sex change Leroy. (Try not to think about that one too hard.) Her first novels about underage gender dysphoric sex workers from the Deep South were presented as being at least vaguely autobiographical. Of course, it should be noted that even though it's Based On A Great Big Lie, this doesn't stop The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things from being really, really good.
- Anthony Godby Johnson's A Rock and a Hard Place is the memoir of a young boy whose Abusive Parents molested him and sold him to their friends for sexual purposes, until he contracted AIDS. Eventually, he ran away and was adopted by a social worker named Vicki Johnson. However, none of it actually happened; authorities and reporters (including Keith Olbermann, who was one of the "kid"'s biggest supporters at first) became suspicious when they realized that Vicki Johnson was the only person who had ever seen the boy, and that Johnson had pretended to be him while talking to them on the phone. A New Jersey traffic engineer realized that the supposed author photo was one of him as a boy, and the person who took said photo was his former school teacher... Vicki Johnson.
- Armistead Maupin, one of the many authors taken in by the hoax, wrote The Night Listener about the experience. However, it's a Roman à Clef, and the first-person narrator, a Maupin stand-in, says several times that he's been known to embellish the truth. Very good book about this trope. (''A Rock and a Hard Place," on the other hand, isn't very well-written, particularly once you realize that its author is NOT an 11 year old.)
- The case was so polemic that it inspired a rather popular episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. In it, a literary agent is killed for discovering that the ill and secluded female teenage author he sponsored didn't exist, but was the invention of two con artists that made themselves pass as her "foster parents". The "girl", just like Tony Godby Johnson, had written a best seller based on her horribly abusive bio parents.
- The book The Third Eye by 'Lobsang Rampa' is... Well, difficult to classify. It allegedly tells the experiences of a Tibetan lama, but subsequent inquiries eventually revealed that it was written by a plumber from Devon called Cyril Hoskin who had never been to Tibet in his life. When challenged about this, Hoskin subsequently insisted that "Rampa" was a walk-in spirit that had taken over his body. (As shown by the "Talk" page on his Wikipedia article, some people still believe this.) What prevents this from being a straight example is that to all appearances, Hoskin appears to have genuinely and sincerely believed it himself; whether he was Lost in Character or out and out schizophrenic is a mystery for the ages.
- The Flashman books are all supposedly based on rediscovered memoirs written by the title character. This device (coupled with the impressive amount of research George Mac Donald Fraser put into every volume) led more than one critic to believe they were the real deal.
- American reviewers in particular were fooled by the first book. This was not because Americans are dim, but because a) Fraser was a brand-new author at the time and b) the Victorian novel Flashman was based on (Tom Brown's School Days) was virtually unknown in the US.
- The book Michelle Remembers, perhaps the most (in)famous alleged written account of Satanic Ritual Abuse, though helping to stir up the SRA witch hunt of the 80s/90s, has now been widely discredited. Mostly by many healthy doses of Fridge Logic - for example, a supposedly nonreligious 5-year-old having the presence of mind to rebuke Satanists with a cross, an 81-day ritual that summons the Devil himself during which none of the Satanists apparently need to eat, use the bathroom, or show up at work, and a fatal car wreck that strangely didn't turn up in a newspaper that reported on wrecks of even less serious nature at the time. One of the worst parts is that the titular Michelle (who later divorced her husband to marry the psychologist she was relating all of this to) blames her involvement in the abuse on her mother, who died of cancer when Michelle was 14. This article gives a detailed analysis of the book.
- Michelle Remembers was hardly the only book that factored into the "Satanic Panic" of The Eighties. Two other books that led the scare were Laurel Rose Willson's Satan's Underground (under the name Lauren Stratford) and Mike Warnke's The Satan Seller. The former spoke of being brought up as a "baby breeder" by a Satanic cult, giving birth to babies to be used in sacrifices or snuff films, while the latter was about serving as a "Satanic high priest" before coming to Christianity. Both books were exposed as frauds by the evangelical magazine Cornerstone, which pointed out that the dates and events given by the authors didn't line up with school and hospital records, among other inconsistencies. Willson later reappeared as "Laura Grabowski", claiming to be a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and a victim of Dr. Josef Mengele; this, too, was exposed as a fraud when a Jewish group investigated her claims.
