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Very Loosely Based on a True Story

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"The following is based on actual events. Only the names, locations, and events have been changed."

The truth is a funny thing. It's slippery, it's not always self-evident, it can seem implausible, it can even be inconvenient, and more often than not it's just plain boring. Very Loosely Based On A True Story occurs when a writer decides that reality just doesn't pack enough punch in some way, and decides to improve on the historical record. Arguably, this has actually saved some, er...true stories. For example, The Patriot would have been two and a half hours of a group of Minute Men hiding for hours in swamps sniping English troops and then running away had they kept it true to the historical events of the time. Doesn't exactly sound riveting, does it?


This isn't always a bad thing; after all, having the Von Trapps climb a mountain to freedom was much more uplifting to Cold War audiences than sticking them on a train to Italy would have been. The problem comes when writers go too far and take all semblance of reality out of a character they claim to have based on a real individual. It can leave knowledgeable members of the audience wondering if the writers only claimed to have based the story on a real event to attract fans, and it can leave less knowledgeable members thinking they know more than they really do about the past.

Very Loosely Based On A True Story often occurs because of Executive Meddling, especially if some of the characters are based on living persons who might sue them if the depiction is too unsympathetic. Another motive is making characters less three-dimensional so as not to confuse viewers: producers may think Viewers Are Morons who simply won't accept, say, a socialist/atheist/gay/etc. hero, or a villain who loves his spouse or pets his dog. In other cases, the facts of real historical incidents will be changed because they don't fit into Hollywood History or because the truth would be inconvenient, as when cowboys in old Westerns were all played by white actors when many real cowboys were black, Hispanic or American Indian.


This is a common enough phenomenon in books and movies based on supposed paranormal events that this prologue was originally only about movies based on paranormal stories. Paranormals often have to be exaggerated because the original narratives (especially supposed "eyewitness" accounts) tend not to be very plausible or exciting, especially to anyone with a grain of common sense. So filmmakers and writers edit the story to make it seem more dramatic, authentic, or in tune with society's (or the writers') beliefs about religion, the supernatural, and UFOs. They may even claim it really happened if they think that'll scare the viewers more.

There are two parts to this, stories with the actual names of the individuals involved and stories where everything except the general story is fictionalized (with considerable overlap).


This entire point can be lost on viewers. In particular, it is common for viewers outside of the United States to accept without question any depiction of the events in the United States in the popular entertainment media. This is why, for example, so many viewers outside of the United States praised Remember the Titans as unflinchingly accurate, when it was anything but.

If a film or book says it's Inspired by..., it's a sign that it'll be nowhere near the actual true story. If the resulting product is based on more than one real-life story, it's Patched Together from the Headlines.

See also Skepticism Failure, Documentary of Lies, Inspired by..., Suggested by..., Beethoven Was an Alien Spy. Anything based on Urban Legends overlaps with this trope pretty heavily. Compare Roman à Clef, which is tightly based on a true story, and Biopic.

Not to be confused with Based on a Great Big Lie. While it's sometimes hard to tell the difference, and there is usually overlap, this trope indicates that the central event/s actually happened but have been dressed up with fictional elements for the sake of telling a better story, whereas in the other trope the "central events" are fictional too.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Takashi Yanase's two most well-known stories are this. On one end, there is Anpanman which he created when Japan was starving after WWII. And then there is Ringing Bell which is about his experiences as a soldier in China during WWII. Interestingly, the first is oddly happy and crazy, given the inspiration. Ringing Bell, on the other hand....
  • In Innocents Shounen Juujigun, while Furuya very much took the story in his own direction, Etienne, the shepherd boy who claimed to be God's chosen child, actually existed. According to author's notes at the end of the manga, though, most of what's known about said story was likely heavily exaggerated to begin with. The fantasy elements and historical inaccuracies are what really earn the "loosely".
  • The Wind Rises takes quite a few liberties with the story of Jiro Horikoshi, mainly due to making him a Composite Character with mostly Tatsuo Hori (the film is dedicated to the two of them) but with some shades of Hayao Miyazaki’s father thrown in. In addition, the film's entire romantic subplot, down to the character of Naoko herself, is entirely fictional, with no corresponding scenario in real life. note  Jiro was married but his wife was a perfectly healthy woman with whom he had six children, she never had tuberculosis and didn’t die young.
  • Berserk's creator Kentaro Miura admitted to basing the Band of the Hawk off his high school years. Obviously, it can be taken that the real life story didn't end with the leader of the group selling out his friends to be killed and raped by demons in order to become a demon himself.

    Comic Books 
  • Alan Moore's From Hell was based primarily on an earlier book entitled Jack The Ripper: The Final Solution, which was later largely discredited. Moore, in the book's lengthy annotations, freely admits he doesn't believe a word of it, but was never one to let facts get in the way of a good story. Despite this, the actual history portrayed in the book was vigorously researched, more so than some scholarly works on the Ripper. The movie, however, plays fast and loose with both the conspiracy theory and the real history...and the source material , but that's beside the point.

