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Ripped from the Headlines

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"Codemasters, there's art imitating life, and then there's just plain copying it."
SCXCR, regarding Heatseeker on PS2

It's that mostly familiar, spiffed up and neatly tied off version of the sensationally violent yet true story you didn't want to read in the papers anyway. Double points if the real crime sounds like something fictional. Sometimes murder is added to the real story to make it work as an episode.

Often seen on Law & Order and its various spinoffs (in fact, their commercials provide the Trope Namer), though it is used in many Crime and Punishment Series, Lifetime Original Movies and the like. However, the original inspiration behind the title was the stock Warner Brothers film studio's tagline "Torn from today's headlines!"; Warners used this catchphrase often beginning in the 1930s to promote the gritty realism of their "social problem" films.

When it's done with more than one real-life story, that falls under Patched Together from the Headlines.


Most often seen in political cartoons, where the entire purpose is to comment on current events.

The Evil Twin of this trope is Could This Happen to You? Done poorly, this can come across as We're Still Relevant, Dammit!.

If a criminal is knowingly imitating a famous murderer, that's Jack the Ripoff.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime and Manga 

  • Cells at Work!: The manga's Grand Finale revolves around the body having to fight an infection of SARS-CoV-2, inspired by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • The episode "Not Equal" from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex involves Section 9 investigating the mysterious sighting of the daughter of a high profile businessman who had been kidnapped by a terrorist organization many years ago. They eventually find out that the girl is the leader of the faction. This mirrors the disappearance of Patty Hearst, daughter of a media mogul who was kidnapped by a terrorist group and was later seen working with them back in The '70s.
  • The Astro Boy story Capetown Lullaby, written in the mid-sixties, was inspired by the issue of racial segregation in the US and South Africa, substituting robots for black people. Astro even gets told to move to the back of a bus. A few other stories have nods to current events, despite ostensibly taking place in the future. Yellow Horse, published in 1956, which was declared "International Geophysical Year", features both drug smugglers and police using different scientific survey missions as covers. The Midoro Swamp, where Astro fights an army of living dinosaurs was inspired by sightings of the Loch Ness Monster making headlines... and it also features several characters eating soft-serve ice cream because the manga was written shortly after it first went on sale in Japan.
  • Osamu Tezuka also often did this with Black Jack. For instance, there really were a number of infanticides in which unwanted babies were left to die in train station coin lockers, although whether or not any of them were rescued by female street gang leaders is another matter.
  • This is the reason Tiger Mask was never allowed to win an actually existing wrestling title: as the show was set in as close as to real life as possible, whenever he took part to the World Big League or challenged a champion for his title something made him quit, not give his best, or, when he faced Dory Funk Jr. for the NWA Heavyweight Championship, win in such a way the title didn't pass to him.
  • The Magic Academy subplot in Sexiled is based on a scandal where Tokyo Medical University was caught docking the grades of female students.
  • The backstory behind the Castle of Wax Murder Case arc in The Kindaichi Case Files is based on the 300 million yen robbery, which took place in 1968. The largest heist in Japanese history at the time, it has remained unsolved.
  • The motive behind the Kogoro Mouri's Impostor case from Case Closed involves a falling out between the two culprits of a several million yen extortion case. The company they exploited is specifically identified as a confectionery company.

  • Showing this trope is Older Than They Think, a Golden Age Human Torch story contained a reference to an actor named "Lawson Bell", who had staged a radio hoax involving a Martian invasion of Earth.
  • Batman once took on the conspiracy theory that The Beatles secretly replaced Paul McCartney with a lookalike after the original died in an accident: in the comic, Robin is a fan of a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of the Beatles followed around by a similar rumor, and asks Batman to investigate. (Batman ultimately uncovers the shocking truth that the Paul-analogue is the only member of the band who hasn't been secretly replaced after dying in an accident.)
  • John Byrne inverts this oddly, as he said a few times in interviews that sometimes what he writes about actually happens in real life. A big example is where Wonder Woman died in Wonder Woman (1987) (and was at this time referred to as Princess Diana in-universe) in an issue released the same month the actual Princess Diana (of Wales) died.
    • Earlier on, during his reboot of Superman, Superman was to make his public debut by rescuing a space shuttle that Lois Lane, the only civilian there, was on. When the Challenger disaster occurred, claiming the lives of all crew (and the sole civilian, a woman) the shuttle was changed to a completely unrealistic "space plane".
    • Even earlier on, John Byrne wrote an issue of The Avengers where their usual duties were complicated by a city-wide blackout in New York. No sooner had the issue come out, New York City suffered a massive blackout.
  • The Punisher MAX:
    • A number of stories will occasionally make use of current events. This ranges from corporate fraud to slavery to even the then ongoing War on Terror. Usually so writer Garth Ennis can give us his opinion on the matter.
    • In particular, The Slavers appears to be based on The Guardian article "Streets of Despair", with Garth Ennis even basing scenes on real-life moments transcribed in the article, including direct quotes, and even using the same names of the interviewees (which, as the article notes, were changed for their protection).
  • Superhero comics got a nasty shock when the September 11, 2001 attacks happened, as these attacks actually sound a lot like a comic book plot. DC and Marvel had a rather hard time figuring out how to address 9/11 properly in universes in which gods, aliens, giant robots, and supervillains with otherworldly powers and weapons of mass destruction terrorize American citizens, especially New Yorkers, with death and mayhem on a rather regular basis.
    • Marvel put out several specials, the proceeds of which went to 9/11-related charities, and this was lampshaded multiple times, ESPECIALLY with Spider-Man, and handled in a rather realistic (for the setting) fashion. When addressed directly, it was either a case of "so busy with giant gaudy supervillains, 13 separated plain-clothed men slipped by unnoticed", or they basically said "We'll figure out who to blame later and deal with the tragedy now!" or, in at least Spider-Man's case, he spent a long while with no answer to the question, no excuse, no reason at all.
    • Slightly more cynical readers might point out that the Twin Towers were destroyed multiple times in Marvel Comics, often by the same villains shown crying in the aforementioned Spider-Man issue. Juggernaut in particular once smashed through the base of one of the Towers and expressed amusement at the idea he might've killed someone, whereas both Magneto and Doctor Doom have done far worse in-universe.
    • DC put out four volumes of anthologies: 9-11: Artists Respond, 9-11: The World's Finest Comic Book Writers & Artists Tell Stories to Remember, 9-11: Emergency Relief and A Moment of Silence, stories showing their heroes dealing with the tragedy. A particularly strong story, which also managed to avoid the logic gaffes from the above-mentioned Marvel reactions, was Dwayne McDuffie's Static entry in the second volume. Rather than dealing with the destruction of the Twin Towers themselves, the story instead focused on the backlash against innocent Muslims that began once people started blaming them for 9/11. Several of the other stories also had this theme and reminded readers that people of all faiths, Muslims included, died in the attacks.
  • Tintin did this constantly in the first periodic strips published in the 1930s, to the point that modern readers might fail to get what were at the time obvious references to world events. The situation changed after Those Wacky Nazis invaded Belgium and direct commentary on those world events became... unwise. Hergé spent the war writing more light-hearted stories with no political commentary, and after the war, many of the 1930s strips were re-released in book form with the more shallow references (like to popular 1930s films and actors) deleted.
    • The early Tintin in America (1931-1932) has Tintin go to Chicago to bring down Al Capone, the only time he has a real person as an antagonist.
    • Cigars of the Pharaoh (1932-1934) is inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb and the post-World War I wars in the Middle East that shaped Saudi Arabia's borders as they are today. While adrift at the Red Sea, Tintin is saved by a then famous French mercenary/smuggler that operated in the area.
    • The Blue Lotus (1934-1935) has Tintin stumble on a Japanese plot to stage a False Flag Operation blowing up the Shanghai-Nanking railway as a pretext to invade China. This is an obvious jab at the Mukden Incident.
    • The Broken Ear (1935-1937) is based on the Chaco War, and features an international Arms Dealer modeled on Basil Zaharoff.
    • King Ottokar's Sceptre (1938-1939) is inspired both by the German annexation of Austria and the Italian invasion of Albania.
    • Land of Black Gold (1939-1940) was originally set in the British Mandate of Palestine and dealt with Irgun insurgency. Publication was cancelled before the ending because of World War II and when it was due to be resumed in 1948 it was deemed obsolete. The story was edited heavily and released as set in a fictional Arab country torn by civil war.
  • Mark Waid's Daredevil run had an issue inspired by the Trayvon Martin killing, with the only real difference being that the racist shooter was a woman instead of a man.
  • Secret Avengers:
    • One issue involved a new "Hacktivist" inspired version of U.S. Agent who had leaked a bunch of sensitive documents to the public. The resulting debate about whether or not the American people have a right to total government transparency even when lives are at stake was very similar to the controversies surrounding Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.
    • In the wake of the controversy surrounding the United States' use of drones in The War on Terror, Nick Spencer did a storyline about Iron Patriot drones running amok and killing innocent civilians in a Middle Eastern nation. Unlike the real world situation, War Machine and the Incredible Hulk stepped in to save the day.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón: Ever since the end of the Spanish Democratic Transition in 1977 (and thus, the end of Franco's dictatorship censorship system), Ibáñez very often bases (very loosely) his stories in Real Life current events.
    • Ibáñez rarely did this during the Silver Age (early '80s). It wasn't until the 90s (let's be generous and say late 80s) that Real Life was referenced in the comics (either as celebrity cameos or as stories based on Real Life events, and until the XXI century that it played a big role in them.
  • The Judge Dredd storyline "Mega-City Confidential" is a clear commentary on the NSA/GCHQ surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden. Crucially, even Dredd feels that Justice Department's spying is going too far.
    • An earlier story mocked the divorce of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman through a war between two blocks named after the actors.
  • The EC Comics story "The Bribe!" (Shock SuspenStories #7) is loosely based on the story of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire. The Cocoanut Grove passed a fire safety inspection eight days before it burned down, causing hundreds of deaths; that the nightclub's owners had bribed the inspectors, as in EC's story, was alleged but never proven. The identification of the victims by pictures taken by a club photographer shortly before the fire broke out is another element of the story that actually happened.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) has the "Elections" arc from the 46th and 47th issues. It came out in the months leading to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and has Filthy Rich running against Mayor Mare for mayor of Ponyville. Filthy, a wealthy business pony with no prior political experience, can be seen in this as a loose Expy of Donald Trump.
  • The "Northstar Gets Married" issue of X-Men, where Jean-Paul and his partner Kyle Jinadu tie the knot. It came out in 2012 when an increasing number of American states were legalizing same-sex marriage; this was Marvel's extremely unsubtle way of voicing their support. The problem is that Kyle is just a minor character whose relationship with Northstar—himself just an on-and-off member of the X-Men—mostly developed off-panel. For them to have the full-blown "Superhero Wedding" treatment would have made no sense if Kyle were Kylie instead.
  • The plot of America vs. the Justice Society, which revolved around the discovery of a (false) diary implicating the Golden Age Justice Society of America as Nazi collaborators, was inspired by the discovery and publication of the so-called Hitler Diaries.

