22 Shows & Movies Based on True Stories to Watch Now
Getting absorbed in a good story is one of the reasons we love TV and movies—but there’s something even more entrancing about a good story that’s also a true story (or at least based on one). From biopics based on someone’s life, to unexplained paranormal events, movies and shows based on true stories bring an element of reality to the screen that makes them feel more relatable (even if we aren’t famous and don’t moonlight as ghost hunters).
Whether you’re seeking motivation from inspirational true stories or want to dive deep into the psyche of a serial killer, Hulu has movies and shows based on real life for you to obsess over.
New & Upcoming True Stories on Hulu
Pam & Tommy
Set in the Internet’s infancy, Pam & Tommy is based on the incredible true story of Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee’s (Sebastian Stan)—let’s just call it an intimate tape.
When an angry contractor (Seth Rogen) steals the video, it goes from an underground VHS-based business, to a full-blown global enterprise when it’s leaked online in 1997.
Part love story and part true crime, this Hulu Original limited series explores the intersection of privacy, the internet, and celebrity, tracing the origins of today’s reality TV shows all the way back to a stolen tape meant for two.
Watch: Pam & Tommy
Entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes had a fantastic idea—what if blood tests could be run with just a drop of blood and the prick of a finger? Rather than finishing her college degree at Stanford, Holmes drops out to start a company that will bring her idea to fruition. The only problem? She can’t actually create a working prototype. However, that doesn’t stop her from barreling forward, raising millions of dollars, and building an empire that would make her the world’s first self-made female billionaire.
The three-episode premiere hits Hulu on Thursday, March 3, with new episodes streaming each week. The Dropout explores how far one lie can go and what happens when the world finds out.
Watch: The Dropout
The Girl From Plainville
Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can really hurt me—or, in this case, kill me.
Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III met while on separate vacations with their families and maintained a relationship via text in the following months. Conrad, suffering from anxiety and depression, confessed he wanted to commit suicide to Michelle, who encouraged him to take his own life—and then he did.
Elle Fanning stars as Michelle Carter in this heartbreaking true crime story about the power of our words and the devastating effect they can have on mental health. The first three episodes of The Girl From Plainville land on Hulu Tuesday, March 29, with new episodes streaming weekly.
Watch: The Girl From Plainville
Popular True Story Movies & Shows
Catherine The Great rose from a nobody in the Russian political scene to the longest-reigning female ruler in Russian history. When she arrives in Russia for an arranged marriage to Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult), Catherine (Elle Fanning) quickly realizes her new husband is, well, not great.
However, she has dreams of ruling her country, so she concocts a plan to murder her husband and take the throne for herself. The Great is a satirical comedy series loosely based on the rise of Catherine The Great and her role as Russian royalty.
Watch: The Great
The opioid crisis has ripped through the United States like a forest fire—and it can all be traced back to one company. With the promise of a “less than 1%” addiction rate, Purdue Pharma released OxyContin into the world. However, that less than 1% promise quickly turned into the largest drug epidemic the country has ever seen.
From Big Pharma boardrooms, to the brutal effects on a Virginia mining town, this Hulu Original miniseries examines the catastrophic repercussions of OxyContin addiction and the lie that started it all.
Based on the salacious true story, Hustlers follows a group of women in New York City who develop the perfect con to steal money from high-powered businessmen. After the stock market crash in 2008, exotic dancers Destiny (Constance Wu) and Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) are forced to find other ways to make a living—or do they? Rather than change career paths, they hatch a plan to drug and steal from sleazy Wall Street bankers who shirked responsibility for the disastrous crash.
Behind-the-scenes at Fox News, executive Roger Ailes ran the show. That is, until popular reporter Gretchen Carlson was removed from her popular Fox and Friends show and became the victim of sexist comments made by men both on and off the air. When she is fired for agreeing with the assault rifles ban, she decides enough is enough. While her contract prevents her from suing Fox Network as a whole, she is free to sue Ailes personally.
Her lawsuit brings other women to the forefront who have been sexually harassed by Ailes and finally gives the group of powerful women a chance to fight back.
Award-Winning Shows & Movies Based on Real Life
Gypsy Rose Blanchard (Joey King) has spent her entire life suffering from one illness or another and relies completely on her overprotective mother, Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette). When Gypsy begins to yearn for independence and begins exploring her sexuality, Dee Dee’s grip only grows tighter, creating a toxic and abusive relationship.
Gypsy, upon learning her mom’s darkest secrets, begins to rebel and even finds herself in an online relationship. However, as Dee Dee grows more desperate, so does Gypsy. The eight-part miniseries explores just how much abuse one can take before resorting to drastic measures.
Watch: The Act
Fern (Frances MacDormand) is in her sixties, single, and has lost everything in the economic crash. In a split decision, she packs up her van and embarks on a journey into the heart of Nomadland. She connects with her fellow nomads, dances in the desert, learns important survival skills for the rest of her journey, and finds inspiration along every road.
Through odd jobs and even odder encounters, Fern falls in love with the van life and continues to travel. The friendships she makes and the experiences she has in her travels cement her love for being a nomad, pulling her permanently from the remnants of her old life.
Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) grew up in a poor neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. As a young child (only three years old), she showed a natural talent for figure skating and quickly grew into a competitive skater. Though she was never fully accepted in the figure skating community due to her financial status, that didn’t stop her from winning her first national title at the age of 21.
In 1994, Harding was invited to the Winter Olympic trials—and that set into motion the events that would eventually ruin her career and stop her from figure skating for good. This biopic story won three Academy AwardsⓇ in the categories of Best Supporting Actress, Best Actor, and Best Film Editing.