- As of 2012, retired unlicensed social worker Judy Byington is trying to resurrect the Satanic Panic with her book Twenty-Two Faces, allegedly the biography of a former prostitute, drug user, and mental patient. It involves divine intervention, prophecy, and a Jewish Nazi CIA mindcontroller. As well as a hardened ex-con yelling "kiss my lickety-split!"
- Horace Walpole originally passed off The Castle of Otranto as an antique manuscript penned by an Italian clergyman. At the time he wrote it, supernatural tales were regarded as embarrassing products of ignorance, not entertainment, and Walpole probably feared for his credibility if his name were attached to literature's first Gothic novel.
- A children's book called The Pushcart War claimed it was based on a true story. While certain events are implausible (like attacking trucks with pea-shooters), it's theoretically possible...until you realize that the copyright date is before the time that the events in the book supposedly take place.
- The book was presented as a history written long after the events described therein. Interestingly, its publishers update the "historical" time frame with each new edition. It was originally published in 1964 describing events in 1975. Later releases said 1986 and 1998. The most recent version says 2029.
- Lorenzo Carcaterra's Sleepers purported to be a nonfiction account of how he and three of his friends were sent to reform school for a year, where they were viciously abused by the guards. A decade later, two of the friends killed one of the guards but were acquitted of murder because they were prosecuted by the third friend, who intentionally lost the case with the help of a false alibi provided by a priest. However, none of the details provided by Carcaterra corresponded to any real-life murder case that has been identified, and Carcaterra's records from the Catholic school he attended in his youth have no indication of him ever having been sent to reform school, or even being absent for as many as four consecutive weeks.
- No real murder case on Manhattan has been found to correspond with the one featured in the book but Carcaterra states in the opening that it didn't take place on Manhattan in real life. The book also claims the school records for Shakes and his friends were altered before the trial to make it seem like they hadn't been gone for any long period of time. This doesn't mean the story is true though.
- Go Ask Alice, a rather infamous anti-drug book, offers the compelling tale of a young suburban girl who is sucked into the world of drugs and eventually ends up dead. Ostensibly the real diary of a teenage girl, it was, in fact, entirely fabricated by "editor" and youth counselor Beatrice Sparks. Sparks has also released a series of other "true diaries" in the same vein as Go Ask Alice, but dealing with different subjects, such as AIDS (It Happened to Nancy), and teen pregnancy (Annie's Baby, among others). It was also debunked on Snopes.
- Also infamous was Jay's Journal, which was about Satanism. It was such a lie that Sparks got sued by the real Jay's family (actually, a boy named Alvin Barret). They also wrote a book about how horrible and false Jay's Journal was and sponsored a rock opera based on their testimony.
- Happens in-universe in Albert Sanchez Pinol's Pandora In The Congo. The protagonist writes down a murder suspect's story of what really happened when he went to Congo with two noblemen. No, he didn't murder them. They were killed in a war with an underground race called "tektons." The suspect then blocked off the passage connecting the tektons' underground world to ours, Saving the World, and returned to civilization alone. The story is published and everyone believes it, leading to the suspect going free. Except not a word of it is true and he really did murder the noblemen.
- Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust was written by Misha Defonseca. She said when she was 4, her Jewish parents were sent in a concentration camp during World War II, she crossed whole Europe to try finding them, and she was alone with wolves during the travel. A movie was done in 2007, based on the novel, and "Misha" confessed after that her name was Monique de Wael, she wasn't born a Jew, her parents were arrested because they were members of the Belgian Resistance, and she was simply sent to her grandfather. Monique invented the story because of her passion for wolves.
- You can argue that the surprising part is that the lie was exposed only after the movie was released. There was a small conference by a Polish Holocaust survivor, years before the movie was done. He exposed the book as a lie, just because Jews in Poland didn't have to wear yellow stars on chest, but blue ones on the arm.