    The book used, as part of its "evidence," the long-discredited The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, though mercifully taking it as anti-Masonic (the "Zion" in their interpretation being allegorical rather than literal) instead of anti-Semitic. This would be a good trick, as the "Protocols" weren't written until a decade or two after the Ripper murders, in Russia, intended for the eyes of Czar Nicholas II only, and weren't heavily publicized worldwide until well after World War I. However, they were based (word-for-word in parts) on a French anti-Masonic tract. Hell, one of the cited sources is the Illuminatus! Trilogy. It's pretty obvious Moore wasn't being entirely serious about accuracy.
  • Brian K. Vaughan's Pride of Baghdad is based on the true story of four lions who escaped the Baghdad zoo during the American bombing of 2003. The artist, Niko Henrichon, took Artistic License to make a backstory for the lions in the newspaper article.
  • In one of the more VERY loosely based, Bryan Lee O'Malley has claimed that Scott Pilgrim actually is based on a true story. The "true story" in this case being that he is Canadian and he met his American girlfriend (now ex-wife) Hope Larson while she was living in Canada.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Balto is very loosely based on the 1925 Great Race of Mercy, in which sled dogs helped transport vital medicine to Nome, Alaska to save the town from a Diptheria Epidemic, with the title character ultimately getting them home. In real life, Balto only ran the last leg of the race (and it wasn't even particularly long compared to what some of the other teams had to endure). For that matter, the real Balto was a purebred Siberian Husky, whereas his animated counterpart is a Wolf-Dog.
  • The Legend of the Titanic and its sequel In Search of the Titanic (aka. Tentacolino). The fact that the RMS Titanic incident is even referred to as a legend is the least of these two films' problems. The first film actually has the audacity to have everyone survive the shipwreck, resulting in a rare negative instance of Happily Ever After. And that's not even going into the subplots involving whaling, evil sharks teaming up with a whale-hunter to plan the shipwreck of the Titanic, talking dolphins, and a baby-faced octopus. (The last of whom being duped by the villains into placing the iceberg in the Titanic's way in the first place.) The second film drops any sense of relation to the actual incident left and brings Atlantis into the mess.
  • The Magic Voyage is supposedly a movie about the voyages of Christopher Columbus, but mostly the movie is utter madness that involves a talkative woodworm whose girlfriend, a fairy, is being held hostage by a hive mind of insects, and part of the reason Columbus is sailing to the New World is to help save her, among a lot of other things. It case it wasn't obvious already, this isn't exactly how things played out in real life.
  • Mary and Max claims to be based on a true story... of the director's decades-long penfriendship with the inspiration for Max, with Mary being entirely invented.
  • The Mockbuster Pocahontas (Golden Films) was this as well. It even added a living canoe for seemingly no reason.
  • Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers story "Northwestward": In-Universe, Bruce Wayne claims the comics and the television series are exaggerated versions of real events and people he encountered.
  • Pocahontas deserves special mention here: the movie is the first Disney animated story that is claimed to be "based on a true story", and by that of course, that Colonial Virginia had talking trees, magical Native Americans, numerous cliffs and nature scenes that are nowhere to be found in coastal Virginia and to beat a language barrier, one only needs to "listen with their heart". The creators made a point of doing the research — to the point of including detailed cultural advice from Russell Means (Lakhota) and Irene Bedard (Inupiat) — and then ignoring it in order to make the story seem more of a legend, so to speak. (And that's not even touching on other inaccuracies, such as the ages of Pocahontas and John Smith, and whether the whole "save Smith from execution" story was actually true or not.) Russ Means did say some of the magical elements are consistent with Native spiritual beliefs. Also notable is that the film ends on a bittersweet but ultimately hopeful note, suggesting that the heroes' actions will ensure that the native people and the Europeans will live in harmony. The less we say about what happened in real life the better.
  • The Secret of Kells is based on the actual Abbey of Kells, which was raided by Vikings (several times). There is even a Book of Kells, which doesn't exactly look like the one in the movie, but has mostly survived the raids for unknown reasons, but probably doesn't involve a fairy.
  • Space Jam is based on Michael Jordan's very much real 10-Minute Retirement from basketball. It can be safely assumed, however, that the real events did not involve him getting kidnapped by Looney Tunes to win their freedom from alien slavers.
  • Zarafa is based on the eponymous giraffe's journey to France. Starting with the Turks and Greeks being on opposite sides of the war in Egypt, it only gets worse from here, with buddhist cows and a Happy Ending that unfortunately didn't happen in real life.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 21 (and the book on which it's based, Bringing Down the House) is about the exploits of a blackjack card-counting team based at MIT. While there was such a team in real life, many of the film's key plot points were entirely invented by the book's author (who also co-wrote 21). Most of the supporting roles are Composite Characters, with one possibly based on three distinct individuals, and the Causasian protagonist was Chinese-American in real life.
  • Used In-Universe in 300 — the basic sequence of events is true to life, but the story is being told by a Greek storyteller who is playing up the Spartans' heroism and adding fantastic elements to the story. The movie itself is obviously not supposed to even remotely mirror the real battle, what with the giant monsters, the fortune-telling oracle, and the goat-boy. However, the film was still criticized for historical inaccuracy concerning the bits the narrator wouldn't have any reason to lie about (e.g. depicting the Ephors as priests of the Oracle rather than senior magistrates).
  • Adrift portrays a young couple who get stranded after their boat is caught in a hurricane. The man gets injured, and the woman has to repair, sail, navigate, and tend to her injured fiancé. In real life, she did all of that except the last — he had been lost in the storm at the beginning, so in the film she's just hallucinating.
  • Parodied in the trailer for Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which claims that "this story is based on real events. We have the movie to prove it."
  • After Earth was reportedly inspired by Will Smith seeing an episode of the reality/documentary series I Shouldn't Be Alive in which a father and son crash their car in a remote area and the son has to go for help alone. The finished film takes some liberties with that, given that it's Recycled In Space.
  • The Alphabet Killer was very loosely based on the story of three murders in the Rochester, New York area in the early 1970s.
  • An American Haunting, being an adaptation of an adaptation of a southern United States folk legend, takes several liberties with the story, most notably Betsy Bell's sexual abuse by her father.
  • American Hustle was very loosely based on the events regarding the FBI ABSCAM in the 70s and 80s. At the beginning of the film it offers the disclaimer, "Some of this actually happened."
  • The Amityville Horror (1979) is based on a real house in a small town where some murders had been committed; a family who later bought it quickly left, claiming it was haunted and the site of several strange phenomena. However, none of the other owners reported anything out of the ordinary (and the ones who did happened to be desperate to get out of their mortgage). Each subsequent adaptation took things farther and farther from the truth; the original book chronicled several incidents that provably didn't happen, the film made more things up, and the sequels and remakes were entirely fictitious, but all claimed a loose connection to the true story.
  • Parodied in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which opens with a title card claiming that it's a true story and "Only the names, locations, and events have been changed."
  • Anonymous is based on the theory that Edward DeVere, the Earl of Oxford, wrote William Shakespeare's plays. Aside from how that theory has little to no actual proof behind it, the movie has no grasp of chronology, presents Queen Elizabeth as having multiple bastard children (she's known as the "Virgin Queen" for a reason), and generally presents everyone involved in such a way that if they had any living descendants, it would be grounds for a defamation suit.
  • Apache: There really was a renegade Apache warrior named Massai (a.k.a. "the Apache Kid") who waged a campaign of terror across the US southwest on the late 1880s, and he was pursued by Al Sieber, Chief of Scouts for the 6th Cavalry. However, most the events of the film — including Massai's attack on Geronimo's surrender, and the mawkish sentimental ending — are complete fabrications.
  • April Showers was inspired by the Columbine school shooting, of which the writer-director was a survivor. It makes no pretense of actually being about Columbine (there's only one shooter, the school in question is called Jefferson High School, and so on), but it also doesn't make any attempt to hide that Columbine was the source of inspiration (the shooter shares the last name Harris with one of the Columbine shooters, some shots are stylized to look like security camera footage evoking the Columbine footage, the shooting pointedly occurs during the month of April, it was released on the 10th anniversary of the massacre, and so on).
  • Spoofed in the '90s remake of Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, where the scientist introducing the movie assures us that everything that happened is absolutely true.
  • The Bank Job: The government at the time put a D-Notice on the whole thing, so the movie presents itself as simple speculation on what might have happened.
  • The closing credits of Battle of the Bulge include this message:
    To encompass the whole of the heroic contributions of all the participants, places, names and characters, have been generalized and action has been synthesized in order to convey the spirit and the essence of the battle.
  • Battleship Potemkin: It's true that the sailors on that ship did mutiny. But the scene where the Imperial soldiers attack the crowd of people and knock a Baby Carriage down the Odessa Steps is pure fiction, worked into the story for propaganda purposes. Which didn't stop one of the soldiers involved from coming to the police and confessing about a double murder after watching the movie.
  • A Beautiful Mind completely misrepresents the work, career, family life, delusions, bizarre behavior, and cure of John Nash. Everybody in the movie is more sympathetic than the equivalent person in real life (the real John Nash's wife divorced him), but some critics think that the truth (that Nash recovered from schizophrenia without treatment) is too important to replace with an anodyne about loving families and putting your trust in psychiatrists. Liberties taken with Nash's story range from the egregious (not mentioning Nash's homosexual relationships) to Artistic License (Nash's hallucinations were strictly auditory, but that presents obvious problems for filmmaking) to avoiding Unfortunate Implications (Nash's delusions of a Communist conspiracy were about Jews in real life).
  • The 2001 drama The Believer, starring Ryan Gosling, is loosely based on an incident in the 1960s in which a New York Times reporter uncovered the fact that a high-ranking member of the American Nazi Party was Jewish (who killed himself when this was revealed). The movie is set in the present day and makes the closet Jew into a skinhead. The portrayal of this character and his psychological profile is largely fictional, but it was inspired by anecdotes about the real person, who seemed to oddly embrace parts of his Jewish heritage even as he scorned it.
  • The general premise of Better Luck Tomorrow — a bunch of overachieving Asian American teens start a crime ring and murder a fellow student — really happened, but the film changes their motivations and lifestyle, as well as everyone's names.
  • The Big Sick is based on the real life courtship of its scriptwriters, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, with one major exception: Emily's parents play a major role in the plot, but in reality Kumail didn't even meet her parents until after the events depicted in the film — the film version's parents are so different from their real counterparts as to be fictional characters.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic of Freddie Mercury, plays with the facts of his life, re-arranging the timeline, altering interpersonal dynamics, and inventing new people and events, including the movie's central conflict. (Cue the obligatory "real life/just fantasy" joke). One of the biggest criticisms the film faced is that it follows a pretty standard "music biopic" formula at the expense of the more interesting nuances of Mercury's lived experiences.
  • Bonnie and Clyde: Beyond the significant Historical Hero Upgrade it gives the eponymous Outlaw Couple and the equally significant Historical Villain Upgrade it gives to Frank Hamer, many things in the film were flatly made up. The film's C.W. Moss is a Composite Character of two actual gang members, W.D. Jones and Henry Methvin, and omits many other gang members. Clyde is portrayed in the film as impotent, though there's no basis for this in reality. A nasty car accident that left Bonnie with a permanently lame leg is not in the film, nor are the frequent visits they made to their families. Clyde's motivation for the gang's crime spree is portrayed as anger at the banks for their role in The Great Depression, but in reality it was over his abuses at the hands of both guards and inmates during his two-year imprisonment at Eastham Prison Farm, and the gang often targeted small stores and gas stations rather than banks.
  • Boot Camp is an amalgamation and fictionalization of stories from various "Tough Love" camps, without being a dramatization of any specific one of them.
  • Braveheart is only loosely based on the historical William Wallace and the events of his time. It's almost a sport among viewers to point out the many inaccuracies in the film, ranging from the idea that Wallace conceived Edward III seven years before he was born (when Queen Isabelle would have been 10 years old, and three years before she arrived in Britain) to the idea that Robert the Bruce instigated the Battle of Bannockburn immediately on hearing of Wallace's execution. The film lampshades is a bit, when the narrator admits in the beginning that "historians will call me a liar," but the opening narration is the most fictitious thing in the film.
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai resembles actual history only insofar as the fact that a bridge was built over that river and it did get blown up. In real life, there were actually two bridges, and they were destroyed two years after their completion by an aerial bombing. This, of course, means the circumstances under which the bridge was blown up in the film are purely fictional. Director David Lean was so unimpressed by the real River Kwai that he went to Ceylon to find a more suitably dramatic river. That should give you an idea how accurate the rest of it is.
  • Brotherhood of the Wolf, surprisingly, was based on actual events, although the conspiracy angle was a fiction. It is still unknown exactly what was responsible.
  • The Buddy Holly Story: yes, there was a Buddy Holly who had a band called the Crickets and died in a plane crash in 1959, but the songs he records in the film were done in New York City (and not in Clovis, New Mexico, where they were actually recorded) and the Crickets' names are all fictional (though this was justified since the real Crickets trademarked their name).
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starts with the screenwriter kindly informing us that "most of what follows is true." Some details are garbled (e.g. the "Hole-in-the-Wall gang" was more commonly known as the "Wild Bunch", with "Hole-in-the-Wall" referring to one of their hideouts), others are made up (e.g. the Sundance Kid didn't grow up in Atlantic City). The Sundance Kid was actually not known to have killed anyone prior to his final stand in Bolivia, though he is known to have wounded a few and certainly had a reputation as an excellent gunfighter.note  And the deaths of Butch and the Kid in the famous Bolivian Army Ending are historically foggy — all we know is that there was a shootout between the Bolivian army and two foreign bandits, who shot themselves and were buried in unmarked graves before they could be identified.note 
  • Cabaret is a film based on a musical based in part on part of a novel by Christopher Isherwood allegedly based on his encounters with one Sally Bowles. As a nice coincidence, Liza Minnelli greatly resembles the description of Sally in the novel.
  • Catch Me If You Can engages in this quite a bit. Besides throwing in a Freudian Excuse for Frank becoming a con artist and counterfeiter, many details from Frank Abagnale Jr.'s life were altered or added in the film. For instance:
    • Frank's family life is totally different. He's depicted in the film as an only child, while he had three siblings in real life. He's also depicted in the film reaching out to his father between cons, whereas the real Frank never saw or spoke with his father again after leaving home. This drastically changes Frank's motivation in the film: his relationship with his father is so close that he can only stop his criminal lifestyle if his father wants him to, but his father (still embittered over the lack of support he received when his business went under) refuses and uses his son as a weapon to get back at the government. In real life, Frank did what he did because he was good at it, and it was preferable to a real job or going to jail.
    • Frank's quasi-friendship with Carl while he's on the run is entirely invented, although Frank and the agent who was chasing him did become friends after Frank was released from prison.
    • Frank certainly didn't escape from the plane they way they show it in the film. For one thing, the septic tank on an airplane rarely detours into the luggage area. Frank does claim he did this in his memoir, but that in itself could have been an exaggeration (although he specifies the aircraft as a Vickers VC10, which is one of the few where the trick might work).
    • Frank was not finally caught in France by any cunning FBI work. What actually happened was that after he had gone to ground in a small village, he was spotted by a Pan Am stewardess on vacation, who notified the police.
  • The 1936 film The Charge of the Light Brigade, starring Errol Flynn, depicts the eponymous charge during the Crimean War as the protagonist's revenge on a treacherous Indian warlord. That the Crimean War involved Britain fighting Russia hundreds of miles from India is irrelevant. In fairness, the film includes a relatively accurate recreation of the Siege of Cawnpore, and the subsequent massacre of surrendered British troops and civilians... which occurred during the Indian Mutiny, three years after the Light Brigade's charge.
  • Chariot is simply inspired by the fact that a Boeing 727, sitting on the ground doing nothing in Angola, was stolen by a mechanic, took off, and disappeared without a trace in 2003.
  • Chopper is based on Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read's memoirs, which are full of disputed or unverifiable claims. Some of it is true, such as Chopper earning his nickname by losing an ear in attack he staged on himself in order to be transferred to a safer prison wing. Other parts, possibly not so much:
    • Chopper denies driving Neville Bartos to the hospital after shooting him, saying "it defeats the purpose of having shot him in the first place!", but he is shown doing just that. The real life inspiration for Bartos later offered a third version: the shooting never happened.
    • Chopper claimed to have killed 19 various underworld figures, which he downgraded long after the film came out to "four or seven, depending on how you look at it". He was only ever tried for one murder, of which he was acquitted when the jury accepted his claim of self-defense.
  • The Hungarian film Colonel Redl gives the eponymous figure an egregious Historical Hero Upgrade. The historical Alfred Redl was an Austrian spy in the early 1900s, and the Russians discovered his homosexuality and blackmailed him into leaking military secrets to them. In the film, though, Redl is an honest officer who discovers his superiors (up to and including Archduke Franz Ferdinand) plotting to start World War I — and when he tries to stop them, the Archduke frames him for treason.
  • Cool Runnings is based on a true story about a team of bobsledders from Jamaica, in the sense that "in 1988 the Winter Olympics bobsledding event included a team from Jamaica." In real life, it wasn't quite as quirkly or dramatic. The idea came from two American businessmen, not the athletes themselves. The businessmen recruited the athletes from the military (so they weren't three sprinters and a competitive pushcart driver) and provided funding themselves (obviating the wacky fundraising antics the team resorted to in the film). The bobsledders' real names aren't even used in the film. The film portrays the other athletes in Calgary as jealous rivals, whereas in real life, the other athletes were extremely supportive of them — in fact, the film version's biggest rivals, the East German team, provided the Jamaicans with equipment and coaching in real life. And despite being feted throughout the city, they had only middling success.
  • The Damned United is a largely fictionalized account of Brian Clough's tenure as manager for Leeds United, first a novel by David Peace and then adapted as The Film of the Book starring Michael Sheen.
  • This seems to be the main reason why 2013's Diana, starring Naomi Watts, performed so abysmally with critics and audiences. The film is based on Princess Diana's romantic relationship with Dr. Hasnat Khan shortly before her tragic death. The real Hasnat Khan has come out against the film, saying that its depiction of their relationship was based on sensationalistic tabloid accounts.
  • The 2009 Canadian TV movie Diverted is comprised entirely of fictional characters, but the broad scenario it depicts is entirely real: when North American airspace closed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thousands of passengers on transatlantic flights found themselves stranded in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, whose inhabitants did everything humanly possible to provide for their needs and make them feel welcome.
  • Lampshaded by Domino. The trailer states "Based on a True Story... Sort of."
  • The movie adaptation of Donnie Brasco purports to be "the true story of FBI Agent Joseph Pistone's infiltration of the Mob", yet, to begin with, it invents events and characters, removes real ones, turns other FBI personnel into useless fools (one of the clownish characters in the movie was actually an FBI agent posing as a dangerous mob turf boss during the operation), and has Pistone engage in activities that would have sent him to prison in reality. (No, a real-life agent may not legally conspire to commit a murder.) Lefty, the movie's faithful friend, was in fact a genuine thug, often despised by Pistone, and many of the positive traits of his movie character were taken from the real-life Sonny Black — the only gangster with whom the real Pistone actually felt some kinship and considered to have a genuinely good side. He, in turn, was of course turned into a Big Bad in the film... with his worst traits actually taken from Pistone's earliest mob mentor, a gangster whose personality was such that he was feared and hated by other gangsters. Unsurprisingly, his character is completely absent from the film.
  • Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, starring Jason Scott Lee, claims to be the story of Bruce Lee's life, but it gets many things wrong, among them the timeline of his life, his "famous" match with Johnny Sun, his book's publication before his death, and the nature of his back injury. It also adds extra fights to the movie (such as one turning Shih Kien, who played Han in Enter the Dragon, into a covert Chinese assassin out to kill Lee), and invented an extra subplot involving a demon chasing Bruce Lee and his son in his nightmares.
  • The film Eight Below is about an American expedition in 1993 where almost all the dogs live. It was based on the true story of a Japanese expedition in 1958 in which almost all the dogs died.
  • The Elephant Man: A few details are accurate; Merrick's age as Treves meets him, his appearance (it had better be, given the prosthetics were made from a cast of the real Merrick), the existence of Nurse Nora Ireland, the building of the cardboard church (more or less), and Merrick's death. But the central plot of the story is almost entirely concocted. To give David Lynch his due, he was going entirely off Treves's memoirs, and Treves himself had a very different impression of the showman who had exhibited Merrick than reality would represent (the most obvious departure from fact is that the "Elephant Man" was actually called Joseph — not John — Merrick).
