Top 15 Horror Movies Based on Real Life

Top 15 Horror Movies Based on Real Life

We thought it would be cool to make a list of some of the best horror movies based on real life events. We have put together this list from movies based on ghost/demon hauntings, animal attacks, serial killers and just plain psycho behavior. The list is not sorted in any particular order, but each and every movie here is based on real life horror events.

1. The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

AKA(s): The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel, Untitled Scott Derrickson Project

Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: A lawyer takes on a negligent homicide case involving a priest who performed an exorcism on a young girl.
Cast: Aaron Douglas, Lorena Gale, Kenneth Welsh, Mary Black, Colm Feore, Tom Wilkinson, Laura Linney, JR Bourne, Marilyn Norry, John Innes
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Drama, Crime

Based loosely on the story of Anneliese Michel, who is a German Catholic girl that changed her name to Emily Rose. She was diagnosed with epilepsy, but two priests believed that the devil possessed her. She eventually died of starvation, and the priest was accused by the state of negligent homicide. The priest was accused because they performed sixty-seven, four-hour exorcisms on her within a ten-month time frame.

2. Jaws

Jaws (1975)

Directed by Steven Spielberg

AKA(s): Stillness in the Water

Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: A giant great white shark arrives on the shores of a New England beach resort and wreaks havoc with bloody attacks on swimmers, until a local sheriff teams up with a marine biologist and an old seafarer to hunt the monster down.
Cast: Joseph Oliveira, Roy Scheider, Robin Eddins, Jeffrey Kramer, Fritzi Jane Courtney, Cyprian R. Dube, Steven Spielberg, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Dorothy Fielding
Genres: Thriller, Drama, Adventure

This story about a 25-foot shark is a true event that happened on the New Jersey Shore in 1916. Four people were attacked and killed over a twelve day period. A seven-foot shark was caught and killed on July 14, 1916. People were surprised that human remains were found in the dead shark’s stomach.

3. Open Water

Open Water (2003)

Directed by Chris Kentis


Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: Based on the true story of two scuba divers accidentally stranded in shark infested waters after their tour boat has left.
Cast: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Michael E. Williamson, Cristina Zenato, John Charles, Estelle Lau, Steve Lemme
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Drama, Adventure, Romance, Biography

Tom and Eileen Lonergan were unintentionally left behind at the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 by a diving company during a scuba diving expedition. The diving company realized the couple was left behind and returned to them, but they were nowhere to be found. Director Chris Kentis added a little more drama to the true story by adding sharks to the story.

4. The Zodiac

Zodiac (2007)

Directed by David Fincher

AKA(s): Chronicles

Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.
Cast: Elias Koteas, Brian Cox, Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Matt Winston, Clea DuVall, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Christopher John Fields, Judith Drake
Genres: Thriller, Drama, Mystery, Crime, History

The Zodiac killer in real life did most of his killing in Northern California in the 1960s and 1970; is identity remains unknown. The Zodiac killer would leave letters behind after attacking his victims. The movie is based on true crime events book written by Robert Gray-Smith.

5. Black Water

Black Water (2007)

Directed by Andrew Traucki, David Nerlich


Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: A terrifying tale of survival in the mangrove swamps of Northern Australia
Cast: Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody, Andy Rodoreda, Ben Oxenbould, Fiona Press
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Drama, Action

Black Water is about three family members who went on a fishing trip and soon finds out that they were being hunted. It is based on three friends who rode their bikes on Kangaroo flat on December 2, 2003, and a huge crocodile ate one of the friends.

6. Childs Play

Child's Play (1988)

Directed by Tom Holland

AKA(s): Blood Brother, Blood Buddy

Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: A single mother gives her son a much sought after doll for his birthday, only to discover that it is possessed by the soul of a serial killer.
Cast: Brad Dourif, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Ed Gale, Jeff Dlugolecki, John Franklin, Roslyn Alexander, Neil Giuntoli, Leila Lee Olsen, Edan Gross
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Mystery

This is a movie that almost all horror fans love to see. Childs Play was inspired from Robert the Doll. A skilled voodoo and black magic Bahamian servant in 1906 gave the cursed doll to Eugene because she was not happy with his family. Robert the doll would talk, move around, blink and gave devilish giggles. The doll is kept in a museum, in Key West.

7. The Conjuring

The Conjuring (2013)

Directed by James Wan

AKA(s): The Warren Files

Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Joseph Bishara, Jesse Michael Fullington, Millie Wannamaker, Steve Coulter, Vera Farmiga, Christopher Cozort, Shannon Kook, Sterling Jerins, Felix J. Micklewhite
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Mystery

Ed and Lorraine Warren is involved in this horror movie that is based on the real-life event once again. The Warrens helped with a haunting in Rhode Island where a witch by the name of Bathsheba Sherman who haunts and terrorizes everyone that lived in the house that she has resided in since the nineteenth century.

