50 Horror Films You Didn’t Know Were Based On Real Life

By Kirsty 1 year ago

1. The Amityville Horror

Image Source / EL PAIS in EnglishThe horrors of the Amityville house have been made into more than one movie. The true story of the Amityville house details Ronald J. DeFeo Jr murdering his entire family while they slept. The house that remains leaves behind tales of the paranormal, while the movie depicts the horrors of the chilling atmosphere left behind.

2. The Haunting in Connecticut

Image Source / Atlas ObscuraThis movie reveals the struggles of one family as they move into a creepy old house only to discover that it was a former mortuary - and, expectedly, paranormal activity is the result. The true story is that of the Snedeker family, who found creepy mortuary tools in the house's basement, discovering that the house was indeed a funeral parlour and resulting in the son seeing ghostly visions.

3. The Conjuring

Image Source / The TimesEd and Lorraine Warren actually existed, and they were real life paranormal experts. The Conjuring was based on the true story of the Perron family and their farmhouse. After paranormal activity began, the Perron family discovered the grisly past of eight generations of former inhabitants dying gruesome deaths.

4. The Conjuring 2

Image Source / All That's InterestingThe events of The Conjuring 2 were another true story of one of Ed and Lorraine Warren's cases. The Enfield Poltergeist was an entity said to be possessing the young girl of the family who lived in the house in England. The haunting included furniture being thrown around and strange voices.

5. Winchester

Image Source / PeopleWinchester is the story of the widow of a firearm manufacturer who believes the victims of the Winchester rifle are haunting her. The mansion in the movie is full of odd renovations, and the house is actually based on the real life Winchester Mystery House. The real life widow spent decades renovating the house based on what the spirits were telling her.

6. The Texas Chainshaw Massacre

Image Source / Cult of WeirdThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre has seen its own series of remakes and add-ons, and the serial killer Leatherface is a memorable one. While Leatherface himself is fictional, the story of the movie is based on the real life murderer Ed Gein. He would mutilate his victim's bodies and wear their skin.

7. Vacancy

Image Source / Plugged InVacancy is the story of a couple who are stranded in a motel and find cameras inside their room - it turns out they become stars of a snuff film. While this plot isn't exactly what happened in real life, the true story is that of a motel owner who made crawlspaces above rooms so that he could watch his guests.

8. The Black Dahlia

Image Source / All That's InterestingThe story of the Black Dahlia is based on the real life murder of Elizabeth Short. Elizabeth was an aspiring actor who was murdered in 1947. Her body was found in a park in Los Angeles, severed into two parts at the waist. The woman who discovered her at first believed she was a store mannequin. Her death is one of the most famous American unsolved cases.

9. Zodiac

Image Source / History vs HollywoodThe Zodiac Killer was a real-life killer, and the case remains unsolved to this day. He was one of the most notorious serial killers in America, active during the 60s and 70s, and the movie depicts the manhunt trying to find him. The movie is accurate in the puzzle clues and taunting letters to the police.

10. The Haunting of Sharon Tate

Image Source / Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis movie depicts actress Sharon Tate experiencing disturbing premonitions before she is eventually visited and murdered by the Manson family. This was the true story of pregnant actress Sharon Tate who was brutally murdered by the Manson family cult. While the movie depicts Sharon having visions of her fate, the real life actress didn't know what was about to happen.

11. Changeling

Image Source / The Des Moines RegisterIn California in the 1920s, there were real life abductions and murders of young boys. The Changeling tells the story of a mother whose son went missing, only for him to return seemingly different. This was the real life story of the mother who took in a boy pretending to be her real son. Her real son was never found.

12. The Watcher

Image Source / All That's InterestingThe movie depicts the tale of a couple who buy a new home only to be harassed by an anonymous stalker. In real life, Derek and Maria Broaddus bought their dream home, only to begin receiving strange letters before they'd even moved in. The letters went into great detail about watching their children and their movements.

