- Its basic definition is, essentially, "staging of a story." It isn't just creating a story but expressing it, presenting it to the audience in an art form. Even if the story is true, it has to be presented like a fictional account, such as depicting the exact words spoken in a conversation where no one possess a transcript of it.
- When a story is Ripped from the Headlines or Inspired by... a true story, this word means "we changed a bunch of stuff to make it less boring." Or else it's something whose publication in gory detail can be tolerated only if the creators can say it did happen in Real Life. Or both.
- As a commercial disclaimer, it means, "We used special effects to make this commercial, so don't expect our product to actually do this stuff." Applied to a lot of truck ads. (See Do Not Attempt). Also applied to "endorsements" by "ordinary people", who are in fact actors reading scripts. (This latter meaning has been subverted by: a series of ads for satellite TV in which famous actors do readings of ordinary people's letters to the satellite TV company; a series of car-insurance commercials featuring an actual celebrity seated with an actual customer, attempting to make their stories more gripping, usually by poking fun of their own image.)
- Accompanies less-than-accurate reenactments on "true-crime" shows like America's Most Wanted.
- In marketing copy for audiobooks, "dramatized" usually means that different people perform the voices of different characters when they're speaking.
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Anime and Manga
- 300 is basically a Dramatization Inspired by... the conflict it represents, and makes no secret of this. As someone aptly summed-up, "This isn't the way it happened. This is much cooler."
- 1945 documentary film The Battle of San Pietro used dramatizations for all the combat scenes of the eponymous battle. However, the extensive use of Jitter Cam and the very sophisticated production skills of director John Huston and his crew made the combat scenes look so realistic that for decades after, people thought that they were real.
- Mouth to Mouth is based on the director's experiences upon running away from home and joining a cult.
- Gods and Monsters is the dramatization of director James Whale's final days. That is to say almost the whole thing is made up.
- Zoo is built mostly around dramatizations of the events surrounding Kenneth Pinyan's death.
- Lorenzos Oil is based on the story of Augusto Odone, a man with no medical background who through self-study helped discover a treatment for adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare disease his son Lorenzo had contracted.
- The Sessions largely hews to the facts of how Mark O'Brien, polio survivor, had his first sexual encounter courtesy of a Professional Sex Ed therapist.
- Everest is based on the events of 1996 Everest disaster.
- A title card at the beginning of 1931 documentary The Forgotten Frontier, a film about nurses in the mountains of Appalachia, admits that most of what follows is a series of dramatizations made by documentarian Mary Marvin Breckinridge with the cooperation of the locals. They were Real Life incidents, however—the twins shown being given to the nurses to take care of grew up and got married.
- Apollo 13 is based very closely off the real events of the actual spaceflight. Most of the scenes are very accurate (the filmmakers really wanted to get it right), and a good deal of the dialogue in Mission Control and in the spacecraft is based directly off the original recordings and transcripts. There is some dramatic license taken (such as an argument aboard the lunar module that never actually happened on the real flight), but the important points of the film stay very true to the actual events in real life.
- Soul Surfer is based on a novel of the same name by Bethany Hamilton (portrayed by AnnaSophia Robb) whose right arm got bitten off by a Tiger Shark while out surfing in a shark-infested water with her friends but her loss turns into a miracle, causing her to surf again.
- Spotlight: Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning Boston Globe Spotlight team investigation of the systemic child sex abuse caused by a number of Roman Catholic Priests.
- I Shot Jesse James features an In-Universe example, as Robert Ford participates in a stage show that demonstrates how he killed Jesse James (the real Robert Ford did actually do this). The film itself is more akin to Very Loosely Based on a True Story, as only the broad strokes of the tale are certifiably true (like Jesse James's death and Robert Ford's moving to Creede, Colorado).
- "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote is the dramatisation of a real life murder.
- Kill Time or Die Trying by Neil T Stacey and Christopher Dean is a dramatisation of their time at the University of the Witwatersrand.
- 2nd Maccabees from the apocryphal books of the Maccabees is a dramatic retelling of the events from the first several chapters of 1st Maccabees, which the writer condensed from a five-volume work, for the purpose of encouraging its readers to celebrate the Feast of Dedication. In the retelling of events, 2nd Maccabees shows where God performed supernatural deliverances for His people Israel.
Live Action TV
- The Investigation Discovery channel lives on this trope. Sometimes it gets borderline pornographic, since they often recreate scenes of people having torrid affairs in extreme detail.
- The Untouchables is based on the autobiography of Eliot Ness (co-written by journalist Oscar Fraley) with some events per episode changed or invented.
- Sex Sent Me To The ER: since the events were not filmed, they are recreated, usually in a humorous fashion
- Played with (of course) by xkcd here.