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A word that has become very loaded, especially when it comes to television.

  • 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.
  • A Narrative-Driven Nature Documentary may use the term because they depict the animals in an anthropomorphic manner and sometimes selectively edit scenes.


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     Anime and Manga  

     Fan Works  

  • 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."
  • American Animals: The film begins with a message "This is not based on a true story," but then turns this on its head when words drop out to leave "This is a true story." The plot is mostly a dramatization of real-life events, but this is occasionally intercut with talking-head commentary from the real people being portrayed. In several instances, the real people appear in the dramatized scenes ,watching or interacting with the events.
  • American Splendor: Harvey Pekar's story, much of it taken directly from his comics, is dramatized through actors, who sometimes interact with stock footage of real events and the actual people they're playing.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Courier (2021) is a dramatization of the real actions of Greville Wynne and Oleg Penkovsky. Some historical roles were condensed or expanded, the timeline of some events adjusted, some guesses were made, and some gray areas polished up for the sake of a clear, unambiguous narrative.
  • Everest is based on the events of 1996 Everest disaster.
  • The Flesh and the Fiends is based on the true case of Burke and Hare, who murdered at least 16 people in 1828 Edinburgh, Scotland and sold their bodies for anatomical research.
  • 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.
  • Gods and Monsters is the dramatization of director James Whale's final days. That is to say almost the whole thing is made up.
  • The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery is based on the actual robbery of the Southwest Bank in St. Louis in 1953. Many of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers and bank employees play themselves doing what they did during the actual robbery.
  • While the film Hoffa itself was largely Very Loosely Based on a True Story the exchange between Hoffa and Robert Kennedy at a Congressional hearing was virtually taken word for word from official transcripts of the actual hearing.
  • 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).
  • Jungle is based on Yossi Ghinsberg memoir recounting his ordeal of survival of being lost in the Bolivian jungle for several weeks. Most of the changes are for the sake of pacing, and several events were actually cut out of the narrative.
  • The Killer That Stalked New York (1950). Instead of just telling the story of the 1947 smallpox outbreak in New York City, the film also adds a more typical Film Noir subplot with diamond smuggling, infidelity, and revenge.
  • King of Thieves is based on the Hatton Garden safe deposit burglary of 2015, and sticks fairly closely to the events as they are known.
  • Le Mans 1955 is a short dramatization of the 1955 Le Mans disaster, which killed 84 people.
  • Lorenzo's 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.
  • Margarita with a Straw: Director Shonali Bose based the plot on her cousin Malini Chib's life (who is now a writer and disability rights activist) after having a conversation with her about wanting a normal sex life.
  • The Mercy is about Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who entered the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race of 1968, which involved circumnavigating the globe, without a crew, and without stopping at any ports. While the film is mostly accurate, it skips over some of the details of the early struggles he had even before launch. Due to the nature of what happened to him, it's impossible to fully portray exactly what he went through aside from what's in his journal.
  • Mouth to Mouth is based on the director's experiences upon running away from home and joining a cult.
  • Not Like Everyone Else: It's based on the real case of Brandi Blackbear, though the events are compressed since this actually took place over four years.
  • Point Of Origin is about serial arsonist and convicted killer John L. Orr—who was also a chief fire investigator.
  • Rush (2013) is a dramatization of the Formula One rivalry of British playboy James Hunt and Austrian precision driver Niki Lauda. There are several artistic liberties taken to streamline the story, such as combining two fatal F1 accidents into one and tweaking relationships to better tell a story in the limited runtime of a film.
  • 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.
  • Shattered Glass is based on a Vanity Fair article of the same name, about Stephen Glass's fall from grace.
  • 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.
  • Utya: July 22, by Erik Poppe is a reenactment of the Breivik Massacre (which happened on the island Utøya on 22. July 2011) from the perspective of the victims. Out of respect for the victims, the film features fictional characters instead of people actually being there. Multiple stories are merged into single character, and some of the survivor's stories are attributed to those who die - understandable, since the dead couldn't tell their stories otherwise.
  • Zoo is built mostly around dramatizations of the events surrounding Kenneth Pinyan's death.
  • The Wild Child is about the education of Victor of Aveyron, a feral child captured in the late 1700s.
  • The Wonder: This story is apparently based on the true story of a Welsh "Fasting girl" named Sarah Jacob, who was brought under medical supervision to investigate her claims. In real life, Sarah died of starvation once she was no longer able to eat in secret. Like the film, her parents were complicit in the illusion and refused to admit it at the risk of their daughter's life.

  • "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 E.R.: Since the events were not filmed, they are recreated, usually in a humorous fashion.
  • Walt Disney Presents: At least a couple of times, host Walt Disney participated in dramatizations of moments from his studio's early history.
    • The episode "Cavalcade of Songs" contains a flashback to when Walt and his artists came up with the idea for The Three Little Pigs and the studio's first hit song, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?". He even advises the viewer not to mind of they don't succeed in looking as young as they did back in 1933.
    • "The Fourth Anniversary Show" has Walt flashing back to a 1938 meeting between him and Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, which would inspire his cartoon adaptation of Peter and the Wolf.

  • Gordon Lightfoot has several songs of this nature. "Ballad of Yarmouth Castle" and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" are based on real-life nautical disasters, while "Black Day in July" is based on the 1967 Detroit race riot.


  • Dimension X's "Nightfall": The third-person omniscient narration is severely decreased to emphasize the dialogue between characters, who were assigned to specific actors. Music and sound effects were also added to take advantage of Radio's aural medium.
  • The Foundation Trilogy: As a Radio broadcast, the third-person narration was removed, and some of the dialogue was changed to include characters talking about their actions, such as who is entering/leaving the room.
  • X Minus One:
    • "Nightfall": The third-person omniscient narration is severely decreased to emphasize the dialogue between characters, who were assigned to specific actors. Music and sound effects were also added to take advantage of Radio's aural medium.
    • "The C-Chute": Music and sound effects were also added to take advantage of Radio's aural medium. The Red Alert at the start is especially dramatic, as such ship-wide alerts and combat noises were glossed over in the original medium.

  • Oslo is a dramatization of the secretive 1993 peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization that took place in the clandestine "Oslo Channel" (facilitated by by Norwegian diplomat Mona Juul and her husband, social scientist Terje Rød-Larsen), which paved the way for the Oslo I Accord.

     Video Games  

     Web Comics  


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dramatisation


"Repeat, please!"

In a dramatization of real events, RAF Training Squadron T5, composed of Polish emigres and refugees including survivors of the Polish Air Force, is ordered to return to base when their flight intersects with an incoming German air raid. The Poles pretend they didn't understand the orders and turn to attack the German bomber flight, seeking vengeance for their conquered homeland (with their hapless instructor frantically turning to join them when he realizes what they're doing). The next day, they are chewed out for disobeying orders and violating communications protocol (i.e. speaking Polish instead of English on the radio)... and then congratulated on their victory and activated for combat as 303 Squadron, who will become legendary for their bravery in air combat.

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Main / DisobeyedOrdersNotPunished

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