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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 (2000) 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....
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Championess is this out of necessity if nothing else, since there is little detailed historical information about Elizabeth Wilkinson, the protagonist, to go on. Elizabeth and her trainer James Stokes are likely Race Lifted, and Elizabeth's sister Tess has no basis in the hstorical record, to name two of the more obvious instances of the trope.
  • 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. The comic also includes cameos from various historical figures, including a cameo from a child Aleister Crowley, which Moore also admits adding in due to pure Author Appeal.
  • Group of 7: A Most Secret Tale: While the protagonists of the comic are all real people who served in World War I, the bit about them foiling a plot by the Swiss to get the Germans to develop a Super-Soldier serum to tear Europe apart so they can rebuild it in their image is entirely made up.
  • 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.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Don Bluth's Anastasia, itself an adaptation of the already highly fictionialised 1956 Ingrid Bergman movie about the Did Anastasia Survive? myth, takes the liberties and stretches them even further, but then Bluth admitted he never intended it to be accurate or even close: he reduced Anastasia's age by seven years to justify the Time Skip from the prologue (she was fifteen at the end of 1916 in real life, not eight as at the beginning of the film) and made Rasputin into a fantasy character who cast spells, had a talking bat, and came Back from the Dead as a walking corpse; and even more outrageous — in the sense of being not merely fantastic but allohistorical — was Rasputin being cast out by the Tsar. In fact, Rasputin (quite undeservedly) remained a royal favorite to the end of his life and after. As everything was falling apart, Tsarina Alexandra wrote many letters to Nicholas lamenting, "If only our Dear Friend [Rasputin] were still with us! He would know what to do!"
  • 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 diphtheria 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 pen-friendship with the inspiration for Max, with Mary being entirely invented.
  • 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 Smith made up the story of Pocahontas saving him from execution.) 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 Mockbuster Pocahontas (Golden Films) was this as well. It even added a living canoe for seemingly no reason.
  • The Secret of Kells is a story about the making of the Book of Kells, though it's loosely based on historical fact. It mainly takes place at the Abbey of Kells, which is a real place that was raided by Vikings several times. Still, the making of the Book likely didn't involve a fairy's help or confronting an ancient pagan god to take its eye to use as a magnifying glass.
  • 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 the 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.

