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.


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1. The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) (view more )

Directed by Scott Derrickson


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Official Synopsis: When a younger girl called Emily Rose dies, everyone puts blame on the exorcism which was performed on her by Father Moore prior to her death. The priest is arrested on suspicion of murder. The trial begins with lawyer Erin Bruner representing Moore, but it is not going to be easy, as no one wants to believe what Father Moore says is true.
Cast: Aaron Douglas, Kenneth Welsh, Lorena Gale, Mary Black, Tom Wilkinson, Colm Feore, 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) (view more )

Directed by Steven Spielberg


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Official Synopsis: It's a hot summer on Amity Island, a small community whose main business is its beaches. When new Sheriff Martin Brody discovers the remains of a shark attack victim, his first inclination is to close the beaches to swimmers. This doesn't sit well with Mayor Larry Vaughn and several of the local businessmen. Brody backs down to his regret as that weekend a young boy is killed by the predator. The dead boy's mother puts out a bounty on the shark and Amity is soon swamped with amateur hunters and fisherman hoping to cash in on the reward. A local fisherman with much experience hunting sharks, Quint, offers to hunt down the creature for a hefty fee. Soon Quint, Brody and Matt Hooper from the Oceanographic Institute are at sea hunting the Great White shark. As Brody succinctly surmises after their first encounter with the creature, they're going to need a bigger boat.
Cast: Joseph Oliveira, Roy Scheider, Robin Eddins, Jeffrey Kramer, Fritzi Jane Courtney, Steven Spielberg, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Cyprian R. Dube,…
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) (view more )

Directed by Chris Kentis


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Official Synopsis: A couple on a holiday in the Caribbean decide to spend the day on a scuba diving trip. But was it the wrong decision? When a mis-count happens on the boat, Susan and Daniel are left behind in the middle of the ocean, the boat long gone. With all their hopes set on the boat coming back to rescue them, they try to keep themselves safe, especially when sharks start to appear.
Cast: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein, Michael E. Williamson, Cristina Zenato, John Charles, Estelle Lau, Steve Lemme, Larry Fistano
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) (view more )

Directed by David Fincher


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Official Synopsis: A serial killer in the San Francisco Bay Area taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. We follow the investigators and reporters in this lightly fictionalized account of the true 1970's case as they search for the murderer, becoming obsessed with the case. Based on Robert Graysmith's book, the movie's focus is the lives and careers of the detectives and newspaper people.
Cast: Elias Koteas, Brian Cox, Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Matt Winston, Clea DuVall, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Christopher John Fields, Judith…
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) (view more )

Directed by Andrew Traucki, David Nerlich


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Official Synopsis: While on vacation on Northern Australia, Gracie, her husband Adam and her younger sister Lee decide to take the Blackwater Barry tour in the swamp for fishing. Their guide Jim uses a small motor boat and takes the tourist along the river to a remote spot. When they stop, they are attacked by a huge crocodile that capsizes their boat and immediately kills Jim. The three survivors climb a tree and when they realize that help would never come to rescue them, they decide to try to find a way out of their sheltered location. However, in the muddy water, their boat is flipped and the crocodile stalks the trio under the water.
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) (view more )

Directed by Tom Holland


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Official Synopsis: When Charles Lee Ray needs to get a quick escape from cop Mike Norris, he takes his soul and buries it into playful, seemingly good guy doll Chucky. Little does he know a little boy by the name of Andy Barclay will be the new owner of him soon-to-come. Charles confides in Andy while he commits numerous murders and once the adults accept Andy's story as truth, it's too late.
Cast: Brad Dourif, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Ed Gale, Jeff Dlugolecki, John Franklin, Roslyn Alexander, Neil Giuntoli, Leila Lee Olsen, Edan…
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) (view more )

Directed by James Wan


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Official Synopsis: In 1971, Carolyn and Roger Perron move their family into a dilapidated Rhode Island farm house and soon strange things start happening around it with escalating nightmarish terror. In desperation, Carolyn contacts the noted paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, to examine the house. What the Warrens discover is a whole area steeped in a satanic haunting that is now targeting the Perron family wherever they go. To stop this evil, the Warrens will have to call upon all their skills and spiritual strength to defeat this spectral menace at its source that threatens to destroy everyone involved.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Joseph Bishara, Steve Coulter, Millie Wannamaker, Jesse Michael Fullington, Vera Farmiga, Christopher Cozort, Shannon Kook, Sterling Jerins, Felix…
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) (view more )