Watch: I, Tonya
Flight is based on the real-life airline pilot, William “Whip” Whitaker, portrayed by Denzel Washington.
Whitaker became an overnight hero when one of his flights had a sudden mechanical failure and he was able to land the plane and save nearly everyone. However, following the accident, Whip’s blood tests reveal high levels of alcohol and cocaine. Flight chronicles the criminal investigation against Whitaker, as well as his journey to get his addictions under control.
The film won two Oscars in the categories of Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay.
In the midst of flying rumors about a possible divorce between Princess Diana (Kristen Stuart) and Prince Charles (Jack Farthing), the royal family decides to spend the Christmas holiday at Queen Elizabeth’s (Stella Gonet) Sandringham Estate. Diana, struggling with her mental health and her place in the unwanted spotlight, decides that it’s time to break free from the royal family and find happiness with her sons, William and Harry, in London, England.
Thriller & Horror Movies Based on True Stories
My Friend Dahmer
As a kid, it was clear that Jeffrey Dahmer was different from his peers. Instead of playing hide and seek or joining after school clubs, Jeffrey prefered to spend his time examining and disintegrating dead animals until only their bones were left.
When his family begins to fall apart, Jeffrey turns to alcohol and begins killing the animals he plans to experiment with. Eventually, with little intervention from anyone around him, Jeffrey Dahmer becomes one of the country’s most prolific serial killers. My Friend Dahmer explores the real-life chain of events that led him to kill.
Watch: My Friend Dahmer
The Clovehitch Killer
Inspired by real-life serial killer Dennis Rader (aka the BTK Killer), this murder story follows Tyler Burnside, a 16-year-old devout Christian as he discovers a secret he can’t unsee.
The remote town of Clarksville, KY is living in the aftermath of a series of murders that rocked their small community ten years earlier. There were 10 female victims in total, and the killer has yet to be caught. When Tyler accidentally finds an incriminating photo in his dad’s truck, he begins to question everything he knows about his father.
Watch: The Clovehitch Killer
The Evil Next Door
As a new stepmom, Shirin (Dilan Gwyn) is still learning the best way to care for her stepson, Lukas (Eddie Eriksson Dominguez). While her husband is out of town and Shirin and five-year-old Lukas are alone in the house, strange noises start coming through the walls between their townhouse and the one next door.
The noises alone are creepy enough, but when Lukas makes a new “friend,” things go from creepy, to terrifying. This Swedish horror movie is based on the true story of a family who experienced similar paranormal occurrences in their own home.
Watch: The Evil Next Door
Inspirational True Stories
Philip (Bryan Cranston) is a quadrapalegic billionaire who believes his life is no longer worth living. Dell (Kevin Hart), a parolee who needs a job to win back his ex-wife and son, becomes Philip’s caregiver. At first, he doesn’t take the job seriously, but when Dell realizes Philip has lost all will to live, he decides to help him rediscover his zest for life. What Philip doesn’t realize is that he’s helping Dell do the same.
Watch: The Upside
The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday (Andra Day) rose to fame in the 1930s and was adored by fans of all races. Following the release of her controversial ballad, “Strange Fruit,” discomfort rippled through the United States—so much so that the FBI became involved. Led by Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, the FBI targeted Billie Holiday in an effort to racialize the war on drugs and stop her from singing “Strange Fruit” for good.
In Copiapó, Chile, dozens of miners work in the San José mine. On August 5, 2010 the mine collapsed, leaving 33 miners trapped 700 feet underground with nearly no food and no way out. Led by Mario Sepúlveda, the miners managed to make their way to the rescue shelter, only to find the radio was broken and the medical kits were empty.
Above ground, the mining company made no attempt to rescue the men and women trapped underground, so eventually the Chilean government was forced to intervene, using drills to reach the group. After 69 days stuck in the dark underground mines, the 33 miners were rescued—all alive.
The 33 tells the true story of hope, perseverance, and resilience.
Watch: The 33
True Story Sports Movies
In a desperate attempt to salvage some semblance of a winning baseball team on the lowest budget in the MLB, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) turns to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand, with a degree in economics from Yale University, uses statistical data to draft undervalued players.
While his efforts don’t pay off at the start of the season, Beane persists and watches his team tie and break the American League record of 19 consecutive winning games. By all accounts, it seems that Brand’s model is working—but Billy Beane won’t be satisfied until the A’s pull a championship game win.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
On the heels of his first Olympic gold medal, Muhammad Ali (Will Smith) exuded a confidence that had never been seen from a Black athlete. His belief that he was the greatest boxer of all time brought him all the way to a heavyweight championship win. However, in his personal life, he faced intense scrutiny over his friendships and faith.
When the military drafting rules abruptly change and Ali becomes eligible to fight, he stands against the Vietnam War and the United States on principle. Ali follows the famous boxer as he deals with the backlash of his decisions and sacrifices everything for what he believes in.
Friday Night Lights
Based on the true story of the Permian Panthers football team in Odessa, Texas, Friday Night Lights is not your average sports movie. When the Panthers’ star player Boobie Miles (Derek Luke) suffers a career-ending injury in the first game of the season, the team and coach are left scrambling.
Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) believes “perfection is being able to look your friends in the eye and know you did everything you could not to let them down.” Under his guidance, the Panthers are able to come back, and Coach Gaines helps them win their way to the state championship.
Watch: Friday Night Lights
For more movies based on true stories, check out our guide to the best biopics on Hulu, including Pam & Tommy, Judy, and more.