  • Alias Grace: Grace Marks immigrated to Canada from Ireland and was employed as a maid in the home of Thomas Kinnear. She and a man called James McDermott, who also worked in the household as a handyman, were convicted of murdering Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, in 1843. McDermott was hanged; Marks was sentenced to life in prison but was pardoned after thirty years and moved to the United States. Anything beyond that is speculation; Atwood definitely invented the character of Dr. Jordan, for example, who could be considered the novel's second protagonist.
  • James Herriot took this approach to the series of books that would be televised as All Creatures Great and Small (1978), often to protect the privacy of those involved but sometimes just for storytelling purposes.
  • Anita de Monte Laughs Last: Anita de Monte and Jack Martin are based on artists Ana Mendieta and Carl Andre, who was acquitted on murder charges after her death. Per The Other Wiki, exhibits of his work have been met with protests from Mendieta's supporters.
  • 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 certain 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Education of Cyrus by Xenophon, which is Older Than Feudalism, only resembles the life of its supposed subject Cyrus the Great in the Broad Strokes: He was the son and heir of the king of Anshan and a Mede princess; he had to fight a war against the Medes (led by his grandfather); he beat the Medes, then conquered the rest of the Middle East, and is generally considered to have ruled wisely and justly. The rest, however, is entirely made up; in particular, the constitution and educational system of Anshan that Xenophon describes more closely resembles that of Sparta than anything you'd find in Persia. Xenophon didn't really care, and neither did his readers, since it was obvious that Xenophon was writing a "mirror-of-princes" intended to instruct the education of wise rulers rather than a straight biography of the Persian king. (In particular, Xenophon seems to model his Cyrus on the Socratic ideal of a philosopher-king.)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Author Hunter S. Thompson called the book a failed attempt at Gonzo Journalism, because of the liberties he had to take to make it even slightly readable. There's some time compression and a lot of background stuff missing. For instance, the main reason that Thompson and Oscar Zeta Acosta (the person whom the character "Dr. Gonzo" was based on) went to Las Vegas in the first place was to discuss the incidents that eventually formed the substance of Thompson's essay "Strange Rumblings in Aztlan;" they needed to get out of Los Angeles because Acosta was a big-time civil rights attorney and his bodyguards were very zealous and very suspicious of gringos, even ones like Thompson who were sympathetic to the Chicano cause. The biggest change to the plot is that in real life the Mint 400 race and the drug conference took place on two separate trips, about a month apart; in the book and movie, they happen on two consecutive weekends.
  • 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.
  • The Grandmother is inspired by things familiar to the author from her childhood on the estate of Wilhelmine, Princess of Courland and Duchess of Sagan. While there are things taken from life, they are put together into an all-around fictional whole. Two of the stories that are among those most true to life are the Grandmother's backstory about how she went to join her boyfriend in Kladsko and married him after he had been recruited as a soldier, and the story of the madwoman Viktorka, which was based on that of a local character. However, the lovers Kristla and Jakub "Míla" are inspired by real people who were not in a relationship. As for the way the Grandmother's family is portrayed, this is essentially Wish-Fulfillment. While the author portrays the Grandmother as bringing harmony to the family and even to the whole community and living out her life in peace in the country cottage occupied by her daughter's family, in real life, the family lived in a flat and the author's grandmother, Marie Magdalena Novotná, only stayed for some time (or only made visits). There were issues between her and her daughter and she ended up leaving for Vienna, where she lived with her daughter Johana and eventually died.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The book also mentions that there's an entire genre of these, though usually created by people whose motives are no more sinister than making a quick buck. The framing device is Luke hiring an investigator to write a report on the incident only to find that he instead writes yet another holodrama script. Luke grits his teeth and insists on rewrites for accuracy, possibly resulting in the actual book the audience has just read.
  • "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. The story involves a town of preening self-righteous scolds who are gradually exposed as hypocrites after delivering an unknown slight to a passing stranger.
  • 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.
  • The Nikki Heat novels are an In-Universe example. The books are defictionalizations of a Show Within a Show from the Police Procedural series Castle, "written" by the title character based on mashups of various murder cases he investigated with Detective Kate Beckett (i.e. the plots of various episodes of the TV series), complete with a Cast of Expies based on himself and the detectives.
  • The One and Only Ivan: There was a real gorilla named Ivan living in a mall, whose life paralleled the book's story in many ways - taken from the wild in infancy, Raised in Captivity in a human home until he became large and unruly and then confined to a small cage in a mall for over a quarter century and making drawings and paintings that were sold, then brought to live out the rest of his life in a zoo. The specific events described in the book are all fictional, to make the story from the gorilla's point of view less lonely and to give him more agency, such as Saving The World Through Art (or, well, getting publicity for doing so). Presumably the real Ivan was unable to converse with other animals too.
  • Oroonoko: The African characters are fictional, though the details of the setting are based off the author's own experience in Suriname and the slave revolt from accounts of real Coromantin slave rebellions. Furthermore the European characters existed and were actually in Suriname in the 1660s.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Ty Cobb is victim to both this and Historical Villain Upgrade. He had decided to write a memoir in his final years as he was battling cancer, but his publisher chose sportswriter Al Stump as his ghostwriter, a newspaperman of dubious credibility who had been banned from several publications for fabricating stories. Stump interviewed Cobb for only a few days before he ghostwrote Cobb's memoir (against Cobb's wishes after he read the first draft, but Cobb died before he could sue the publisher) and later wrote a famous magazine article about Cobb's final months depicting him as a murderous criminal. In 1994 Stump wrote another, even less complimentary biography titled, Cobb: The Life and Times of the Meanest Man Who Ever Played Baseball, which shortly before his death in 1995 he admitted he did for money. Beginning in The New '10s, Stump's version of events has been debunked as fictionalized or heavily distorted, and Al Stump has since been accused of widespread Ty Cobb memorabilia forgery, to the point that a member of the Society for American Baseball Research has asserted all of Stump's accounts of Cobb are highly suspect at best and ought to be dismissed out of hand as untrue at worst. Cobb was hardly a gentle soul by any means; he got in fights with hecklers, drank heavily, and pleaded guilty to assault charges on at least one occasion. However, much of Cobb's alleged violence and racism was simply invented, and he was well-liked and an advocate for baseball's integration during his lifetime.
