Top 15 Scariest Horror Films Based On True Stories/Events

There’s something for everyone here, from hauntings to exorcisms to possessed dolls. There is no denying that the films will frighten viewers, whether they are play-by-play accounts or contain snippets based on horrific real-life events. Numerous beloved classic horror films are based on true stories.

It is always more terrifying when audiences discover that the horror film they saw was based on actual events and not just a complete creative fabrication by creatives working behind the scenes. 

Some details may be exaggerated in these 15 terrifying films based on actual events, but they are close enough to the actual events to make you think, “it’s just a movie.” Although, it won’t stop your heart from racing and your spine from tingling.

15 Scary Movies That Are Based On True Stories

1. Zodiac (2007)

The Zodiac Killer, who terrorized San Francisco in the 1960s with a series of murders that have not been solved, is well-known to anyone with a passing interest in real crime. However, David Fincher’s harrowing masterpiece is more about the killer’s enigma-inducing puzzles and secret messages that he disseminated to the media than the murders themselves, even though he recreates several in terrifying detail. 

Jake Gyllenhaal played political cartoonist Robert Graysmith, whose decades-long obsession with determining the Zodiac’s identity cost him his marriage, and the case consumed him completely. He isn’t the only one, given how new theories about who was behind the killings emerge every few years.

2. The Amityville Horror (1979)

The Amityville Horror, remade in 2005, follows a young couple who move into a new house with three kids. They know the house’s tragic past because the previous owner killed his entire family while living there. The film is founded on a true story, even though there has been some analysis of the “real story” part of the film.

Jay Anson talked with the couple, and the book that Anson composed is viewed as more exact than the film form that was reworked from the book. The film mistreated its source material. However, the reality remains that the couple and kids were spooky throughout their month residing in the house.

3. The Conjuring (2013)

Even though most people are aware of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s cases following the success of The Conjuring, the fact that the movie is based on real-life events is still shocking and terrifying. In the first movie, the Warrens try to help the Perron family escape a paranormal occurrence in their brand-new farmhouse.

The Perron family moved in without knowledge of the house’s gloomy and tragic past, so the haunting began almost immediately. The real estate agent only suggested they leave the lights on at night, even though she appeared to be aware of the past. 

That did not deter the spirits, who continued to exhibit typical paranormal behaviours like the house creaking, doors slamming, and nighttime whispers. The Conjuring was made with the help of Lorraine Warren and the Perron family.

4. Poltergeist (1982)

This is a barnstorming ghost story directed by Hooper but still very much a Spielberg film. It takes place in one of the small suburban houses that Spielberg knows and loves, where the family canary is called Tweety, the kids read Captain America comics, and they eat at Pizza Hut. In a genuinely clever plot twist, something within the family television gradually invades this impossibly safe world. 

The plot soon explodes into a wild battle with demons that looks like something out of a Walt Disney horror movie; The sub-religious gobbledegook, which includes a tiresome midget medium, is difficult to take, but its creator’s incredible sense of craft consistently redeems it. Spielberg has even devised a structural surprise for this one that, in some ways, matches the impudent virtuosity of the opening of Psycho and sends the audience spinning like one of his haunted rooms.

5. Compliance (2012)

Craig Zobel directed the 2012 American thriller Compliance, which starred Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, and Bill Camp. The film’s plot is founded on an actual strip search call trick in Mount Washington, Kentucky, in 2004. In both the movie and the real-life incident, a caller posing as a police officer persuaded a restaurant manager and others to perform illegal and intrusive procedures on an innocent employee.

The claustrophobic drama directed by Craig Zobel does not take advantage of the humiliation caused by what turned out to be an extremely erroneous prank call; instead, it uses it as a starting point to investigate American loyalty to authority.

6. 10 Rillington Place (1971)

In terms of London’s most infamous serial killer, John Christie, a quiet postman who murdered at least eight women, including his wife, and hid their bodies in the walls of his Notting Hill apartment, maybe second only to Jack the Ripper.

An underappreciated gem of the true crime genre, Richard Fleischer’s account of his killing spree stars Richard Attenborough in a chilling lead role that the actor claims haunted him for a long time afterward.

7. Open Water (2003)

Tom and Eileen Lonergan, two Americans, were on a group scuba diving trip off the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 when they were accidentally left behind. Although their bodies were never found, filmmaker Chris Kentis makes an educated guess as to their fate: There are a lot of sharks. 

It may be more of a well-executed nightmare than a full-fledged movie but as a distillation of a widely held irrational fear. It was shot on a meagre budget, in the ocean, and with real-life sharks.

