16 Movies Based on a True Story to Catch In 2019

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If last year's Bohemian Rhapsody made the musician biopic not only a must-see but an Oscar contender, then 2019's Rocketman looks to break the mold even further by stretching the truth about Elton John's life to its most surreal, strange limits. In fact, that's a bit of a theme this year when it comes to the 2019 movies based on true stories: The truth can be pretty darn strange.

From a movie about a would-be female WWE wrestler to a star-studded look at the life of Roger Ailes through the women who had to work with him, it's going to be a wild year for film.

Fighting With My Family (February 14)

Len Headey, Nick Frost, Florence Pugh, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in this film about a family of wrestlers who love each other very much. But when the young siblings are offered the opportunity to join WWE, tensions arise as fame changes their dynamics. It’s based on the best-selling book by Max Fischer, The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family.

Saint Judy (March 1)

The story of a crusading immigration attorney (Michelle Monaghan) who fights to make women a protected class of asylum-seeker after hearing the harrowing tale of Asefa, a fighter for women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Finding Steve McQueen (March 15)

This movie tells the surprisingly true story of the biggest manhunt in FBI history, after a group tries to steal $30 million in illegal campaign contributions from Richard Nixon. It’s a heist movie for our restless age.

The Dirt (March 22)

Look, I can’t honestly recommend Netflix's The Dirt to you. Based on the collaborative memoir by Motley Crüe (which was ghost-written by journalist Neil Strauss), this is a movie about the band’s early days and rise to debaucherous fame. In its overly long runtime, it idolizes—seemingly without self-awareness or genuine reflection—the worst kind of macho, pseudo-rebellious, self-indulgent chauvinism to come out of the 1980s. On top of that, the acting is deeply confusing and the casting wildly generous (I couldn’t differentiate one pouty white boy in a wig from the other, and was thankfully never called upon by any of the writing here to do so). Also, why is Pete Davidson in this? I thought I hallucinated him at first.

But I still think you should see this movie, and I’ll tell you why: Because as bad as 2019 is for women—and it’s bad—it’s sort of nice to know that things have actually gotten better in a lot of ways. Like, women had to very casually deal with some extremely stupid bullshit in the 1980s. I found this movie kind of comforting, in that way.


Hotel Mumbai (March 29)

In 2008, the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked Mumbai in a series of coordinated shooting and bombing attacks. One such attack targeted the luxurious and tourist-filled Taj Hotel. This movie, starring Dev Patel, tells the story of the victims and survivors of the attack, and the waiter who risked his life to save innocents.

The Best of Enemies (April 5)

Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson star in this 1970s-set film, based on the true story of C.P. Ellis, a Ku Klux Klan leader, and Ann Atwater, a civil rights activist, who come together to hold a community board meeting in North Carolina on the desegregation of schools.

Wild Nights with Emily (April 11)

Based on the letters of Emily Dickinson, this movie seeks to (often hilariously) reclaim the famous poet’s actual life and loves. It focuses an eye on her relationships, particularly her attraction to women, and recasts the idea that she was a frumpy recluse. Molly Shannon stars in this sweet historical rom-com.

Stockholm (April 18)

When two ex-cons hold up a Swedish bank and take hostages, one of the thieves—Lars Nystrom (played by Ethan Hawke)—starts to bond with one of his hostages (Noomi Rapace) and she starts to bond back. Ever heard of Stockholm Syndrome? Yeah.

JT LeRoy (April 26)

Where was this movie during the Summer of Scam? JT LeRoy was a lauded young literary talent in the 1990s, and his debut Sarah was a big hit among a certain set of elites. The only problem? LeRoy wasn’t real. He was the “avatar” of writer Laura Albert (here played by Laura Dern), who used her sister-in-law (played by Kristen Stewart) as a stand-in for the real-life LeRoy. It was a strange, surreal moment in writing history, and this movie memorializes it for posterity.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (May 3)

Zac Efron might be too hot a person to play the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy because it gives me weird feelings about finding him so cute. Nevertheless, he knocks it out of the park in this Netflix movie about Bundy’s trial and the relationship he had to his girlfriend (here played by Lily Collins), even as he committed truly heinous acts. Yup, it’s really a true story.


Tolkien (May 10)

You know the stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but you may not know about the man behind them. This film aims to change that, casting Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins (who appears a few times on this list!) as J.R.R. Tolkien and his paramour Edith Bratt as university students in England on the eve of World War I. Given everything he lived through, suddenly his books don't seem so far-fetched.

Rocketman (May 31)

Look out, Bohemian Rhapsody: The Elton John biopic looks epic and didn’t even require false teeth. John was an executive producer on this Taron Egerton-starring film that takes some surrealist liberties with the legendary musician’s life and times.

Judy (September 27)

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Renée Zellweger stars as Judy Garland in a film about her sold-out run of concerts in 1969 at the Talk of the Town nightclub. While there, she talks about her life and even meets a potential new paramour (the young Mickey Deans, played by Finn Wittrock, who would become her fifth husband).

Ford v. Ferrari (November 2019)

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A film about how the Ford company was tasked with creating a new vehicle that could finally beat Ferrari at 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Yeah, it’s a car movie, but it stars some serious acting heavy-hitters like Matt Damon, Christian Bale, and Caitriona Balfe.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (TBD 2019)

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Tom Hanks plays Mr. Fred Rogers in this movie about a cynic journalist whose mind is changed by meeting the beloved children’s television host. If you saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the gorgeously heart-wrenching 2018 documentary about Mr. Rogers, this might make an excellent scripted companion.

Untitled Roger Ailes Film (TBD 2019)

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Like last year’s Vice, this year we have a new antihero right-wing biopic: A film based on the life of now-dead Fox News guru Roger Ailes, as seen through the eyes of the women who worked with him and put up with his alleged sexual predation. It looks to be equally star-packed: Charlize Theron will play Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman is Gretchen Carlson (who sued Ailes for sexual harassment in 2016), and Kate McKinnon and Margot Robbie also star.

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