    Fan Works 

  • White Sheep (RWBY): In-universe. A photo of Ruby caught by a humanoid Grimm's Combat Tentacles becomes front-page news. Someone makes a comic of it with an... alternate ending. Ruby buys it, finding it amusing that the heroine is obviously based on her, and finally discovers what tentacle hentai is.
    Ruby turned the page, eager to see how Miriam escaped from his tentacle grasp.
    She didn't.
    She didn't escape at all.
    "Oh..." Ruby's eyes widened. Her cheeks flushed with colour. She slapped the comic shut and gazed over the top at her teammates. Neither was paying attention. That... this... was this...? Ruby swallowed. Slowly, tentatively, she opened the page once more and took another look.
    Her head tilted to the left.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Reveal of the M segment of ABCs of Death 2 will be familiar to anyone who is aware of the bath salt cannibalism incidents in Florida.
  • The plot of Ace in the Hole was inspired by two real-life events. Cave explorer W. Floyd Collins was trapped in a cave in 1925, and a three-year-old girl, Kathy Fiscus fell into an abandoned well in 1949. Just like in the film, the victims became media sensations and died before they were rescued.
  • The 1917 film The Black Stork stars Dr. Harry J. Haiselden as a eugenicist who persuades the parents of a deformed infant to let it die instead of allowing life-saving surgery. In 1915, Haiselden was involved in a major controversy because he convinced the parents of a syphilitic infant, John Bollinger, to let him die. The Chicago Medical Society later expelled him over his continued pro-eugenics speeches and promotion of The Black Stork.
  • Bloody Wednesday, loosely based on the "McDonald's massacre" perpetrated by James Huberty, was made very shortly after the actual event.
  • Boy (1969): Inspired by… a Real Life scandal in 1966 Japan, when a couple was arrested for running a Staged Pedestrian Accident scam in which they arranged for their 10-year-old son to be hit by cars.
  • The Cocoanuts was originally produced on Broadway in 1925, the year of the famous Florida real estate boom.
  • All the school shooting films (like Zero Day or Elephant (2003)) released in the wake of Columbine.
  • Compliance was based on an actual crime that occurred in a fast food restaurant in 2004.
  • Crime Story, starring Jackie Chan, revolves around Chan's protagonist trying to solve a kidnapping incident, It was based on the kidnapping of a real-life Chinese millionaire.
  • Cyberbully (2011) is ABC Family's attempt to make a "realistic" drama about a real issue teens face. (in this case, cyberbullying). Specifically it was inspired by the story of Megan Meier, who hung herself due to a situation very similar to that in which Taylor finds herself, and is actually mentioned by name in the film.
  • In the 60s, Yakov Kostyukovsky read in a newspaper that a few Swiss people tried to smuggle jewels in an orthopedic cast. He took that idea, and the result was The Diamond Arm, one of the best known Soviet comedies ever.
  • Die Hard: In-universe. When Hans calls the police to give his fake demands, he asks for a variety of imprisoned terrorists to be released, ending with members of the group "Asian Dawn."
    Karl: [mouthing] Asian Dawn?
    Hans: [shrugs] I read about them in TIME magazine.
  • "Dirty" Harry Callahan fought obvious stand-ins for the Zodiac Killer (in Dirty Harry) and the Symbionese Liberation Army (in The Enforcer).
  • Disembodied Hitman was inspired by the abuse allegations that surfaced against Marilyn Manson in 2021, and several other instances of celebrities having their reputations destroyed. Dean Houlihan also drew from the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard situation - wherein the public found it difficult to decide who to believe - and so the killer's backstory is that his father's life was destroyed by false allegations, and he is now taking revenge on the seventeen people responsible.
  • Elysium: It doesn't need to be said that in 2013, wealth disparity and societal division in spite of constantly emerging technologies that have the potential to improve everyone's lives is a hotly debated issue.
  • Subverted by Fargo. It claims to be based on actual events, but in reality it's not even loosely based on anything that actually happened. Though the scene with the wood chipper being used to dispose of the body was inspired by what happened to murder victim Helle Crafts, except it was her husband who forced her body through the wood chipper. That case was the first one in Connecticut where a murder conviction was secured without a body (because only several ounces of body was ever recovered).
  • The 2005 remake of Fun with Dick and Jane was inspired by the 2002 Enron scandal, with the film set in 2000 ending with Dick's former coworker telling him he's been hired by Enron, and its executives are sarcastically "thanked" in the closing credits.
  • Girl in the Basement is a Lifetime film based on the Josef Fritzl incest case in Austria. A controlling father kidnaps his 18-year old daughter and holds her captive in a bomb shelter below his house for many years while keeping this hidden from the rest of his family, even impregnating his imprisoned daughter multiple times over.
  • The plot of The Godfather Part III was based on the Banco Ambrosiano of the 1980s.
  • Alfred Hitchcock did this a lot, though some of his films were adapted from novels that were ripped from the headlines.
  • Ida Lupino's Film Noir The Hitch-Hiker was based on hitchhiking murderer Billy Cook.
  • The plot of In & Out, where an award-winning actor thanks his old gay high school teacher, while being unaware he was still in the closet, thereby giving him tons of unwanted attention, was inspired by Tom Hanks' Oscar acceptance speech at the 1994 Academy Awards where he unwittingly did the same thing to his own old high school teacher.
  • The Killer That Stalked New York, a 1950 film Very Loosely Based on the 1947 New York City smallpox outbreak.
  • The Kill Team is based on the 2009 Maywand District Murders during the War in Afghanistan.
  • Fritz Lang did this a lot:
    • The serial child killer in M, lynch mob justice in Fury.
    • And You Only Live Once (1937) was based on Bonnie and Clyde, who had been gunned down just three years before that film hit the theatres.
    • Hangmen Also Die! revolves around the aftermath of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. The assassination was carried out on May 27, 1942 (though he didn't die of his injuries until June 4). The film was released on March 27, 1943 — less than a year later. As a result, the film is Very Loosely Based on a True Story; WWII was still ongoing, so the details of what actually transpired were not known to the filmmakers.
  • The Last Duel is a 2021 Period Piece about a real life Trial by Combat which happened in 14th century France, but its plot (a woman accusing a man of raping her, which he violently denies, and manages to escape punishment for some times due to his connections) and date makes pretty clear the story is a metaphor of Metoo.
  • George Miller and James McCausland stated that they were inspired to co-write Mad Max by news reports and personal observations of the 1973 Oil Crisis' effects on Australian motorists:
    George Miller: I remember it really stuck in my mind, in a very peaceful city like Melbourne, our southern capital, or some city, it took ten days after a severe oil shortage for the first shot to be fired. And I thought, what if it went on? That was one of the things when we did the first Mad Max.
    James McCausland: Yet there were further signs of the desperate measures individuals would take to ensure mobility. A couple of oil strikes that hit many pumps revealed the ferocity with which Australians would defend their right to fill a tank. Long queues formed at the stations with petrol — and anyone who tried to sneak ahead in the queue met raw violence.
    George and I wrote the script based on the thesis that people would do almost anything to keep vehicles moving and the assumption that nations would not consider the huge costs of providing infrastructure for alternative energy until it was too late.
  • Both The Man with Nine Lives and The Man They Could Not Hang were based in part on the real-life saga of Dr. Robert Cornish, a University of California professor who, in 1934, announced that he had restored life to a dog named Lazarus, which he had put to death by clinical means. The resulting publicity (including a Time magazine article and motion picture footage of the allegedly re-animated canine) led to Cornish being booted off campus.
  • Network took inspiration from two news events of the mid-1970s: the on-air suicide of newscaster Christine Chubbuck, and the terrorist activities of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
  • Before all the car chases and explosions happen, the cult in Never Say Die instigates a mass suicide similar to the one instigated by the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana.
  • The Japanese Tear Jerker Nobody Knows is about a much-publicized incident in which a single mother abandons her four children, forcing them to fend for themselves, and one of the children is killed by a sibling's friends. The film can be seen as a subversion of this trope, as the real-life incident is more brutal than what is depicted on film.
  • Orphan: It's about an American family who adopts Esther, a 9-year-old Russian girl, who's in reality a thirty-three-year-old psycho who suffers from a disease that makes her seem younger than she actually is. The plot of the movie is quite similar to the Barbora Skrlová case, with the exception that there isn't any underage cannibalism in the film.
  • The short documentary film Our Obligation concluded "No attempt has been made to duplicate any actual school fire on record" but everyone watching was acutely aware that it was based on the horrific Our Lady of the Angels school fire a year earlier, right down to the iconic image of the fireman carrying the little boy (Jerry Gray in the film, John Jajkowski in real life). Made by the Los Angeles fire department, Our Obligation used the Robert Louis Stevenson school building in East LA that was going to be demolished and was very similar in build to the OLA school.
  • In Paparazzi, a Hollywood actor goes on a shutterbug killing spree after they cause an accident that nearly killed his family, an obvious reference to the circumstances surrounding the death of Princess Diana.
  • The Phenix City Story is (loosely) based upon the assassination of Albert Patterson on June 18, 1954. The film premiered on July 19, 1955.
  • Pihu is loosely based on a story that the director read about a four-year-old girl who survived for several days after parental abandonment.
  • Invoked in The Player, which has movie executive Larry Levy suggest that studios "eliminate writers from the artistic process" and instead take movie stories from newspaper stories.
  • Psycho Cop Returns, released in 1993, ends with Officer Vickers being on the receiving end of a Rodney King-inspired beatdown, complete with videotaping bystander.
  • The Jerk Jock villains in The Rage: Carrie 2 were, sadly enough, Truth in Television — they were based on the Spur Posse, a group of athletes at a California high school who used a point system to keep track of their sexual conquests, and wound up being let off on charges of statutory rape.
  • The Rock was inspired by a 60 Minutes segment that producer Don Simpson saw about the U.S. government's refusal to acknowledge soldiers who had died during covert overseas missions, as well as Colonel David H. Hackworth's memoirs which harshly criticized U.S. planning during The Vietnam War.
  • Almost every film in the Rocky series is influenced by events from real life boxing. Sometimes the incidents are very recent, sometimes they happened a long time earlier.
    • Real life: A journeyman boxer named Chuck Wepner (who has never made enough money from the game to train full time for a bout) gets picked for a fight against controversial, charismatic, and overconfident champion Muhammad Ali. Wepner shocks audiences when he makes it to the 15th round against the champion, scoring a disputed knockdown along the way, but is finally stopped by Ali in the last round.
    • Rocky: Rocky Balboa, a journeyman boxer who has never made much money in the game (to the point where his main job is a mafia debt collector) gets picked to fight against controversial, charismatic, and overconfident champion Apollo Creed. Rocky immediately does better than expected, knocking Creed down in round 1, Creed almost knocks Rocky out in the next to last round, and wins a close decision victory.
    • Real life: Joe Frazier, a tough boxer from Philadelphia who was famous for his left hook, did his roadwork in the city (including the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and used meat carcasses as makeshift punching bags, reached the pinnacle of his career with a victory over the quick, brash and charismatic Muhammad Ali. After a few defenses against less than stellar opposition that was clearly outclassed by him, Frazier then faced the hard-hitting (but relatively unheralded) George Foreman, and was knocked out in two rounds. A year later Foreman faced Ali, and in that bout Ali made a tactical decision mid-fight to stop using the Hit-and-Run Tactics he was famous for, and instead adopted the rope-a-dope strategy of lying on the ropes, blocking, parrying, and in some cases absorbing all the punishment Foreman could dish out and more, taunting Foreman all the while for Foreman's inability to knock Ali out. Foreman exhausted himself trying to KO Ali, and Ali then knocks him out.
    • Rocky III: Rocky Balboa, a tough boxer from Philadelphia famous for his left hook who does his roadwork in the city (including the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and uses meat carcasses as makeshift punching bags, reaches the pinnacle of his career with victory over the quick, brash and charismatic Apollo Creed. After a number of defenses which his manager eventually admits were handpicked and posed no threat to Rocky, he then decides to defend his title against hard-hitting slugger Clubber Lang, and is knocked out in two rounds. Afterward, Apollo Creed, (the analogue for Muhammad Ali) trains Rocky to fight in a different way, mirroring Apollo's own style. Rocky begins his rematch with Clubber doing very well by boxing and using Hit-and-Run Tactics, but when Lang finds a way to start getting to him, Rocky makes a mid-fight switch, starts using Stone Wall defense to defend against the worst of Lang's punches while taunting Lang for his inability to knock Rocky out. Lang exhausts himself trying to KO Rocky, and Rocky knocks him out.
    • Real life: Mike Tyson, a young delinquent from a broken home, shows boxing talent and is taken in by legendary trainer Cus D'Amato, who eventually goes so far to adopt Tyson. Tyson begins cutting a swath through professional boxing, gaining notice because of how quickly and brutally he knocks out his competition, but D'Amato dies before Tyson captures the heavyweight title. After D'Amato's death, sleazy and unprincipled promoter Don King gets Tyson to break with the management team D'Amato left behind to look after Tyson by convincing Tyson that he'd make more money with King and that Tyson's management team was stealing from him. (They weren't, they were investing for his retirement.) This begins leading Tyson down a road to ruin.
    • Rocky V: Tommy Gunn, a young delinquent from a broken home, seeks out legendary retired boxer Rocky Balboa, and eventually gets Rocky to be his trainer. Eventually, Tommy is taken in as a member of the family. Tommy soon gains media attention by cutting a swath through the heavyweight ranks with quick knockouts, but he also gains the attention of sleazy and unprincipled boxing promoter George Washington Duke. Tommy, frustrated that Rocky insists on progressing Tommy's career at a slow and steady pace rather than going for the title shot, is seduced away by Duke, who promises him a title shot and more money than Rocky could get him. This sets Tommy up to go down the wrong path.
    • Just compare these speeches from Cus D'Amato, Mike Tyson's trainer, and adoptive father, (link) and Rocky's flashback of Mickey from Rocky V. (Link)
    • The International Showdown by Proxy between Americans Apollo Creed and later Rocky against Soviet Ivan Drago in Rocky IV takes some inspiration from the International Showdown by Proxy between American Joe Louis and Nazi Germany's Max Schmeling.
    • In Rocky Balboa, the idea for a match between long retired champion Rocky and current champion Mason Dixon comes about after a computer simulation shows a prime Rocky beating the undefeated champion. In the late 1960s, after Muhammad Ali had been stripped of his title for refusing to fight in Vietnam, a computer simulation was done and showed long-retired champion Rocky Marciano defeating Ali who was unbeaten at the time. The two even stepped into the ring and did some sparring to provide footage for it.
  • Romper Stomper was based on several racial incidents in the 80s and early 90s, but most prominently on the history of the neo-Nazi Dane Sweetman, who murdered his friend David Noble and cut his leg off with an ax.
  • The plot of the 1983 Canadian film Self Defense was inspired by a police strike in Halifax, Nova Scotia that occurred two years earlier, during which the city - though mainly the area in the vicinity of the main police station - descended into a state of semi-anarchy for 42 days as the police board argued with the city council over union demands while leaving the streets totally unpatrolled.
  • The Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was based on the end of the Cold War, with the United Federation of Planets taking the role of NATO and the Klingon Empire, the Soviet Union. The explosion of the Klingon moon Praxis was a reference to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant incident. The film was written, filmed, and edited before the USSR began to collapse.
  • Bobby Thompson in the Boris Karloff horror movie Targets is essentially the real-life mass-murderer Charles Whitman with the serial numbers filed off.
  • Most of the segments in Tales from the Hood 2 involve some hot-button political issue that has emerged since the first movie was made.
    • "Good Golly": reflects the controversy over the continued use of images and ideas with racist origins (e.g. the Confederate Flag).
    • "Date Night" deals with sexual predation, especially in the age of online dating.
    • "The Sacrifice" invokes Emmett Till (whose memorial sign is still being vandalized) to shame a Republican Category Traitor for not honoring that sacrifice, and instead aiding the continued disenfranchisement of black (Democrat!) voters.
    • As for the Framing Device, Dumass Beach may as well have been called Tonald Drump for all the subtlety he had by the end of the movie.
  • In Trading Places, the Duke brothers' attempt to corner the frozen concentrate orange juice market was inspired by the "Silver Thursday" crash of March 27, 1980, when the Hunt brothers of Texas attempted to corner the silver market, and ultimately failed to meet a $100 million margin call.
  • Alexandros Avranas' True Crimes is based on David Grann's article about Polish novelist Krystian Bala, who murdered his wife's lover and described it in detail in his book ''Amok''.
  • The Wave (2015) is based around the eventual landslide of the unstable mountain Åkerneset, spawning a 300ft Giant Wall of Watery Doom that will reach our protagonists and Mauve Shirts and everyone else in 10 minutes, a scenario which will eventually happen.
  • 1916 film Where Are My Children? features a man being tried on obscenity charges because he was distributing birth control literature. This was shortly after birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger was tried in Real Life on just such a charge.
  • Dirty Harry doing this is lampshaded in Zodiac (2007) with the obvious Aesop that Real Life crimes aren't always solved by shooting someone.
  • The Zodiac Killer, an odd film that is half accurate and half sleazy, exploitative fiction, was released around the height of the real Zodiac's rampage, as was the sexploitation flick The Zodiac Rapist, starring John Holmes.

