When movie credits list “based on a true story” you never know what is “true.” The writers, directors, and all involved play with “the truth” and “the story.” This is difficult to understand with a crime story, for the truth is horrific and shocking without adding or taking away information “for dramatic purposes.”
With some crime stories it is impossible to squeeze in all of the characters, events, and situations into a 90-minute movie. Although movies like “Good Fellas” stay close to actual events, too many movies play so loosely with the truth it seems the movie and the actual events are not at all related. This includes “Monster,” the story of Aileen Wuornos, “Pain & Gain” the story of murder and theft by a group of bodybuilders, and any movie on “Bonnie & Clyde.”
Here are a few true crime movies that do stay true to the actual events that inspired them. What makes these films most appealing is some of them directly involve persons who were close to the story, or filmmakers used actual video footage and trial transcripts to ensure those involved got it right.
What movie would you add to the list?
“The King of Devil’s Island” – Bastøy Boys’ Home
Bastøy Boys’ Home: From 1900 to 1953, this Norwegian reform school for boys operated on “Devil’s Island.” The idea was to take incorrigible boys and teach them to be respectable citizens through disciple, education, religion, and hard work. Yet brutality, abuse, and threats were the norm. The boys rebelled in 1915 and the Norwegian military was called in to quell the rebellion. While some of the characters have been created for the audience to understand how the “home” operated, the background and story remains true to the environment at the Bastøy in Oslofjorden. The movie includes original video taken at the Boy’s Home during credits. For more information CLICK HERE.
“Bernie” – Murder of Marjorie Nugent
In 1997 Bernie Tiede was the darling of Carthage, Texas. The Assistant Director of Hawthorne Funeral Home sang in the church choir, organized fundraisers for various organizations, assisted the grieving … and shot 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent four times in the back. He stuffed her body in her own freezer, covering her with potpies and vegetables. Prosecutor Danny Davidson was chastised for prosecuting “poor Bernie” for the murder of the wealthy widow no one much liked. Jack Black does an amazing job of portraying Bernie, and the movie stays true to the story. Based on an article by Skip Hollandsworth in Texas Monthly, the movie includes testimony from Carthage locals who knew Bernie and Ms. Nugent, and a shot of Jack Black interviewing the real Bernie in prison. For more information CLICK HERE.
“Murder One” – Alday Family Murders
In 1973 Carl Isaacs, Wayne Coleman, George Dungee, and 15 year old Billy Issacs murdered seven people in a span of days in Georgia. Carl, Wayne, and George had escaped from prison when they picked up Billy. They murdered the owner of a car for his vehicle, sustaining themselves on petty robberies and theft until landing in Seminole County. They broke into the Alday home, murdering each family member as they arrived to the house. 25-year-old Mary Alday was forced to watch her loved ones murdered, raped numerous times, and then shot dead. The movie features horrible acting and dialogue, but stays true to the story of a wanton killing spree. For more information CLICK HERE.
“An American Crime” – Murder of Sylvia Likens
In 1965, teenager Sylvia Likens and her sister were under the care of Gertrude Baniszewski and her seven children. Sylvia was kept in the basement and was systematically tortured until she died, to include starvation, beatings, burning, sexual abuse, and cutting. The movie stays true to the story and the characters, making it difficult to view. Much of the film information came directly from court transcripts. For more information CLICK HERE.