10 Best Movies Based On Nonfiction Books, According To Ranker

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With the release of the next Moonflower Slayers on the horizon, it looks like Martin Scorsese has returned to bring another nonfiction book to life. While the film, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, promises to be a mix of true crime and period drama, there have been plenty of other great films based on non-fiction books. Moviegoers from private soldier guaranteed to pick their favorites.

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Some of the best and most iconic movies ever made were based on non-fiction novels, even if audiences weren’t aware of them at the time. These classics are considered gripping and engaging stories, but these movies based on true stories might surprise audiences.

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Donnie Brasco (1997)


Donnie Brasco is a crime drama about an undercover FBI agent infiltrating the mob and discovering he has more in common with mob life than he could have imagined. The film features incredible performances from the legendary cast including Al Pacino, Johnny Depp and Michael Madsen, as well as directed by Mike Newell.

Donnie Brasco is based on the novel of the same name by Joseph D. Pistone and is an incredibly underrated gangster movie.

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)


Frank Morris with other Escape from Alcatraz inmates

Escape from Alcatraz is a classic action crime film about three daring men trying to escape from one of the world’s most infamous and secure prisons. The film is directed by Don Siegel and stars Patrick McGoohan, Jack Thibeau, and features an iconic performance from Clint Eastwood.


Escape from Alcatraz is often cited as one of the best prison escape films ever made. The film is based on the novel of the same name by J. Campbell Bruce, which is a must-read for anyone interested in the unsolved case.

Casino (1995)


Casino is one of Martin Scorsese’s signature crime epics about two friends who move to Las Vegas and compete for a gambling empire as well as a beautiful, fast-talking socialite. The film has an all-star cast with iconic performances from Joe Pesci, Don Rickles and Sharon Stone as well as one of Robert De Niro’s best performances of all time.

Casino is based on the book, Casino: love and honor in Las Vegas by Nicolas Pileggi. It is one of many Scorsese films adapted from a bestselling novel.


The Blind Side (2009)


Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) and Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) in "The blind side."

The blind side is a sports drama about Michael Oher, a traumatized and homeless young boy who became an All-American football player with a successful NFL career with the help of a wife and family. The film was adapted and directed by John Lee Hancock and stars Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Quinton Aaron.

The blind side is often cited by fans as one of the best athlete biopics ever made and was based on the book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)


The wolf of Wall Street is a crime comedy about the life of Jordan Belfort covering his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life until his downfall involving corruption, crime and the federal government. The film is directed by legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie and Kyle Chandler.


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The wolf of Wall Street is based on the novel of the same name by Jordan Belfort. It remains an exceptional addition to Scorsese’s iconic list of films based on non-fiction books.

The Perfect Storm (2000)


the-perfect-storm-george clooney

The Perfect Storm is an action/adventure drama set in an unusually aggressive storm pattern that catches a group of commercial fishermen off guard and puts them all in extreme danger. The film is directed by Wolfgang Petersen and has an incredible cast with George Clooney, Diane Lane, Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly.

The Perfect Storm is based on Sebastian Junger’s novel of the same name and is often cited as one of the best fishing movies ever made.


Apollo 13 (1995)


Apollo 13 is an adventure drama about NASA tasked with bringing Apollo 13 back to earth safely after the plane sustains massive internal damage that endangers the lives of the three astronauts on board. It makes sense that the movie became a classic space flick due to iconic performances from Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon as well as the incredible direction of legendary filmmaker Ron Howard.

Apollo 13 is based on the book, Lost Moon: The Perilous Journey of Apollo 13 written by astronaut Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)


Catch Me If You Can 2002

Catch Me If You Can is a crime drama about a young con man using his forgery skills to impersonate a doctor, lawyer, and pilot as well as the FBI agent obsessed with tracking down and apprehending the con man. The film is directed by legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken.

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Catch Me If You Can is based on the novel, Catch Me If You Can: The Astonishing True Story Of The Youngest And Daringest Swindlers In The History Of Pleasure And Profit written by Frank Abagnale Jr. and Stan Redding.

Goodfellas (1990)


Goodfellas Henry Hill Ray Liotta

Freedmen is a classic and iconic crime drama from Martin Scorsese about the story of Henry Hill and his life in the mob as well as his relationship with his wife and partners in Italian-American crime. The film features unforgettable performances from Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci, and is arguably the best gangster movie ever to hit the screen.

Freedmen is adapted from the novel wise by author Nicholas Pileggi, the same person who wrote the novel Casino was adapted from.

Schindler’s List (1993)


Schindler's list

Schindler’s list is a classic historical drama set during World War II about an industrialist who worries about his Jewish workforce after their persecution by the Nazis. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg and is an outlier in his iconic filmography as the filmmaker doesn’t often tackle historical biographies.

Schindler’s list features incredible performances from Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Sir Ben Kingsley, and is adapted from Thomas Keneally’s novel of the same name.


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