  • Older Than Print: The Divine Comedy features the adulterers Francesca and Paolo in Hell because their murder was talked about all over Italy.
  • Agatha Christie:
    • Part of Murder on the Orient Express, the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping, is clearly based on the Charles Lindbergh case.
    • The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side borrows its pivotal backstory from the real life of actress Gene Tierney, to the extent that if you happen to be familiar with it, the crime is not terribly difficult to solve before Miss Marple solves it. However, Christie denied doing so, saying that she'd never heard of Gene Tierney's tragedy until after the book was written; given the PR stranglehold Hollywood studios had on their stars at the time, and that people really didn't talk about that sort of thing disabled and mentally deficient children it's quite possible she was telling the truth.
    • The Hercule Poirot novel The Clocks features an in-universe inversion. The murder mystery, which caused a lot of media uproar, was based on an unpublished detective story. In his denouement, Poirot criticizes the murderer for being unoriginal.
  • Jodi Picoult's books often take two issues that are in the news Up to Eleven. My Sister's Keeper (in-vitro fertilization, ethics), Handle with Care (aborting a disabled child), Change of Heart (religion, death penalty, organ donation), and Sing You Home (lesbians having families, in-vitro fertilization). The Pact is about a Suicide Pact and Teen Pregnancy, Salem Falls is about being falsely accused of rape, and Mercy is about assisted suicide.
  • The Danielle Steel novel Vanished is based on the Lindbergh kidnapping. With a much happier ending, of course – the child is found safe and sound, the father is responsible for the whole thing, enabling him to be sent to prison and out of the heroine's life, paving the way for her to be reunited with her true love.
  • Edgar Allan Poe did it with the short story "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt", which is based on the real-life disappearance and apparent murder of an American woman named Mary Rogers.
  • Walter Gibson noted in an article in The Great Detectives (edited by Otto Penzler) that he based the Shadow's foe Double Z on the then contemporary terrorist Three X.
  • Joyce Carol Oates is very fond of fictionalizing real cases of murder and violent death, sometimes sticking very close to actual events but going inside the minds of the people involved, sometimes departing much farther. Some examples are My Sister My Love (Jon Benet Ramsey), Zombie (Jeffrey Dahmer), Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? (Charles Schmid), "Dear Husband" (Andrea Yates), "Landfill" (John Fiocco), and Black Water (Mary Jo Kopechne).
  • All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard is based on a real story about two girls who are in a car accident. One girl dies. Unfortunately, the hospital identified the wrong one as dead. In real life, the families were very nice about it and handled themselves well. The book adds more drama and a love story.
  • Two of the most memorable Sherlock Holmes villains, Charles Augustus Milverton and Professor James Moriarty, were based on real-life criminals Charles Augustus Howell and Adam Worth, respectively.
  • Many of the newspaper clippings mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft's masterpiece "The Call of Cthulhu" were literally ripped from the headlines of the days in question; for example, the earthquake, the architect's suicide, and the theosophist society's apocalyptic expectations were really reported in the New York Times on the stated dates.
  • Laura Lippman's What the Dead Know is partially based on the disappearance of the Lyon Sisters in 1975.
  • In Hannibal, the backstory of antagonist Mason Verger is based not-so-loosely on the purported self-mutilation of a man under the influence of PCP who sliced off bits of his face and fed them to his dogs. The sole evidence for this event seems to come from an annotated photograph in the book Practical Homicide Investigation by Vernon J. Geberth. Warning: the photograph in question is exceptionally graphic and disturbing. If you still want to view it (don't say we didn't warn you), you can access the image here.
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin has this as the Gulf Oil Spill is mentioned to be still causing problems 100 years later.
  • Saving Zoë is about a girl named Zoë who was killed by a "photographer" she met on MySpace. Ripped from stories such as the "Facebook killer" or the "Craigslist Killer" and many others.
  • "Delial", the girl Navidson frequently mentions in House of Leaves, turns out to be the name he mentally gave to the subject of his award-winning photograph of a starving orphan girl in Africa in the view of a vulture. The book actually mentions the Real Life version and the photographer by name.
  • "A Good Marriage" is centered around the idea of a normal suburban housewife finding out that her husband is a sexually sadistic serial killer. Stephen King defends his being inspired by the then-recent arrest of the BTK Killer and the public outcry surrounding his wife, Paula, who many couldn't believe the idea of not knowing your husband of thirty years was a felon. She wasn't terribly pleased by the resurgence of attention caused by the story.
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck exaggerates this trope.
  • Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett is about Blackbury Council selling the cemetery to United Holdings (Holdings) Ltd. for 2p. This was based on Westminster Council selling three cemeteries to corporate buyers for 5p each.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: The final book Home Free focuses on a character who is explicitly stated to be a clone of Bernie Madoff.
  • After by Amy Efaw is about a teenage girl named Devon who gets pregnant in high school. She then dumps the baby in a dumpster, but the baby is found and she is charged with attempted murder. The author states on her website that it is inspired by various news stories about babies left in dumpsters or trash cans, such as the story of Melissa Drexler or Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson.
  • The climax of The Fear Index features an extreme flux in the DOW Jones, which actually happened and is called a Flash Crash. One gets the impression that Harris found this interesting and worked backwards from that.
  • Scarface was loosely based on Al Capone and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
  • Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent is based on an actual news story about an unsolved terrorist plot.
  • Every Dale Brown story is prefaced by extracts from news articles that came out shortly before publication, establishing the relevance of the events and equipment featured.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, several UK-specific books are about current events in the monarchy.
  • The Last Guru by Daniel Pinkwater is loosely based on the story of Maharaj Ji of the Divine Light Mission, who became famous as an avatar of God in his early teens.
  • The stories featured in The Railway Series are all based on stories of real incidents on railways. This can get frustrating in railfan circles while discussing real historic events, only for a Railway Series fan to interject and point out "hey, I know this story from Thomas!"
  • The plot of No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley is a mishmash of the Monica Lewinsky/President Clinton sex scandal and the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
  • Hobgoblin was published to cash in on the then-recent death of James Dallas Egbert III by having an RPG-obsessed teen fall under the spell of his game and try to play out his fantasies. Contrary to the Egbert case, Scott employs his fantasy to save others by becoming the hero his character had been.
  • In 1989, Swedish writer Jan Guillou wrote Enemy's Enemy, where the main character's mission involves killing the spy Stig Sandström who had escaped from prison and fled to Moscow, which is what the real-life spy Stig Bergling had done two years earlier. The big difference is that the character also had killed his wife, while Bergling's wife had fled the country with him. After Bergling turned himself in to the authorities in 1994, he called Guillou from prison and said that he probably deserved a signed copy of the book, which Guillou agreed to, and sent him a book where he wrote that "this is the strangest dedication I've ever written."
  • Joe Pickett: The harassment of the Robersons by the EPA in Breaking Point was based on the events that led to Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency US Supreme Court case.
  • The central character of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Demons is a fictionalization of Sergey Nechayev.
  • At the climax of The Nebuly Coat, the church tower's collapse and later rebuilding exactly mirror the real-life collapse of Chichester Cathedral's central tower in 1861.
  • Rumer Godden's 1969 novel In This House of Brede, follows a newcomer to an order of Benedictine nuns, who takes the veil in her middle years. One reason is the death of her 5-year-old son in a highly publicized accident years before. With only a few details changed, this part of the story seems to have come from a combination of the Floyd Collins tragedy and that of Kathy Fiscus.
  • The Warrior Cats book Moonrise involves a mountain lion-like cat based on rumors of big cats roaming the British countryside which come up in the news every few years (the "sightings" usually involve panther-like cats said to have escaped from zoos or circuses, and their accuracy is debatable). There was a particular influx of these articles around the mid-2000s when Moonrise was written.
  • The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum was inspired by several real-life scandals involving German tabloid Bild-Zeitung's sensationalistic coverage of the Red Army Faction and their crimes. The novel's author Heinrich Böll had previously written an article for the magazine Der Spiegel wherein he sharply criticized Bild's journalistic practices and stated that the paper "isn’t crypto-fascist anymore, not fascistoid, but naked fascism. Agitation, lies, dirt."
  • Big Trouble has a subplot seemingly inspired by news about a sting operation in Miami resulting in the arrest of a couple of Lithuanian nationals for offering to sell undercover agents nuclear weapons. Dave Barry mentioned this in a column as something that could only happen there.
  • In the afterword of the first volume of Sexiled: My Sexist Party Leader Kicked Me Out So I Teamed Up With A Mythical Sorceress!, Ameko Kaeruda reveals that she started writing the Light Novel in reaction to the news of a "certain medical university" rigging the scores of female students. While she technically doesn't name the university, this is pretty obviously in reference to the Tokyo Medical University scandal, in which it was revealed that the entrance exam results of female applicants has been automatically lowered for several years in an attempt to keep the ratio of women in each class of students below 30 percent. In particular, Alisa's subplot involving the Magic Academy is pretty nakedly a reference to this.
  • Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven involves an obese young woman who is subject to unwanted media attention after her house has to be partially demolished in order to get her to the hospital, loosely based on the case of Georgia Davis, but taking place in the US rather than the UK.