  • Elizabeth is a garbled mess of history, featuring people who were the wrong age (by as much as twenty years in some cases), people who should have been dead, and Elizabeth having lots of sex despite being called the "Virgin Queen". Yes, she probably wasn't actually a virgin, but she did have to keep up appearances, and with all the maids and courtiers and others who surrounded her (and all the spies who would have loved to see some dirt on her), it would be very difficult to hide that level of promiscuity. A common rumor is that the director, who is Indian, was using Elizabeth as a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo for Indira Gandhi and her struggles to defuse religious tension, which might explain the... casual attitude to history.
  • The Emerald Forest was about a cute little white blonde American kid adopted and Raised by Natives in the jungles of Peru as his engineer dad searched for him. The "true story" is actually a mishmash of several different accounts, one of which is about a Peruvian child, the son of a construction worker. The whitewashing was done avowedly to help the audience "relate" to a white father's anguished desperation, as they couldn't have done if he'd been a brown-skinned construction worker played by a great Peruvian actor.
  • Enigma: The Katyn Massacre definitely took place, and the British and US governments did indeed suppress evidence of it in order to keep their fragile alliance with the Soviet Union from falling apart, but the events as depicted in the book are entirely fabricated; the only spy to make it to the Bletchley Park station was British and passing information to the Soviets. The 2001 film takes it up a notch by cutting Alan Turing out of the film completely and assigning his role in the war to protagonist Tom Jericho, where in the book Jericho is a junior member of Turing's cryptanalysis staff.
  • Evilenko is an Italian horror movie that is very loosely based on the crimes of Andrei Chikatilo, a Russian serial killer. The movie portrays him as a hard-liner Soviet with Psychic Powers, enabling him to lure his victims to their deaths. It even goes so far as to suggest that American or European agencies wanted to whisk him away in order to study his hypnotic powers but were denied.
  • The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on the story of Anneliese Michel, a young woman who was prone to seizures. Her very religious family and priests thought she was possessed and had her stop taking medication, instead relying on prayer and exorcism. She died, not from seizures, but from malnutrition and dehydration from the ongoing exorcism — but she was convinced that it would be okay, because the Virgin Mary told her that her death would be an inspiration to others. The real story is rather sad, given that her death was preventable — even other priests were consulted and said she wasn't possessed by demons — but she walked right into it thanks to her religious upbringing. The film, on the other hand, wants to make it all about demonic possession, portraying doctors who are unable to explain her seizures and adding spooky cinematography and chilling music when depicting her attacks. The German film Requiem, based on the same story, is much more reserved.
  • Female Agents was inspired by actual female operatives with the SOE, especially Lise Villameur (née De Baissac), on whom Louise is based.
  • Fighter in the Wind skips over sections of Mas Oyama's life and creates others out of whole cloth. General Kato is completely fictional, and "Choi Baedal" wasn't his given name (it was Choi Yeong-eui). There's also some dissent over how much he was into Korean patriotism, as he joined the Japanese air force and took a Japanese name and citizenship voluntarily.
  • The Final is very loosely based on the Columbine Massacre, with the Teens Are Monsters aspect being the only thing really kept consistent. In the movie, a group of bullied kids mutilate and permanently scar the bullies who made fun of them in high school. In reality, the two Columbine killers are reported to have been bullies themselves, who picked on the weaker kids before going on their shooting rampage. Also, whereas Columbine became a national tragedy and started discussions about bullying, the parents in the film dramatically miss the point by portraying the attacks as completely unprovoked and the victims as saint-like, and the whole thing is forgotten so quickly as to become a "Shaggy Dog" Story.
  • Finding Neverland tells the story of how J. M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan through his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family, but kills off the husband, deletes one of the boys, and repeats the conventional wisdom that the story was really about the boy named Peter (not his brothers) — a bit of baggage that contributed to the real Peter's eventual suicide. Oh, and Johnny Depp went without Barrie's trademark mustache.
  • Fire in the Sky: The real Travis Walton's story (if you choose to take his word for it) is nothing like what is shown in the film. The encounter aboard the UFO was spiced up to make it scarier, and quite frankly it had to be, because the story told by Walton was cheesy and absurd.
  • The Fourth Kind opens with a disclaimer by Milla Jovovich herself stating that the events in the film are based on a true story of Dr. Abigail Tyler, and claimed to use "real footage" of actual alien abduction case studies interwoven into the film footage. Similar to White Noise, it was all fabrication, as the "real" Abigail Tyler shown in the "real footage" is actually just another actress, and the "real footage" was just shot in a documentary style. There have been some real-life unsolved disappearances in Nome, but it's a big leap to conclude that aliens were responsible. The FBI suspects that several of these people merely got drunk, wandered off in harsh winter weather, and died of exposure.
  • Invoked during the production of Frank: the real Frank Sidebottom, before his death, asked the film's writer Jon Ronson to fictionalize the film's plot, thinking that it would ring truer to the idea of Frank Sidebottom and play with the outsider art theme.
  • The 1955 movie The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing is based on the 1906 White-Thaw murder case, though it takes a lot of liberties:
    • Stanford White, after his death, was reported to have been responsible for drugging or incapacitating several young women and seducing them, whereas in the film he seems reluctant to get himself too involved with Evelyn Nesbit. He is also fully aware of Harry Thaw's hatred of him and even appears to encourage it, while it's generally agreed that in reality he had little to no idea of it.
    • Harry Thaw, while still explicitly being an abusive husband and mentally unstable, was a violent sadist with a plethora of mental instabilities who also led a far more hedonistic lifestyle which, in fairness, probably wasn't permitted to be portrayed in film at that time.
    • Evelyn Nesbit is portrayed as practically throwing herself at White and being convinced to lie about White getting her drunk (when she was just 16, mind you) and sleeping with her at Thaw's family's urging during the trial.
  • Both The Girl Next Door and An American Crime are based on the 1965 torture murder of Sylvia Likens, but both take their own liberties with the case.
    • The Girl Next Door changes the names of Sylvia and her sister Jenny and has the abuse being carried out by their aunt, when real-life murderer Gertrude Baniszewski was merely a family friend from church.
    • On the opposite end of the spectrum, An American Crime has a scene where Sylvia escapes and tries to get help for herself and her sister, only for it to have been an elaborate Dying Dream.
  • Good Morning, Vietnam gets the basic facts right; there was a military DJ in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966 named Adrian Cronauer who played rock music that the troops liked. Everything else is completely fabricated. The real Adrian Cronauer had no problem with the war, being in an all-volunteer branch and describing himself as a "lifelong card-carrying Republican" who went on to be a lawyer who worked on the Republican presidential campaigns of Bob Dole (1996) and George W. Bush (2004 — as vice-chairman, no less). The film's Adrian Cronauer is as irreverent as the actor who plays him, questions the war, fraternizes (unwittingly) with the Viet Cong, and shows a gross disrespect for his superiors. (And also is an Airman First Class when the real Cronauer was an Air Force Staff Sergeant.) The real Cronauer said that just about everything the fictional one did would have gotten him court-martialed in a heartbeat.
  • Gothic is director Ken Russell's take on how Mary Shelley was inspired to write Frankenstein after spending a stormy night at Lord Byron's place, but almost everything that actually happens in the film comes from Russell's own... unique imagination.
  • Green Book, based on a true story about musician Dr. Donald Shirley's friendship with his bodyguard/driver Tony Vallelonga, was called a "symphony of lies" by Shirley's brother. Among other things, his family members say that Shirley and Vallelonga were not even particularly close friends and had a strictly employer-employee relationship.
  • The Greatest Showman, a biopic of the famous circus ringmaster P.T. Barnum, is all over the place. About the only thing it gets consistently right is that Barnum was a circus manager whose stable included a cast of assorted "freaks" and opera singer Jenny Lind, had a wife named Charity, had a rivalry with James Gordon Bennett, and had to rebuild his circus after it burned down. Much of the film, though, was exaggerated into typical Hollywood fare — the film portrays Barnum and Charity as childhood sweethearts (they weren't); condenses several familial figures, including his maternal grandfather Phineas Taylor, into his father's character (who dies earlier than he did in real life); and most damningly, portrays him as an utter failure of a businessman before opening the circus, when in real life the museum he opened was successful (although his variety troupe "Barnum's Grand Scientific and Musical Theater wasn't), and he only pivoted to the circus when he was 60 years old. Interestingly, the film also ignores some of the more controversial details of Barnum's life and tones down what he did to embellish the acts and make them weirder than they really were.
  • Greenfingers is loosely based on the true story about the award-winning prisoners of HMP Leyhill, a minimum-security prison in the Cotswolds, England, a story published in the New York Times in 1998.
  • The The Gumball Rally and The Cannonball Run (as well as several other films) were very loosely based on a real outlaw road rally, the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. Hal Needham, director of The Cannonball Run, actually competed in the race. The "ambulance" in the movie is based on his vehicle.
  • Hangmen Also Die! is a 1943 Film Noir that revolves around the aftermath of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. Because it was made so shortly after the real eventsnote , and World War II was still ongoing, the details were not known to the filmmakers. In reality, the assassination of Heydrich, known as Operation Anthropoid, was carried out by Czechoslovak soldiers trained by the British Special Operations Executive and with the blessing of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, whereas in the film it was carried out by the Czech Resistance. Furthermore, the real assassins were located and killed within a month.
  • The Haunting of Sharon Tate turns the real-life murder of Sharon Tate by the Manson Family into a supernatural horror film, in which Tate has regular psychic visions about her fate. Tate's sister Debra described the film as "tasteless" in an interview.
  • The eponymous house in The Haunting of Whaley House is a real house in San Diego, and the history related in the film is largely true, but the accounts of hauntings and deaths in the house are greatly exaggerated.
  • Hoodlum, especially when it comes to Dutch Schultz's death. The movie casts the protagonist as the ringleader behind the murder, while in real life it was related to the threat Schultz posed to District Attorney Thomas Deweynote . The whole film is based on the false premise that Bumpy Johnson supposedly fought a gang war to free the Harlem rackets from the control of white outsiders. In truth, the real Bumpy Johnson worked directly for The Mafia until the day he died.
  • Hoosiers, although not promoted as being based on a true story, is somewhat loosely based on a true story — specifically, Hickory High School is based on Milan High School in Indiana, a school of about 160 students whose basketball team won the state championship in 1954, defeating a much larger city school in the final. However, the story was heavily dramatized, most notably in terms of how difficult it was for Milan to win the title — Hickory is an underdog throughout, while Milan had made the semifinals the previous year and were considered a real contender. All of Hickory's wins in the film were decided by a single possession or in overtime, whereas Milan's run had only two victories by less than double figures. One of those wins was the final, which went much closer to how it went in the film — particularly the last two minutes, including Hickory's stalling while behind — but the similarities between the two games end there, even in their final scores. The film also portrays Hickory as having only a six-man roster, whereas Milan had ten playersnote . The characters are different, too — Milan's head coach, soft-spoken and married 26-year-old Marvin Wood, becomes Gene Hackman's middle-aged, fiery former college coach Norman Dale (who has a Token Romance with one of the teachers); Milan's star player Bobby Plump becomes Hickory's Jimmy Chitwood, who sits out half the season out of despair at the previous coach's death (Milan's prior coach had been fired); and Dale's assistant "Shooter" (Dennis Hopper), Hickory's town drunk and father of one of the players, has no Milan equivalent (Wood didn't have an assistant at all).
  • The Made-for-TV Movie Hostile Waters, starring Rutger Hauer as Captain Igor Britanov of the Soviet submarine K-219, chronicles the K-219's loss after a collision with an American attack sub. While many of the heroics of the sailors aboard are accurately chronicled, both the US Navy and Britanov himself deny that such a collision ever occurred. In reality, seawater seeping in through a pre-existing leak in one of the missile tubes led to an explosion and fire which disabled critical systems on board; a similar though less severe accident had previously led to one of the sub's missile tubes being unloaded and permanently sealed.
  • The Human Condition is primarily a close adaptation of a six-volume novel, but it is also based on the director's own experience of surviving World War II in Japan.
  • The Iceman: "The true story of the mob's most notorious killer" is not quite as true as its ads would have it. There was a man named Kuklinski, he was a lifelong-criminal, and he probably did kill several people, mostly over money from various scams, but that's about it. The rest, particularly his involvement in dozens (if not hundreds) of famous mob hits, is succinctly summarized here.
  • Inchon is very superficially based on the events leading to the eponymous Battle of Inchon. Otherwise it's just an excuse to hammer the audience with religious propaganda — it was largely financed by the Unification Church.
  • In the Heart of the Sea is correctly presented as portraying the events that inspired Moby-Dick, but the film greatly exaggerates this angle, choosing to portray the whale in question as albino (it wasn't), exaggerating its size, and giving it a legendary status. The film has the Essex crew meet the crew of another whaler, who reveal that their ship too was sunk by the "white whale". After the Essex is sunk, the whale is shown stalking and further harassing the crew in the open boats. In reality, there is no evidence that the whale was ever seen before or after sinking the Essex. The film also invents a drama between Captain George Pollard and First Mate Owen Chase where none existed before. Furthermore, the premise is shown to be based around Herman Melville interviewing the elderly Thomas Nickerson, but the two never met in real life; Melville's primary source was Chase's own book about the incident.
  • The Ip Man movies, based on the master of Bruce Lee, are heavily fictionalized, and retooled his life and circumstances completely to suit Chinese propaganda purposes. Ip Man was never a laborer in any Marxist-Leninist-Maoist sense. He worked as a police officer for most of his adult life. He was never affiliated with the Communist Party in any way — at the time of the films, he was a card-carrying member of Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist Party and the sworn enemies of the Communists. And his flight to Hong Kong was not to escape the Japanese, but the Communists.
  • It Could Happen to You was based on a true story in that a police officer really did offer a waitress half of his lottery ticket in lieu of a tip, then made good on the deal when he won several million. Everything that happens after this in the movie is complete fiction. The movie depicts the two as falling in love afterward, and the antagonist is the officer's greedy wife, who divorces him and tries to get both her husband and the waitress's share of the money. In reality, there was never anything between the officer and waitress beyond friendship, both remained happily married to other people after the incident, and the officer's wife had no problem with splitting the money. That said, the writers didn't use the real names of anyone involved, and a disclaimer at the end of the film states what really happened.
  • Jack the Ripper (1976) plays fast and loose with the facts surrounding the Jack the Ripper murders, changing the names of the victims, the circumstances of their deaths, and a whole boatload of other things.
  • Jaws was loosely inspired by a series of shark attacks along the New Jersey shore in 1916. Beyond that, it's just a Summer Blockbuster. Interestingly, Robert Shaw's famous monologue detailing the sinking of the USS Indianapolis was entirely accurate, with the small exception of getting the date wrongnote .
  • Oliver Stone's JFK presents itself as revealing the truth about Who Shot JFK?, arguing in particular that it had to have been a conspiracy. In fact, it's based on the writings of the real Jim Garrison, whom even JFK conspiracy theorists aren't likely to trust. The film is unfortunately the source of so much lore about the assassination that things on which it speculated (e.g. the magic bullet) or even invented (e.g. the smoke from the grassy knoll) are commonly believed to be true by the public. A lot of that lore, like many impactful movies, just seems more compelling than the truth. Stone would later express regret at not making it clearer that the film wasn't meant to be entirely truthful, but more a metaphor for the American public's frustration at not knowing how the assassination really happened.
  • Kenau: Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer was a real person who lived during the Siege of Haarlem and participated in its defense against the Spanish forces by tirelessly working to strengthen the defensive lines. But the idea that she directly participated in the fighting, or commanded a women's brigade, is generally considered to be a folk myth. What makes this especially blatant is how the movie boldly announces it is going to tell what "everyone knows" to be the real story.
  • The Killer That Stalked New York is a 1950 film very loosely based on the 1947 New York City smallpox outbreak. There really was an outbreak of smallpox in New York City in 1947, but the specifics are radically altered for the movie. In Real Life, the index case was not a smuggler but a regular tourist, did not get infected in Cuba but in Mexico, and was not the subject of a contact-tracing manhunt but was rather admitted to hospital before the outbreak really began.
  • Kingdom of Heaven edges into this at points. The greater historical events surrounding the Battle of Hattin (the film's climax) are held relatively true to history, but many of the film's main characters bear little resemblance to their historical counterparts:
    • This is most evident with Balian, the film's main protagonist, whose personal history is radically different from that of the real Balian of Ibelin. The real Balian was married with children, not to mention born in wedlock and decidedly not a blacksmith.
    • Godfrey of Ibelin did not exist. The real Balian's father was named Barisan. (This change is likely because Godfrey does not appear to be modeled on Barisan or any historical figure; rather, the character exists solely as a part of Balian's fictionalized backstory.)
    • Princess Sibylla was close with her husband, Guy, and wholeheartedly supported his strategy. In fact, she actively subverted an attempt by the court to block Guy from ascending to the throne. She had no relationship with Balian at all.
    • In the film, King Baldwin IV, though disfigured by leprosy, is pretty much functional until after the incident at Kerak, at which point he falls into a rapid decline and dies shortly thereafter. In reality, the progression of his condition was much more drawn out, leaving him an invalid long before his death; he would not have been able to lead an army into battle for the last several years of his life, let alone just days before he died.
    • The real Guy de Lusignan was not especially eager to go to war, and he certainly wasn't pulling Reynald's strings to make it happen. In fact, history suggests that it was Reynald who was the driving force behind the conflict, and Guy, far from the arrogant and prideful man he's depicted as in the film, lacked the spine to stand up to Raynald and thus was dragged along for the ride.
    • The theatrical cut of the film depicts the throne as passing directly from Baldwin IV to Guy. In reality, the King's young nephew was his successor, and it was only after the child's premature death that the throne reverted back to Sibylla to choose the next King. Scenes depicting this part of the story were written and shot, but were cut from the theatrical release for time; this arc is included in the director's cut.
    • The one major aversion is Reynald; other than his role in relation to Guy, Reynald in the film is very much similar to his historical counterpart. Apparently the real Reynald made for a good enough character that the writers largely left him as he was in real life. If anything, they actually toned down some of his more atrocious deeds.
  • King Kong (1933) was inspired by an actual expedition to Komodo Island led by W. Douglas Burden in 1926, to collect and study the isle's giant lizards. Note that we said "lizards", not "giant apes and dinosaurs".
  • Krush Groove is a Roman à Clef about the founding of Def Jam Recordings starring many rap stars as themselves, but the story itself is largely fictional.
  • The Last King of Scotland is a film about Idi Amin's life. However, even though a statement at the beginning of the film says it's a true story, the character Nicholas Garrigan never existed and is loosely based on Bob Astles. The film is also an adaptation of a fiction work with the same title.
  • A League of Their Own never outright claims to be the true story of the All-American Girl's Professional Baseball League, which is a good thing, because the fact the league existed (and the names of a few of the teams) are all it really got right when you look at it historically. Several characters were compressed into Geena Davis's character Dottie Henson, and pretty much everybody else's names were changed. The biggest thing that the movie did get right was that during World War II, a league of women baseball players was formed, and some of those women played good enough ball to be in the big leagues.
  • The highly contentious documentary Leaving Neverland, about Michael Jackson and the accusations against him of child molestation, was attacked as an exaggeration within a week of its release. Some of it, obviously, was Jackson's rabid fanbase refusing to believe the allegations on principle, but others pointed out that the documentary was deliberately slanted against Jackson — the director even admitted that he did not interview anyone who could rebut the accusations so as not to interfere with the story he wanted to tell. Accuser Wade Robson in particular noted that he had in fact testified twice on Jackson's behalf, and the depiction of him burning Jackson memorabilia was fabricated — in real life, an auction house revealed that he had sold the memorabilia to them (and tried to do it anonymously).
  • The advertising material for Lust for Gold bills it as the true story of the Lost Dutchman Mine. However, it was based on a book titled Thunder God's Gold which synthesized several stories and legends regarding the mine into a whole. Jacob Walz and Julia Thomas were real people, but they didn't meet until after the events involving the mine, with Julia nursing Jacob in the last years of his life. She certainly did not die in an earthquake on Superstition Mountain. Floyd Buckley is based on real-life treasure hunter Adolf Ruth, who was murdered while searching for the mine the 1930s. However, that murder was not one of a string of killings as shown in the film.
  • In The Maids, murderous Psycho Lesbian sisters Claire and Solange are kind of based on Christine and Lea Papin who really were murderous lesbian maids, but resemblance ends here.
  • Lampshaded in Man on the Moon, which opens with Andy Kaufman complaining about how the film takes liberties with his life story, leading to a Credits Gag. The differences are many:
