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10 Best True Crime Movies Based On Books

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Content Disclaimer: This article contains discussions of violence and true crime.

For years, movies have drawn inspiration from the written word, and true crime is no exception. With the seemingly growing but morbid interest in seeing stories of serial killers represented on screen, more and more TV shows, documentaries and movies are bringing those stories to life.

RELATED: The 10 Best True Crime Shows On Netflix Right Now, Ranked According To IMDb

There have been many great movies over the years tackling depictions of true crime. Unlike films based on fiction, the importance of staying true to events is what sets them apart from others.

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Lost Girls (2020)


Netflix Lost Girls-Amy Ryan as Mari Gilbert with her daughters

Based on the 2013 novel by investigative journalist Robert Kolker, this film follows a mother’s relentless quest for answers about her missing daughter, Shannan. She discovers that Shannan was part of an online community of sex workers who had turned to Craigslist to find clients. As Mari struggles to find empathy from law enforcement, who viewed her daughter’s life as unimportant, she decides to take matters into her own hands, which leads to more cases of missing girls being uncovered. over the years.

His search uncovers several dead women scattered across Long Island and sparks the hunt for an as yet unidentified serial killer known as LISK. Amy Ryan’s portrayal of Mari Gilbert illustrates to viewers the arduous task of finding the truth when no one else seems to care.


My Friend Dahmer (2017)


Ross Lynch in My Friend Dahmer

Based on the graphic novel and memoir by John “Derf” Backderf, My friend Dahmer depicts Jeffrey Dahmer’s troubled adolescence throughout his high school graduation. The film shows, in depth, the making of the infamous serial killer and what led to his murder. It’s troubling because it humanizes Dahmer, in an apparent attempt to create empathy for the struggling high school student who turns to alcohol and acts out in his classes for attention.

The film ends just as Dahmer picks up his first victim after graduating from high school. As the credits roll, Dahmer’s murder statistics are presented, reminding viewers of his gruesome crimes.


Monster (2003)


Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster

Based on the novel written by Aileen Wuornos herself, Monster stars Charlize Theron as Aileen and Christina Ricci as his girlfriend, Selby. Theron’s portrayal of Aileen won an Oscar, and for good reason. She transforms onscreen to share the story of Wuornos’ birth, emotion and attention to detail throughout the film.

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The film begins just as Aileen meets Selby at a bar and finds an unexpected connection with her as Selby seems to genuinely care about her which she is not used to. Wuornos is humanized as she struggles to find a safer place in the world, wanting to support Selby and improve her life, but always reverting to the old ways. The movie does something scary and builds empathy for the serial killer.


Catch Me If You Can (2002)


Frank in pilot's uniform with flight attendants

Catch Me If You Can is about a con man named Frank Abagnale Jr. who cashed $2.5 million in bad checks while posing as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, teacher, and lawyer. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg from the book written by Abagnale Jr. himself and is packed with big names like Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Walken, and Martin Sheen, making it a standout watch for many.

Hanks plays an FBI agent who becomes obsessed with capturing Abagnale (DiCaprio) and the con man always turns out to be one step ahead, creating a tense but hilarious game of cat-and-mouse. This film is more of a comedy as it offers a lighthearted feel, with DiCaprio and Hanks playing each other throughout the incredible story of a young man managing to steal millions of dollars before the age of 21.


Party Monster (2003)


Michael Alig nods in Party Monster

This film is based on the novel Disco Bloodbath and follows the rise and fall of party promoter Michael Alig. Set in the New York club scene of the late 1980s through the 1990s, Alig, played by Macaulay Culkin, left small-town Indiana and quickly found himself an underground legend due to his drinking. excessive drug use and his outrageous behavior in clubs.

His extravagant life spirals out of control after he boasts on television that he killed his drug dealer, Angel Melendez, by injecting him with Drano and dumping him in the East River. Culkin’s portrayal of Alig is otherworldly, being his first film since Richie Richand is far from the adorable boy viewers all know and love.

Zodiac (2007)


Robert Downey Jr and Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac sitting at the desk

An unidentified serial killer in the San Francisco Bay Area taunts the police with his letters and cryptic messages. Viewers follow investigators and reporters as they search for the killer, becoming obsessed with the case that leads to standoff after standoff. According to Robert Graysmith’s book, Zodiac, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. bring the story of the hunt for the infamous Zodiac Killer to life.

Impeccable acting and storytelling provide insightful insight into the murders, and while it doesn’t focus on the killer himself, the film leaves viewers hooked on the frustrating investigation that involved multiple twists and turns. The film garnered so much attention and interest that the cold case was reopened after its release, but with no positive results.

The Devil’s Knot (2013)


In devil’s knot, based on the book by Mara Leveritt, three eight-year-old boys disappear after riding bicycles through their neighborhood, creating fear and outrage within the community of West Memphis, Arkansas. A thorough search leads to the discovery of the naked, tied up and beaten bodies of the boys in a shallow stream, the scene is not for the faint of heart.

Reese Witherspoon plays the mother of one of the young boys, Stevie Branch, and provides heartbreaking emotion as she seeks justice for her murdered son and his friends. The police and townspeople immediately assume that the murders are the work of a satanic cult, blaming three misfit teenagers, with Damien Echols as their leader. The film provides insight into the police’s shoddy work and lack of investigation, as well as their role in persuading people to make false confessions.


In Cold Blood (1967)


Two men staring into the distance in In Cold Blood

Told through flashbacks, this film, based on the novel by Truman Capote, tells the story of two ex-convicts who meet in Kansas in the fall of 1959. Together they plot to rob the Clutter family, who, according to rumor, would keep a large sum. of cash hidden in a safe at their home. Their mission is thwarted as they enter the house and things go south, unable to find the safe and cover their tracks, they murder the family of four before fleeing to Mexico.

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After two weeks, they return and are shortly after arrested. The film is straightforward as Smith and Hickock are both charged with first degree murder and each sentenced to death. After losing several appeals, the two men are hanged for their crimes.

Fox Catcher (2014)


Carell Tatum Foxcatcher

Steve Carrell shows a completely different side of his acting ability by playing millionaire and wrestling enthusiast John du Pont. He invites Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), who is also the author of the book the film is based on, to join “Team Foxcatcher” and have a chance to win big at the Olympics in summer of 1988. Schultz, who was in a bad financial situation, jumped at the chance.

Du Pont’s personality takes a turn for the worse as he begins to lure Mark into an unhealthy lifestyle by introducing him to cocaine and it threatens his ability to succeed. Mark’s brother, Dave Schultz, later joins the Foxcatcher team, leading to a jealous rivalry for Du Pont as he lacks the other brother’s trust. This eventually leads to a further entanglement of the millionaire, resulting in Dave’s murder.

House of Gucci (2021)


Lady Gaga crestfallen as Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci

One of the most recent true detective films, Gucci House tells the story of manipulation and murder and is based on the book by Sara Gay Forden. Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) is a simple office manager at her father’s trucking company who meets Maurizio Gucci at a party. Patrizia charms Maurizio, which leads to her marrying into the Gucci family, despite her father’s warnings that she only wanted him for his money.

After his marriage, Rodolfo disinherits his son and Maurizio takes a job in Patrizia’s father’s trucking company. When she becomes pregnant, Patrizia seizes the opportunity to make her way into the life of the Gucci family. As her motives are revealed, Maurizio files for divorce, tired of her obvious attempts at manipulation for monetary gain. His wife becomes enraged, which eventually leads to her hiring two hitmen, resulting in his death.


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