    Live-Action Television 
  • All of this makes watching True Crime shows like American Justice or Cold Case Files an interesting experience, especially when you recognize a case you didn't know had been ripped from the headlines.
  • Just about every Police Procedural show (Bones, NUMB3RS and Without a Trace ... remarkably none of the Law & Orders participating) got to show off their Friendly Local Chinatown for an episode based on the ancient Chinese custom of "ghost brides": the family of a young man who died before getting married arranges for a deceased girl to marry him in the afterlife; the episode typically dealt with someone who forgot the "deceased" part when selecting a bride.
  • The second half of the first series of Babylon was based on the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan and the resulting riots.
  • Babylon 5: The dockworkers' strike in "By Any Means Necessary" riffs on the 1981 strike by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers' Organization, which ended in failure and the firing and replacement of over eleven thousand workers by the Reagan Administration under a 1955 law that prohibits strikes by employees of the US government. The dockworkers in the episode are noted to be employees of EarthGov by way of the station administration, and a similar "no strikes" law was passed in the Earth-Minbari War and then never repealed because of the power it gave employers.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) often took sci fi twists on whatever was going on during The War on Terror.
  • The first episode of the final season of Strong Medicine had a storyline that referenced the 2005 Glendale train derailment (where a guy left a truck on the track). They made the suspect in the episode female...and bipolar.
  • Bones
    • One episode takes the pregnancy pact reportedly taken by a group of Massachusetts girls and incorporates it into the storyline. Bones herself thought it was a good idea for the girls to band together; meanwhile, in Real Life, the "pact" turned out to be a huge coincidence fanned by rumors and probably more than a little snarking.
    • Another episode was inspired by the Hello Kitty Murder.
  • One of the criticisms of Boston Public was how every school-related controversy during the late 90's/early 2000's seemed to happen at that one high school.
  • Castle:
    • The episode "The Late Shaft" pretty much based its entire story around the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien debacle over at NBC, with a dash of David Letterman's affair/blackmail story thrown in for good measure. Nathan Fillion was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that night...
    • The episode "47 Seconds" also dealt with bombings at an expy of the Occupy movement. (When the repeat aired on TNT just after the Boston Marathon attack, they issued an apology.)
    • The episode "Habeas Corpse" features a car company that was fictional and totally not General Motors, that had decided it would be cheaper to cover up several deaths due to a fault in their car (the airbag, instead of the ignition switch) rather than issue a recall.
  • Casualty:
    • Occurred in July 2012, Casualty did a two part episode, featuring a riot in its fictional setting of Holby, this was similar to the riots in English cities a year ago.
    • A storyline from the 1990s in which an ambulance ended up going off the road and laying across a railway line was very obviously based on the Great Heck rail accident. The next-of-kin of those killed in the crash were less than impressed.
  • On a lighter note, in a 1997 episode of Coach, the title character's football team is sabotaged during an away game in Buffalo when a local restauranteur serves them poisoned wings. This is based on an incident that happened to New Zealand's team during the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa.
  • Crownies has a few examples, with one case being based quite clearly on the murder of Carl Williams.
  • Both CSI: Miami and Law & Order have plots based on a census taker who found in the woods, strung up with the word "FED" pinned to his shirt. While both stories are undoubtedly murders, Real Life revealed it was actually a staged suicide — he was attempting to pin his death on local rednecks so his family would get the insurance money.
    • CSI: Miami went for quadruple plot points by adding slave labor, a repossessed house, and a meth lab. Another one was based on a real life murder suspect who photographed his victims. One was the sister of one of the actors.
  • Original flavour CSI Vegas:
    • It did an episode revolving around guns produced in 3D printers within barely a month of news breaking about Defense Distributed's Liberator.
    • "Anatomy of a Lye" ripped the case of Chante Jawan Mallard, who struck a homeless man with her car, drove home with him clinging to the roof, and left him to bleed out in her garage rather than taking him to a hospital.
    • "Unfriendly Skies", a first season episode, ripped the murder of Las Vegas resident Jonathan Burton aboard a plane, which took place a mere two months before the airing of the episode.
    • "Felonius Monk" was based on the massacre of several monks at a Buddhist temple in Arizona during a robbery in 1991.
    • "Overload", based on the death of a child during a "rebirthing" session intended to bound her to her adopted mother, in 2000.
    • "I like to watch", featuring a woman raped in her apartment by a man pretending to be a fireman, was ripped from an identical case that took place in New York the year before.
    • “Pledging Mr. Johnson” was based loosely on the death of a fraternity pledge in the sixties due to a swallowing raw liver initiation.
    • The Season 2 premiere "Burked" was based heavily on the murder of Ted Binion, right down to the cause of death and the victim being the son of a casino magnate.
    • "Leaping Lizards," involving the murder of a woman involved in a UFO group that believed in the existence of reptilian aliens, is loosely inspired by the murder of Girly Chew Hossencofft, whose con artist ex-husband convinced a UFO believer that she was a reptilian who needed to die.
  • Every season of Damages features this:
    • Season 1 was based on Enron's pension scheme shenanigans.
    • Season 2 was partly based on fracking pollution scandals and partly on Enron's manipulation of the energy market.
    • Season 3 revolved around the family of a stockbroker who had been caught and convicted of running the largest Ponzi scheme in history but definitely wasn't Bernie Madoff, honest.
    • Season 4 dealt with a Brand X of Blackwater and secret CIA torture in Afghanistan.
    • Finally, Season 5 was based on WikiLeaks and the sex crime accusations against Julian Assange.
  • The first three seasons of the Canadian crime series Da Vinci's Inquest dealt with the main characters attempting to find out who was behind the disappearances of prostitutes in and around the Vancouver area. The show was inspired by the real-life kidnappings of prostitutes by B.C. pig farmer Robert Pickton (he hadn't been caught at the time the show began), and numerous episodes contained characters speaking at length on the failure of the Vancouver police department to find the killer. When Pickton was caught, the creators dropped the plotline altogether.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation
    • Season 3, In one of the series' many Gay Aesop stories, Marco's shoes get stolen when he's the victim of a hate crime, much like Matt Sheppard, only not as lethal.
    • Season 13, In a plot that seems to be blatantly following this trope, basketball player Miles and his best friend are shown taking photos of and carrying Zoë (who is inebriated and unconscious) into the pool house where she is later recorded being raped by unknown assailants, resembling the Steubenville rape case. The rapists turn out to be members of the hockey team, again similar to the Steubenville case (in which they were football players).
  • Doctor Who used to encourage its writers to do this from time to time:
    • "Planet of Giants" is rooted in the then-recent release of the book Silent Spring, which highlighted the damage DDT was allegedly doing to bird populations. The story concerns an ecologically-devastating pesticide.
    • "The War Machines" featured the newly-built and cutting-edge technology of the Post Office Tower, as well as theoretical new concepts like computers all over the world linked together via telephone lines (which of course is presented as the computer ringing people up to talk to them with words).
    • "The Tenth Planet". Writer Kit Pedler was asked to write about something in the science world that concerned him. Early robotic prosthetic limbs and implantable artificial pacemakers were emerging at the time and so he chose to create a race of Cyborgs that had replaced most of their human bodies with machinery - the Cybermen.
    • "Inferno" concerns a plot to drill through the Earth's crust, inspired by the Kola Superdeep Borehole, a project to do the same thing that began in 1970.
    • "The Curse of Peladon" dealt with political intrigue on a monarchal planet around the time its various power players have thoughts on whether or not the planet should join the Galactic Federation - right around the time Britain was deciding whether or not to join the European Economic Community.
    • "The Green Death" concerns a mushroom that can be used to replace meat - at the time there was a fear of protein rich foods becoming scarce within the next twenty years and so scientists were researching alternative protein sources derived from mushrooms and yeast, including the research that went on to create Quorn.
    • "The Robots of Death" has a plot about robots that instinctively creep people out - basically, the Uncanny Valley effect, which had been newly described at the time.
  • Dragnet was based on actual events and was made with as much realism as possible.
  • Shortly after a posthumous investigation found media personality Jimmy Savile guilty of many historical sex crimes, EastEnders announced a similar plotline where Kat Slater (who was already established to have been raped by her uncle when she was 13) is asked to come forward in relation to allegations made against him by other victims after his death.
  • The Elementary episode "We Are Everyone" has for its Killer of the Week a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Edward Snowden, with the added element of him holding the identities of several American moles hostage to avoid capture.
  • Subverted by Fargo. Like the film that inspired it, it is not based on actual events as it claims to be.
  • When driving home from work, Frasier notices a statuesque woman standing on a street corner. Being the gentleman he is, he offers her a lift. The moment she gets in his car, police lights flash, and he's arrested for soliciting a prostitute. In jail, he asserts that he was just giving her a ride, but the cops don't believe him. When Niles & Martin come to bail him out (disgusted that he would be so immoral) the prostitute is led out of the other interrogation room, no longer wearing "her" wig, and apologizes (in a now more masculine voice) for getting Frasier in trouble. The look on all three of their faces is priceless.
    Martin: (to Frasier) You're my son and I love you.
This comes from an incident when Eddie Murphy was caught picking up a transgender hooker, and insisted that he was just giving her a ride home.
  • Ghost Whisperer and Law & Order: Criminal Intent did episodes based on the Tri-State Crematory scandal, where corpses were never cremated and "piled like cord wood" in the undergrowth. Ghost Whisperers caretaker was just old and senile while CIs caretaker was both bad at business and using the undergrowth to hide bodies for his assassin brother. Said brother was also trying to give him business advice, to no avail.
  • The Good Wife:
    • In the episode "Whack-a-Mole", after a bombing in Milwaukee an Internet witch-hunt starts up on a website that is totally not Reddit. The witch is an Arab-American anthropology professor who kinda looks like a blurry photograph not-Reddit thinks is the bomber. This was clearly lifted from what happened on the real Reddit after the Boston Marathon bombings, except the real Reddit didn't end up getting sued for defamation.
    • Another episode had a trial in an airport after a member of the National Security Agency was retained there for "inadvertently" leaving the country in possession of a USB with data from his job. In the real life Edward Snowden case, there was never a trial, since he reached Hong Kong and leaked the data before the NSA knew anything about it, let alone could stop him. note 
  • Like in its predecessor series, The Good Fight has its share of these... but perhaps the most pointed was an episode about a crime series burying its "ripped from the headlines" episode based on the Trump Administration, which was seen as a pointed Take That! to SVU for burying its own "ripped from the headlines" episode based on Trump's "grab them by the pussy" comments that came out during his campaign.
  • One episode of Grounded for Life was promo-ed as "ripped from the headlines", when a character's interference causes the Yankees to lose a game. Except that the real game was between the Marlins and Cubs, and the episode was a rerun.
  • The Hawaii Five-0 episode "Kupale" is based partly on the real-life drama of the Hawaii Superferry.
  • Holby City has managed to time storylines so they appear onscreen at the same time a story is just becoming big news thanks to industry insiders - the producers received a heads up on a story about dodgy breast implants in France several months before it actually broke, and the story was only becoming a major scandal at the same time the resulting related plot appeared on screen. As well as this, there is a series of episodes involving John Gaskell and a "Miracle Cure" for someone to walk, which is based on the David Noakes scandal.
  • House did an episode based upon the case of Whitney Cerak and Laura VanRyn. Two young women similar in appearance and build were misidentified after sustaining horrific injuries in an accident. In the House episode, as in real life, one of the women did not survive and the other woman's care was supervised by the deceased woman's family. So did CSI: NY, with the twist (of course) being the "dead" girl's mother accidentally killed her own daughter, who she (and everyone else) thought was the party-girl "survivor". Later in the series, the episode "Hide Sight" drew from the cases of the Stayner brothers, Steven (I Know My First Name Is Steven) and Cary, and the episode "Misconceptions" was based on the disappearance of Etan Patz.
  • How to Get Away with Murder:
    • The first season's storyline behind Lila Stangard's murder was eerily similar to the real-life death of Elisa Lam, a Canadian tourist whose body was discovered in the water tank of a Los Angeles hotel. As a whole, the series often tackled serious modern issues such as racial disparities in the criminal system, generational trauma, bi erasure, and recidivism, among others.
