Reel to Real: Are Movies ‘Based on True Events’ Closer to the Audience?


Everyone needs a representative in their hard times, someone to share their joyous or sad moments with, someone to inspire. Luckily, through movies, we get to experience that.

By Contributing Author

Movies have always been a huge part of our lives. Movies not only feed our adhesion for entertainment but they can sometimes lighten up the darkened areas in our minds, igniting the fire of new perceptions, so we can get a chance to look at the world around us from a viewpoint of others.

Have you ever wondered why after each Avengers movie, you thought you could easily take down the bad guys? Or, why after Will Smith got the internship in The Pursuit of Happyness, you felt hopeful that bad days don’t last forever? It’s all about the impact of movies.

However, if we compare fiction with non-fiction to figure out which of these two are more impactful then our vote goes with non-fiction. That one message that displays at the beginning of each movie: Based on a True Story, opens the door to someone else’s realm, so we can experience a part of their story, as told by them. For filmmakers, connecting with the audience is everything. This is why most of the movies in which audiences can relate themselves with the characters and story do better in getting high ratings.

Movies Inspired by True Events – Briefly

Everyone needs a representative in their hard times, someone to share their joyous or sad moments with, someone to inspire. Luckily, through movies, we get to experience that. If we talk about the film industry guru, AKA the Hollywood, critics don’t always get pleased very easily if the movie is far from being realistic.

If we pick zombie movies or Sci-Fi inspired movies, then let’s face it, there is a certain extent to which things can be kept original. Therefore, to keep the critics, as well as, the audience happy, the importance of keeping ideas original was and still is the way to go.

This is where movies inspired by true events step in. When it comes to being original, such movies are unprecedented. Not only do these movies manage to bag a lot of critical acclamation, but they have a significant psychological impact as well. The first-ever movie that was made back in 1896 in France, possessed no fancy VFX, yet it filled its audiences with a reverence, they couldn’t get over.

Arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat, was the name of the movie and it was produced by Louis Lumiere. Unlike the movies we see now, that movie was silent and black and white. The film only had one scene where it showed a train rushing toward the fore and it lasted for roughly a minute. Rumor has it, Arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat was so realistic that it made its audience leap from their seats and flee the theater.

That marked the beginning of movies inspired by real events and soon the talks about whether or not such movies lay a psychological influence on the minds of its audience, began to surface. Movies based on true-events are like any other product or a brand a company is trying to launch. Now, what are the ways that brands use to raise awareness regarding their products? That’s easy, through advertisements!

Movies, more or less, run on the same mindset as that of an advertisement. There’s research regarding the market it wants to tap (or in this case, the audience), effective product placement is planned, problems are highlighted and then, those problems are resolved with portrayals of the protagonists. In real-life inspired movies, such portrayals reflect the mindsets of the viewers, confirming our notion that movies inspired by real-life events are original pieces of work that compel audience in a better way than fiction.

Jesse Eisenberg (second right) plays Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Like Zuckerberg, author Ben Mezrich attended Harvard and experienced a similar sense of exclusion

How Filmmakers Use Real-Life Inspired Movies to Connect with the Audience?

According to a recent NYU research, not all the movies that we watch have the same psychological impact. Some movies trigger more brain activity, some less, while in some cases, there is no activity at all. Thus, movies inspired by true events define the success of filmmakers as they create a considerable psychological impact.

In the darkness of movie theatres, our sensory receptors are more active than they normally are, and we pay more attention to the movies’ dialogues and visuals. While watching movies based on true events, since all of our focus is on the movie screen, chances are, the connection between us and the movie gets established on a psychological basis.

In a nutshell, movies that revolve around true stories are made with a different approach. Filmmakers behind such movies connect with the audience in a way that they get emotionally involved with the character and identify with it. So what are exactly the ways through which filmmakers connect with their audiences? Let’s find out:

  • The first technique that helps in creating compelling movies is the employment of camera and sound work. Let’s face it, what’s a movie if it’s lacking aesthetic cinematography and background score that fails to hit the mark. When it’s about movies that are depiction of real-life events, several cinematography aspects come into play. For example, there are a lot of OTS and POV shots taken, to highlight the protagonist’s activity. Plus, wide-angle shots are involved, along with Extreme Close-ups or ECUs, which serve the purpose of keeping audiences visually engaged.
  • Then comes the technique of connecting with the audiences emotionally and the best way to understand it, is with the following example. You see an antagonist, your brain immediately tells you to dislike the person. Why, is that? The character-building, art direction, appearance and behavior of that person —

all these are some factors that create an emotional perception in your mind, and on the basis of those factors, you perceive that person as someone repulsive. Similarly, when we see protagonists, the aura they emit, their positivity, their charm, their intelligence; we immediately build a sense of liking towards such characters. So, all in all, the art direction and character-building plays a massive role in creating an emotional perception in the minds of audiences.

  • Finally, what connects audiences with movies that have been inspired by true stories are the morals they drive. Usually, such movies revolve around a value conflict that helps in describing what the movie is going to be about. The value conflicts also keep the audiences engaged and allow them to live in the shoes of characters, to determine what decisions they would make if they were in a situation like them.

It would suffice to say, that filmmakers can connect audiences with prompt decision making through their movies. In case, there’s still confusion regarding the term value conflict, you can understand it this way, suppose, the plot of the movie revolves around the protagonist, who finds himself face-to-face against the hardships of life and at the end, he overcomes it all and becomes successful. So, here the value conflict would be struggles VS the success.

Best Movies Based on True Stories, of All Time

We know that by now, you’re eager to binge-watch a few movies that have been inspired by true stories. We’ll drop some of our favorite options that you can find online or better yet, on Spectrum’s On Demand feature. Spectrum TV boasts of offering thousands of On Demand titles, including the movies that we’re talking about. So, if you really want to have a true entertainment companion, Spectrum holds no competition.

Anyways, as for the movies that moved their audiences, with true stories they highlighted, include:

  1. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
  2. Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
  3. The Imitation Game (2014)
  4. Just Mercy (2019)
  5. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  6. Into the Wild (2007)
  7. Catch Me if You Can (2002)
  8. Schindler’s List (1993)
  9. American Sniper (2014)
  10. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
  11. Victoria and Abdul (2017)
  12. The Social Network (2010)
  13. Julie & Julia (2009)
  14. The King (2019)
  15. Lion (2016)
  16. Molly’s Game (2017)

All Things Concluded

Movies that hold the power of connecting and intriguing audiences are remembered forever. Of course, there’s nothing better than fictitious movies that allow us to visit the realm of fantasy in the blink of an eye, without making us leave our couches. The adrenaline rush that we experience when we see our favorite superheroes soaring like birds in the sky is quite worth it if you ask for our two cents.

However, nothing fills our minds with inspiration than the movies that reflect reality. There’s something about movies that revolve around a true event that our brain finds particularly compelling.

Besides, critics from Hollywood that nominate movies for the Oscars, also have an inclination for such movies. These movies are also included in the favorite list of HBO Go and HBO Now This could be the reason why you see a lot of true-story inspired movies bagging the most coveted award of the film industry.

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