- Bravo Two Zero, the memoirs of former SAS trooper and Gulf War veteran "Andy McNab" (a pseudonym; he is famous for his face never being visible on camera on the grounds that a lot of people still want to kill him), ended up becoming a severe embarrassment to the British Army thanks to this trope. First, another member of the squad — "Chris Ryan" (also a pseudonym although he does show his face), now a minor TV personality in the vein of Ray Mears — chimed in with his own memoir, painting McNab as a very Unreliable Narrator and blaming him for the mission's disastrous end. Another SAS veteran flew out to Iraq in 1993, retraced as much of the squad's route and interviewed as many witnesses as he could find, and discovered that both of them were equally guilty of inflating their stories. If they were exaggerating for the sake of a good story this would be bad enough, but they were apparently less than truthful during their debriefing sessions as well. Unfortunately, by the time this became generally known there were half a dozen other "true accounts" of the SAS in the Gulf War that showed equal regard for fact-checking. Peter Radcliffe, then-Regimental Sergeant Major of the SAS and the only Gulf War veteran of the Regiment to publish his memoirs without a pseudonym, devotes an entire chapter to the whole wretched business.
- Greg Mortenson's Three Cups Of Tea. He really did go to Pakistan and Afghanistan and try to build schools, but embellished his narrative to H. Rider Haggard (or Red Rascal) proportions, insulting his hosts in the process and blaming it all on the Balti people's vague notions about time.
- Liza Marklund co-authored a whole series of books together with a woman calling herself Mia, detailing the abuse and persecution Mia and those close to her suffered from her Muslim ex-boyfriend. The events in the books were claimed to be completely true with only names and places changed to protect those involved, and Marklund spent years using the books as proof in political debates. In 2008, Monica Antonsson wrote a book proving that the books about Mia are almost completely fictional. After trying to claim that Antonsson was lying, Marklund changed her tune and claimed the books were never meant to be taken as fact and were clearly fiction all along.
- American-Jordanian author Norma Khouri wrote Forbidden Love, a memoir detailing her life in Jordan and her friendship with a Muslim woman who was murdered by her family in an honour killing for meeting a Christian man in secret. When an Australian literary critic did some digging and discovered that Khouri had not been in Jordan at all during the book's timeframe (and even got certain locations in Jordan wrong and misrepresented their legal system alongside the country's society as a whole), the publisher hastily recalled the book. Khouri admitted to taking some liberties with original story, but maintains that the book is still Based on a True Story, despite all signs pointing to the contrary.
- Done for satirical effect by The Report from Iron Mountain, a '60s counterculture book written by Leonard Lewin as a Stealth Parody of Vietnam-era military think tanks. Posing as a leaked document written by a "secret government panel", it claimed that war was a necessary part of the economy and served to divert collective aggression, and that society would collapse without it — basically, the plot of Metal Gear Solid 4. Therefore, in the event of peace, they recommended that new bodies be created to emulate the economic activities of war, including blood sports, the creation of new enemies to scare the people (including alien invaders and environmental destruction), and the reinstatement of slavery.
Before the hoax was revealed in 1972, even President Lyndon Johnson was fooled by it (and reportedly "hit the roof" when he read it), and there remain conspiracy theorists who believe that it actually is the real deal, claimed to be a hoax as a means of damage control.
- The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic tract claiming to be the records of a meeting by a Jewish cabal plotting to Take Over the World. In reality, it was written by the Okhrana, the Secret Police of Tsarist Russia, as a tool for starting pogroms with and otherwise convincing people that anything other than reactionary Christian monarchy was directly authored by Satan, and was later carried into western Europe and the US by White Russians in the wake of Red October. It was exposed as a forgery by The Times of London in 1921, which revealed that large sections of the book were cribbed wholesale from a 19th century anti-Napoleonic tract. Even so, it was made part of the school curriculum in Nazi Germany, and anti-Semites to this day cite it as "evidence" of a Jewish conspiracy.
- It was better received in Japan, where in World War II they began strongly encouraging Jews to immigrate in hopes of convincing them to use their influence to help the burgeoning nation. To this day there are some Japanese who see The Protocols as a handy blueprint for success (not that there aren't any of the usual bunch of anti-Semites that claim The Protocols are proof of Jewish domination in Japan; it's that Japan, a nation with little Jewish history, tended to view anti-Semitic conspiracies in a completely different light).