8. The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Directed by Wes Craven

AKA(s): Blood Relations, The Family That Woke Up Screaming, Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes

Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: On the way to California, a family has the misfortune to have their car break down in an area closed to the public, and inhabited by violent savages ready to attack.
Cast: Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Flora, Striker, Virginia Vincent, Martin Speer, John Steadman, Janus Blythe, Peter Locke
Genres: Horror, Thriller

This horror movie is not for the weak stomach horror fans because it is hard to believe that this movie is based on a real-life event. Imagine living in the hills and eating human flesh, just thinking about it makes me shiver. The movie is about a tribe from the Scottish cave dwellers in the sixteenth century. They consumed/ate one thousand people in the twenty-five year period before they were executed.

9. Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek (2005)

Directed by Greg Mclean


Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: Three backpackers stranded in the Australian outback are befriended by a local who turns out to be a sad**tic psychopath and will plunge them into a hellish nightmare of insufferable torture.
Cast: Teresa Palmer, John Jarratt, David Rock, Eddie White, Greg Mclean, Aaron Sterns, Isabella Reimer, Greg Sara, Renee Luna, Jenny Starvall
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Drama

The movie is about three people who were tortured and killed in the Wolf Creek National Park. This movie is based on Ivan Milat (kidnapped and tortured hitchhikers) and Bradley Murdock (tortured and killed a British tourist).

10. The Haunting in Connecticut

The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

Directed by Peter Cornwell


Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: After a family is forced to relocate for their son's health, they begin experiencing supernatural behavior in their new home, and uncover a sinister history.
Cast: Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Martin Donovan, John B. Lowe, Darren Ross, Blake Taylor, Will Woytowich, Amanda Crew, Jeny Cassady
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Drama, Mystery

Al and Carmen Snedeker got a bargain for the new home that they are living in. They lived in the funeral home and started to experience paranormal activity. The Warrens were called in to investigate the paranormal activities in the house.

11. The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror (1979)

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg


Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: Newlyweds move into a large house where a mass murder was committed, and experience strange manifestations which drive them away.
Cast: Margot Kidder, Baxter Harris, James Tolkan, Helen Shaver, Murray Hamilton, Rod Steiger, Elsa Raven, Peter Maloney, Hank Garrett, Natasha Ryan
Genres: Horror, Drama

The movie is about the true events experienced by the Lutz family in their home, 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. The Lutz family did not know there was a mass murder in their home one year before them moving in. The Lutz family began to experience paranormal activities such as green ooze dripping from the walls, hearing voices around the house and other frightening experiences.

12. The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door (2007)

Directed by Gregory Wilson

AKA(s): Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door

Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: Based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door follows the unspeakable torture and abuses committed on a teenage girl in the care of her aunt...and the boys who witness and fail to report the crime.
Cast: Mark Margolis, William Atherton, Daniel Manche, Michael Zegen, Jennifer Alexander, Kevin Chamberlin, Gerard Houarner, Janet Hefferan, Spenser Leigh, Monica O'Rourke
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Drama, Crime

It was based on the 1989 novel of the same title by Jack Ketchum.

The movie was based on Sylvia Likens being brutally tortured and murdered during the summer of 1965 by Gertrude Baniszewski. The movie is about a girl who gets kidnapped by the neighborhood kids and held captive in the basement. They tortured, mutilated and raped her in the basement - really sick to know it is actually based on real-life events that are still taking place today.

13. The Strangers

The Strangers (2008)

Directed by Bryan Bertino

AKA(s): The Faces

Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: A young couple staying in an isolated vacation home are terrorized by three unknown assailants.
Cast: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, Glenn Howerton, Jordan Del Spina, Alex Fisher, Peter Clayton-Luce, Kip Weeks
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Mystery

The movie is about a young couple who were attacked in their summer home. The stranger tortured, beat and then killed them because he likes to inflict pain onto others. This was a scary movie that left the audience sleeping with their lights on at night. The movie was based on numerous break-ins into homes when director Bryan Bertino was growing up. It was also based on the Charles Manson family killings in the 1970s.

14. Psycho

Psycho (1960)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

AKA(s): Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Virginia Gregg, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam, Prudence Beers, Fred Scheiwiller, Kit Carson, Helen Wallace, Francis De Sales
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Mystery

Norman Bates is a fictional character that was inspired by real-life serial killer Ed Gein. The writer claimed that he did not intentionally mean for his character to be so similar to Ed Gein. He confesses to liking the case, reading about it and having it as a motivational inspiration.

15. Dead Ringers

Dead Ringers (1988)

Directed by David Cronenberg


Movie Overview | Review | Trailer

Official Synopsis: Twin gynecologists take full advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart, until their relationship begins to deteriorate over a woman.
Cast: David Cronenberg, Barbara Gordon, Jeremy Irons, Denis Akiyama, Damir Andrei, Stephen Lack, Murray Cruchley, Hadley Kay, David Hughes, Heidi von Palleske
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Drama

The movie was based on Bari Wood and Jack Geasland novel, Twins. It is about the lives of two identical twins, Stewart and Cyril Marcus who exchange their professional and personal lives. Stewart and Cyril’s life became too complex and spiraled out of control eventually leading to both of them committing suicide in their Manhattan apartment.

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