    • The legendary Carnegie Hall show, which in Real Life took place in 1979 at the peak of Kaufman's mainstream success, is moved to shortly before his death in 1984.
    • The Tony Clifton incident happened during the first year, before Christopher Lloyd became a regular.
    • Andy and Lynn did not actually meet in the wrestling ring.
    • The "Global Wrestling Federation" banner is misplaced; the Lawler-Kaufman match was held by the Continental Wrestling Federation in Memphis in 1982, whereas the Global Wrestling Federation was a Dallas-based promotion that existed from 1991 to 1994. Similarly, Jim Ross would have been misplaced as this match's announcer, as at the time he was working in Louisiana and Oklahoma for Mid-South Wrestling (but he and Jerry Lawler were the WWE announcers when the film was produced, so there you have it).
    • The film shows Kaufman's Fridays stunt as a real objection to doing drug-related humor, with Kaufman even insisting to the audience that it was not staged. But according to multiple sources from the show, it actually was (though who all was in on it is up for debate), plus the scene as shown differs significantly from the real sketch, which you can see on YouTube.
    • This film ignores Kaufman's short-lived but infamous big screen career. It pretends Heartbeeps, among other films, never happened. Apparently he spent his entire 80's career being a wrestler and getting cancer.
  • Mental: The director's mother had a mental breakdown and his politician father hired a smoking hitchhiker with a dog and her knife in her boot to babysit them, and who stayed with them for months. The rest was invented for the film.
  • Money Movers deals loosely with two real-life events, the 1970 Sydney Armoured Car Robbery where A$500,000 was stolen from a Mayne Nickless armoured van, and a 1970 incident where A$280,000 was stolen from Metropolitan Security Services' offices by bandits impersonating policemen.
  • The Most Assassinated Woman in the World is very loosely based on the real life Scream Queen of the Grand Guignol, Paula Maxa. However, she did not fake her own death on-stage, and in fact moved on to film, and died in her 70s.
  • The events of The Mothman Prophecies already leave plenty of room for skepticism. Perhaps sensing this, director Mark Pellington chose to make the entire plot fictional (even setting it in the present day). The only significant things consistent between the stories are the Mothman itself and the climactic Silver Bridge collapse.
  • Munich. Yes, Israel did launch Operation Wrath of God to hunt down the Munich terrorists. The veracity of most of the details in the film, however, is at best in dispute.
  • Nacho Libre was loosely (very, very loosely) based on the life of Fray Tormenta, a real-life monk-turned-luchador who supported an orphanage by wrestling for 23 years. To his credit, Jack Black never claimed that the movie was a true story, only that it was inspired by Tormenta.
  • Despite being a Disney musical, Newsies is based on a real newsboys' strike; the newsies' nicknames are mostly taken from contemporary records, the conditions of their work are fairly accurately depicted, and several of the incidents in the film closely follow the real events, but otherwise it's pretty much fiction. The real Newsboys Strike was led by Kid Blink, who does appear in the film (with an eye patch!) even if he isn't leading the strike.
  • The non-supernatural parts of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) are inspired by events that happened in the hometown the director lived in as a kid. Specifically, Freddy is the name of the kid who tormented wee little Craven, Freddy's appearance was based on that of a old homeless man wee Craven had a terrifying run-in with one night, and the "died in their sleep" thing was based on a few cases of young Cambodian refugees dying in their sleep of no apparent cause after repeatedly saying they were frightened to go to sleep. That would be Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome, which for some reason is most common among South East Asians.
  • In the Indie chiller Open Water, it's actually based on a true story, but the events of the film have been invented because no one can know what actually happened—and the actual couple were older.
  • Pain and Gain is based on a series of Miami New Times articles. What's surprising is just how much stuff portrayed in the film actually did happen (Paul barbecuing the severed hands is accompanied by the onscreen graphic "this is still a true story").
  • Patch Adams: Patch's romantic foil of a love interest Carin never really existed. He was actually a male best friend of Dr. Adams. Moreover, the real Dr. Adams felt that the film didn't accurately represent his views and philosophies as it simplified all his work into "laughter is the best medicine". Not to mention the felonies (stealing supplies from a hospital and practicing medicine without a license) that the movie depicts which, needless to say, the real Dr. Adams never did.
  • Paths of Glory is loosely based on the Souain Corporals—an event in World War I where a general had several soldiers executed for cowardice when their company refused a suicidal order. All the characters involved are fictional, as is the location and battle, and even the number of soldiers executed—making the overall product more like historical fiction that bears a lot of resemblance to the real events.
  • Roland Emmerich's The Patriot is basically a loose and PC version of the real life of Francis Marion. If you ask, no, he didn't free his slaves.
  • The Phenix City Story from 1955 is based on the assassination of Albert Patterson the previous year. The events surrounding the assassination are heavily fictionalized, however. Big Bad mob boss Rhett Tanner is fictional, for instance, and the scene where a murdered child is dumped on the Pattersons' lawn as a threat never happened. The details of the assassination and its aftermath are also changed: in the film Patterson is shot at arm's length whereas in real life he was shot through the mouth, in the film there is a single witness whom the mob successfully silences whereas in real life there were several witnesses who later testified in the trial, in the film the mob is responsible whereas in real life the Chief Deputy Sheriff was convicted of the murder, and so on.
  • The film A Place in the Sun is adapted from the novel An American Tragedy, which is itself based on the story of the 1906 murder of Grace Brown by her boyfriend Chester Gillette. While the movie takes liberties with the story—Brown was a lovely young woman but is portrayed as frumpy and nagging, the real-life murder was certain but left ambiguous in the film (possibly an accident), the plot follows the real-life events—Brown and Gillette were romantically involved and she was insisting that they marry due to her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, while he was reluctant because doing so would have ended his chances of advancing into wealthy society. After inviting her away for the weekend under the pretense of it being a wedding trip, he took her out onto a lake where he promptly struck her on the head and threw her into the water to drown. The movie has them both falling out of the boat, but the fade to black leaves the viewer wondering if he might very well have tried to save her and simply been unsuccessful. In both mediums, the man was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
  • The 2012 horror movie The Possession claims to be based on a true story, specifically that of the "dibbuk box". The similarities between the film and the dibbuk box are as follows: the dibbuk box exists, its owners experience a wave of bad luck that they claimed was linked to the box, and that's about it. None of the stories involve a girl getting possessed by whatever was living in it.
  • The movie Primeval, while it deals with an actual, real-life giant crocodile (Gustave), exaggerates every other aspect of the events it claims to recount, from doubling his number of human kills, to depicting him seeking out and attacking entire groups of clearly defended humans (the real Gustave strikes at groups of three or fewer tourists, primarily when they are off-guard, and certainly when they lack shelter). And that's without mentioning the film's ads, which portray him as "the most prolific serial killer in history". On top of all that, it's a case of Never Trust a Trailer — Gustave only appears in brief stretches, and most of the film deals with a local civil war, with the croc relegated to the background for the most part.
  • An unusual example in the WWII American propaganda film The Purple Heart, which is based on the fates of the eight pilots who took part in the "Doolittle Raid" in 1942. The eight were captured and put on trial by the Japanese - however, their true fates were not known until after the film was made. The film alters the names of the pilots and implies that they will all be executed (which no doubt seemed like the most likely outcome at the time); in reality, however, only three were executed and one more died in captivity while the other four were eventually released after the war.
  • Red Dog is based on a book by Louis de Bernières, which is in turn based a collection of anecdotes and poems of the same name. Red Dog was real, as is the town of Dampier, and Red Dog was known to travel vast distances along Western Australia's Pilbara region, spending much of the meantime in Dampier. It is also true that he died in 1979 and had a statue built in his honor, but most of the rest of what happens in the film is almost certainly fictitious. The film further divorces the fictionalized Red Dog's adventures from anything that might have happened in real life by having the Framing Device invoke the Unreliable Narrator trope on at least one occasion, although the bulk of it can be thought of as true in-universe.
  • Remember the Titans: The film's entire premise is undermined if one is aware that in reality (1) T C Williams high school had been desegregated since 1959, and (2) the school was already a football powerhouse, having won the state championship (under Yoast) the previous season.
  • Parodied in The Return of the Living Dead, with the disclaimer "All of the events in this film are true. Everything is shown as it actually happened".
  • Rocketman played with this, even lampshading it in the tagline, "Based on a true fantasy".
  • Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt is based the story of Manuel Blanco Romasanta: generally regarded as Spain's first identified Serial Killer. While portraying many of the events of the case, it elaborates greatly and plays up the mystical aspects, which were almost nonexistent in reality.
  • School of Rock was inspired by the story of The Langley Schools Music Project but was otherwise completely fictional.
  • There is some actual proof that the Scorpion King was a real person. However, the guy played by The Rock in The Mummy Returns and the Spin-Off movie The Scorpion King seemed to be him In Name Only.
  • Shadowlands, the story of C. S. Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham, ending with her death. True in broad outline, but the film deletes one of Joy's two real-life sons. On Lewis and Joy's vacation in Ireland, he drives a car, while in real life Lewis notoriously never learned to drive. The film omits a major experience they shared, a trip to Greece after Joy's cancer returned. As a minor point, Lewis's brother Warren is shown as present at Lewis's first meeting with Joy; he wasn't. Most importantly, Lewis was far from the ivory-tower bachelor professor, ignorant of both women and suffering, portrayed in the movie. His mother died of cancer when he was a boy, and he was wounded in World War I. Until shortly before he began corresponding with Joy, he and his brother shared a bustling household with the widowed Mrs. Jane Moore, whom Lewis considered his foster mother, and her daughter.
  • The Social Network made no qualms about being a heavily fictionalized telling of the Facebook story, right down to portraying Mark Zuckerberg as a pompous Jerkass when the real oneis known to be a very shy and modest person. It was pretty much necessary, as the real story of Facebook's creation is pretty dull and uninteresting.note  The most accurate bit of the film is the opening narration, where Zuckerberg describes how he's hacking all the individual facebooks at Harvard, lifted mostly from a real blog post Zuckerberg had made at the time.
  • The Sound of Music: While the basic outline of the story is true, all of the details were rearranged for the musical, including the timelines, the songs, and the names of the children:
    • In the film, Georg von Trapp is a strict disciplinarian who drills his children like Navy sailors with his whistle. In real life, the Captain was a highly permissive free-range parent, and Maria was the disciplinarian. The whistle did exist in real life, but was used to communicate over the large distances of the estate, since the captain has a very weak voice.
    • In the film, Von Trapp angsts a litle bit over whether to accept a German commission but quickly decides against it because the Nazis are evil. The real Captain Von Trapp agonised a lot more about it; he was a submarine commander, and by 1938 he had not set foot on a ship in two decades and his service branch no longer existed, so the offer of command of a cutting-edge U-Boot was sorely tempting. Also, the film's depiction of the Anschluss is wildly inaccurate, suggesting that a couple of quislings had capitulated to the Germans against the will of the people, thus making Von Trapp's decision easier — in real life, it was more the opposite, as Austrian chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg did just about everything he could to avoid the Anschluss, but the Austrian people overruled him in an overwhelming plebiscite and welcomed the Nazis in cheering throngs. Interestingly, many wags like to claim that Von Trapp's status as a retired Navy captainnote  is a fabrication, because obviously, Austria is a landlocked country and doesn't have a navy — which is true now, but not during World War I, when Austria included parts of the Adriatic coast now belonging to Italy and Croatia (the real Von Trapp was born in the modern Croatian city of Zadar).
    • In the film, Von Trapp married Maria in 1938, right before having to escape Austria. In real life, they married in 1926 and had two children of their own before leaving.
    • In the film, the family escapes Austria by climbing over a mountain range to get into Switzerland. This is highly implausible; you'd have to traverse all of Tirol to get from Salzburg to Switzerland, which means a lot of hiking. In real life, Captain Von Trapp leveraged his birthplace to claim Italian citizenship (yes, Zadar is now in Croatia, and Yugoslavia was a thing back then, but it was controlled by Fascist Italy at the time) and had the family escape by train to Italy.
  • The movie series The Stepfather and The Remix was based on the true case of John List, though List was not a serial killer. The Stepfather does fit his case very well; it just goes the extra step of having him do this habitually instead of it being a one-time incident.
  • The 2005 film Stoned is about the end of founding Rolling Stones member Brian Jones' life. There is some debate as to whether or not his death was an accident, which makes a decent premise for a movie. However, this film achieves this by making Jones even more problematic than his real-life counterpart, not even showcasing his musical talents. The film shifts most of the blame to Jones' girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, even though Jones is mostly shown abusing her, culminating in a truly uncomfortable scene in Morocco where she leaves him for Keith Richards, who's somehow depicted as more responsible than Jones despite his famous issues with drug abuse. And at the end, there's a curious scene in which Jones comes back to Earth as a ghost to thank Tom Keylock for making him a martyr, even though the film claims Frank Thorogood murdered him.
  • The horror film The Strangers opens by labeling the plot of the film as "based on true events" — supposedly the Manson Family murders. The similarities are slight. The only thing that has a real basis in reality is that it's based on a burglar technique where they knock on a random door, and if no one answers, they break in and steal stuff — but no serial killer was caught doing this to find victims. Some have suggested as inspiration the 1981 Keddie murders, where a family of three and a friend were brutally murdered in a Northern California cabin, which remains a mystery to this day.
  • Sunset: While highly fictional, the film does contain a few elements of truth. Wyatt Earp did live in Hollywood in the 1920s, did act as a technical adviser on several silent Westerns, and was close friends with Tom Mix (who served as a pallbearer at Earp's funeral). The murder in the movie is very loosely based on the events surrounding the death of Thomas Ince (which did not involve Earp or Mix in any way). The film's closing titles admit this in a reference to a repeated quote from the film itself that "that's the way it really happened, give or take a lie or two."
  • The 2005 film Supervolcano is based, interestingly enough, on a story that may very well happen someday, only no one knows when. It deals with the possible consequences of the "overdue" eruption of the volcano underneath Yellowstone National Park. The tagline actually reads "This is a true story. It just hasn't happened yet."
  • Suspiria (1977), believe it or not, was inspired by what co-writer Daria Nicolodi's grandmother claimed really happened; that she (the grandmother) as a young woman fled a music school because she found out they were practicing black magic.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: It's usually a well-known fact that the movie is based on a musical, which added stories of revenge, a judge, and Sweeney's daughter to the original story. The latter was originally a novel, itself based on an Urban Legend...which have its roots in a true story. The latter is quite different from Sweeney 's scenario, though, except it involved cannibalism. It happened in Paris, not London, and as soon as 1387, in Marmousets street. Also, the baker was male, not female, and named Pierre Miquelon, while his barber neighbor was Barnabé Cabard. Their motivation was apparently simply greed, (no revenge story here) and they were burned at the stake after it was discovered they used students corpses to do pâtés. Ironically, Barnabé is nowadays often described as a "french Sweeney Todd", while it's actually the other way round.
  • The remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was heavily touted as being based on a true story. The film chronicles an inbred family of kidnappers, torturers, serial killers, and implied cannibals who brutally slay a carload of road tripping teens. The actual case it was based on, Ed Gein, was a solitary, fairly quiet man who killed only two middle-aged women, without a chainsaw, and in Wisconsin. While two murders are indeed tragic, that's still a lot less than the scores of murders implied in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
    • The original movie touted this claim as well. Of course, that doesn't keep it from being a cinema classic.
    • It also has some relation to the legend of Sawney Bean which has been around for several hundred years but is probably fictional. The Sawney Bean family was the direct inspiration for The Hills Have Eyes (1977).
    • Ed Gein has had several movies purporting to tell his story, as well as probably dozens that were "Inspired By" it; he was something of a Trope Codifier for slasher and Serial Killer fiction. Psycho is probably the most famous, and despite not claiming to be based on anything but a novel by the same title it's considered a fairly good spiritual biopic.
    • As far as actual biopics go, the version starring Steve Railsback released in 2000 actually does a decent job sticking to history. The version starring Kane Hodder, released in 2007, couldn't have been further off the facts of the case if the writer and/or director had been trying to avoid getting anything right. About all that was correct was Gein's name, the deaths of two family members before the events covered in the film, and the year and place of his crimes.
  • The Theory of Everything takes a few artistic liberties with Stephen Hawking's life in the interest of better narrative flow. For example, in the film's sequence of events, he loses the ability to speak, decides to write A Brief History of Time, separates from Jane, and reconciles with her before going to Buckingham Palace to be made a CBE. In reality, he was made a CBE in 1982, started drafting A Brief History of Time in 1984, lost the ability to speak in 1985, and separated from Jane in 1990, only reconciling with her after his divorce from Elaine Mason in 2006.
  • They Died with Their Boots On pretty much makes up everything besides the fact that George Armstrong Custer served in the Civil War, and was killed with all his men by Indians.
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Martin McDonagh was once driving down a highway in the American south and saw three sequential billboards with text describing the rape and murder of a woman and asking why the local authorities hadn't made any arrests yet. The rest of the movie is what he imagined would have led to those billboards being there and what would have happened next - In particular, in the film the billboards were rented by the victim's mother, but it later turned out the real billboards were rented by her father.
  • Thunderheart: The film is based on actual incidents on and around the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota during the 1970s, which John Trudell (Jimmy Looks Twice) participated in personally (he was chairman of AIM). His character also bears a great resemblance to his friend Leonard Peltier, who was controversially convicted in the murders of two FBI agents (Peltier remains imprisoned, and a documentary about this came out in the same year, entitled Incident at Oglala). The Aboriginal Rights Movements clearly represents the American Indian Movement as well, which both Trudell and Peltier were prominent members of. Jack Milton (Fred Ward) is pretty clearly an expy of pro-government tribal council president Dick Wilson, whose followers are alleged to have murdered numerous dissidents. The Guardians of the Oglala Nation (GOONs) appear much as they're reported to have behaved. The schoolteacher Maggie Eagle Bear is based on Anna Mae Pictou Aquash (Mi'kmaq), the highest ranking woman in AIM — including her rape and murder, which remains officially unsolved although Russell Means and others believe it was an inside job by AIM members who believed she was an FBI informant.
  • The main story in 1953's Titanic was derived from the real-life drama of the Navratil kidnapping, of course changing the various sexes, ages, nationalities, and ultimate outcome of the family involved.
  • To Olivia is about author Roald Dahl and his actress wife Patricia Neal arguing over whether or not she should take a part in the film Hud after the sudden death of their young daughter Olivia. Dahl and Neal did have a daughter Olivia, she did die young, and Neal did feature in Hud. The only problem is that filming on Hud finished on 1st August 1962, and Olivia died on 17th November.
  • Tucker: The Man and His Dream, the telling of Preston Tucker's struggle to start a car company. For one, it only shows it taking one year when it actually encompassed four, the president of the Tucker Company was actually a good guy, but they needed a villain.
  • U-571 took quite a bit of flak for basically ignoring history when it came to how the Enigma was captured - starting with the fact that it was a British operation conducted in 1940. Even Tony Blair denounced this at the time for stealing a British accomplishment. The truth was acknowledged briefly before the credits.
  • Franny and Rosetta from Under the Piano were loosely based on Dolly and Henrietta Giardini. Dolly was born with a paralyzed arm while Henrietta was autistic, so the two sisters were very dependent on each other.
  • The Untold Story is said to be based on a true story but there doesn't seem to be much information on the supposed killings. Considering there is a sequel to this movie, it may have been hype.
  • The trailer for the ghost movie White Noise opened with a minute-long explanation of EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) complete with "real" examples of the phenomena (which were actually made up) in an attempt to sell the audience on the film. It didn't quite work. Similarly, the US remake of Shutter opens with an explanation of spirit photography and a montage of photos with blurry, half-resolved images showing up, complete with mentions of how the people in the photos died soon after.
  • The Wind and the Lion is a retelling of the 1904 "Perdicaris incident," in which a Berber bandit (Sean Connery) kidnaps an American (Candice Bergen), leading Theodore Roosevelt to send in the Marines... except, in real life, Perdicaris was a man, and there was a lot less shooting and swordplay than the movie suggests.
  • The 'based on true events' part of the movie Wolf Creek seems to be limited to "there were some British backpackers murdered in Australia one time." And the movie was actually written prior to the disappearance of Peter Falconio and Ivan Milat's killings, but was not filmed until years later — so, cashing in rather than inspiration. For the record, neither case happened anywhere near (within a thousand miles of) Wolf Creek; the Ivan Milat murders didn't even happen in the outback.
  • The opening disclaimer makes it clear that The Young Poisoner's Handbook is not a Biopic, but a rather a story inspired by the life and crimes of Graham Young.

