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Based on a True Story:
Ever watched a film that was "based on a true story" and wonder how much of the story was really true? I was watching the surprisingly moving Hollywoodland about the death of George Reeves, TV's Superman, and started wondering about the truth of the tale. A Google search quickly turned up the Reel Faces webpage on Chasing the Green Frog, whose motto is "Chasing After the Truth Behind Movies Based on True Stories." There you find a Q & A about around 50 films that were based on true stories. The questions were pretty much those you want answered after seeing the film. The "reel faces" page includes photos of the real persons at about the age they would have been in the film shown next to the actor playing them.

Chasing the Frog also offers a page devoted to Movies Based on Books that compare a film to the books on which they are based. All in all a uniquely valuable site for the movie buff.

And check out Hollywoodland too. Not only is Adrien Brody's performance something special, but this may be the first and only Ben Affleck role I ever truly enjoyed.
deathsinger:
Reading about the real Ruben Carter after the movie the Hurricane soured me forever on "based on a true story."
8.1.2008 10:27am
The Ace (mail):
Just off the top of my head I'd have to say the most ridiculous case of this is "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"

Thanks for the links, interesting pass the time reading.
8.1.2008 11:14am
Frog Leg (mail):
The Ace,

What about Blair Witch?
8.1.2008 11:29am
Seytom:
Looked into the history of "Into the Wild" after seeing the movie....some out and out falsehoods for important plot/character development points. The father was seriously abused by Sean Penn in his fictionalization of the story.
8.1.2008 11:32am
therut:
The movie "The Last of the Mohiccams(sp)" was almost nothing like the book.
8.1.2008 11:47am
TerrencePhilip:
Hollywoodland was a great flick, to my surprise it's one of my favorites of the last five years. It's an overlooked gem. The film was full of great supporting actors and like Randy I was impressed, for once, by Affleck. The director and writer obviously cared a lot about their product, and it shows.
8.1.2008 11:50am
Kirk:
In at least a few cases, I thought "based on a true story" was only accurate in the sense that if you abstract to a high enough level, every story pretty much follows the plit line "Something happened."
8.1.2008 12:23pm
Kirk:
Oops, 'plit' (whatever that is) should obviously be 'plot'.
8.1.2008 12:24pm
The Ace (mail):
What about Blair Witch?

Good call. I forgot about that one too.
8.1.2008 1:03pm
Cornellian (mail):
I thought Chasing Amy was pretty good too.
8.1.2008 1:25pm
Alex Blackwell (mail):
Another good source for movie info is the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), which offers, among other things, discussion boards for each movie; see here for Hollywoodland. I've found some good tidbits for other movies based on true stories such as Wonderland and Zodiac on the IMDb boards.

IMDb requires free registration to participate in the discussions, and there are also the occasional loons and trolls to contend with. Of course, we don't have that problem here at VC, do we? :-)
8.1.2008 2:47pm
Alex Blackwell (mail):
Oops, I should have paid close attention to Randy Barnett's original blog entry, where IMDb was linked.
8.1.2008 2:48pm
Nunzio:
Can't wait to see Oliver Stone's W.
8.1.2008 3:17pm
Michael T:
What I would like to know is why historical movies or "based on a true story" movies include in the credits the disclaimer "Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental."
8.1.2008 3:26pm
LM (mail):
I suspect they're ducking the tough questions. Where are The Ten Commandments, An Inconvenient Truth and Team America on that list?

I also had the "hate Affleck" bug for a long time, but he won me over despite myself in Boiler Room.
8.1.2008 3:41pm
Hoosier:
One to avoid: The trailer for (*shudder*) "Brideshead Revisited" is now on Youtube. Oh my dear LOrd. This is beyond a travesty.
8.1.2008 4:18pm
ObeliskToucher:
Fargo
8.1.2008 6:32pm
Jimmy S.:
Randy, shouldn't that be Christopher Reeves?
8.1.2008 6:38pm
David Warner:
"I thought Chasing Amy was pretty good too."

True. But back then he was just one of the Jay and Silent Bob gang. Chasing Amy was kinda Clerks 1.5
8.1.2008 7:22pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
Randy, shouldn't that be Christopher Reeves?

No. Christopher Reeve (no "s") played Superman in the films of the 1970s and 1980s. George Reeves (with an "s") played Superman on the TV show of the 1950s. The film Hollywoodland concerned the latter, not the former.
8.1.2008 7:40pm
movie buff (mail):
What about Night of the Living Dead?
8.1.2008 8:29pm
LM (mail):

What about Night of the Living Dead?

I thought it was based on a true story too, but that's when I was hanging out mostly with artists and musicians.
8.1.2008 10:51pm
stan (mail):
Jerry Bruckheimer's "Remember the Titans" and "Glory Road" are more fiction than fact.
8.2.2008 10:40am
Brian G (mail) (www):

Reading about the real Ruben Carter after the movie the Hurricane soured me forever on "based on a true story."


That was the first movie I thought of as a total joke of fiction. Then I though of Glory Road as total B.S. as well, as no one brought their confederate flags to wave at the games. The Confederate flag as a so-called symbol of racism is a relatively new idea conjured up by someone looking to pander to someone, I just don't know who.
8.4.2008 3:28am
Deoxy (mail):
"Based on a True Story (TM)"

translation: we used most of the names, some of the genders, a vaguely similar time period, and (usually) the same continent as some set of real world events that we thought we could make into a movie we would enjoy making. It might even share a few plot elements with said events! Pretty slick idea, eh?

I like the more recent term - "Inspired by real events", or somesuch. Honesty, y'know.

Based on a book is a lot more hit-or-miss - some of them are reasonably faithful to the book, and some are more like the stuff up top.
8.4.2008 1:30pm