Law Movies Based On True Stories

Monday, April 4 by Annette Smith

Hollywood is replete with crime thrillers and courtroom dramas, but how many law movies are based on true stories? Here is an alphabetical listing of twelve such movies. Most of them are feature films, with a few made-for-TV movies thrown in.

  1. “The Accused.” “The Accused” is a 1988 movie starring Jodie Foster and Kellie McGillis. The film is based on the real-life gang rape of Cheryl Araujo, a resident of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the female district attorney assigned to the case.
  2. “Beyond The Law.” “Beyond The Law” is a 1992 law enforcement movie starring Charlie Sheen. It is based on the true story of Dan Saxon, an undercover cop from Arizona who infiltrates a biker gang to stop drug smuggling and arms trafficking.
  3. “Changeling.” “Changeling” is a 2008 drama based on real-life events in 1928 Los Angeles. Angelina Jolie stars as a woman reunited with her missing son, only to discover that the boy is an imposter. The events in the film are connected to the Winedale Chicken Coop Murders.
  4. “A Civil Action.” “A Civil Action” is a 1998 law movie starring John Travolta. Based on a Jonathan Harr nonfiction book, the film tells the true story of a 1980s legal case involving environmental pollution in Woburn, Massachusetts.
  5. Erin Brockovich.” “Erin Brockovich” is a 2000 feature film starring Julia Roberts. The biographical drama is based on the real-life story of California resident Erin Brockovich, and her legal battle against Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).
  6. “Evelyn.” “Evelyn” is an emotional 2002 drama starring Sophie Vavasseur and Pierce Brosnan. It is loosely based on the true story of Desmond Doyle, and his battle against the Irish courts for custody of his children.
  7. “Helter Skelter.” “Helter Skelter” is a 1976 television mini-series based on a nonfiction book by the famous prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. The movie tells the story of the real-life murders of Sharon Tate and other victims by the Charles Manson Family. 
  8. “Monster.” “Monster” is a 2003 crime drama starring Charlize Theron. The story is based on a real-life Florida prostitute, Aileen Wuornos, who was executed in 2002 for killing six men in the 1980s and 1990s.
  9. “Nothing But The Truth.” “Nothing But The Truth” is a 2008 movie starring Kate Beckinsale. The fictionalized drama tells the story of Judith Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist jailed in 2005 for outing a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, and refusing to reveal her source.
  10. “Video Voyeur.” “Video Voyeur” is a 2002 television drama starring Angie Harmon. It is based on the real-life story of a Louisiana woman named Susan Wilson. When Wilson discovered that her family was being videotaped in their own home by a neighbor, she lobbied for a state law to make video voyeurism a felony.
  11. “Walking Tall.” “Walking Tall” is a 1973 crime drama based on the true story of Buford Pusser, a Tennessee sheriff who single-handedly cleaned up on small-town crime and corruption. Joe Don Baker stars in the film.
  12. “Zodiac.” “Zodiac” is a 2007 movie based on a Robert Graysmith nonfiction book. It tells the story of a notorious real-life serial killer in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1960s and 1970s. The case is one of the city’s most infamous unsolved crimes. Robert Downey, Jr., and Jake Gyllenhaal star in the film.