Top Ten Films Inspired by Actual Events

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Okay so I was sitting back enjoying my favorite movie, Jaws, when it hit me.  Why not do a Top Ten list of films that were inspired by true events?  So here I am.  Notice I used the term “inspired by” as opposed to “based on.”  True enough, some of the films on this list are based on true stories, but the only requirement is that they be at least inspired by.  That doesn’t mean they have to be dead on.   It only means the author had a particular true event in  mind when penning the film…or the book the film was based on which may also be the case in most of these.  So even though I know some of you won’t even read this introduction *ahem* I wanted to make that clear from the beginning.  Here we go.  Enjoy!

Top Ten Films Inspired by True Events

10. Deranged (1974) - You will notice that about half the films on this list involve inspiration from our old friend, Ed Gein.  This is not indicative of any love I have for him in particular…in just so happens some great characters were created in his likeness.  In this particular little number Alan Ormsby, notable for the fun little flick Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, writes and co-directs his version of this bizarre case.  Though some facts are loosely moved around, as they often are, it’s a pretty decent view of the guy and tons of fun to watch.  Who knew Eddie was a chubby chaser?

9.  The Entity (1981) - In this film, Barbara Hershey discovers Life is NOT a beach…sorry.  Sometimes I can’t help myself.  Seriously though, this film has always been enjoyable for me.  It’s like Beetlejuice porn.  Most of you will probably scoff at the thought of an apparitious (well it’s a word now) rapist attacking an unsuspecting woman in her room at night.  But the woman this film was loosely based on says it really happened. And how many women tried to summon their own invisible lover who likes it rough after seeing this flick?  Hey, don’t look at me.  Okay, so that example may have been inspired by actual events.  What can I say?  I have a thing for Claude Rains.

8.  The Amityville Horror (1979) - I am talking about the original film…not the useless piece of crap, bloody for no reason, only good thing about it being Ryan Reynolds out of the pool remake.  Although the 1979 version may seem pale by today’s standards, it really cranks up the creep factor if you try and remember that this family went through this and a whole lot more (if you are inclined to believe them).  The Titular book by Jay Anson was probably one of the spookiest reads I had until I came across the food diary of Nicole Ritchie.  It goes into much more detail about the haunting, but the film did a pretty decent job.   James Brolin is scary anyway.  He’s on my list of famous people I would never want to piss off.  

7.  The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) - The scariest part of this film is that a poor German student, Annelise Michel, went through similar events in 1976.  This film portrays the what-if-she-was-possessed argument to the hilt and if you are religious or believe in this sort of thing you could go that way.  If not, you may just be outraged  Either way, it is a powerful film and downright freakin scary if you ask me.  It is not the typical possession film, but rather focuses on the consequences of such an event and it’s legal aftermath.  But don’t worry, possession fans, you get the dose of demon you are waiting for.  

6.  Them (Ils) (2006) - This is a foreign language film so you’ll have to lose the fear of reading subtitles to enjoy it, but it is well worth the trouble (if you see it as troublesome).  You can pretty much think of it as The Strangers, only good.  Some unsuspecting folk in the privacy of their secluded home are hopelessly harangued by some ill-mannered intruders in the dead of night.  It is based on a case from the Czech Republic and is super scary in its simplicity.  Just because you are home, that doesn’t mean you are safe.

5.  Psycho (1960) - Hey, remember what I said about Ed Gein?  Well here it is.  Hitchcock based his classic film on the book of the same name by Robert Bloch who used old Eddie as inspiration for Norman Bates.  And of course this film gets on the list.  I don’t even think an explanation is required.   So I’m not giving one.

4.  The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - Here we go again, Gein fans.  Getting tired of that name?  Well you can’t yet because I’m not done with it.  But for this one, he is only partial inspiration.  Thomas Harris who wrote the novel, drew Buffalo Bill from several twisted people including Ted Bundy as well.  And because of his vision, we have one of the most frightening flicks ever put to celluloid.  

3.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - ED GEIN!!!  Did I surprise you?  Bet I didn’t.  You guys know what’s up by now.  Once again, he pops up, sort of.  Take the part about him wearing masks and making them from human skin and there you have it.  Of course there was never a chainsaw wielding psycho chasing screaming girls through the fields of rural Texas...at least not that this film was based on.  I am afraid the Ed Gein reference is as close to real as it gets. Hooper actually says he was inspired by a chainsaw in a hardware store for the weapon of choice.  If you have ever read anything I have written before, you know how I feel about this film so I won’t throw it at you again.  Suffice it to say, I think it is one of the greatest examples of modern horror cinema to date.

2.  The Exorcist (1973) - William Peter Blatty’s horrifying tale of possession was inspired by a newspaper article that he read while attending school in Georgetown.  The actual event was centered around a boy rather than a girl.  Some fans consider this the scariest film ever made.  I call it second only to my number one (look down) and this has always been a tight call for me.  The deciding factor is a simple one.  No possession has ever kept swimmers out of the ocean for as many years.

1.  Jaws (1975) - So here we are at number one again.  I imagine this choice comes as no surprise to most of you…unless of course you were not aware that this novel was originally inspired by the 1916 New Jersey shark attacks.  They are actually cited in the film.  Interestingly there is no definitive proof that all five attacks were by the same shark and some of them were even in fresh water making the case for a great white difficult to swallow..heh heh.  Nevertheless, Peter Benchley took the idea and wrote one of the scariest novels of his time which later became Jaws the movie.  And this, in my humble (though not all the time) opinion, is the absolute greatest film ever made, horror or otherwise.  



Honorable Mention:

The Haunted (1991 TV) -  Do not confuse this with the film The Haunting.  This is a chilling ghost story that was inspired by true events.  It stars Sally Kirkland as the mother of a family who moves into a new home but doesn’t stay too long because something else already lives there.  This one is pretty spooky, especially since it was made for TV.  It gave me the creeps when it first aired and still does today.  One question, though.  Has anyone else noticed that the supernatural seem to have something against Catholics?  Just wondering.  

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