13. Murder by Numbers

Image Source / Paris ReviewThis movie depicts two gifted students planning a perfect murder, up against an experienced homicide detective. In real life, Nathan Leopold and Richaed Loeb planned - and successfully carried out - the murder of a 14 year old boy after kidnapping him in a bid to commit the 'perfect crime'.

14. Backcountry

Image Source / Glossyfied.comThe real life story behind this survival horror movie saw hikers Mark Jordan and Jacqueline Perry attacked by a black bear whilst out in the back country of Missinaibi Lake Provincial Park, North of Chapleau, in Ontario. Jacqueline was the first to be attacked, and Mark managed to fend the bear off, but Jacqueline later died from her injuries.

15. The Quiet Ones

Image Source / History vs. HollywoodThe Quiet Ones showcases a professor trying to make a breakthrough when it comes to the 'other side'. The movie is loosely based on the real-life Philip experiment which happened in 1972. Both the real life experiment and the movie experiment were designed to find out more about the paranormal, and whether it really exists.

16. Monster

Image Source / UnHerdThe movie 'Monster' about serial killer Aileen Wuornos was based on the true story of her life. The biographical movie earned actress Charlize Theron an award for her role as the serial killer who used her role as a sex worker to kill her male clients while moving through Florida.

17. The Snowtown Murders

Image Source / RankerThis movie is based on the true events of serial killer John Justin Bunting and accomplices, whose victims' bodies were found in barrels in an abandoned bank vault in South Australia during the 1990s. There were twelve victims in total, and some were tortured before being killed.

18. Wolf Creek

Image Source / The MirrorThe horror movie Wolf Creek is not solely based on fact, but it appears to have been inspired by a series of murders that happened near Sydney. The victims were backpackers, murdered in a state forest by killer Iva Milat in the 1990s.

19. Open Water

Image Source / MamamiaOne horror trope that hits home for a lot of people is the 'lost at sea while a shark circles you'. The true story behind the movie Open Water saw American tourists Tom and Eileen Lonergan being left behind on a scuba expedition - just like in the movie - off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. In reality, the diving school took two days to realise their mistake - and the couple were never seen again.

20. The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Image Source / All That's InterestingThere are plenty of exorcism horror movies out there, but the Exorcism of Emily Rose is one of the best. The movie is actually based on the real-life case of Anneliese Michel. Michel was a German woman who died from starvation after a grand total of 67 exorcisms were performed on her in an attempt to rid her of demons.

21. The Rite

Image Source / American ProfileThe Rite stars Anthony Hopkins as a priest experienced in exorcisms, while the movie is actually based on the real life experiences of California priest Father Gary Thomas. Thomas was assigned to study exorcism at the Vatican. In The Rite, his on-screen counterpart is Father Michael Kovak, played by Colin O'Donoghue.

22. The Sacrament

Image Source / www.history.comThe story of the movie The Sacrament is fictionalised, but it's inspired by the real-life Jonestown Massacre. The Massacre saw the mass murder-suicide of members of a cult. After a Congressman began investigating the cult and was subsequently attacked, the leader of the cult set in motion a suicide plan. A total of 909 people died.

23. Dead Ringers

Image Source / Wicked HorrorThe disturbing movie 'Dead Ringers' tells the story of identical twins who work as gynaecologists and spiral out of control, turning to madness, and hatching a plan for experimental medical tools to use on women. In real life, Stewart and Cyril Marcus were identical twin gynaecologists who died together under mysterious circumstances.

24. The Afflicted

Image Source / MediumThe movie The Afflicted is loosely based on the real life case of Theresa Knorr. Theresa Knorr is an American woman who had tortured and murdered two of her children. She used her four remaining children to help cover up her crimes.

25. The Girl Next Door

Image Source / Aloha, Mister HandThe horror movie The Girl Next Door was based on the real life murder of Sylvia Likens. Sylvia was a teenage girl who was tortured over the course of three months before being murdered. Those responsible were her caregiver, the caregiver's children and several neighborhood friends. Sylvia died from extensive injuries and malnourishment.

26. 10 Rillington Place

Image Source / The GuardianThis British crime film depicts the real life story of serial killer John Christie. 10 Rillington Place was the address where John Christie performed his murders, including the strangulation of his own wife. He murdered at least eight people, and was also accused of being a necrophile.