  • Aeneid: An interesting example is this poem by Vergil. While based off of myth rather than history, Vergil's poem does not exactly follow the mythical story either, taking rather extreme liberties with the myth of Aeneas's journey from Troy to Italy.
  • Atrocitology: Humanity's 100 Deadliest Achievements by Matthew White is a non-fiction example. It is about mass killings in history, and the author's introduction says "Let's get something out of the way right now. Everything you are about to read is disputed." Some people deny that some mass killings even happened, and in other cases everyone agrees that a lot of people died, but there is legitimate disagreement about how many, and from which cause.
  • Call the Midwife (leading to the TV series of the same name) and its two sequels profess to be the memoirs of author Jennifer Worth. In fact, large sections of the text relate events where the author was not present and nobody can possibly have been taking notes. Much of the second book takes place in a different century.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
    • In-universe examples are a recurring gag in the franchise.
    • There's a throwaway reference in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Lucifer Rising to a holodrama based on "The Seeds of Death" which is only recognisable by the character names, awash with Adaptational Attractiveness and Token Romance.
    • The short story "Scientific Advisior" has the Doctor get involved with a film based on "The Invasion" at UNIT's behest, to ensure it's inaccurate (including convincing the studio that no-one knows what the Cybermen were called, so they become the Zexians).
    • In the short story "Doctor Who and the Adaptation of Death" a screenwriter gets put on trial by aliens with an obsession with the truth, for essentially turning one of their greatest thinkers, who sacrificed himself to save humanity, into Jar-Jar Binks.
    • The one thing all the above have in common? They don't mention the Doctor at all.
  • Fairy Tales: Many of these are derived from tales of the lives of saints, such as St. Barbara (Rapunzel) or St. Margaret of Cartona (Snow White).
  • House of Leaves: This is noticeably an Averted Trope when in Johnny Truant's written introduction, he explicitly says that everything...The Navidson Record, all of the commentary on it in the book, all of fake or made-up. He hasn't been able to contact anyone who has ever heard of the film. The irony, according to him, is that what's real and what's not doesn't matter in the end since the consequences are the same. In a slightly more specific case, Johnny recounts a period of time where he lived with a doctor friend and his wife, and started going on medication, and generally getting his life back together. The chapter ends with him telling the reader he was making it up completely, and laughing at the reader for believing it.
  • If I Did It: By O. J. Simpson. He's talking about the crimes he is accused of committing and the trial he went through over it.
  • Jerusalem Delivered: This heroic poem is about the siege of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. Only it takes place two years later, lasts six months, involves non-real heroes on both sides, involves a demonic forest and magic, and distorts the historic figures involved (Bishop Adhemar was not shot in the eye with an arrow but died of illness and Godfrey was not elected king until after the sack of the city).
  • "Landfill": Joyce Carol Oates was inspired by news of the mysterious death of a college student to write this story. If anyone interpreted the story as being what actually happened, it would be a serious libel on the student's frat brothers and others. Faced by criticism from the student's family and accused of sensationalism and exploitation, Oates said that the story was never meant to be taken as anything but fiction, and that she writes however she's inspired to, news being an important source of ideas for her.
  • "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg": This story by Mark Twain was based in part on his experiences in a town in Western New York where he moved his mother to. In the town, he was accosted by members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union for his smoking and drinking in public, as well as a bad encounter with the police not believing who he was.
  • A Million Little Pieces: In order to get published James Frey had to make massive embellishments to his autobiography. He passed off the book of as a true story.
  • Musashi: This book is somewhere between Based on a True Story and this. He was at Sekigahara, and did fight a lot of the people he fought in the book, but it's a little murky as to how the fights went down. There's no evidence of him ever meeting Takuan, or adopting a Jotaro, although he did mentor an Iori.
  • Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Longfellow. Revere didn't ride alone, and was actually captured in Lincoln, Massachusetts. His friend Prescott was the only one to make it to Concord. It's believed Longfellow's inaccuracies were deliberate to make the poem sound more awesome.
  • The Poseidon Adventure was based around an incident in which the RMS Queen Mary was nearly capsized by a rogue wave.
  • The Princess Bride: Not the entire book but the Frame Story is entirely fictional but claims to have been based on a previous work by someone named S. Morgenstern. This has caused a great deal of confusion with some people even telling William Goldman, the true author, that they remember reading the original book when they were young.
  • There's an in-universe example in Relativity: There's a comic book based on the adventures of the first Black Torrent, but the comic writers had very little access to the truth about what he was involved in, so most of it is made-up.
  • Robinson Crusoe: The title character is based off Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor that was marooned on a deserted island of the coast of Chile for four years. He hunted goats and found God on the island, but everything else is either pure fiction or taken from other stories of marooned sailors.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms: This book was written a thousand years after the events it depicts, and takes far more inspiration from the various legends that had grown around the major figures of the Three Kingdoms period, even freely mixing in supernatural events.
  • The Song of Roland: The Battle of Roncevaux Pass was a battle where the rear-guard of Charlemagne's army was massacred in the Pyrenees by a small guerrilla force of Basque Christians. In this book, the battle is between a small Christian rear-guard and a massive army of Saracen Muslims, takes place in Spain, and ends with the entire Saracen army destroyed by the main body of the army. Really, the story only resembles the historical event inasmuch as Charlemagne's rear-guard was destroyed.
  • The Ties That Bind: This book is supposedly an autobiography, but there's no evidence that it did happen as it's being described.
  • Valley of Fear: All accounts of the actual history involved are highly biased, so it's hard to say, but presuming the union activists have it right, the inspiration for the hero of this story wasn't so much a brilliant conqueror as a meek voice of reason in a terrible organization, and that terrible organization wasn't the gang (which, according to most union folk, didn't even exist); it was the Pinkertons.
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is largely drawn from the author's own life, although he admits in his Author's Note to some dramatization.
  • Rosemary Wells's 1998 book "Yoko" was based on a real-life incident her older daughter saw of three Japanese girls getting made fun of for their "weird" lunch. The book is actually about a Japanese kitten who gets made fun of her lunch which is sushi. The only difference is that Yoko's teacher Mrs Jenkins holds a day where her class tries different foods from different countries brought by each student which never happened with the three students Well's daughters seen. They instead commiserated with each other and moved on.
  • ''The Secret Agent" is based on a real bombing of Greenwich Park in 1894 by anarchist Martial Bourdin, which Conrad considered a "blood-stained inanity of so fatuous a kind that it was impossible to fathom its origin by any reasonable or unreasonable process of thought." According to Conrad a friend later told him that the bomber was "half an idiot" and his sister committed suicide shortly after, forming the characters of Stevie and Winnie.
  • Flowers in the Attic was allegedly a fictionalized telling of true events, as claimed by V. C. Andrews in a pitch letter for the book to her agent. Years after her death, Jennifer, the owner of the fansite The Complete V.C. Andrews, had come into contact with a relative of Andrews' who said that the story was inspired by a doctor of hers that she had a crush on (a possible inspiration of Chris) who was locked up in an attic for several years along with his siblings.
  • Speaking of V. C. Andrews, Heaven, the first of The Casteel Series, was originally the autobiography of a woman who had been sold by her father. The book was rejected on the grounds that the quality wasn't suitable for publishing, but Andrews' editor (who confirmed all of this) had bought the story for Andrews to write. The original author, whose identity is still unknown, ended up contributing notes for the story. The sequels are entirely invented, however.
  • According to the disclaimer page in Eden Green, the story (about a rational young woman drawn into danger by her trouble-seeking best friend) is based loosely on a true story. The alien needle symbiote is presumably an embellishment.
  • Out of the Dust: Billie Jo's design was loosely based on a girl named Lucille Burroughs, who is also the girl featured on the cover. The plot was based on a separate incident, mentioned in a 1934 local Oklahoma newspaper, where someone was burned by kerosene.
  • Blood Meridian is quite loosely based on My Confession: the Recollections of a Rogue, the memoirs of real life scalp hunter Samuel Chamberlain. It's worth noting that while many of the people in Chamberlain's account are real, and he hasn't necessarily been shown to error in the names he used for the gang's company, nobody has found any corroborating evidence that Judge Holden existed.
  • James Herriot took this approach to the series of books that would be televised as All Creatures Great and Small, often to protect the privacy of those involved but sometimes just for storytelling purposes.
  • In Chance And Choices Adventures, most of the towns and landmarks are real. For example, there really is a Harmony, Arkansas. The people and events are completely made up, though.
    • Also, the "cursed swamp" scene in the fifth book, Torn Hearts, in which the heroes are protected from the swamp's Bandit Clan by phantom soldiers only their would-be attackers can see, is based on the sermon about missionaries in Africa, who were protected against tribal raiders in the same way.
  • The Wolves of Paris is inspired by the Beast of Gévaudan. The Beast of Gévaudan is the name associated with a man-eating animal who attacked southern France between 1764 and 1767. The animal, or animals, has never been identified but it's suspected to be a canine.
  • Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor features an In-Universe example, a biopic retelling of the events of the movies that bears so little resemblance to reality it somehow warps past being offensive into side-splitting hilarity. Amongst other things, Emperor Palpatine is a kind and noble leader manipulated by evil underlings, Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are two different people, Anakin dies trying to save Jedi Younglings (the same ones he himself killed in Revenge of the Sith), and Luke is Palpatine's chosen heir who avenges his death after the treacherous Vader betrays and murders Palpatine to claim the throne. Needless to say, the real Luke is deeply embarrassed when he learns about this movie. And his opinion only gets worse when it turns out the movie is actually a Propaganda Piece covertly made by Cronal to get the public acclimated to the idea of Luke becoming the new Emperor... because Cronal is plotting to possess Luke's body and impersonate him to do exactly that.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The ratio of stories on 1000 Ways to Die is roughly 5% completely accurate depictions of real Cruel And Unusual Deaths, 5% things that could plausibly happen but there's no record of such a death taking place, and 10% Urban Legends that are totally made up and couldn't possibly happen, but the remaining 80% are this; the basic circumstances are taken from something that actually happened, but specifics are either grossly exaggerated or outright fabricated to increase the gore, sex appeal, or both and usually making the victim an unlikeable person so that their death becomes an instance of Laser-Guided Karma
  • Are You There, Chelsea? is based on the book Are You There, Vodka? It's Me Chelsea by Chelsea Handler.
  • Bad Blood 2017 is a dramatization of the final years of mobster Vito Rizzuto and his Montreal based crime family. With the exception of the Rizzutos, The Rival Sal Montagna and judge France Charbonneau, the main characters are fictional or composites of actual people. The show portrays Sal Montagna as the main enemy Vito must fight for control of Montreal but in real life Montagna was killed years earlier and the Mob War was probably started by his assassination rather than ended. Season 2 is completely fictional and is at best Inspired by... the events following Vito's death.
  • Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction was notorious for this. It was a show in which several stories were presented in an episode and viewers had to true to pick out which one was true. In general, “fact” meant that someone else had already made it up, while “fiction” meant that the show’s producers made it up from scratch.
  • Bring 'Em Back Alive was very loosely based on the life of real world Great White Hunter Frank Buck (and takes its title from his first volume of memoirs). However, it turns him into a two-fisted hero battling Those Wacky Nazis and other bad guys in pre-WWII Malaya.
  • Chinese dramas, especially ones based on the lives of emperors or their concubines, are known for this. Justified, since the dramas are usually loose adaptations of novels that are also only loosely based on real events. Sometimes this is because of a scarcity of accurate information about the real people. Sometimes it's because a historically accurate story just wouldn't be interesting.
  • Cold Case based many of its episodes off of infamous Real Life murders. And even those not based on specific cases were based around the issues of the era in which they were set.
  • Colditz operated similarly. All the onscreen characters are fictional, including the camp commandant and chief of security, but many share similarities with real-life counterparts. Some are composites of real POWs. The plots and character drama are likewise invented, except for the escape attempts, which are all based on real attempts. To preserve the drama, the results of escape attempts are occasionally changed too - a real-life successful method was no guarantee of success in the series.
  • Netflix's The Crown (2016) is loosely based on the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. While the show is well-researched on certain events, it's unclear how accurate the show is in reality since the Royal family is very private about their lives. Charles Spencer, the brother of the late Princess Diana whose life story is featured in Season 4, had to remind viewers that the show is fiction.
  • The Curse of Steptoe, a docudrama by The BBC about the making of Steptoe and Son proved to be too loosely based on the true story. Following complaints from Harry H. Corbett's family it was edited before being repeated, and preceded by a declaration "The following drama is inspired by the lives of real people. For the purpose of the narrative some events have been invented or conflated". Following further complaints it was edited again. Following more complaints, the BBC Trust ruled that it just shouldn't be shown and the DVDs should be recalled. The sticking point was the implication that Corbett's relationship with his second wife preceded the breakup of his first marriage, although it was also pointed out that the basic idea behind the story - that Corbett and Brambell hated each other and felt the show ruined their careers - was not supported by anyone who knew them.
  • The courtroom dramas of the 1980s, including the original Divorce Court, and fellow court dramas Superior Court and The Judge. All stories were said to be "based on actual cases," but with the names changed.
  • The codifying trope is probably Jack Webb's Mark VII shows, starting with Dragnet, in which "the names have been changed to protect the innocent." His other productions, including Adam-12 also included the disclaimer that everything was based on true events, which is a trifle funny when the episode revolved around Jim's inability to tell jokes or Friday and Gannon's weekend sleepover.
    • The 1987 comedy movie version of Dragnet parodies this with its opening announcement:
      "The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. For example, 'George Baker' is now called 'Sylvia Weiss'."
    • Comedy recording "St. George and the Dragonet" used a similar parody:
    The legend you are about to hear is true. Only the needle should be changed to protect the record.
  • Enemy at the Door is set during the German occupation of the Channel Islands in World War II, but the series is more about exploring the dramatic possibilities of the situation than re-enacting history. All the characters who appear on-screen are fictional, including those prominent enough to have appeared in the historical record; for instance, the major in charge of the occupying forces, though he shares some similarities with his real-life counterpart, is basically an invented character with an invented name. The plots are likewise invented. Some of the scenes in the first episode depicting the arrival of the Germans are based on actual events, but even those take full advantage of dramatic license.
  • Fresh Off the Boat is a semi-autobiographical account of producer Eddie Huang's life. Many artistic licenses are taken, of course.
  • The Great Escape II: the Untold Story, unlike The Great Escape uses the actual names of the real-life people involved. After that it borders on a Documentary of Lies. John Dodge really was an American-born British Army officer interned with RAF prisoners but he played no part in the murder investigation. Von Lindeiner, the Commandant, was not executed, he moved to London after the war. Most egregious was the depiction of Burchardt, the mastermind of the murders. Burchardt and Dodge face off in the climatic battle, Dodge armed with a pistol and Burchardt only with a rhinoceros hide whip. Dodge, nearly defeated, finally shoots and kills Burchardt. Burchardt was actually just one of the mooks in real life and received light punishment in the end. About the only facts in the mini series were that there was an investigation and prosecution of the murderers of "the fifty", John Dodge did escape from Sachsenhausen concentation camp after his recapture and Burchardt did own a rhinoceros hide whip.
  • Houdini & Doyle: Doyle and Houdini actually were friends, although they had a falling-out over spiritualism. They never solved crimes together, but Doyle investigated a few cases and exonerated wrongly convicted prisoners. Houdini went on a debunking campaign against mediums, while Doyle retained his spiritualist faith to the end.
  • Parodied on How I Met Your Mother. After Stella leaves Ted at the altar for her ex, said ex makes a movie called The Wedding Bride, painting Ted as a dumb asshole and painting the ex as a saint who saved Stella. (At least according to Unreliable Narrator Ted's version of events.)
  • Law & Order bases most of their stories on (or off—often way off) real cases and incidents. In order to be able to deny that they're referencing a certain real person, they may insert a remark to show that the real person also exists in the fictional world. For example, in one episode that featured a No Celebrities Were Harmed Ann Coulter, one character remarks that she "makes Ann Coulter look like a socialist" or some such remark. There was also an episode where a little boy who apparently got sodomized by a rich pale white guy who donates a lot of money to charity and whose parents deny anything because apparently they were paid off. Sounds familiar?? Debatable though...
    • And the episode where a husband's fight to remove the feeding tube from his comatose wife led to his murder. Needless to say the people fighting to keep the wife alive are the killers.
    • One episode of SVU combined two current events into one story with the first half referencing a pregnancy pact and the second based off the story of a teen who committed suicide apparently after her online boyfriend dumped her and humiliated her. It turned out that the boyfriend didn't exist and was the creation of the mother of the girl's friend that had a falling out with and created the boyfriend to find out what the girl was saying about her daughter. The account ended up falling into the hands of other people close to the woman.
    • These examples are interesting inversions, because they are often closer than the truth than other works that are purported to be "based on true events," but they are always very careful to let us know that it has nothing to do with Real Life events.