    • Season two's "Skanks Get Shanked" seems to have been inspired by the murder of Skylar Neese, a teenage girl who was murdered in cold blood by her two best friends in 2012.
  • Hustle was notorious for doing this when choosing marks to be conned by the con artists. Over 8 seasons, marks included bailed out bankers on massive pensions, expense-fiddling MPs, and lying journalists. Cons included selling the Ashes trophy that England had just regained after 18 years, selling London landmarks to reduce the UK deficit, and selling bogus 2012 London Olympic torch runs.
  • JAG: Female combat pilots in the Navy? The War on Terror? Issues with various aircraft? Homeless veterans? Racial bigotry? Gays in the service? You pick 'em, this show has 'em in spades.
  • The Joan of Arcadia episode "No Bad Guy" contains a plot involving an elderly man who loses control while driving and causes numerous deaths by crashing into a farmer's market. As the episode's title suggests, the moral is that sometimes bad things just happen with no one to blame. However the case of George Russell Weller, on which the episode was based, was not so co cut and dried. There was evidence that the incident was a premeditated spree-killing.
  • Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital not only incorporated King's own roadside near-demise, but also did an episode based on the series-losing error by, and subsequent pariah status of, Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner.
  • L.A. Law:
    • It once had an episode based on the case of Angela Carder, a pregnant woman terminally ill with cancer forced to undergo premature cesarean section by court order. In Real Life, both died. On TV, the baby survived.
    • This was common for whatever the 'light' sub-plot was for L.A. Law. Lawsuits and criminal charges based around toad-lickers and bull semen were often fictionalized news bites.
  • Leverage often has this, with episodes based on the Upper Big Branch mine disaster and Pfizer's rather bad week of quality control, among others. John Rogers often says on his blog that most of his stuff is just as pulled from the headlines as the other crime dramas, only with less sodomy with a violin bow. The Leverage team also took down a Madoff expy and Hank-Med was hired to treat another one.
  • One episode of Lie to Me was based on the Bernie Madoff blowup and the pilot had a similar plotline to the Elliot Spitzer scandal. Secret Santa lampshades this by referring to the event that inspired the episode.
  • Madam Secretary:
    • The second episode is literally called 'Another Benghazi', and deals with a dangerous situation outside the US Embassy in Yemen which Secretary Elizabeth McCord fears may escalate to the same level. They do, but the Genre Savvy Liz had private security in place who get the ambassador to safety this time.
    • Several season one episodes involve a fictionalized version of the talks on Iran's nuclear program that were being conducted by the Obama administration in real life at the time. It turns out in the end that Secretary Marsh's assassination was carried out by CIA Renegade Splinter Faction that wanted to solve the problem with regime change instead of peace talks.
    • "Spartan Figures" deals with the Greek debt crisis.
  • In Monty Python's Flying Circus, the story of the Piranha brothers and their pursuit by Superintendent Harry "Snapper" Organs is based on that of the Real Life Kray twins, who had recently been brought to justice by Insp. Leonard "Nipper" Read.
  • USA series Necessary Roughness, about a professional American Football team's therapist, has a major Season 2 story arc blatantly based off the then-contemporary New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
  • The Newsroom is set one to two years in the past, and follows journalists at a fictional cable news station as they cover real-life news stories from that time, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the first episode. Also, the News Night team's coverage of the fictional military operation, Operation Genoa, in the second season was based directly on CNN's coverage of Operation Tailwind in the late 1990s.
  • NUMB3RS does this - many episodes (including the pilot) are based on real-life cases, but not recent ones. For instance, the Season Five finale had a cult figure based off of Charles Manson, played by Gaius Baltar.
  • The main plot of the NYPD Blue episode "Roll Out The Barrel" is based on the murder of Reyna Angelica Marroquin, a crime discovered a few months before the episode aired.
  • In Oz, Ryan O'Reilly's mother was a member of a far left group that was based on The Weather Underground.
  • A TV movie called Pregnancy Pact, "based on a true story" according to the ads. Just like with the example mentioned for Bones above, the true story is that there was no pact and the story was nothing but rumor and bad journalism.
  • Queen Sugar: The show tends to incorporate recent political and social issues, especially ones affecting the African-American community. In particular, the show focuses heavily on police brutality and corporate greed destroying small towns and rural communities. It also touched on the deportation of undocumented migrants from Latin America following the Trump administration's controversial measures to separate migrant children from their parents/guardians at the American-Mexican border. Season 5 makes the COVID-19 Pandemic and George Floyd Protests integral to the story.
  • The plot of Scrubs episode "My Lunch" was ripped from a real case
  • The Secret Life of the American Teenager was made when the "teen pregnancy epidemic" scare was at its height. Pretty much the whole series was/is marketed on how it "realistically" portrays the lives of teen mothers.
  • Seinfeld: In "The Chicken Roaster", a branch of Kenny Rogers Roasters opens outside the characters' apartment building, with a large neon sign that shines straight into Kramer's apartment, making him unable to sleep. This was inspired by a real-life confrontation between a New York City branch of Kenny Rogers Roasters and a neighboring law office.
  • Sherlock: The attempt on Major Sholto's life is almost precisely how Empress Elisabeth of Austria was assassinated: stabbed with a thin weapon (a sharpened industrial file, in her case) and held together by fabric (her very tightly laced corset). She was killed for being royalty (and therefore responsible for the people's suffering, as Sholto was responsible for the death of his team) in the wrong place at the wrong time note  - just as Pvt. Bainbridge was nearly killed.
  • Shots Fired follows an investigation into the shootings of two unarmed teenagers, one white and one black. While the former isn't based on any particular incident, the latter is inspired by the 2015 death of Eric Harris, an unarmed black man who was accidentally shot by an unqualified "reserve" deputy after confusing his handgun for a taser.
  • Squid Game: Gi-hun's backstory of being a former automobile factory worker who is afflicted with PTSD after a worker's strike he organized was brutally quashed by authorities is most likely inspired by the SsangYong Motor Company strike of 2009, which similarly ended in police violence. Further evidence to this is that Gi-hun mentions that he missed his own daughter's birth because he had to help a dying friend during the strike; Gi-hun's daughter is 10-11 years old, and the show is set in mid-2020. Also, the company Gi-hun used to work with is called Dragon Motors; "SsangYong" means "Double Dragon" in Korean.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the two-part episode "Past Tense", Sisko, Bashir, and Dax find themselves in the year 2024, where the United States has set up "sanctuary districts" for the homeless and long-term unemployed that have essentially become internment camps where the poor are sent to be forgotten by the rest of society. At the time (1994-95), Los Angeles' mayor proposed something very like Sanctuary Districts while they were filming the episode.
    • A variation occurred in the middle of a space battle between the Defiant and some Klingon warships, where a civilian transport decloaked and was promptly blown away by Worf, thinking it was an attacker. The episode, "Rules of Engagement", focused on Worf being on trial over the incident. A similar incident, involving a US AEGIS cruiser and an Iranian civilian airliner flying through the middle of a battle and getting shot down took place, and the captain ended up on trial for it... back in 1988, almost a decade before this episode aired.
  • Both Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard received some backlash due to their unsubtle use of current events (Donald Trump's presidency and Brexit in particular), as well as making clear the writers' view on the matters. note 
  • Street Legal's two-hour series finale, "Last Rights", is loosely based on the case of Sue Rodriguez, an assisted suicide advocate who died one week before the final regular episode aired.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: The main plot of "Big Hair & Baseball", in which Mr. Moseby becomes a pariah after catching a baseball and causing the Boston Red Sox to lose, is an obvious rip on the Steve Bartman fiasco.
  • Supernatural:
    • Season 1, episode 15 (The Benders) features a family named after The Bloody Benders, a serial killer family from the late 1800s (though their MO is closer to 20th century serial killer Robert Hansen).
    • Another episode, aired not even one year after Josef Fritzl was arrested, had Sam and Dean come across the incestuous descendants of a man that imprisoned his daughter in the cellar and raped her. Dean even comments that "this sounds like something out of the Austrian newspapers".
  • Tehran: Mossad's operation to disable Iranian anti-aircraft defenses for a potential Israeli air strike is (likely) inspired by the Israeli Air Force's air strike operation when they bombed the incomplete Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.
  • Regularly inverted in The Thick of It, which has become infamous for predicting real life political policies and gaffes. However, played straight in Series 4 with the Goolding Inquiry, which is largely based off of the 2011-12 Leveson Inquiry which came as a result of the News Inrernational phone hacking scandal.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • "King Nine Will Not Return" was inspired by the story of the Lady Be Good, a World War II bomber which crashed in the Libyan desert on April 4, 1943, but was rediscovered in 1958, only two years before this episode aired. The missing crew likewise refers to the missing crew of the Lady Be Good, who were later discovered to have perished trekking across the desert under the mistaken belief they were near the Mediterranean Sea, instead of over 400 miles inland. Finally, the date on Sgt. William F. Kline's grave is April 5, 1943, the day after that the Lady Be Good vanished.
    • Rod Serling wrote "The Shelter" in direct response to the social discourse and anxieties during the ongoing Berlin Crisis.
    • "Deaths-Head Revisited" was inspired by the capture and ongoing trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the main architects of The Holocaust.
    • "The Parallel" was inspired by John Glenn becoming the first American to orbit Earth aboard the Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962.
    • "The Bewitchin' Pool" was inspired by Earl Hamner, Jr. reading about the increasing divorce rate for married couples and its effects on children in the San Fernando Valley of California.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is about the titular Kimmy Schmidt, who was taken at the age of 13 by an Apocalypse Cult leader and forced to live in his basement for 15 years. It mostly references the Ariel Castro case (in which 3 women were kept in Castro's basement for 11 years) as well as a little bit of the FLDS church with the outfits they were forced to wear.
  • The CBS show Unforgettable, about a detective that can remember everything that ever happened to her, has this in the episode "Check Out Time". The episode was about a Dominican hotel maid who was accused of murdering someone, but claimed he was attempting to rape her. The plot revolves around the detectives solving the questionable story. The story was pretty obviously based on the then-recent case involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged rape of an African hotel maid with a questionable story.
  • Happened accidentally on The Unit, in an episode where the members of the unit infiltrate Syria to rescue Jonas' daughter, despite being strictly told not to do so because it constitutes as an act of war against a sovereign nation. Just two weeks before the episode was aired, there were actual news reports of an American attack in Syria, involving an infiltration team and helicopters. While the episode itself was (probably) written and filmed long before these events, the fact that it aired two weeks after it actually happened makes this a curious accidental case. (In point of fact, such a coincidence would usually lead to such an episode being pulled by the network and rescheduled for later, on account of it being too soon.)
  • Van Kooten En De Bie: Many of their sketches were based on events that were in the media during the week of broadcast.
  • The West Wing did this at least once, with the Lowell Lydell arc in the first based on the death of Matthew Shepard.
  • Many of the scenarios featured on What Would You Do? reflect real world incidents.
  • Without a Trace premiered in the fall of 2002, after a summer full of infamous kidnapping cases note , including that of Elizabeth Smart, whose story was profiled at the end of the ninth episode "In Extremis" (Every episode concluded with a blurb on a Real Life missing persons case). In particular, the episode "Maple Street" is based on the 2002 disappearance and murder of Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis. With a slightly happier ending—in Real Life, both girls were found dead months later, whereas on the show, one was found alive.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati: The 1980 episode "In Concert," in the wake of a tragic incident at a December 1979 The Who concert in (where else) Cincinnati, where 11 people were trampled to death in a stampede prior to the concert. The real-life events are set within the context of the show's fictional universe, with station personnel engaged in their usual banter and fun and games in promoting the concert in the first act, and then coming to grips with the events of the concert in the second act and vowing to call for action. The episode went on to earn critical acclaim from many who saw the episode, calling to attention a dangerous phenomenon that had fortunately never happened anywhere else.