27. Nightcrawler

Image Source / Bloody DisgustingJake Gyllenhaal's character in the Nightcrawler was an accurate depiction of one or more members of the paparazzi. Cameraman Austin Raishbrook has worked hard to get up close and personal to the scenes of accidents and take the first shot after ambulance chasing or crime scene crashing late at night.

28. Lost Girls

Image Source / CosmopolitanThe haunting real life story behind 'The Lost Girls' reveals the disappearance of sex worker Shannan Gilbert. In the process of trying to find Shannan Gilbert, 10 other bodies were discovered of murdered women and sex workers who had never been found. The murders took place in Long Island, New York.

29. The Iceman

Image Source / OxygenThe movie 'The Iceman' was based on the story of real life serial killer and hitman Richard Kuklinski. He was responsible for at least 5 murders. His nickname came from freezing the body of one of his victims in order to cover up the time of death. He would lure people to 'business deals' only to kill them and steal their money.

30. The Texas Killing Fields

Image Source / Houston Public MediaThe plot of this movie was loosely based on the real events of women who were kidnapped and murdered in Texas, with their locations spread along the I-45 corridor, bayous and oil fields. 30 bodies have been found in the Texas Killing Fields area.

31. Hard Candy

Image Source / IMDbHard Candy depicts the difficult-to-watch but important to see disturbing story of a young girl trying to take down a man she suspects of being a paedophile by luring him in and then torturing him. The film was inspired by the real-life events of a group of schoolgirls from Tokyo who lured businessmen to apartments by promising them sex, only to beat them up and rob them.

32. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Image Source / New York PostAnother one for the real-life Ed and Lorraine Warren casebook. The Devil Made Me Do It is another of the Conjuring series that’s based on a real-life event. Arne Cheyenne Johnson was the focus of a real-life court case in which his defence for stabbing a man to death was demonic possession – in other words, the devil made him do it. Ed and Lorraine were involved in the court case in real life.

33. An American Haunting

Image Source / The Leaf ChronicleIn this movie, a family are supposedly cursed by owners of a property after accusing them of land-grabbing, where the young daughter starts being haunted by an evil entity. The movie (and the plot of the book that inspired it) are loosely based on the real-life legend of the Bell Witch, which details the haunting of a family in 19th Century Tennessee.

34. The Strangers

Image Source / BBCThe tense and horrifying movie The Strangers had everyone vowing never to open or unlock their front doors ever again. The events of the movie see a young woman and her partner terrorised by a group of ‘strangers’ who just want to get in. The movie was actually inspired by two real-life occurrences – the first was the Sharon Tate murders already mentioned on this list by the Manson family, and the second was a series of home break-ins that occurred in the writer’s childhood neighbourhood.

35. Deranged

Image Source / All That’s InterestingThis movie depicts the disturbing series of events where a man is unhealthily obsessed with the remains of his overbearing mother – so much so that he collects bodies so that they can keep her remains company in their house. In real life, serial killer Ed Gein – who also inspired the Texas Chainsaw Massacre – was the basis of this story.

36. 127 Hours

Image Source / Celebrity Net WorthThis movie revealed a horror of a different kind – being trapped, completely alone, in a canyon, fighting for survival; and namely, for 127 hours. In real life, this actually happened to hiker Aron Ralston whose arm was trapped in a canyon in Utah, pinning him to the wall. Just like in the movie, Aron had to cut off his own arm to escape.

37. Fire In The Sky

Image Source / WikipediaThis extra-terrestrial movie sees five men driving home only to see a mysterious light in the sky. Inevitably, one of them gets sucked up by a flying saucer (always stay in the truck guys!). The true story tells the tale of Travis Walton, who claims he was abducted by aliens. His story was the basis for the movie’s plot.

38. Ravenous

Image Source / The Text Message – National ArchivesWith the tagline ‘you are who you eat’, this movie was a Western crossed with cannibalism, where a stranger begins to tell stories of a man eating flesh. The real life story was that of Alfred Packer, the ‘Colorado Cannibal’, who was a prospector and wilderness expert who confessed to cannibalism.