  • Little House on the Prairie is somewhat infamous for this, to begin with the real life Ingalls family lived in Walnut Grove, Minnesota only for about three years, then moving to a farm in Western Minnesota, then to Burr Oak, Iowa, and eventually settling in DeSmet, in what is now South Dakota. Mary Ingalls never married, and the character of Albert Ingalls never existed, being entirely made up for the show.
  • Millennium: Parodied in the episode "...Thirteen Years Later", where the protagonist Frank Black finds himself on the set of a Slasher Movie very loosely based on a murder he had investigated years prior. Black, not being much for pop culture, is understandably confused as to why a disabled geriatric victim killed in her driveway would be dramatized as a sexy blond co-ed murdered in her shower, or why he himself (a middle-aged investigator with a kid) would be portrayed as a dashing Tall, Dark, and Handsome Hollywood star.
  • Orange Is the New Black uses Piper Kerman's memoir as a starting point with a dialog lines and situations lifted directly from the book, but with different names for all but two characters, a major increase in tension including the placement of Piper's girlfriend in the same prison, and the addition of background stories for the inmates.
  • Phoenix was inspired by the Real Life Russell Street Bombing, but outside of the explosion and the investigative techniques used, it bears very little resemblance to the actual case.
  • Roots and Roots The Next Generation both take some great liberties with the reporting of supposed true events of the lives of Alex Haley and his ancestors. Much of what happens in the original mini-series is taken directly from The African, a fictional book about a slave who is brought to the states.
  • Scandal: The show is based on the career of real life George H. W. Bush deputy press secretary/crisis manager Judy Smith, though obviously with plots far from the reality of the Bush 41 presidency meant to appeal to 2012 audiences looking for dramatic tension.
  • Sirens is a benign example: The script team took various entries from the blog "Random Acts of Reality" by London Ambulance Service EMT "Tom Reynolds", changed a few details to further obscure the identities of the real patients and wove them into a Slice of Life series about three fictional LAS workers.
  • The Sopranos: In a roundabout way. Christopher consciously or unconsciously based much of the fictional movie Cleaver on his own life, Tony's behaviour, and his suspicions regarding Tony and Adriana having slept together. Carmela calls it "a revenge fantasy that ends up with the boss's head split open by a meat cleaver."
  • Oh where to begin on the historical inaccuracies in both The Tudors and Rome.
    • And The Borgias.
    • And The White Queen. A good place to begin, though, might be with the fact that, while the were both accused of witchcraft in Real Life, neither Jacquetta Woodville nor her daughter Elizabeth had actual magical powers. They were certainly not able to control the weather!
    • And The Great owns this trope, by declaring its inaccuracies about Catherine the Great's rise in the subtitle. The series is, after all, really a meditation on gender, political power and philosophy wrapped up in a sexy, violent farce.
  • Most of the artifacts in Warehouse 13 are connected to "people with Wikipedia pages" and are likely to exist in real life, albeit without any of the magical properties ascribed to them in the series, and some of the purported incidents that made them "artifacts" as the term is used in the series are cut from whole cloth. For example, it's entirely likely that Charles Dodgson had a mirror, but the characterization of Alice Liddell is completely fictional.