  • 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.
  • What Did You Do In The War, Sister?: Zig-zagged. Most of the events in the book are verifiable fact, but they did not all conveniently happen in the same place and time for a single character to experience them. One of the largest aspects of this is that despite the entire story focusing on Belgium, quite a few of the described events transpired in convents in Italy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Baby: The two protagonists are fictional versions of two high school girls in Rome involved in underage prostitution during the 2013-2014 real-life scandal "Baby Squillo" ("Baby Call Girl"). The other main characters, like the students in their high school, are entirely invented.
  • 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.
  • Betty: The series is loosely based on the main cast's lives, who all play fictional versions of themselves.
  • 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. Examples from series set during the Qin and Three Kingdoms era: The Advisor's Alliance stays reasonably close to the historical Sima Yi's biography. King's War invents some characters and events. The King's Woman has a handful of Historical Domain Characters, but everything else is completely fictional.
  • The Chosen: The Samaritan Melech is guilt-ridden over mugging a Jewish traveler and leaving the man for dead on the side of the road. Jesus says the traveler did survive because someone stopped to help him, implying that in the show the parable of the Good Samaritan was inspired by an actual event, although to what degree the event and parable are meant to line up isn't elaborated on.
  • 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.
  • Criminal Minds takes inspiration from real Serial Killer cases (and other high-profile crimes), many of which are often mentioned when profiling the unsub, but compared to the real cases, the ones on the show tend to have much larger body counts, a more condensed timeline, and often much more elaborate rituals and set-ups.
  • The Crowded Room: The show is inspired by Billy Milligan, a convicted rapist and thief whom psychiatrists diagnosed with disassociative identity disorder after he was charged with further rapes. He was acquitted by using this in an Insanity Defense, the first acquittal of the kind. It's also suspected that he had murdered two people at least in his life. Danny's crimes are pretty different, but shares Milligan's DID (though his alternates are distinct). The location's also changed, moving from Ohio to New York.
  • 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 Wilfrid 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.
  • Feel Good: The series is heavily based on Mae Martin's life, including living in England as a Canadian expat, plus her drug addiction, gender and sexuality. Still, the rest is fictional.
  • For Life: Each episode ends with a disclaimer saying that the show was inspired by Isaac Wright, Jr.'s life, but that the plot is fictional. Aaron Wallace is based on Isaac Wright, Jr., a man wrongly convicted of being a drug kingpin, became a lawyer while in prison, was exonerated and became a full-time defense attorney. Aside from that however, not only do the specific plots differ, but many details of his life too.
  • 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.)
  • The Law According to Lidia Poët: Lidia Poët was a real woman, but except for the most basic details such as her being the first female Italian lawyer, being expelled from her profession due to sexism and then working with her brother, the stories that the series deals with are fictional.
  • 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.
  • 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 moved to a farm in Western Minnesota, then to Burr Oak, Iowa, and eventually settled 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.
    • Heck, a throwaway gag even featured Colonel Sanders, for goodness sake.
  • Magnificent Century: Many characters, like Isabella, Firuze, Mihrunnisa and Nigar did not exist, while events like Hatice and Ibrahim’s marriage(though this might be a case of Dated History)did not happen as described.
  • Millennium (1996): 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.
  • One of the spoof dramas on The BBC Saturday Morning Kids’ Show On the Waterfront had another Dragnet pastiche that was something like "The story you are about to see is true. Well, sort of true. All right, it's complete lies. The names have been changed because the original ones were too silly."
  • 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. The spin-off Janus was inspired by Melbourne's Pettingill crime family and the controversial Walsh Street police shootings.
  • Queen for Seven Days: Lee Yung (AKA Yeonsan-gun of Joseon) really was a tyrant, he really was deposed and replaced with his half-brother Lee Yeok, and Chae-gyeong/Queen Dangyeong really was deposed only seven days after becoming queen. Those are among the very few things the series has in common with the historical events. Among other things, Lee Yung and Lee Yeok were not both in love with Chae-gyeong, Lee Yeok never faked his death, and Lee Yeok wasn't involved in the coup that overthrew Lee Yung.
  • 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-universe. 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."
    • the show itself was partially inspired by Richard "The Boot" Boiardo, a New Jersey mob boss, who was wiretapped by the FBI in the 1960's, and while some criminal business was caught on tape, the agents lamented that most of his phone calls were dealing with problems with his family, not The Family.
  • Oh where to begin on the historical inaccuracies in both The Tudors and Rome.
    • And The Borgias. Borgia, too, despite its reputation.
    • 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.
  • Twenties: Series creator Lena Waithe says it was based on her own life somewhat, with main character Hattie her counterpart.
  • 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.
  • Whiplash was inspired by the life of Freeman Cobb, founder of the iconic Australian stagecoach line, Cobb and Co. However the characters and events in the series bore no resemblance to the real Freeman Cobb or his company. Freeman Cobb did not carry a pistol or use a stockwhip to settle disputes.
  • Would I Lie to You? is a show based around two teams of celebrities telling stories and the other team having to decide if they're true or not. The show's producers are on record as saying that if a story is true, then the person telling it is not allowed to directly lie during its retelling, but they also admit that a lot of guests forget themselves and end up exaggerating or stretching the details of broadly true stories.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Aeneid: While based off of myth rather than history, Virgil'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.
  • The Iliad seems to have been based on an actual conflict that took place between Mycenaean Greece and a city in Asia Minor. Said conflict happened about four hundred years prior, and that period also saw the collapse of the Mycenaean Greek civilization and a lengthy Dark Age, with any stories being carried on through oral tradition; consequently, most scholars agree that it's a miracle the poem bears any resemblance to real events. Even aside from the many supernatural happenings, there's a lot of outright errors in Homer's account in how Mycenaean society seems to have functioned.

