12 Best Movies Based On True Crimes That Will Hook You In From Start To Finish

Watching a great thriller movie is a unique experience that gives us goosebumps and keeps us on the edge of our seats. Whether you're a horror aficionado or not, the anticipation of a serial killer jumping out from behind a door can send shivers down your spine.
What's even more terrifying is the realization that some of these scenes and stories, no matter how gruesome or morally corrupt, are based on real events. As much as we'd like to think of them as pure fiction, the most heinous villains in movies are often inspired by real-life people and events. You'll experience the fear, the terror, and the adrenaline rush that comes with living on the edge of society.
So, if you're ready to experience the thrill of true crime, we've curated a list of the best serial killer movies based on real stories. Get ready to immerse yourself in the twisted minds of some of the most notorious criminals in history. Beware, these films are not for the faint of heart.

#12 The Black Dahlia (2006)

Source: IMDb

One of America's most notorious unsolved murders is that of Elizabeth Short, whose dismembered body was discovered in Los Angeles on January 15, 1947. The media dubbed her the "Black Dahlia," and her story became a sensationalized mystery that fascinated people for years.
In 2006, Brian De Palma directed a film based on the true events surrounding the Black Dahlia murder. The movie follows two LAPD detectives who become obsessed with the case. But despite having approximately 150 suspects, the identity of the killer remains a mystery to this day. Although the film was a major box office flop and received negative reviews from critics, it is an underrated gem in De Palma's filmography.

#11 The Night Stalker (2016)

Source: Plex

Between 1984 and 1985, Richard Ramirez, better known as the Night Stalker, terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area and greater Los Angeles with his brutal crimes. Beginning with burglaries to fund his drug addiction, his actions escalated to rape, attempted murder, and murder. Ramirez often incorporated Satanism into his crimes and humiliated his victims in the process.
There have been numerous movies based on Ramirez's heinous crimes, but one of the best is the 2016 film The Night Stalker starring Lou Diamond Philips. The movie's plot revolves around a lawyer's attempt to exonerate her client from death row. She is convinced that Richard Ramirez is the true killer and works to persuade him to confess to the truth.

#10 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Source: IMDb

Ed Gein, a notorious killer, cannibal, and grave robber in the 1950s, inspired some of the most terrifying characters in horror. He used the skin and bones of his victims to create household items, making him a sickening figure in American history.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, released in 1974, centers around a family of cannibals who hunt a group of college students. The most terrifying of them all is Leatherface, a violent killer inspired by Gein. Leatherface quickly became an iconic horror figure and helped launch a successful franchise after the success of the first film.

#9 Mommy Dead and Dearest (2017)

Source: HBO

The 2017 documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest, produced by HBO, takes a deep dive into the disturbing case of Dee Dee Blanchard's murder and the bizarre events surrounding her daughter Gypsy Rose. Dee Dee claimed her daughter suffered from numerous chronic health issues, which were all lies. She even deceived Gypsy about her age and confined her to a wheelchair.
Dee Dee would shave her daughter's head regularly to imitate the side effects of chemotherapy and took advantage of various charities, including Habitat for Humanity and Ronald McDonald House. The documentary uncovers the twisted and shocking truth behind this heartbreaking case.

#8 Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (2019)

Source: IMDb

The notorious Charles Manson was a cult leader who had attempted to make a career in music in the 1960s, using his connection to producer Terry Melcher. After a falling out with Melcher, Manson ordered his followers to commit a series of murders from August 8 to 10, 1969, at Melcher's former residence. Manson's followers brutally killed several people, including actress Sharon Tate and her friends, who were staying at the address. Manson was convicted of organizing the murders in 1971 and died in prison in 2017.
Quentin Tarantino's 2019 crime thriller Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood depicts a fictionalized version of the Tate murders, following an out-of-work actor and his stunt double in late 1960s Los Angeles. Margot Robbie portrays Sharon Tate in the movie.

