Most movies are works of fiction, even if their creators take some inspiration from events and people in the real world. Free of the restraints of reality, writers can get their creative juices flowing to conjure up plots like Avatar that break the laws of physics, push the bounds of plausibility, and play fast and loose with our concept of time.
But sometimes, ideas might get rejected for just seeming far too far fetched. That is, unless that utterly unbelievable event happened in the real world. Many of Hollywood’s best productions have been films that have been based on real-life events and people, often containing plots that would be rejected if they were works of fiction.
Of all these movies, here are some of the best that you should absolutely add to your watch list.
Casinos are a firm favourite among filmmakers as they provide a touch of glamour and mystery while also being familiar and recognisable. So a true story that involved a team of academics deploying complicated mental arithmetic to beat casinos around the world was bound to get the attention of Hollywood sooner or later.
21 (2008) is based on the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team, an organisation that operated for several decades, using card counting to win at games of blackjack. Strategies exist for just about every casino game ever created, including systems that can shift the odds of a win at roulette. Card counting is much more complicated though and can, if implemented properly, reduce the house edge to close to zero.
The film cuts out most of the complicated mental gymnastics required to actually make card counting work, focusing instead on some semi-fictional drama. Much of this was necessary because card counting is quite a dry subject and the movie would have become more like a maths lecture otherwise. The real story spanned several decades, so the fictional elements were necessary to help compress years of events into just a couple of hours.
That said, 21 is an entertaining movie that gives you an insight into the real MIT Blackjack Team.
There have been many movies created about motorsports but most failed miserably to win over car enthusiasts and the general public alike. This was because they often focused on the cars themselves, using completely unbelievable plots, and unrelatable characters.
Rush (2013), on the other hand, became a huge hit because it did the opposite. It focused on the human side of motorsport, following the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt over the space of a season.
It portrayed Lauda’s horrific crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix that saw his Ferrari bursting into flames, severely disfiguring him and the arduous physical and mental journey he endured to come back from that.
As well as demonstrating this superhuman effort and strength, Rush has two lead characters that are relatable – often at the same time. Lauda is the sensible side of us that knows we should work hard to achieve our goals while Hunt is the side of us that wants to throw caution to the wind and live in the moment.
Until 2009, it was widely assumed in the aviation industry that a double engine failure on a passenger jet was next to impossible. On top of that, most people considered that a water ditching was an undesirable option for pilots that should be avoided at all costs because they typically ended in the loss of life and mass injuries.
But Sully (2016) depicts a story that proved both of these assumptions wrong. In mid-January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 left LaGuardia Airport, only to be hit by a flock of birds almost immediately.
After losing power in both engines, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made a series of decisions that ended in a water ditching in the Hudson River, saving the lives of everyone on board.
The accident happens early on in the movie, with the rest of the time dedicated to the rescue effort and a dramatised version of the air crash investigations that took place afterwards. While this latter part has been criticised for twisting the events to appear more adversarial than they were in reality, the film as a whole is a great watch and very uplifting considering the subject matter.