  • 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.

  • 1776: plays very loose with history for drama. It gets the overall spirit of the independence debate right. However, it has important characters missing (like John Adams's cousin Sam), the vote for independence happened before the writing of the Declaration, the vote did not come down to a cowardly James Wilson, Mrs. Jefferson never visited Philadelphia, and everyone was not present to sign it on July 4th, among many other historical liberties.
  • 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 girl's grandmother removed her from the school, and, thanks to her affluence, 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.
  • Cross Road is about Niccolo Paganini making a Deal with the Devil to gain his musical talent. Despite the rumors at the time, it's most likely that this never happened.
  • 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, making an affair even less likely (even apart from the unlikelihood of a preteen girl being interested in a sixty-year-old man, a girl that young wouldn't have been allowed to have regular contact with an unrelated adult man and certainly not in any kind of private setting); Miller himself admitted that he changed the characters' ages, raising Abigail's age to seventeen while lowering Proctor's to somewhere in his thirties, in order to make the affair seem plausible, which is even more reason to think that the affair was complete artistic license.
    • While Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth was a real person, the Danforth character bears almost no resemblance 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 susceptible 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. (This was at a time when child mortality rates were greater than 10%, so the two losses, while tragic, would be well within the bounds of what was normal and would consequently be seen as part of the natural course of the world, not something so exceptional as to suggest supernatural forces were at work.)
      • 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 move to Boston after the trials ended, 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.
  • 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.) Now that they've found the body we know that he did in fact have worsening scoliosis, he didn't live nearly long enough to become a hunchback. Discussed here by Horrible Histories.
    • 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 The Elder Scrolls V: 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.
  • All the plots of the Fears to Fathom series are based upon supposedly true stories submitted to the developers. Although some details are altered or embellished so the stories can be fitted into a video game format and we can't be certain how accurate they are, for the most part the plots feature fairly plausible scenarios, with the threats coming from dangerous people rather than anything supernatural.
  • 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 led 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.
  • The Pale Beyond's premise is very similar to the doomed Franklin Expedition, where two Royal Navy ships exploring the Arctic for the fabled Northwest Passage were trapped in ice for at least two years, with the crews of both ships eventually perishing after their supplies ran out. In addition, one of the most popular theorized causes of death of the crew was lead poisoning from poor quality food cans, similar to how the crew of the Temperance discover their food tins are tainted with lead.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (Koei).