  • The Beatles had two in the same album: Paul wrote "She's Leaving Home" after reading about a girl who hit the road, and John wrote "A Day in the Life" based on two news articles (the car accident and the holes found in a road; The Film of the Book in another stanza is probably How I Won The War, in which he worked).
  • This was common during the Protest Song movement of the early 1960s. Singers like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs would write songs, often using old folk melodies, about current events. Three of the best examples of this are Dylan's "Lonesome Death of Hattie Caroll," about the real-life killing of a poor black maid by a bored aristocrat. "Hurricane", about black boxer Hurricane Carter, who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for killing several patrons at a bar (he was later exonerated and set free). And "Who Killed Davy Moore" about the boxer who died in the ring. Phil Ochs' "Outside A Small Circle of Friends" commemorates the Kitty Genovese murder, where a supposed 38 witnesses did nothing (not entirely true) because they "didn't want to get involved." Ochs (who studied journalism) called himself a "singing journalist" and titled his first album "All the News That's Fit to Sing".
  • Dylan and Ochs both followed the footsteps of Woody Guthrie, who wrote songs like this; "Pretty Boy Floyd" and "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" are probably the most famous.
  • His son Arlo Guthrie belongs here as well, the littering incident from "Alice's Restaurant" made the local newspaper before he wrote the song.
  • At least a couple David Bowie songs were inspired by current events. The immensely-acclaimed "Time Will Crawl" was inspired by Bowie's hearing of the Chernobyl Disaster on the radio in Switzerland, while the title track of Black Tie White Noise came from Bowie being a firsthand witness to the 1992 race riots in Los Angeles. A somewhat milder (yet also more extreme) example of this trope can be seen with the album Heathen, on which are several tracks that were rather heavily influenced by the September 11 Attacks.
  • The idea for Stone Temple Pilots' song "Plush" is, according to singer Scott Weiland, partially taken from an article he read in the paper one day about a woman's murder.
  • Nirvana's "Polly" was based on the kidnapping and brutal rape of a girl who eventually escaped from her attacker. Cobain later found out that two boys ended up singing the song while raping a different girl, inspiring the song "Rape Me", making this a rare case where one "ripped from the headlines" work ended up leading to the creation of another.
  • "18 and Life" by Skid Row was written when guitarist Dave Sabo read a newspaper article about the event.
  • Superchic[k]'s "Hero" seems in response to claims of bullying in schools and/or teen suicides.
  • The album "The Crusade" by heavy metal band Trivium had four examples of this; "Entrance of the Conflagration" (about the murder of four children by their mother Andrea Yates), "Unrepentant" (about Nazir Ahmad's murder of his four daughters), "Contempt Breeds Contamination" (about the racially-influenced killing of a Guinean immigrant by four cops in New York), and "And Sadness Will Sear" (about the hate-driven torture and murder of Matthew Shepard).
  • The murder of Matthew Shepard also inspired Melissa Etheridge's song "Scarecrow."
    • "Blasphemous Rumours" is a song that's actually about the lead singer's sister.
  • The song "Maria Navarro" by Was/Not Was. Maria Navarro called 911 because her estranged husband had threatened to kill her. Dispatchers ignored the call and Maria died.
  • The Decemberists' "12/17/12" was written as a way for Colin Meloy to cope with the conflicting feelings between his happy personal life and the suffering of the victims of the then-recent Sandy Hook shooting.
  • To an extent, the song about Tom Dooley.
  • The 1993 Duran Duran album track "Sin of the City" (from The Wedding Albumnote ) was basically a recount of the 1990 fire at the Happy Land, a nightclub in The Bronx, that killed 87 people (though the lyrics state, "89 dead").
  • Another song inspired by the Happy Land fire was "Happy Land" by seminal New Wave/punk rock musician Joe Jackson.
  • Gordon Lightfoot wrote and recorded two noteworthy songs about true events; his hit single "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" was in fact about the 1975 sinking of the American Great Lakes freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald, and "Black Day in July", a 1968 song about the 1967 Detroit race riots.
  • Brenda Ann Spencer's 1979 shooting rampage that killed two people and injured nine others was the inspiration for The Boomtown Rats' song ''I Don't Like Mondays." The title of the song was what she stated was her reason for doing it.
  • Bruce Springsteen's "American Skin (41 Shots)", from the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo by four New York City police officers.
    • Living Colour also do live covers of this song.
    • Springsteen's "Nebraska" is about the Charles Starkweather murder spree.
  • Rush: The song "Heresy" from the album Roll the Bones was written about Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • The song "The Way" by Fastball is based on a news story from 1997 about an elderly couple from Salado, Texas, who disappeared on their way to a local event being held in Temple, and were later found dead at the bottom of a 25 foot cliff just a few miles outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas (more than 500 hundred miles from their destination). Lead singer Tony Scalzo was inspired to write lyrics about a presumably middle-aged couple who just got fed up with their lives and reality, and abandoned their children and everything else for a chance to find paradise. The refrain still makes it clear that they've reached Heaven, but their ghosts can still be seen wandering.
  • "The Modest Revolution" by Enter The Haggis is based entirely on articles from a single issue of the Toronto Globe and Mail. The second track ""Can't Trust The News"" is based on a woman who, after some horrible couple years climbed the highest peak on each continent. In her 60's.
    • A significant number of their other songs are based on true stories.
  • The Gazette's song "Taion" is allegedly based on the murder of Junko Furuta, a seventeen-year-old girl who was kidnapped and tortured for an entire month before her abusers killed her.
  • "Bind Torture Kill" by Suffocation, off their Self-Titled Album, is loosely inspired by the serial killer Dennis Rader, who was arrested about a year before the album's release. The lyrics themselves are more about the mindset of a serial killer than any of Rader's specific murders, though.
  • "Hey Man Nice Shot" by Filter is about the politician Budd Dwyer, a Pennsylvania state treasurer who was accused of corruption. Vehemently claiming his innocence until the end, in early 1987 Dwyer called a press conference during which he read half of a prepared statement and then shot himself. The song was released in 1995 and its timing and subject matter lead many to speculate it was written about the similar suicide of Kurt Cobain but it was written in 1991.
  • Pearl Jam's single "Jeremy" from Ten is about the suicide of Jeremy Wade Delle, a 15-year-old boy from Richardson, Texas. On January 8th, 1991, Delle shot himself in the mouth with a revolver in front of his teacher and his classmates, and so Eddie Vedder was moved to write the song both as an anti-bullying anthem and as an anti-suicide anthem, and is now one of their most well-known songs.
  • The music video for "Learn To Fly" by Foo Fighters was inspired by an incident where the Drug Enforcement Agency discovered cocaine stashed away inside the nose cone of a commercial jet. The band took this idea and ran with it, featuring Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D scrambling to hide away some cocaine before they're caught. They stash it inside the coffee maker, which results in everyone getting high as balls, including the flight crew. This leaves the band members themselves, who had already been served other drinks before-hand, to make an emergency landing.
  • The Bee Gees "New York Mining Disaster 1941". (To be picky, it was inspired by the Aberfan Mining Disaster 1966, according to the other Wiki.)
  • The Title Track of Five Miles Out by Mike Oldfield is autobiographical - the unexperienced pilot of his machine directly flew into a storm, and they all survived only with a lot of luck.
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had "Ohio", a Protest Song penned by Neil Young about the 1970 Kent State shootings.
  • The Soft Cell song "Sex Dwarf" was inspired by a headline which Marc Almond read in the (now defunct) British tabloid The News of the World. Ironically, the duo found themselves on the wrong end of tabloid headlines after the song's video was reported to the police because of its sexually explicit content.
  • "Miracle Man" by Ozzy Osbourne is based on Jimmy Swaggart, a televangelist with whom Osbourne had butted heads who was caught in a prostitution scandal in 1988. Seems Osbourne couldn't resist the urge to call out "Jimmy Sinner" on his hypocrisy. Similarly, the previous year saw Ray Stevens release "Would Jesus Wear a Rolex?" in response to the sexual and financial scandals that brought down PTL Network founder Jim Bakker.
  • Being a punk band, Rise Against has a number of songs like this. "Make It Stop (September's Children)" was based on a number of prominent suicides of gay youths that were rooted in a history of harassment and bullying; the song even recites their names.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dick Tracy was created out of Chester Gould's disgust at criminals like Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde getting lionized in the papers as folk heroes and decided to create a police detective determined to stop them.
  • Mary Worth of all things had a story arc where Wilbur and Dawn go on a cruise in Italy that ends up mimicking the Costa Concordia disaster, six months after the events in question.
  • Peanuts had a few story arcs inspired by real-world events, like the passing of Comet Kohoutek (where Snoopy expresses worry about it harboring The End of the World as We Know It), or Hank Aaron's attempts to beat Babe Ruth's record for career home runs (with Snoopy in the running as well).
  • De Rechter: Many of the comics are based on recent headlines from the newspapers the comic is published in.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Lakers\Celtics National Basketball Association rivalry stretching back to 1954 led the National Wrestling Alliance to try and create a similar rivalry at least once. In the 1980s, where the two teams met in the NBA finals three times, it was Ric Flair (Lakers) vs Dusty Rhodes (Celtics).
  • Michael Fay being sentenced to punishment by caning in Singapore in 1994 led to the Singapore Cane match held by ECW between Tommy Dreamer and Sandman.
  • Kenny King and Rhett Titus's Ring of Honor "Cabinet" campaign to "Make wrestling great again" obviously echoed many complaints pro wrestling fans had for years, but outside of the wrestling bubble it even more obviously paralleled the 2016 presidential elections of the USA, particularly in its use of Straw Fan plants meant to drown out the ticket-buying fans. The follow up "Rebellion" which saw the additions of Caprice Coleman and Shane Taylor were, in turn, playing on the fallout from the election.