Directed by Wes Craven


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Official Synopsis: A family going to California accidentally goes through an Air Testing range closed to the public. They crash and are stranded in a desert. They are being stalked by a group of people, which have not emerged into modern times.
Cast: Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, Suze Lanier-Bramlett, Virginia Vincent, Martin Speer, John Steadman, Janus Blythe, Peter Locke, Russ Grieve, Brenda Marinoff,…
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) (view more )

Directed by Greg Mclean


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Official Synopsis: Three backpackers travel into the Australian Outback only to find themselves stranded at Wolf Creek crater. Once there, they are encountered by a bushman, Mick Taylor, who offers them a ride back to his place. Little do the three know that their adventure into the Outback would be a complete nightmare after the backpackers find a way to escape.
Cast: Teresa Palmer, John Jarratt, Eddie White, Greg Mclean, Aaron Sterns, David Rock, Jenny Starvall, Michael Soang, Guy Petersen, Niesha de…
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) (view more )

Directed by Peter Cornwell


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Official Synopsis: Charts one family's encounter with the dark forces of the supernatural. When the Campbell family moves to upstate Connecticut, they soon learn that their charming Victorian home has a disturbing history: not only was the house a transformed funeral parlor where inconceivable acts occurred, but the owner's clairvoyant son Jonah served as a demonic messenger, providing a gateway for spiritual entities to crossover. Now terror awaits when Jonah, the boy who communicated with the dead, returns to unleash horror on the innocent and unsuspecting family.
Cast: Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Kyle Gallner, Martin Donovan, John B. Lowe, Blake Taylor, Will Woytowich, Amanda Crew, Jeny Cassady, Nicholas…
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) (view more )

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg


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Official Synopsis: Based on a true story that was claimed by writer Jay Anson, The Amityville Horror is about a large house on the coast of Long Island where newlyweds George and Kathy Lutz and their three children move into the house that they hope will be their dream house which ends up in terror. Despite full disclosure by the real estate agent of the house's history, George and Kathy buy the house. George says, "Houses don't have memories," but they turn to their family priest Father Delaney who believes the house is haunted and performs an exorcism on the house. But satanic forces in the house causes him to become blind and makes him very sick. With the help of another priest Father Bolen and a police detective, George and Kathy face the fears of the house, but not knowing the forces are planning to possess George and then the children.
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) (view more )

Directed by Gregory Wilson


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Official Synopsis: Find showtimes, watch trailers, browse photos, track your Watchlist and rate your favorite movies and TV shows on your phone or tablet!
Cast: Mark Margolis, William Atherton, Daniel Manche, Michael Zegen, Jennifer Alexander, Kevin Chamberlin, Michael Nardella, J.M. Parkhurst, Irene Katehis, Greg Northrop,…
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) (view more )

Directed by Bryan Bertino


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Official Synopsis: After returning from a wedding reception, a couple staying in an isolated vacation house receive a knock on the door in the mid-hours of the night. What ensues is a violent invasion by three strangers, their faces hidden behind masks. The couple find themselves in a violent struggle, in which they go beyond what either of them thought capable in order to survive.
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) (view more )

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock


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Official Synopsis: Phoenix officeworker Marion Crane is fed up with the way life has treated her. She has to meet her lover Sam in lunch breaks and they cannot get married because Sam has to give most of his money away in alimony. One Friday Marion is trusted to bank $40,000 by her employer. Seeing the opportunity to take the money and start a new life, Marion leaves town and heads towards Sam's California store. Tired after the long drive and caught in a storm, she gets off the main highway and pulls into The Bates Motel. The motel is managed by a quiet young man called Norman who seems to be dominated by his mother.
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Virginia Gregg, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam, Walter Bacon, Francis De Sales, Hans Moebus, George Dockstader, Robert…
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) (view more )

Directed by David Cronenberg


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Official Synopsis: The Mantle brothers are both doctors - both gynecologists - and identical twins. Mentally however, one of them is more confident than the other, and always manages to seduce the women he meets. When he's tired of his current partner, she is passed on to the other brother - without her knowing. Everything runs smoothly, until an actress visits their clinic, and the shy brother is the first to fall in love. Will they be able to 'share' her ?
Cast: David Cronenberg, Barbara Gordon, Jeremy Irons, Denis Akiyama, Damir Andrei, Stephen Lack, Murray Cruchley, Hadley Kay, David Hughes, Heidi von…
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.