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The concept 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 original 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 that future. However, Titor wasn't honest about his identity; he turns out to be the future daughter of one of the lead characters.

    Web Animation 
  • On The Edge: Death by a Thousand Cuts references the real-life case of Junko Furuta. However, the criminals in this story do face justice while the head rapist is tortured by Shigeo for 43 days.
  • Rock N Roll Dad: Murry Wilson getting fired as the manager of The Beach Boys, then finding another band which he fashions into a Beach Boys soundalike, then ultimately launching his own unsuccessful career as a recording artist is a Played for Laughs version of what the real Murry actually did, when he became the manager of The Sunrays and released his own Instrumental album (The Many Moods of Murry Wilson).


    Web Original 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: The story of a boy who ran away from home and was eventually taken in by a kind elderly man is apparently loosely based on a real person, but with names etc. changed.
  • Cracked has no less than three separate articles on the subject 7 Movies Based on a True Story (That Are Complete Bullshit), 6 Movies Based on a True Story That Are Also Full of Shit, and 6 Movies Based on a True Story with Unpleasant Epilogues
  • The Honest Trailer for 300 describes it as "the movie based on a graphic novel based on an older film based on ancient Greek propaganda based on a true story."
  • The Creepypasta I'm the Only Worker at an Abandoned Theme Park has some very close parallels with the story of the Lotus Isle Park. The Lotus Isle Park (AKA Hatchet Island) was an amusement park in the 1930s that was only open for nine months before closing down permanently after a string of accidents and tragedies (probably because it was shoddily built by some guys running an extortion racket to launder their money), starting with an urban legend of a kid getting launched out of the roller coaster, landing in the river, and drowning (in actuality, the poor kid only fell into the river and drowned). Two of the ghosts that haunt the park are a boy who fell off of the roller coaster, and children who drowned in the water park. Lotus Isle had a zoo and a performing elephant who went on a rampage after being frightened by a stunt plane. The abandoned park in the story has a zoo taken over by Monster Clowns, and is periodically stormed by a massive creature whose arrival is heralded by an air raid siren. The only part that doesn't map is Dave, the spectre of a guest who never got into the park.

    Western Animation 
  • An In-Universe example occurs in The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Comic", where Sarah's comics are exaggerated versions of real things that happened to Gumball.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Biographical Fiction


Chicken Little: The True Story

Chicken Little ends with a clip of the movie inspired by the events of the film and the protagonist's life...though an incredibly loose adaption of it, as Little is turned into a muscle-bounded Captain Kirk-type hero, protecting the world from an alien invasion, with equally over-the-top versions of his friends

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShowWithinAShow

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