- Cracked.com has a whole article devoted to this.
- The Things They Carried, is, at first, a war story about a platoon in Vietnam. But halfway through, the author admits that he made certain details more gory to make things more interesting, and moves beyond Vietnam - the entire book was more about what happened in the past and keeping memories alive than Vietnam itself.
- Harry Potter has an in-universe double-subversion in the second book. Gilderoy Lockhart has written several self-serving autobiographies about his impossibly heroic escapades, which seem to be a pack of lies because Lockhart is totally incompetent at everything we see him doing. But the stories are true...except for the part about Lockhart being the hero. He based them on various real incidents and wiped the memories of the real heroes, making it impossible to prove that he was lying.
- The book A Child Called "It" may be this according to the New York times 
- The novel "Chocolate covered pickles" (Des cornichons au chocolat) was published in 1983 as the Diary written some times ago by a teenage girl called Stéphanie. As she didn't gave her first name, the name of the author on cover was simply "Stéphanie". 25 years and a television adaptation later, 70 years old, male author Phillipe Labro admitted he was the only writer of the book and that there was no Stéphanie to begin with. His experiment to verify if his work could pose as the one of a young female indeed succeeded.
- The works of Carlos Castaneda, specifically his first three books about his time with ostensible Yaqui shaman Don Juan, were quite popular in anthropology circles in the 1970s. After detailed examination of the timelines and locations described by Castaneda, critics pointed out that that they could not have have possibly happened as described; and while the books do show some knowledge of native Southwestern tribes, at least once description of a peyote ceremony was determined to be lifted from an anthropology textbook available at the school where Castaneda studied. While he has never fully admitted to the books being fictional, he has acknowledged "taking liberties" with the times and locations. To date, no independent verification of Don Juan's identity, or some of the ceremonies Castaneda described, has been found.
- Neil Gaiman didn't expect anyone to believe that The Sandman: The Dream Hunters was really based on an ancient Japanese folk tale; that was just something to make the story more interesting, like saying your Sherlock Holmes pastiche was found in a box marked "J.H. Watson M.D.". But a number of people did, including the artist of the comic book adaptation who said it completely seriously in interviews, until Gaiman tactfully corrected him. If you google "The Fox, The Monk, and the Mikado of All Night's Dreaming", you can see the story is still out there.
- If you are inclined to consider "The Custom House" of The Scarlet Letter an essay and not fiction, then the narrative becomes this. Academics and Fans though are undecided on this Base Breaker.
- The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven was billed as A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World: A True Story, but in 2015, the author, now a teenager, admitted that the story was fabricated. An individual claiming to be the author even anonymously posted an open letter on the book's page at Amazon and stated that he said he went to heaven because he thought it would get him attention.
Live Action TV
- Kids' show Wacaday had something very similar to this with its fictionalized historical fact segments, as they'd always remind you at the end that "We know it's true because we made it up ourselves!"
- Square One TV's Mathnet (a Dragnet parody) always started with the same narration - "The story you're about to see is a fib, but it's short. The names are made up but the problems are real."
- Lie to Me inverts this with a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode, stating that the events and characters of the series are entirely false. While nothing like any of the episodes has ever happened in real life, Lightman is based off of a real-life person, Dr. Paul Ekman.
- Reality Television can be prone to this. While all of Reality TV is Based On A Great Big Lie to some extent—the "characters" are presented with carefully crafted situations, and many reality show participants mostly understand what kind of "role" they are supposed to play for the cameras—some shows go farther than others in fabricating reality.
- House Hunters, on HGTV, which purports to show people looking for new homes, in fact often shows people who have already closed on their new homes, and sometimes shows them visiting homes that aren't actually for sale.
- Breaking Amish, which became a big hit for TLC, purported to show five young people, four Amish and one Mennonite, who had left their communities and were coming to the big city for the first time. In fact they had all been living in the secular world for years, one for over a decade. Two of the cast members that were shown going on their "first date" on the show had really been involved for years and had a child together before the show started recording.