    Puppet Shows 

  • The radio show Dragnet claimed: "The story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent" at the start of every show. Jack Webb took great pains to be realistic, down to counting the number of footsteps to go from one place to another in the LAPD police station. The shows WERE based on actual events.

  • John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer — which, with his Nixon In China, are nicknamed "CNN Operas".
  • The opera Der Lindberghflug (The Lindbergh Flight) by Bertolt Brecht with music by Kurt Weill and Paul Hindemith.
  • Before Maurine Watkins wrote a little play called Chicago, she worked for a while reporting for the Chicago Tribune, which assigned her to cover a few murder trials. Roxie Hart was an only barely fictionalized version of Beulah Annan, described in Watkins' reporting as "the prettiest murderess in Cook County." Velma Kelly had a real-life counterpart as well. So, for that matter, did the Hungarian immigrant who speaks little English; her counterpart was an Italian immigrant named Sabella Nitti, who spoke no English, worked for Velma's counterpart, Belva Gaertner, was convicted of beating her farmer husband to death with a hammer and chopping him into pieces, and was hanged.
  • Twilight: Los Angeles is a series of interviews with people that were in Los Angeles during the riots in 1992.
  • From Macbeth: The Tiger, wracked at sea "Sennights nine times nine", was based off the then-recent story of a ship called the Tiger's Whelp. This ship had disappeared at sea and been presumed lost in 1604, but returned to port five hundred sixty-seven days later.
  • Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story is based on the real Leopold and Loeb, who appeared to have murdered a young boy simply because they thought they could get away with it. It takes a few artistic liberties to make Nathan Leopold more sympathetic, and they also made Nathan and Richard older and their victim younger. (Though a lot of the dates given in the show are weird, so this may have been unintentional.)
  • Margin for Error is an extrapolated fictionalization of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia's assignment of an all-Jewish police detail to guard the German consulate in New York City in the wake of Kristallnacht. (The non-appearing mayor of the play is left unnamed, as is the city.)