#7 All Good Things (2010)

Source: Netflix

"All Good Things" is based on the life of Robert Durst, the son of a wealthy real estate developer. Robert was suspected of several crimes including the disappearance of his wife Kathleen McCormack, the murder of Susan Berman, and the death of Morris Black. Despite being the prime suspect in these cases, there wasn't enough evidence to convict him.
The film, directed by Andrew Jarecki and starring Ryan Gosling, tells a fictionalized version of Durst's story. In 2021, Durst was finally convicted and received a life sentence. But he passed away in prison in January 2022 before facing charges related to McCormack's death.

#6 My Friend Dahmer (2017)

Source: IMDb

The movie "My Friend Dahmer" from 2017 explores the friendship between cartoonist John "Derf" Blackdert and Jeffrey Dahmer during their high school years in the 1970s. Dahmer went on to become a notorious serial killer who murdered 17 boys and men between 1978 and 1991, engaging in disturbing acts such as dismemberment, necrophilia, and cannibalism.
Dahmer was eventually convicted and sentenced to prison, where he was murdered by a fellow inmate in 1994. The film is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Blackdert, and it ends before Dahmer's killing spree began in 1978.

#5 Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)

Source: The Movie Database

"Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" is a documentary film released in 1996 that delves into the highly publicized case of the West Memphis Three. In 1993, three eight-year-old boys - Steve Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers - were found dead in West Memphis, Arkansas. Three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin, were arrested. Later, they are convicted for the murders in 1994, which resulted in widespread outrage.
The film received critical acclaim for exposing overlooked or suppressed evidence in the trial and helped raise awareness of the case. The success of the documentary led to two sequels, "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" and "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory." All three of the convicted men were released from prison in 2011 after serving 18 years behind bars.

#4 Scream (1996)

Source: IMDb

Scream (1996) is a horror movie directed by Wes Craven. It centers around a high school teenager named Sydney Prescott and her friends being hunted by the serial killer Ghostface. The movie's plot was inspired by the real-life killing spree of Danny Rolling, also known as the Gainesville Ripper.
Rolling murdered five college students over four days in 1990, including committing several rapes in the 80s. He admitted to killing eight people in total, as well as attempting to kill his father and a triple homicide in his hometown. He was convicted in 1994 and executed by lethal injection. The murders and their aftermath were the basis for writer Kevin Williamson's screenplay for Scream. This started one of the most successful horror franchises.

#3 Monster (2003)

Source: IMDb

Charlize Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress for portraying real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. The film follows Wuornos’s life in street prostitution and the murder of her seven clients between 1989 and 1990.
Wuornos claimed she shot the men in self-defense when they sexually assaulted or attempted to rape her. In addition to murder, she robbed her victims as well. Wuornos spent 12 years on death row before her execution by lethal injection on October 9, 1992. Critics consider Monster one of the best movies of 2003.

#2 Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (2019)

Source: Netflix

"Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile" (2019) is a movie directed by Jon Berlinger. It depicts the true story of Ted Bundy, a sadistic serial killer. The movie is based on Elizabeth Kendall's memoir "The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy," and focuses on Kendall's (played by Lily Collins) relationship with Bundy (played by Zac Efron).
Bundy used his good looks, charm, and charisma to attract unsuspecting women. Eventually he confessed to killing 30 women between 1974 and 1978, although there may be more victims. He was executed in 1989.

#1 Zodiac (2007)

Source: The Movie Database

"Zodiac" (2007) revolves around the unsolved case of the Zodiac Killer, one of America's most infamous murderers. The film, directed by David Fincher and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr., follows the investigation to bring the killer to justice.
The Zodiac Killer targeted young couples and a cab driver in Northern California between 1968 and 1969. He claimed to have killed 30 people. He also sent taunting letters and ciphers to the police and newspapers, but the case remains unsolved. Despite the letters stopping in 1974, the case continues to be a subject of public interest. Zodiac's true identity remains unknown. Fans and critics praised the movie as one of the best thriller movies ever.
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