8. Snowtown (2011)

Although numerous recent films, such as Hounds of Love, Wolf Creek, and The Girl Next Door, are based on real-life acts of unspeakable violence, few convey the visceral horror of Justin Kurzel’s portrayal of the “barrel murders” that shocked South Australia in the 1990s. 

Kurzel’s account details the gruesome murder spree that a group of four men, led by John Bunting, carried out for seven years, beginning in 1992. Most victims were homosexuals and pedophiles, and Kurzel spares no detail. Snowtown is as good a tour guide as any film ever made if you want to gaze directly into the darkest depths of humanity. It’s hard to imagine watching it for entertainment.

9. The Birds (1963)

Even though it hasn’t aged as well as other classics by Alfred Hitchcock, it might look a little less silly now if more individuals knew that in 1961, birds in the waterside town of Capitola, California, really did rebel against their human masters. Flocks of normally placid seagulls began to crash into homes and cars after being poisoned by toxic algae, and they began to vomit food that was only partially digested. 

Big Al turned the incident into an allegory for man’s increasingly fragile peace with the natural world—and possibly also for female sexual frustration—in just two years after scientists discovered the cause.

10. Dead Ringers (1988)

Jeremy Irons played identical twin gynecologists in the 1988 psychological thriller Dead Ringers. When David Cronenberg read an article in New York magazine about the Marcus brothers—twin gynecologists who died simultaneously from drug overdoses in 1975—imagine the insane glee that spread across Cronenberg’s face. 

Naturally, Cronenberg wildly exaggerates their shared decline, using the case as a springboard to examine male sexual anxiety, among other topics, in the most revealing, disturbing, and uniquely Cronenbergian manner possible.

11. Ravenous (1999)

Alive, the harrowing tale of an Uruguayan rugby team that had to eat their dead teammates to survive a plane crash in the Andes is a movie that kids from the 1990s remember. Kids of the 1990s probably don’t remember this box office flop, the other true cannibal story of the decade. Yes, Capt. Guy Pearce’s character is somewhat accurate; John Boyd is based on prospector Alfred Packer, who in 1874 became trapped in the Colorado mountains and ate five members of his party.

After being rescued, he did not transform into a flesh-hungry lunatic. Another, even more, fabricated pseudo-biopic was also influenced by Packer’s life: The Cannibal, 1993! Trey Parker will go on to co-create South Park and direct the musical.

12. Borderland (2007)

The so-called “narcosatanists,” a clan of drug-dealing occultists who practiced ritual human sacrifice to support their associated cartel, terrorized the border state of Tamaulipas in the late 1980s. The events surrounding the cult’s most well-publicized crime, the 1989 kidnapping and subsequent murder of a medical student at the University of Texas, are portrayed in this effectively freaky independent horror film. 

Even though the film makes up some of the details, a lot of them are more true than you might think, which is a terrifying thought.

13. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is more detailed in its inspiration, but exorcisms are, of course, a very realistic and not old-fashioned practice in ultra-religious circles. Even The Exorcist was loosely established on an actual incident. Anneliese Michel, a young German woman, began having seizures and hallucinations in 1975. 

Two local priests performed dozens of exorcisms on her behalf at the request of her Catholic parents until she eventually succumbed to malnutrition. Her folks were then accused of a careless crime. This intriguing mix of psychological thriller, demonic horror, and courtroom drama is created by director Scott Derrickson by combining these facts with a liberal amount of fiction.

14. The Fire in the Sky (1993)

Skeptics have indeed attempted to cast suspicion on logger Travis Walton’s account of being sucked into a spaceship, violently searched, and then deposited on the side of an Arizona highway. Although alien abduction may stretch the definition of “true story,” The depiction of Walton’s kidnapping in “Fire in the Sky” is one of the most horrifying scenes in 1990s cinema, regardless of whether it occurred. 

For the description, Walton and his coworkers who allegedly witnessed his extraterrestrial kidnapping have all passed polygraph tests. Vivid, terrifying, and, most importantly, completely believable.

15. Winchester (2018)

The Winchester Mystery House is accurate, and the movie version made in Hollywood is based on a real story. Known as perhaps of the most spooky manor on the planet, this house is seven stories towering and was once home to Sarah Winchester, the beneficiary of the Winchester Rehashing Arms fortune. 

Sarah claims that Winchester rifle-killing spirits haunted the residence. It is said that Sarah wanted to avenge the spirits killed by the company’s firearms, so she never stopped building the house while she lived there.

These 15 movies are your best binge-watch for this Christmas month that will give you bone chills.

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