We're reliably informed that truth is stranger than fiction and the strangest truths often make the best movies.
These nutso films, all based on stuff that actually happened, range from the harrowing to the heartwarming. We've skipped movies like Wolf Creek where no-one other than the killer could ever reasonably know what went down, and avoided too much emphasis on horrible murders – that could be a sub-genre of its own.
Here are 10 stories we can barely believe were true.
1. All Good Things
A fictionalised film based on the insane case of Robert Durst, which inspired the even more insane documentary TV series The Jinx. Ryan Gosling, as you've never seen him, plays the Durst stand-in, a very wealthy son of a property tycoon who has a strained relationship with his father, and later his wife, as he becomes increasing psychotic.
He kills her, gets his best friend to dress up as her, moves to Florida, cross-dresses and pretends to be an old mute woman, murders his best friend and then his neighbour, who he chops up and dumps in bin bags. Oh, and never does any time for it.
After seeing the film, the real Robert Durst contacted director Andrew Jarecki, offering him his version of events. The doc is even more insane.
2. Dog Day Afternoon
Inspired by the story of a robber (played by Al Pacino) who planned a bank heist to pay for his transgender wife's re-assignment surgery.
The heist goes wrong and he ends up trapped in a siege situation for an entire day with a raft of hostages, which grows into a media circus as his motivations are revealed.
Great story, though John Wojtowicz, on whom it's based, reckons it's only about 30% true.
3. Catch Me If You Can
The incredible tale of a teenager named Frank Abagnale (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who runs away from home and becomes a confidence trickster impersonating an airline pilot, a lawyer, a doctor and a secret service agent, managing to steal over $2.8 million.
He's pursued across continents by FBI man Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks playing a composite of several real-life counterparts) who eventually apprehends him and sends him to prison, only to cut a deal with him whereby he can serve out his sentence at home working for the anti-fraud department of the FBI.
The infamous 1993 film retells the story of a Uruguayan rugby team and their family members (portrayed almost exclusively by white Americans, because Hollywood) whose plane crashes in the Andes.
Trapped in the snowy heights for over two months, they were forced to eat their dead to survive until two of their number managed to walk – on foot, without any food, specialist equipment or clothing – for 10 days over the mountains to find help.
5. Cool Runnings
Disney's feel-good '90s comedy was inspired by the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team trying out for the 1988 Winter Olympics, although many of the details (the specific events, the members of the team, the number of coaches, etc) were fictionalised.
It also omits the two-man competition, in which Jamaica was involved against three other Caribbean teams – one from Netherlands Antilles and two from the United States Virgin Islands. Jamaica completed all four of those runs without incident, coming 30th out of 38 teams, but that's not so dramatic, is it?
6. 127 Hours
So this particular story is less 'weird' and more 'plain harrowing'.
The James Franco-starring movie is based on Aron Ralston's memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and the title refers to the 127 hours his arm was trapped by a boulder before he managed to cut the offending limb off with a dull penknife and rappel to safety.
The movie is as deeply upsetting as you would expect.
The best-known movie about a creepy murderer with an unhealthy relationship to his mother was inspired by Ed Gein, a real-life two time killer and grave robber with his own mummy issues.
Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake, on the other hand, was inspired by pure hubris. The Ed Gein case – which involved him fashioning furniture, ornaments and even clothing from human skin and remains – is so crazy, that bits of it inspired a whole range of horror movies included The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Silence of the Lambs and Deranged. A movie covering the whole of the Ed Gein story was also made, but it wasn't very good – partly because the actual, full, true story is just too weird and extreme to be believable.
8. The Hoax
Writer Clifford Irving is the real-life author of a famously fake Howard Hughes autobiography that he claimed to be ghost-writing for the legendary filmmaker and industrialist-turned-recluse.
The Hoax tells the story of his elaborate attempts to convince the world that Hughes was involved in the project, including acquiring suspicious information and even masquerading as his would-be subject.
Clifford's complaints about the adaptation of his story are not the usual ones. In a review of the movie on his website, he basically complains that his life, his friends, wife and mistress were much more exciting in real life.
9. I Love You Phillip Morris
The Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor comedy/caper/romance was inspired by the life of con man Steven Jay Russell (Carrey), who fell in love with his fellow inmate, the tiny, softly spoken Phillip Morris (McGregor). When the pair were separated, Russell escaped from prison multiple times to reunite with his lover.
Last we heard, Russell was serving a 144-year sentence in 23-hours-a-day solitary confinement. Morris had been released and was living in Arkansas.
It's hard to believe that this story about a prank call to a fast food restaurant from a man claiming to be a police officer can possibly be true.
Things get crazy pretty quickly, but most worryingly of all, most of the events depicted seem to stick closely to the real 'strip-search phone-call scam', whereby a fake caller subjected a female employee to horrendous abuse at the hands of her employers, who thought they were following orders. So absolutely horrible we wish it wasn't true.
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