39. The Mothman Prophecies

Image Source / Atlas ObscuraThis mystery thriller sees a man trying to find the truth behind his wife’s death, and its connection with some seriously strange things happening in one particular town. The real life paranormal story took place in one American community which experienced strange sightings and an even stranger ‘winged’ apparition that became known as the Mothman.

40. Dahmer

Image Source / Encyclopedia BritannicaThis horror movie focuses on the real life Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer and cannibal. While the events of the movie aren’t based on fact, built up of dramatized flashback events and his evolution into the killer he became, the real life man is certainly true and has gone down in gruesome serial killer history.

41. From Hell

Image Source / National GeographicFrom Hell sees Johnny Depp take the lead role as a police detective trying to track down and stop Jack the Ripper. And, of course, in real life Jack the Ripper was a murdered tormenting the prostitutes of London, whose true identity was never found and remains unsolved to this day.

42. When The Lights Went Out

Image Source / Screen DailyThis movie is your usual paranormal/exorcism type movie where family moves into what should be their dream home only to find that a violent spirit has got there first. The plot was based on paranormal stories from West Yorkshire about a woman’s encounter with a poltergeist.

43. The Hills Have Eyes

Image Source / Reynolds’s News and MiscellanyThis nightmare-fuel movie sees one family break down in the worst possible place in the middle of the desert – right on the doorstep of some crazed cannibal killers. The true story behind this horror was actually based in the Scottish Highlands, where a 15th century cannibal and his family were alleged to have murdered over 1000 people.

44. Psycho

Image Source / History of YesterdayThis unbeatable horror movie tells the story of a runaway woman who takes shelter at the Bates Motel – only to be killed by Norman Bates, who likes to dress up as his dead mother. This is also the third horror movie loosely inspired by serial killer and body snatcher Ed Gein – apparently this guy is the perfect inspiration for horror movies.

45. Above Suspicion

Image Source / Joe SharkeyThis crime thriller sees an FBI agent become involved with a woman who also happens to become his key informant. The two characters in the movie – the FBI agent and his lover – are based on the real life Putnam and Smith, where FBI agent Putnam confessed to the murder of Susan Smith.

46. Annabelle

Image Source / Timber Creek TalonThis creepy doll story from The Conjuring universe sees paranormal events occurring when a doll is used as a conduit for some pretty bad energy – enter Ed and Lorraine Warren. In real life, the Annabelle doll looked a little bit different – much less creepy, more Raggedy Ann – but it was locked up in the Warren’s creepy room of the paranormal, believed to have been tainted with evil.

47. Child’s Play

Image Source / Atlas ObscuraSpeaking of creepy dolls, it doesn’t get better (or worse) than Chucky, a doll who is inhabited by a serial killer only to then go on a slasher spree. Child’s Play is believed to be loosely based on the real life story of Robert the Doll, who was apparently a haunted doll responsible for causing many accidents.

48. The Exorcist

Image Source / All That’s InterestingThe Exorcist is a pinnacle for any horror fan, but it’s now become more of a hilarious caricature rather than the horror spectacular that had people walking out of movie theatres when it was first released. The real life story was that of Roland Doe back in 1949, when priests were forced to perform an exorcism on him.

49. Jaws

Image Source / History vs. HollywoodWe all know about the movie that made us paranoid about splashing our feet under water for a very long time, and thankfully the real life story of Jaws isn’t about a murderous shark preying on innocent beach-goers. The real life inspiration was the great white shark that had been caught by a fisherman, which inspired the author of the book the movie was based on.

50. Silence Of The Lambs

Image Source / Criminal Minds Wiki - FandomThe Silence of the Lambs gave rise to Hannibal the Cannibal and ‘Hello Clarice’, but it also included a certain serial killer named Buffalo Bill who liked to kill women and wear their skin. The character of Buffalo Bill was based on real-life serial killer Gary Heidnik, who kept people in his own personal torture chamber.

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