    Video Games 
  • Animal Restaurant: Dr. Puppy was added to the game in March 2020, and his appearance and dialogue are a reference to the COVID-19 Pandemic. He wears a hazmat suit and goggles and carries a bottle of spray sanitizer.
    Dr. Puppy: This is a protective suit, I'm here to sanitize the restaurant. Recently, there has been an infectious virus spreading in the human world.
    Eggy: Oh my! Dori, let's call it a day and go home!
    Dr. Puppy: Don't worry, at this moment, cats will not contract the virus. However, everyone should take care of their hygiene and wash their hands regularly at all times!
  • Civilization V: Gods and Kings, released in 2012, added the Maya civilisation into the game, and included several references to the various "2012 Mayan apocalypse" conspiracies.
  • Crazy Taxi, wherein you play as a hilariously reckless cabbie in downtown San Francisco, was inspired by the chaos created by the SFO "Short Run" cab system, allowing cab drivers to move to the front of the airport taxi line if they dropped off earlier passengers within a certain time, getting a time limit extension to half an hour in the late 1990s. This incentivized drivers to speed and otherwise flagrantly violate traffic laws in order to get passengers to the downtown hotels and return to the airport within the 30 minute window, with predictable results.
  • The plot to SPY Fox in Dry Cereal was fueled by California's Got Milk? campaign. William the Kid even mocks it in the intro.
    William the Kid: Got milk? Not anymore!
  • The Emergency! series has a few of these. In the first game, the aerobatic plane crashing into a diner was allegedly based on the Ramstein Air Show disaster. Emergency 2 includes a collision involving a nuclear submarine.
    • Emergency 4 features pseudo-Palestinian activists abducting a plane and forcing it to land on the airport of a pseudo-Arabian country, only for the player to storm it with German special forces. Then there are also deluxe missions involving an earthquake in pseudo-Afghanistan, a level 7 nuclear accident in pseudo-Ukraine, and a humanitarian escort operation in pseudo-Sierra Leone.
  • Word of God is that the classic Choplifter! was inspired by the Iranian Hostage Crisis of The '70s.
  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number provides an in-universe example with the filming of Midnight Animal, a schlocky, B-grade slasher film loosely based on the events of the first game and made while Jacket's trial for said events is underway. It presents Jacket as a huge, emotionless killer who merely hallucinates the phone messages telling him to kill and rape, and makes the blonde into an Action Girl.
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 became the first major game to acknowledge the COVID-19 Pandemic, with a few background details showing that the game takes place during it. There's a facemask accessory, a billboard in "School" mentions learning from home, and other billboards in "Downtown" display COVID-related PSA's. Helpfully, this does a good job of explaining why the game's environments are devoid of bystanders and pedestrians.
  • Tsuki Adventure: One of Crush's lines while reading his newspaper is a reference to the COVID-19 Pandemic:
    Crush: Oh wow these are some crazy times... An entire country on lockdown...
  • Numerous events in Hypnospace Outlaw are clearly inspired by real events. One subplot involves a soda company reviving an 80s soda that's become nostalgic online, which Word of God implied is the same as the Rick and Morty Schezuan Sauce debacle.
  • The plot of YIIKA Postmodern RPG kicks off with the mysterious death of a beautiful young Asian woman who is last seen on an elevator security camera video. Creator Brian Allanston has admitted this was based on the highly publicized death of Elisa Lam, which many people denounced as disrespectful (predictably so to anyone familiar with Allanston's life and work).
  • Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny: Piyori Nijino is the newest leader of the recurring Prism Rangers Joke Characters. She fights evil in the TV World hoping that it will improve the sagging ratings of the show since it gets cancelled, the entire world will be destroyed. Super Sentai has been on a steep decline in both TV ratings and (more importantly) toy sales for years, to the point that there were some credible rumours back in 2019 that the franchise would be canned or at the very least put on hiatus if the situation didn't improve.
  • Terranigma: Doctor Beruga successfully unleashing the Asmodeus virus in Neotokyo, killing the entire population of the city save for a young girl has been compared to the Tokyo subway sarin attack that took place early on the same year that the game was published. It's been theorized that, along with the religious overtones and some rather disturbing deaths, are the reasons as to why the game never made it to America despite being released in Europe.

    Visual Novels 
  • A significant amount of the plot of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney involves the introduction of the Jurist System in the Ace Attorney universe. At the time of the game's release, Japan was undergoing a similar process and having the first jury trials in decades.
  • Similarly, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies is set in what's called "the Dark Age of the Law," where people have largely lost faith in the legal system, and attorneys on both sides have adopted a motto of "the end justifies the means" to get the verdict they want. This was based on cases from the real-life Japanese legal system a few years prior to the game's release that exposed many Japanese prosecutors for being shockingly corrupt. The most famous case involved a man's innocence being proven decades after he was convicted when it came to light that not only had prosecutors hidden evidence but had outright tortured the suspect into signing a false confession. And that wasn't the only case.
  • My Two First Loves has this happen in Chapter 41 if both Mason and/or Noah are black or Latino. The game even provides a Content Warning to outright skip the scene since it's just about a re-enactment of the George Floyd arrest in May 2020.

  • In Educomix, the American government apparently has software to collect information from everyone's computers, like the real-life NSA scandal.

    Web Original 
  • One write-up in AH World Cup is about the controversy of the tournament ball and how some players have difficulty playing with it. A similar controversy to the Jabulani ball controversy in the 2010 World Cup.
  • In Cracked's A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever, the disease that Inspirationally Disadvantaged Guy suffers from is said to be "the most topical disability of the present year".
  • Channel Awesome's To Boldly Flee takes a lot of jabs at SOPA and other anti-web freedom acts that have been circulating. One of the minor villains wrote the fake act and the head of the MPAA is one of the major villains of the story. Though due to various delays, some fans accused these references of being outdated, as SOPA was long dead by the time the series was released. Doug and Rob countered that while that particular act might have been defeated, the fight to keep the Internet free will still go on, with more effort on the part of people like them than most people probably realize.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park: They use this once every two episodes. They can put an episode together in a mere couple of hours so they can be very topical. Notable is the episode just after 9/11 where the boys travel to Afghanistan, the episode about Kenny being kept on life support when God wanted him to die because the devil would attack heaven and Kenny was the only one able to stop him, and the episode featuring an Ocean's Eleven-style heist by 2008 the presidential candidates & their running mates that aired the day after Obama was elected.

    Word of God says that they had planned to have Obama win anyways. They thought it would have been funny if McCain had won. They referred to it as a potential "Dewey Defeats Truman" situation. And they did the same thing with the aptly named title "Obama Wins" which had the episode title announced the day before the election and aired the day after. Thankfully they managed to evade the Dewey/Truman situation twice but this backfired in season 20, when Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election forced massive rewrites to the Story Arc that had been written when most assumed that Hillary Clinton would win, resulting in dropped plotlines and a Broken Base.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer Simpson's mother was based on a member of the far left group The Weather Underground.
    • "Much Apu About Nothing" was inspired by news reports about Proposition 187 and of bears being sighted prowling the streets of Southern California.
    • The $378.53 phone bill that Lisa ran up from the phone calls she made to the Corey hotline in "Brother From The Same Planet" is based on this true story.
  • Futurama's instances of this are noteworthy (particularly post-revival) because the writers mine present-day controversies for material, despite the show taking place a thousand years from now.
    • "Naturama" is a non-controversy-related example. One of the fake documentary segments involves Professor Farnsworth as the last Pinta Island Tortoise, known as "Lonesome Hubert". It aired only months after Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island Tortoise in real life, died.
  • Princess Cadence of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, being essentially Kate Middleton with hooves, has had two stories ripped from the headlines, albeit several months late due to production schedules: the Royal Wedding, and her pregnancy.
  • The "Hank After Dark" episode of Bojack Horseman is about a beloved TV personality who habitually sexually assaults women he meets in the industry, with overt similarities to the rape accusations against Bill Cosby and David Letterman's sexual relations with female subordinates.
  • The Cleveland Show episode "All You Can Eat" is based on the 2010 Itawamba County school prom controversy.
  • Family Guy: The episode "The D in Apartment 23" in which Brian becomes a pariah after posting a racist tweet, is based on the online shaming Justine Sacco suffered when she did the same. The tweet itself even is paraphrased from Sacco's.
    Sacco's tweet: Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!
    Brian's tweet: About to see the new Kevin Hart movie. Just kidding. I'm white and went to college.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: The premise of "Operation: U.N.C.O.O.L." is about zombie nerds attacking the Kids Next Door because one operative stole a trading card from them. According to Mr. Warburton, the episode was inspired by a news headline about grown men ripping each other off in Pokémon trading card scams.

  • This blog post by one of the writers of Leverage discusses this trope.
  • The first round of 8 Out of 10 Cats is a poll of the news stories that the public has been talking about over the last week- as this tends to be more populist than the more politics-orientated Have I Got News for You, if the week sees something that might be in bad taste to joke about (such as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010), then the episode is replaced with a themed special (in that particular case, movies).
  • An odd subversion / inversion of the trope: While it is believed by some that Joe (1970) was based on the Honor-Related Abuse killing by Arville Garland of his 17-year-old daughter Sandy, her boyfriend and two of their friends, it was actually an instance of a horrible Real Life Coincidence Magnet. The Garland murders occurred while the film was in post-production. The film became a low-budget box office smash because of the Garland murders.


Video Example(s):


Shooting by the SIS

Honey Chandler has taken the case of Nicole Davis' family when a wrongful death suit was filed against officers involved in LA. Some of the protestors in the conference were showing pro-Black Lives Matter sign as they see the incident as a case of police brutality.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / RippedFromTheHeadlines

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