  • Quite a few folk songs turn out to be this if you dig a bit. For instance, the traditional "Stagger Lee", recorded in dozens of very different versions by hundreds of artists including Mississippi John Hurt, Lloyd Price, Bob Dylan, The Clash and Nick Cave, is based on the real-life murder of Billy Lyons by Lee "Stag" Shelton in 1895. The bit where Stagger goes to hell and kills Satan is presumably fictionalized, though.

  • Donizetti's Anna Bolena is very loosely based on the real-life Anne Boleyn. In fact, Riccardo Percy, her lover, was actually a judge at Anne Boleyn's trial in real life. And while Anne Boleyn was executed for her inability to give Henry VIII a male heir, Anna Bolena is executed because Enrico has fallen in love with another woman, Giovanna Seymour (Jane Seymour).
  • Verdi's Don Carlo is based on Carlos, Prince of Asturias, but the storyline is based on a rumour that he was secretly in love with Princess Elizabeth of Valois, who is married to his father King Philip II of Spain. Furthermore, while Don Carlo's desire to rule Flanders is good-hearted in the opera, in reality, it was most likely rooted in egotism.


  • More or Less is a statistics show on BBC Radio 4. It often examines news stories with exciting numbers, and finds that while the numbers are not invented, they are less than rigorously researched, and that the full story is rather more complex than one might think from the headline number.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Eon has an in-universe example when it comes to Dwarven historic writings: Dwarves make a strong distinction between Chronicle and History. A Chronicle is a piece of historic fiction, intended to glorify the participants in a particular event, whereas a History is a bare-bones account of the facts surrounding a place or an event, and there are often both Histories and Chronicles describing the same events. For example, the Kharzim Chronicle stated that Kharzim drove back a Tirak horde so large that "grass no longer grew where it marched" from the gates of Hazr at the cost of his own life. The History of Hazr describes the same event as follows: "Skirmish with Tiraks at Hazr, Kharzim and 68 others dead. Enemy dead uncounted, but number does not exceed 200. Supplies running low, negotiations with humans concerning construction of trading post at Hazr in progress." The fun begins when well-meaning but clueless scholars from other cultures start taking Chronicles at face value.

