10 True Crime Movie Adaptations, Ranked By Accuracy

Content Disclaimer: The following article contains discussion of topics such as murder, extreme violence, and sexual assault.



True crime is a popular genre spread across multiple mediums, including Hollywood adaptations such as the 2022 Netflix series Invent Anna on Anna Sorokin’s scams. Rachel Williams, one of Sorokin’s victims, publicly condemned the series for glorifying the author rather than focusing on the impact of Delvey’s crimes. Some cases are more mainstream in their attention, but others suffer from a lack of coverage.

A fine line is drawn with most biopics between what happened and what is believed. The duties of those behind these productions are more than mere creative input. It’s about validating the truth in its presentation while raising awareness of the crime. Many directors and writers have gone to great lengths to make their adaptations believable.


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ten Badlands

Rent on Apple TV

Bonnie and Clyde are by far the most infamous killer couple in history. That being said, a lesser-known case gives them a hard time. Terence Malick’s directorial debut Badlands is loosely based on real-life madness killer Charles Starkweather and his teenage girlfriend Caril Anne Fugate.

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However Badlands follows the correct timeline, it went off the rails with the ending. Carol Anne Fugit’s fictional counterpart, Holly (Sissy Spacek), was given a fairy tale ending while the real Fugit was sentenced to life in prison. Perhaps this was done to contrast the grim reality of the film.


9 just mercy

Rent on Amazon Prime

just mercy is adapted from the memoir of the same name by attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) recounting his defense of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man on death row in Alabama for a crime he did not commit. After a long battle and four unsuccessful appeals, McMillian was exonerated in 1993.

The 2019 film brings to light a rather controversial subject, that of the death penalty. It is a poignant story of injustices within the legal system and those who are victims of it. A creative balance is achieved by making minor edits while maintaining the truth of the story.


8 Extremely Wicked, Incredibly Evil and Vile

Stream on Netflix

Teen idol Zac Efron steps out of his comedic niche and turns into notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. Although criticized for romanticizing Bundy to some degree, extremely naughty reiterates the real events very closely.

The film follows the relationship between Ted and his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins) as told in his 1981 memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy. Ted’s supposed manipulative ways and tactics to lure his victims are captured in quite a disturbing way. The film shows a lesser-known side of Bundy while vindicating the silent voices of his victims after his imprisonment.


seven Me Tonya

Stream on Hulu

Sports and comedy aren’t typical elements featured in true crime, but 2017’s Me Tonya weaves them seamlessly. The film chronicles the rise of figure skater Tonya Harding, which includes the alleged planning of the attack on fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics.

In her quest, director Craig Gillespie glorified Harding, portraying her as a potential victim of circumstance. Me Tonya patina on the real victim, which is Nancy Kerrigan. Similar to real life, the film omits the effect of the assault and how Kerrigan rose from the ashes of such a vicious attack.


6 Freak

Stream on Netflix

Charlize Theron gained weight and put on fake teeth to transform into serial killer Aileen Wuornos for 2003 Freak. Along with bringing Wuornos to life on the big screen, she also helped make the film precise. Theron produced the film alongside wonder woman director Patty Jenkins for the latter’s debut.

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Jenkins prioritizes Wuornos’ roots in tracking the evolution of what led her to become a serial killer. The crimes cannot be erased, but a possible explanation behind them is presented. Freak is serious in its attempts to slightly humanize Wurnos while detailing its extreme murders.


5 dominant dog

Rent on Amazon Prime

Director Nick Cassavetes strongly defended the accuracy of his 2006 crime drama dominant dog. Based on the 1996 kidnapping and murder of Nicholas Markowitz by Jesse James Hollywood and his two accomplices, the names change but the story remains the same.

In his portrayal, moments of zest are intertwined to give the audience hope that Zach (Anton Yelchin) will return home safely, only to be confronted with the truth of the tragedy. A young boy losing his life to those who look after their own interests, a family broken forever. Nevertheless, Markowitz’s parents gave dominant dog their seal of approval.


4 Chicago 7 Test

Stream on Netflix

The Chicago Seven were a group of protesters charged with conspiracy and rioting intent at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. An all-star cast brings the film to life with their rock-solid performances, matched only by the attention to detail from film director Aaron Sorkin.

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Sorkin’s previous experience adapting true stories into big-screen biopics works in the film’s favor. He applies the facts while incorporating his writing style. His quest for accuracy validates the voices of seven people punished for attempting to use their voices, highlighting a case that defined a generation.


3 Casino

Stream on Starz

Considered the spiritual successor of Freedmen, Casino is one of Martin Scorsese’s most underrated works. Beyond Sin City’s chic, vibrant costumes and glitzy cinematography, the story behind the film is pretty gritty.

Scorsese and author Nicholas Pileggi wrote the screenplay based on Pileggi’s non-fiction book Casino: Love and Honor. Casino provides insight into the organizations many fear to believe exist while the magic of the film simultaneously highlights the alleged rewards and ramifications within this criminal association. The most accurate scenes are Scorsese’s specialty: brutal violence, fast-paced dialogue and deadly consequences.


2 All the President’s Men

Stream on HBOMax

1976 All the President’s Men stands today as a model for political genre films. The 1974 book of the same title chronicles authors Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) in their experience as Washington Post investigative journalists covering the Watergate scandal.

Actor Robert Redford bought the rights to the book and served as one of the film’s producers, playing a vital role in assuring the truth. The core of the film presents the exposition of one of the greatest political scandals in history. It shows how those in positions of power don’t always have the best interest of the people.


1 Judas and the Black Messiah

Stream on HBOMax

This 2021 biographical crime drama concerns the murder of Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) at the hands of FBI informant William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield). Kaluuya’s portrayal would earn him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Some liberties were taken, but Judas and the Black Messiah was a labor of love. Director Shaka King received first-hand details of Hampton’s girlfriend and son’s timing to ensure authenticity. The film is a precursor to racist crimes still prevalent in today’s society.

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