From the Zine: Based on a True Story

From The Zine is a series inspired by our mini zine and is a celebration of film. We break it up into categories and focus on some of our favorite examples, compare and contrast, and sometimes throw in a little trivia knowledge. So, without further ado… 

“Based on a true story”

This is often a phrase used to reel in audience’s attention to go see a new film. Generally, these movies can be broken down into 3 categories:

  • Political/ Historical
  • Great accomplishments  (intellectual, physical, or criminal)
  • Horror/ Thriller

When adapting a true story, the writer and/or director’s job is to decide what to include and what to emphasize. Below are some of our favorite examples.

A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018)

A Netflix original starring Will Forte and an ensemble cast including Domhnall Gleeson, Joel McHale, and Emmy Rossum among others, about the rise and success of the National Lampoon media empire, overseen by the incredible but troubled Douglas Kenney. A brilliantly funny movie that even calls itself out for excluding certain details for the sake of time and even making fun of casting Will Forte (47 at the time of filming) as a 23 year old. Mixed with the quick-witted deadpan humor, this movie also packs a lot of heart and by the end you might find yourself crying at a food fight scene.


The 15:17 To Paris (2018)

Clint Eastwood loves to direct movies based on true stories. However, his last film was given a general “meh” from critics and audiences alike. The true story of 3 American men thwarting a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound Thalys train is truly amazing, but Eastwood tried to up the ante by casting the actual 3 heroes to play themselves. A great personal story does not an actor make. However, this wasn’t the first time Hollywood used this angle. In 1912, the silent motion picture Saved From the Titanic tells the story of Dorothy Gibson, playing herself, and how she survived the sinking of the Titanic by staying up later than usual to finish a bridge game in the 1st class saloon. Her class status got her on the first lifeboat released as she describes the cries of those doomed to the icy waters of the Atlantic.

Fire In The Sky (1993)

One of the best ways to get people to see your horror/ thriller flick is to say that it was based on a true story, or at least “inspired by true events”. Set in 1975, most of the movie actually deals with the aftermath of a missing person case and law enforcement’s skepticism on the statements made by the witnesses of Travis Walton’s abduction. Five days later, Walton (presumed murdered), is found alive and only in the last act of the movie do we the audience see his traumatizing experience of alien abduction.


-Amber