  • The 1934 play The Children's Hour is based on the events of a 1810 Scottish court case. A student accused her two female teachers of having an affair. Subsequently, the girls grandmother removed her from the school, and, thanks to her affluencey, the grandmother was able to have the other parents do the same within a matter of days. The central difference is that the real women, Jane and Marianne, won the case while Karen and Martha lost theirs.
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller, which is based on the Salem Witch Trials. While some of the broad strokes are true (specifically, the identities of those who died, as well as the accusers), a lot of the details are not.
    • The play portrays an affair between Abigail Williams and John Proctor as the motivating factor behind Abigail accusing Proctor of witchcraft. There's no historical evidence that the pair even knew each other before Abigail made the accusation. What's more, the real Abigail Williams was no more than twelve years old, while the real John Proctor was about sixty; in order to make the affair plausible, Miller raised Abigail's age to seventeen, while lowering Proctor's to somewhere in his thirties. (Miller himself admitted that he changed the ages of some of the characters.)
    • While Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth was a real person, the Danforth character bears almost no resemblence to his real life counterpart. The real Danforth was extremely skeptical of the accusations and critical of the trials as a whole, and ultimately had a hand in the process being brought to a halt when it did. Many people believe that the fictional Danforth is actually based on a completely different historical figure, Magistrate William Stoughton.
    • In the play, Thomas Putnam is a greedy and conniving man who uses the accusations to increase his own fortune, while his wife Ann is succeptible to the claims because she has lost all but one of her children and witchcraft gives her something to blame. In reality, while some historians believe that a feud between the Putnams and another family may have played a role in their daughter's accusations, there is no historical evidence to suggest a scheme of anywhere near the magnitude of what the play attributes to Thomas. As for Ann, her heartbreaking loss is at least severely exaggerated; of the Putnams' twelve children, ten outlived their parents.note 
      • In a more minor example, the Putnams' daughter is referred to in the play as Ruth, while the Putnam daughter at the center of the Trials was Ann Putnam Jr. Justified because calling the daughter Ann could lead to the character being confused with her mother.
      • Ann Putnam Jr. was also a major player in the Trials, with some historians even believing that she was the one who started it (although probably with less deliberate malice than what the play attributes to Abigail). In the play, her counterpart Ruth is such a minor player that she doesn't even appear in person, but is only mentioned.
    • The play ends with Abigail Williams running off with Mercy Lewis after stealing her uncle's fortune; the epilogue notes that, "The legend has it that Abigail turned up later as a prostitute in Boston." In reality, this is at most an unconfirmed rumor: nobody actually knows what happened to Abigail, who disappears from all historical records after the end of the Trials. Mercy Lewis did go to Boston, but it was to live with a relative; there's no indication that her departure was abrupt or secretive the way the fictional character's was, nor is there any reason to think that Abigail went with her.
  • The Devil's Disciple: Played with in the closing narration.
    Dick Dudgeon: The rest of this story is pure fiction. Rest assured, you can believe every word of it.
  • Frost/Nixon plays fast and loose with history more than once in the interest of a cool story. Among these:
    • Frost and Nixon were already well-acquainted. Frost interviewed Nixon in 1968, when he was still a presidential candidate, and hosted the 1971 White House Christmas party.
    • On the Nixon team, Col. Jack Brennan was actually a pleasant man with a keen sense of humor rather than the hardcore humorless Marine he's portrayed as.
    • The drunken midnight phone call by Nixon to Frost never happened; it was inserted mainly as a way to climb inside a private man and show some similarities between the two opponents.
    • Caroline Cushing did not meet David Frost by chance as he prepared for the interviews, but had actually been dating him for some time.
    • The biggest of all: Nixon did not confess to being part of a cover-up during the interviews, though he did admit to and apologize for disappointing the American people.
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton has a pile of convenient historical edits, which include but are not limited to siblings being adapted out, a change in the timing of a number of historical events, and also the fact they're a cast of multiracial rappers.
    • Though if you worry about historical accuracy because of what people might think is true, then the racial identities and vocal styles of the actors are not very important.
  • Inherit the Wind heavily fictionalizes the real-life Scopes Trial, which in truth was a simple misdemeanor charge played up by the town of Dayton, TN as a publicity stunt. John Scopes was not arrested in his classroom, he was never sent to jail, the fine levied against him was tossed out by the judge (after prosecutor William Jennings Bryan offered to pay it himself), and the prosecutor was not dramatically struck dead at the reading of the verdict. The play's preface states that the work is based on but but does not accurately reflect historical events. The film adaptations, on the other hand, do not, leading many to mistakenly believe the events portrayed in the story are what actually happened.
  • When David Henry Hwang heard over the radio of the incident that formed the basis of M. Butterfly, he deliberately didn't do any more research, because he wanted an original artistic creation, not something Ripped from the Headlines. He openly admitted this, however, and changed the names of those involved, so he probably shouldn't be ripped on as much as certain individuals above.
    • Peter Shaffer did the same thing when writing Equus. He read a newspaper article about a teenager who blinded six horses, then wrote a story that would explain it.
    • Shaffer also wrote Amadeus, a heavily fictionalized biography of Salieri, one of Mozart's contemporaries.
  • The play My Sister Eileen, which later became the musical Wonderful Town, is based on a couple of autobiographical stories (namely, "Mr. Spitzer and the Fungus" and "Beware the Brazilian Navy") by Ruth McKenney published under the same title. All the names were changed, except for Eileen and Ruth's first names, and many details of the stories were altered or simply made up.
  • Pagliacci, as its Prologue alludes to: when composer Ruggero Leoncavallo was a boy, a servant from his household was murdered by a professional commedia dell'arte performer over a love triangle, and Leoncavallo's judge father oversaw the criminal investigation. Leoncavallo adapted the incident very freely, though. In real life, the woman both men fancied was not the killer's wife, nor was she killed, and the murder did not take place onstage during a commedia dell'arte performance.
  • Older Than Steam: William Shakespeare took many liberties with some of his historical plays. Usually just because it'd make a better story, but he was prepared to go over the top to suck up to his royal patrons. One example for each monarch:
    • Richard III was the last Plantagenet, who lost the Wars of the Roses to Elizabeth I's Tudors (which is why they are invariably the heroes to Plantagenet villains in the historical plays). What little paperwork remains from his reign suggests he was a reasonable, competent type with a reputation for bravery justified by his death in battle — the last English monarch to do so, as it happens. This impression is at odds with that of the ruthless near-sociopath who murdered several of his 'allies', his wife, brother and two of his cousins and wished to marry a third to secure his succession. Also, Richard is typically portrayed as being old and severely deformed (Laurence Olivier, here's to lookin' at you) — though he died at 32 with at most a minor deformity of one shoulder — so minor that there is disagreement as to which shoulder it was. (And it could have been due to overtraining — Richard's favorite weapon was the axe, which can't be as easily switched from one side to the other as a sword can.)
    • James I traced his lineage back to Banquo, and Shakespeare wanted to make a good first impression, so he dragged poor King Macbeth through the mud. For example, the real Duncan was not a wise, old king, he was a young man who wasted his wealth. Also, the real Duncan was killed in a fair fight with Macbeth, instead of being assassinated in his sleep. Lady Macbeth, whose real name was Gruoch, outlived her (second) husband. Lulach, her son by her first husband, became king of Scotland before Malcolm.
  • The play Two Shakespearean Actors centers around the events of the 1849 Astor Place Riots. While the historical event is real, the story is highly fictionalized
    • Perhaps most notably, of the play's thirty-plus characters, less than a dozen are real people. Even among those who are, several are based on individuals about whom little is known, so while the names and some basic details are drawn from historical records, the specific characterizations are still largely the playwright's creation.
    • The play shows the dynamic between Forrest and Macready as a relatively friendly rivalry, with Forrest even helping to hide Macready from the rioters. In reality, though they had once been friends, their friendship had long since deteriorated and by the time of the riot, they were bitter enemies.
    • In a more justified case, the play depicts Forrest as engaged in an extramarital affair, much to the consternation of his scorned wife. The reality is less clear: in the course of their divorce, both Forrest and his wife were charged with infidelity. While the court ruled at the time that Forrest was the one having the affair (which is why this depiction is relatively justified), some historians believe that it was his wife, Catherine, who was actually unfaithful.

    Video Games 
  • Parodied in the credits of Bubba N Stix:
    This game is based on a true story
    Only the hats have changed to protect the innocent.
  • Parodied in the DeathSpank games, where the intro starts off stating that it's "Based on a True Story." This being a game about a Justice-obsessed moron fighting and questing for a piece of bacon.
  • Dynasty Warriors in particular is based on Chinese history in much the same way Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is based on American history.
  • In Skyrim the player gets a chance to do this when writing the story of King Olaf for the Bard's College. The higher your speech-craft skill, the more fantastic you can make the story.
  • The Playstation 2 game Fatal Frame fits this trope, at least as it was advertised outside of Japan. The cover of the game-box proudly says "Based on a true story" on the American and European version, and the tale that follows has a young Japanese girl searching a haunted mansion for her missing brother, battling ghosts with a magical camera, and slowly uncovering a mystery that stretches back hundreds of years and involves vengeful ghosts, dozens of innocent victims, sacrificial rites, star-crossed lovers, creepy dolls and trying to hold shut the gate to hell. To much confusion as to whether Himuro Mansion was real or not. There was a debate going on about it for awhile until it was revealed the inspiration for the setting of the game was in fact many places and Himuro Mansion did not, in fact, exist for real. Unsurprisingly, the Japanese version makes no pretense of being based on anything but urban legends.
  • Infamously, during Genji 2: Days of the Blade's E3 2006 show:
    "[Genji 2] will also be based on famous battles which actually took place in ancient Japan. So here's this Giant Enemy Crab..."
  • Guerilla War was originally released in Japan as "Guevara", in which you play as Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who helped bring down the Batista regime in Cuba.note 
  • Jeanne d'Arc is based loosely on the events of the Hundred Years' War, with the dramatis personae, many historical events (such as the siege of Orleans, the assault on Les Tourelles), and the circumstances of Jeanne d'Arc's capture all corresponding with the true history. It also happens to add in a few...interesting details such as how the English army was lead by an Evil Overlord possessing Henry VI and his Legions of Hell, the hidden war between the forces of humanity and the Netherworld, the fact that Jeanne d'Arc was a Magical Girl Warrior and wasn't the girl captured and burned at the stake. That was her childhood friend and Body Double Leanne.
  • The arcade game Operation Thunderbolt (the sequel to Operation Wolf) is likely very loosely based on the real "Operation Thunderbolt", one of a number of names for an Israeli military raid on Entebbe, Uganda in order to free hostages.
  • Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners references the Luxor Massacre, a tragedy where several tourists were slaughtered while visiting an archeological site. Among the victims were nine Japanese tourists and their guide. The main plot of the game revolves around Professor Tsuchida and his assistant Dr. Kuroe tricking a group of eight Japanese tourists and their guide into accompanying them on a dangerous exploration. It's also revealed late in the game that Tsuchida and Kuroe were present at the Luxor Massacre, with Tsuchida's own daughter among the casualties.
  • Vampire Legends: The True Story of Kisilova claims to be based on the first written historical account of alleged vampirism. The game contains surprisingly little sensationalism and almost nothing which could be interpreted as being in any way supernatural.
  • This War of Mine is one of the few instances where this trope isn't a bad thing. Aside from the gameplay and atmosphere being influenced by the Siege of Serajevo and the Bosnian War, the rest of the game is a a deliberately generic setting to avoid drowning out the War Is Hell theme it tries to convey.
  • In general Japanese game developers tend to have extreme liberties with their own Sengoku era and China's Three Kingdoms era, even more than the example of Romance of the Three Kingdoms above. Listing these games would be suicidal mission, but let's say the only exceptions are the strategy adaptations such as Nobunaga's Ambition or Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

    Visual Novels 
  • The concept for Ace Attorney is based on, as well as a heavy parody of, the heinously unfair and brutal legal system of Japan that was in use at the time of the series' creation. Not only is the way the trials work based on real life Japanese trials, but the brutal statistics (such as 99% guilty rate), harshness towards the defence, unfairly unbalanced advantage for the Prosecution and ridiculously chaotic claims are also all based on what was really happening in Japanese courts during the early 2000's, although of course, exaggerated.
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the unfair system is at the center of the entire game, and after a murderer is nearly let off the hook due to the stupid nature of the way the courts run, a new system to bring back the idea of a jury into the courts is introduced. This is directly based on what was happening in Japan at the time of Apollo Justice's release, where the Japanese courts were switching over to a jury system.
  • ChuSinGura 46+1 tells the stories of The 47 Ronin with surprisingly accurate depictions of the orignal epic, albeit with Gender Flipped ronin with fictionalized backstories for several of them and a bit of Meta Fiction.
  • Steins;Gate is based on an event back in 2000 where a forum poster by the name of John Titor showed up on a number of boards and claimed to be a soldier from the future, sent back in time to retrieve an IBM 5100 in order to avert a disastrous Bad Future - it's just in Steins;Gate, he was being entirely honest about everything except her name and gender.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded and averted in The Simpsons episode "Margical History Tour", where Marge tells various historical stories. After she tells the story of Mozart, Lisa observes that her retelling had a lot of historical inaccuracies and was obviously based on the film Amadeus, which was itself quite inaccurate.
  • An In-Universe example occurs in the The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Comic", where Sarah's comics are exxagerated versions of real things that happened to Gumball.

Alternative Title(s): Biographical Fiction


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