Best Horror Movies Based on Real Life and True Crime Stories

All the real Horror you can handle.

Best Horror Movies Based on Real Life and True Crime Stories
Photo by Prayitno

In actuality, this might be better titled, best true crime horror movies that I can actually stomach. Not that the ones dissected aren’t deserving and universally acknowledged. But the horror movies listed afterwards are just too startlingly real for me and would inflict permanent damage to determine if they measure up.



Paramount Pictures Poster

Any discussion of true crime horror movies must begin with Psycho. But before we delve, the story behind the story must preempt and give credit to the birth of modern horror. Hollywood felt that the glut of off-lot horror productions was beneath them and would not be acceptable to an American public that they deemed similarly exalted. Alfred Hitchcock thought they were wrong and wondered what the right story in the hands of a director like himself could wrought. Enter Ed Gein. Like the film, the multiple murderer worshipped his mother and fully made way for the ground she walked on. Her religious fanaticism left the boy on high alert for sin all around, and when she was no longer around to set limits, the man twisted his mamma’s cause into the truly perverse. Gein began robbing graves and using female body parts as hood ornaments for both the home decor and his wardrobe. He eventually moved up to murder, and by comparison to some of his contemporaries, Gein was pretty small time. He was convicted of one murder and confessed to a second. But for those put off by such lightweight, strong circumstantial evidence points to at least six more murders. Nonetheless, Hitchcock and Norman Bates picked up the baton to the dismay of critics who also looked down on whole grizzly idea. It didn’t help either that they were denied access during filming and didn’t receive advanced screening. Taking unkindly to the slight, they really let him have it upon release. Of course, the overwhelming public reception cut the critics down to size, and despite their disdain, the slash film was here to stay.

The Exorcist

Warner Bros Poster

I was much more frightened by the Omen than The Exorcist. But that’s because I had seen it parodied so many times by the time I saw it by the early 80s that the sheer terror was bypassed. Of course, my loss does not take away from the film’s greatness, and it's place as the first of many exorcism movies to come. The actual story began when 14 year old Ronald Hunkeler was introduced to a Ouija Board by his Aunt Tillie, and after she died, Ronald was soon paid a visit. Angry voices were suddenly coming from the boy’s room and furniture was moving across the floor. Frequent scratch marks across his body prompted a trip to St. Louis in hopes that the apparition would get lost in transit. The devil simply went along for the ride, and no change meant it was time to get down with God. According to Father Bishop’s introduction, Ronald was lying on his bed perfectly still, and the bed shook underneath him. As the telekinesis continued, a second priest was enlisted to put on the stops and stomach the onslaught of demonic insults. After five days, the Devil finally took his leave on Easter Sunday, and 24 years later, William Peter Blatty would turn the world on its head. And in more ways than one. Exorcists have been up drastically ever since, and shows that there’s no such thing as bad publicity - even if you’re the Devil.


Universal Pictures Poster

In the summer of 1975, you couldn’t find an American who had not seen Jaws, and this one decided the ocean was a swirl of Sharknado to avoid at all costs. In actuality, I might have reserved that fear for creeks, rivers and lakes because that’s where the inspiration for the book came from. The real rogue one began it's territoriality on July 1, 1916 by fatally wounding Charles Vansant off the coast of Beach Haven, NJ. Before plucking a bellhop at Spring Lake, he or she then took their appetite up the estuary and finished off a few more at Matawan Creek. Downstream, the two week frenzy finally ended on an up note as Joseph Dunn survived his July 12 attack - the shark was not so lucky. A Great White was caught in Raritan Bay on the 14th, and the 15 pounds of human flesh and bone found inside closed the case. That was until Peter Benchley opened it and had us all keeping our toes in the sand. But as it turns out, the worldwide slaughter of sharks that resulted, still has the predators asking, when will it be safe to have the humans come back in the water.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

New Line Cinema Poster

I’ve never actually seen any of these horror movies. I was too unnerved by Jason to take on this franchise, but I can still comment given the ongoing success. Wes Craven got the idea for Nightmare after reading how 18 Hmong refugees were found dead in their beds of probable cardiac arrhythmia. The official cause of death doesn’t quite line up with a syndrome that claims 43 out of 100,000 Hmong and Filipino men each year. Known as “Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome, “They seem to literally die of fright from their own belief of what happens in their dreams,” wrote David Ian Mckendry in The mythology says a spirit known as “dab tsuam takes the form of a jealous hag, and sits on its victim’s face or chest to suffocate them to death. Now, that’s the stuff of dreams Mr. Craven.

Wolf Creek

Roadshow Entertainment The Weinstein Company Dimension Films Poster

Just because this one is listed last doesn’t mean it belongs here. This is the scariest movie I have ever seen, and I use the eye test to prove it. I walked out. I could not handle the sheer horror. For as much as Jaws scared me, having a shark chase down my boat requires imagination to justify the fear. On the other hand, backpackers stranded 500 miles from civilization, and left at the mercy of a torturing mad man, this is as real as it gets. And it’s actually real. Based on several true crime stories, filmmaker Greg McLean features Ivan Milat prominently. He easily tracked backpackers far from home, gained their trust, and unlike those of Jason Lore, there’s no refuse in possibly escaping onto the well traveled country road. He didn’t take the chance anyway. In real life (and celluloid), Milat severed the spinal chords of his victims, and their helplessness mercifully did not extend my viewing displeasure. I did, though, take one for the team and watched Wolf Creek to the end. I will soon be entering treatment…You’re welcome.

As stated above and if you can handle them, here’s a few more like Wolf Creek. Good luck!!!

  • The Girl Next Door (2007)
  • The Snowtown Murders (2011)
  • Borderland (2007)
  • The Strangers (2008)
  • Eaten Alive (1976)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

movie reviewpop culturescifi movie
Rich Monetti
Rich Monetti
Read next: Understanding the Collective Intelligence of Pro-opinion
Rich Monetti

I am, I write.

See all posts by Rich Monetti