Real-life crime is a lot different than it looks in Hollywood…or is it?
Many Hollywood crimes are based on true crimes, and the criminals, investigators, and other professionals are often involved in the research process. From murder to rape, robberies, and everything in between, we rounded up the best true-crime films. We aren’t including any gangster or mafia movies, as those can fill lists on their own.
Here are the top 20 true crime movies made prior to 2020.
20. Wolf of Wall Street/Boiler Room
Both movies are based on Jordan Belfort, an infamous penny stock trader.
19. Mississippi Burning
The real-life story of a murder investigation that shows racism is still prevalent in modern America by showing it at its worst in 1964.
18. American Hustle
This true-crime film is based on the ABSCAM FBI sting operation that targeted U.S. Congressmen involved in trafficking stolen property.
17. Catch Me If You Can
The real life story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., the biggest check forger and con man of his era who ended up working for the FBI.
16. Public Enemies
John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Homer Van Meter are tracked by the FBI while robbing 24 banks and four police stations. Yeah – he robbed police stations, during the Great Depression.
15. The Bling Ring
The Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch (aka The Bling Ring) was a group of seven teens and young adults who came up with the idea of robing celebrities (mostly Paris Hilton) of over $3 million worth of jewelry, cash, and other personal belongings.
14. Summer of Sam
David Berkowitz’s 1977 serial murders shook The Bronx to its core, and Spike Lee puts it on display in this film.
13. Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow are perhaps the most infamous criminal couple in history. Their bank robberies during the Great Depression are explored in this film.
The backlash of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics is explored in this jaw-dropping drama.
11. I Love You Phillip Morris
Steven Jay Russell is a con artist who escaped from prison multiple times, long before El Chapo become notorious in North America
Bobby Kent was apparently a bully to Marty Puccio, so he and seven friends lured him out into the middle of nowhere to murder him.
9. The Informant!
Mark Whitacre is a whistleblower in a corporate price-fixing scheme for an animal feed additive. It’s not the most compelling whistleblower movie, but it does its job.
Sex worker Aileen Wuornos becomes a serial killer and can’t stop once she tastes blood. This is basically the future my useless sex worker ex is facing and probably that crazy cunt’s past too.
7. All the President’s Men
Some reporters are checking out Nixon’s Watergate scandal, one of the most infamous presidential crimes in history.
6. Alpha Dog
Nicholas Markowitz was only 15 when he was killed over drug money, and the story is insane. Watch it play out on screen.
The Zodiac killer kept everyone in San Francisco living in terror during the 1960s and 1970s, and the murder spree is documented in this film.
4. 30 Minutes or Less
Brian Wells was a simple pizza delivery guy who found himself forced to rob banks with a bomb tied to his neck. It’s somewhat recreated in this movie.
3. Dog Day Afternoon
Real-life bank robbers John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturale have a hard time robbing a Brooklyn bank, and it’s somewhat told in this movie.
This 2001 film follows the true story of George Jung bringing cocaine into the U.S. in the 1970s. Also check out Square Grouper and Cocaine Cowboys for the weed/coke documentaries of these stories.
1. Boys Don’t Cry
The real murder of female-to-male transgender teenager Brandon Teena in a small Nebraska town isn’t pretty to watch.