Fright Night: 10 Horror Movies Based on True Stories

Have you ever wondered which are the best horror movies based on true stories? When we are watching a horror film, one of the first things we say to ourselves is: don’t worry, it isn’t real, it’s just fiction… and it usually is. Yet, in a number of cases, some of the scariest movies ever made were actually adaptations from real-life events and stories that actually occurred. This of course adds some extra fear to these movies, and in some cases there have even been tales of mysterious things happening during their production.


The horror genre is one of the oldest within the movie industry. From supernatural creatures to serial killers, this is a type of entertainment which never ceases to shock and frighten us, which makes them quite thrilling experiences. The fear of something beyond reason is always paralyzing, and when you cannot even rely on it being merely fiction, well the effect is no doubt even more shocking. Some of these stories are based on urban legends; those tales which we aren’t entirely certain as to whether they are true or not (or whether they are embellished at the very least). In our list featuring 7 of the Most Scary Urban Legends in the World to Keep You Up at Night, you can see some of these scary urban stories which, although you might refuse to believe, could certainly keep you up at night.

Some other stories are yet very true. Serial killers, paranormal events and shocking reports have been registered over the decades. Creative minds leapt at the chance to take some of these stories to the big screen, and with majestic adaptations, turn them into some of the great all-time classic horror films. Today we’ve compiled a list featuring the top ten horror movies based on true stories. If you ever thought you were safe at home watching a film with a bowl of popcorn, because it is just a movie… well think twice, because some of the scariest films of all time were actually based on true stories. Check out which ones.


No. 10 Psycho (1960)

Movie Plot: This film is an AlfredHitchcock classic. The main character, Janet Leigh is a runaway employee who has just ripped off her boss. She arrives at the Bates Motel and is suddenly pursued by a psychopath.

True Story: The novel by Robert Bloch is based on the person of Ed Gein, a serial killer who murdered women in Wisconsin. When the story of this killer hit the news, Bloch started developing the serial killer story, which was adapted to the big screen by Hitchcock.

Nine more frightening horror movies based on true stories are coming your way on the following pages. Be afraid; be very afraid!

No. 9 The Zodiac Killer (1971)

Movie Plot: dead bodies appear in San Francisco, and the SF Police Department receives a series of phone calls and letters from the alleged killer. Yet, the police cannot find him before he commits another crime.

True Story: the film is based on a serial killer known as “the Zodiac”, who committed a series of murders during the 1960’s and 1970’s in San Francisco. He called himself ‘Zodiac’ because of an encrypted code he used in the letters he sent to the SFPD. This man, whose identity remains unknown, is thought to be responsible for seven deaths.

No. 8 The Exorcist (1973)

Movie Plot: The film begins with the strange body manifestations of a young girl, Linda Blair, which is treated by several doctors who cannot find the reason for her illness. This condition eventually evolves into a demoniac possession. It is based on William Peter Blatty’s novel.

True Story: this famous movie was based on Blatty’s book, which was itself inspired by a strange case of a boy known as Roland Doe, who had apparently been possessed. The events took place in 1949, in a Catholic Church where an exorcism was performed.

No. 7 The Amityville Horror (1979)

Movie Plot: the Lutz family moves into a new home in Amityville, when strange things start to take place. These events were so strange that they started investigating the house’s previous owners and history. And guess what? They found out that it used to belong to a man who killed his entire family with an axe.

True Story: this story is based on a case investigated by paranormal detectives Ed and Lorraine Warren, about the real Lutz family, who reported strange events in their house in Amityville, New York. Yet, the story’s legitimacy has been disputed over the years.

No. 6 A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

Movie Plot: Freddy Krueger, the ghost of a serial killer with knives on his fingers, starts haunting some American teenagers. This is a famous horror movie, in which Mr. Krueger kills, and kills, and kills some more.

True Story: indeed, the events of the story are fictional. Yet, the writer/director Wes Craven was inspired by an event which took place in Los Angeles, when a group of Cambodian immigrants died together in the throes of a nightmare.

No. 5 The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)

Movie Plot: this thriller begins with an investigation conducted by FBI trainee Clarice Starling, who has to work on the case of a cannibal: Hannibal, to bring down Buffalo Bill.

True Story: Buffalo Bill was written by Thomas Harris, who writing was inspired by various serial killers, such as Ed Gein, who skinned his victims, and Ted Bundy, who used a cast to lure innocent women.

No. 4 The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Movie Plot: the story of a reporter, John Klein, who gets lost while driving and ends up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. There he meets Mothman, a winged creature whose appearance seems to foretell disastrous events.

True Story: several reports between 1966 and 1967 of the sightings of a large, unidentified winged creature occurred in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. After these sightings, on December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge, crossing the Ohio River, collapsed and killed 46 people.

No. 3 The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005)

Movie Plot:  Erin Christine Bruner defends priest Richard Moore in a court room. The priest was accused of being responsible for the death of a girl, which resulted after he performed an exorcism on her.

True Story: the movie was based on the case of a 16-year-old German girl called Anneliese Michel, who was thought to be demonically possessed in 1968. Two priests took over the case in 1975 and performed an exorcism which took ten months to accomplish.

No. 2 The Haunting In Connecticut (2009)

Movie Plot:  the Campbell family moves into a new home to better facilitate their son’s ill health. Then of course, they discover it used to be a mortuary. And dead people love to linger around when someone new starts living at their place.

True Story: the Snedeker family used to live in a house in Connecticut, which was allegedly a haunted funeral parlour. The series of scary happenings which kept taking place in their house prompted them to call paranormal detectives Ed and Lorraine Warren to investigate the disturbing events.

No. 1 The Conjuring (2013)

Movie Plot: Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are a couple of paranormal investigators called Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are called in when a family’s new home starts behaving very strangely.

True Story: One of the cases which Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real-life paranormal investigators mentioned in some of the above cases, took on, is the case of the Perron family. This family moved to a new house in Rhode Island when strange things started happening. The house was thought to be haunted by a malevolent witch called Bathsheba Sheran, who had lived there in the 19th century.