On Movies: My Favorite ‘Based on Actual Events’ Films

Hi there, Dear Reader. It is early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Saturday, August 21, 2021. It is a steamy-hot and rainy late summer day. The temperature is 89˚F (32˚C) under light rain conditions. With humidity at 57% and the wind blowing from the southeast at 3 MPH (5 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 100˚F (38˚C). The forecast for today calls for thunderstorms to pass through our area. The high will be 94˚F (35˚C). Tonight, light rain is expected, and the low will be 76˚F (25˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 45 or Good.

I like history. It’s a topic that I have been interested in for as long as I can remember. One of my Special Ed teachers, back when I was a kid at Tropical Elementary School in Miami-Dade County, once observed that while most of my classmates liked to play outside during recess – do schools even still have recess now? – I liked to read from volumes of the classroom’s World Book Encyclopedia or check out history-themed books from the school library. Not all the time, mind you. I was a kid and loved to play with my friends as much as your average pre-adolescent child. But I also liked to learn stuff, too. Especially about history.

Although my video library includes non-fiction documentaries (most of them either produced or directed by Ken Burns), I also have quite a few dramatizations of historical events. You know, the kind of movie that usually starts with a card that reads “Based on a True Story” or “Based on Actual Events.” Some, such as Black Hawk Down and Zero Dark Thirty, deal with incidents involving the American military and intelligence communities. Others delve into events where American Presidents or former Presidents play a major role. And still others showcase other types of heroes, ranging from astronauts trying to survive a space mission which has gone terribly wrong or a hijacked airliner’s surviving crew and passengers who thwart Al Qaeda’s plans to strike deep into Washington, DC – at the cost of their own lives.

Although the level of historical accuracy varies from film to film, I like these movies because they capture the essence of the times they depict. And if viewers end up reading non-fiction books such Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down or Jeffrey Kluger and Jim Lovell’s Apollo 13 to find out more about the real people and events Hollywood recreates for mass audiences, so much the better.

Here, then, are my Top 10 “Based on a True Story” films.  

  1. Apollo 13 (1995)
  2. Thirteen Days (2000)
  3. Black Hawk Down (2001)
  4. Amistad (1997)
  5. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
  6. Captain Philips (2012)
  7. United 93 (2006)
  8. Lincoln (2012)
  9. The Post (2017)
  10. The Sugarland Express (1974)

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

3 thoughts on “On Movies: My Favorite ‘Based on Actual Events’ Films

  1. I can’t like United 93. I knew someone on that flight, and the way they depict her isn’t the person I knew at all and it ticks me off even now when I think about it. Otherwise, I think you’ve got a great list here

    Liked by 1 person

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