- A&E apparently pre-places items in the Storage Wars lockers for the cast members to find. Rooting through random storage lockers turned out not to make sufficiently compelling TV.
- The British TV series The Only Way is Essex (think the English Jersey Shore) at least is honest and describes the show as "real people in modified situations, saying unscripted lines but in a structured way". In other words they admit that what they're actually showing is amateur improv.
- Thousand Ways To Die ping-pongs between this and Very Loosely Based on a True Story, with occasional flirtations with truth.
- Scorpion is based on the true story of real life Walter O'Brien, aka genius hacker Scorpion, with an IQ of 197, who started a company at the age of 13 and helped catch the Boston Marathon bombers and prevent a nuclear meltdown. Or more accurately, it is based on the stories made up by Walter O'Brien, because not one of those is actually true.
- William Shakespeare bent Artistic License to the snapping point when writing some of his history plays. The real Macbeth, for instance, defeated a young King Duncan in battle to win his throne. A lot of it can be justified as him having to please the monarchy at the time.
- It's not always clear how accurate Shakespeare's knowledge of history was in the first place, given how much historical writing during his time was itself an example of this trope. In any case, audiences at the time were relatively unconcerned about whether historical dramas got the details right.
- Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci is probably one of these: Leoncavallo said it was based on a court case that his father, who was a judge, presided over, and further claimed that he had the document to prove it. However, no such document, or indeed any corroborating evidence, has ever been found. It is now generally believed that Leoncavallo played the "true story" card to evade the charge of plagiarism.
- Pippin begins with the Leading Player imploring the audience to "cast all previous misconceptions aside" of Pippin's life, because "what you are about to see is the true life story of Pippin." Even discounting the blatant No Fourth Wall unrealism, there are very few things in the show that loosely correspond to anything that happened in the Real Life Carolingian empire.
- Tengai Makyou is purportedly based on a book about Japan named Far East of Eden, by a European author named P. H. Chada. Said author and his writings never existed, although they are genuinely inspired by the largely- to entirely-fictitious accounts of life in Japan that used to be popular in the West. This one is very tongue-in-cheek and not at all intended to be taken seriously, though.
- The US/Europe release of Fatal Frame/Project Zero is advertised as being based on a true story. Charitably, it could be said to actually be based on something that might, at one time, have been an urban legend in Japan.
- At the start, Armed And Dangerous says that it was based on a true story. Considering that this game includes a tea drinking robot, miniature black holes, and a land shark gun, among many other things, this was probably not supposed to be taken seriously.
- Sea of Lies: Mutiny of the Heart claims to be "based on true historical events" during the intro, but doesn't mention where or when these supposed events allegedly happened.
- This is actually parodied in the episode "Arrgh!" of Spongebob Squarepants. SpongeBob and Patrick quickly come to believe their pirate quest is a scam (and that Mr. Krabs has gone Cloud Cuckoo Lander) finding out the treasure map is just a game board they used earlier in the episode. Chance kicks in as they do find the treasure according to the map (the game board) with the remarks of SpongeBob saying "It really IS based on a true treasure map!" The Flying Dutchman comes in to take his treasure back, willing to share with SpongeBob and Patrick. But much to the dismay of Mr. Krabs, he only gains a piece from the game board, and gets told that "But it's based on a REAL treasure chest!"
- It's notable that this is Laser-Guided Karma, as it was a fight over the treasure (Patrick and SpongeBob wanted their shares, Krabs wanted it all) that woke up TFD in the first place.
- Tex Avery was fond of this trope. Drag-Along Droopy began with the disclaimer; "This is an absolutely authentic account of the grazing land battles of the sheep and cattle wars of the early west. We know this story to be true. It was told to us by—A TEXAN!"
- The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "Son of Stimpy" (A.K.A, "Stimpy's First Fart") began with a voiceover declaring that "this is a true story that we made up".
- One Woody Woodpecker cartoon (a parody of Dragnet) begins with "The story you are about to see is a big fat lie. No names have been changed to protect anyone."