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Author Topic: Very Loosely Based on a True Story  (Read 2594 times)

Paul Keith

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Very Loosely Based on a True Story
« on: June 26, 2010, 04:33 PM »
Just copy-pasting examples of this TV Tropes link to highlight the page to readers of this forum:

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Real story (based on Anneliese Michel), a young woman from a very religious background had some strange seizures. Based on her beliefs and those of her priests she stopped taking medication and relied on prayer. She died, but was convinced that the Virgin Mary had told her that her death would inspire many. Rather sad, especially since her death was not the result of seizures, but severe malnutrition and dehydration that arose from the ongoing exorcism. In the film, all courtroom scenes and scenes featuring doctors are flat and matter of fact. The fact that the doctors don't fully understand the condition is played up. The fact that the priest has an explanation to offer is played up. Whether his explanation makes sense is not questioned. Scenes concerning the attacks have spooky cinematography and chilling music and a general horror movie feel to engage the viewer.

Also based on Anneliese Michel is the German movie Requiem, which is more reserved (and much better).

The real story is a bit less dramatic when you take into account that she had seen other priests about her being possessed. Those priests told her that she doesn't match the established criteria for demonic possession, something much more dramatic than what she had. She also claimed to be possessed by Lucifer and Nero, among others. The former probably has better things to do with his time, the latter is Roman emperor.

The AmityVille Horror

A family bought a house in a small town. Some murders had been committed there. Later they left complaining that the house was haunted and the site of a number of strange phenomena. Somebody proved that the Lutzes (the family in question) and their lawyer made it up as part of a half-baked insurance scam.

Wikipedia link (longer version): https://secure.wikim...eFeo,_Jr.#References

Law and Order

Law and Order bases most of their stories on (or off—often way off) real cases and incidents. In order to be able to deny that they're referencing a certain real person, they may insert a remark to show that the real person also exists in the fictional world. For example, in one episode that featured a No Celebrities Were Harmed Ann Coulter, one character remarks that she "makes Ann Coulter look like a socialist" or some such remark. There was also an episode where a little boy who apparently got sodomised by a rich pale white guy who donates a lot of money to charity and whose parents deny anything because apparently they were paid off. Sounds familiar?? Debatable though...


The movie Primeval, while it deals with an actual, real-life giant crocodile (Gustave), exaggerates every other aspect of the events it claims to recount, from doubling his number of human kills, to depicting him seeking out and attacking entire groups of clearly defended humans (the real Gustave strikes at groups of three or fewer tourists, primarily when they are off-guard, and certainly when they lack shelter). And that's without mentioning the film's ads, which portray him as "the most prolific serial killer in history"... though, to be fair, that last probably wasn't the filmmaker's idea. On top of all that, it's a case of Never Trust A Trailer — Gustave only appears in brief stretches, and most of the film deals with a local civil war, complete with Anvilicious moral about how we Americans ignore fighting in other countries. The crocodile is reduced to Chekhovs Gun.


in 1942, an American submarine crew mounts a daring mission to capture a German sub and return it to American waters, in order to acquire its Enigma decoder and crack the code. In reality, the only team working on cracking the code was British, and machines and code books captured during the war, by British, Polish, or French forces, were sent to England. American forces did capture a U-boat intact (with Enigma) in the South Atlantic, you can see it in Chicago. This caused a major ruckus BECAUSE the code was already cracked at the time, and the Allies were afraid this would cause the Germans to use a brand-new code. A LOT of covering-up was done.

Katyn Massacre

The Katyn Massacre definitely took place, and the British and US governments did indeed suppress evidence of it in order to keep their fragile alliance with the Soviet Union from falling apart, but the events as depicted in the book are entirely fabricated; the only spy to make it to the Bletchley Park station was British and passing information to the Soviets. The 2001 film takes it up a notch by cutting Alan Turing out of the film completely and assigning his role in the war to protagonist Tom Jericho, where in the book Jericho is a junior member of Turing's cryptanalysis staff.

Cottingley Fairies Hoax

Storylines concerning the Cottingley Fairies hoax are sometimes played, at least relatively, straight or assert that Elsie Wright and Francis Griffiths did take photographs of fairies... despite the fact than anyone can tell they're fakes nowadays just by looking at the things. Even Wright's and Griffiths' admission that most of the photos were fakes doesn't stop this.

This happens in Torchwood where the fairies are part of an episode's backstory, and at least one of the fairies in one of the photos is real.

Fairy Tale: A True Story either asserts it was real or is an allegorical story with a lot of "stuff" added and changed from history to pad out the film.

Photographing Fairies has the hero, a photographic expert, prove that the Cottingley fairy photos are fake, but he is then presented with a set of fairy photos that he can't disprove. And of course they turn out to be genuine.

Wolf Creek

The 'based on true events' part of the movie Wolf Creek seems to be limited to "there were some British backpackers murdered in Australia one time." It's partially based on the Peter Falconio case and partially based on Ivan Milat.

The Maids

Murderous Psycho Lesbian sisters Claire and Solange in The Maids are kind of based on Christine and Lea Papin who really were murderous Psycho Lesbian maids... Well, resemblance ends here.

Wikipedia Article of Papin Sisters: https://secure.wikim...n/wiki/Papin_sisters

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was heavily touted as being based on a true story. The film chronicles an inbred family of kidnappers, torturers, serial killers, and implied cannibals who brutally slay a carload of roadtripping teens. The actual case it was based on was a solitary, fairly quiet necrophiliac who killed only two middle-aged women. In Wisconsin. While two murders are indeed tragic, that's still a lot less than the scores of murders seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The same story that "inspired" The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Ed Gein) also inspired Psycho. Norman Bates was a good deal closer to Gein, but the story still deviated pretty far.

Gein was also partially the inspiration for Buffalo Bill from Silence Of The Lambs. Something about making a suit of human skin just seems to stick with people.

Ed Gein has inspired quite a few movies about serial killers for someone who wasn't one. According to the other wiki you've got to kill three.

The Strangers

The horror film The Strangers is a prime example of this trope: it opens by labeling the plot of the film as "based on true events," but the fact is, the only thing in the movie with any basis in reality is a technique employed by burglars (burglars, not serial killers) in which they knock on a random door to ask for a person who doesn't live there. If no one is home, they break in and steal stuff. You can tell the film is a work of fiction, however, because I doubt that a survivor of such a horrifying experience that supposedly happened only three years ago would be willing to let Hollywood make a cheap slasher flick based on their experience.

The "true story" that The Strangers was allegedly based on was the Manson Family murders. If that's the case, then there are definitely some similarities. Some.

Nightmare on Elm Street

The non-supernatural parts of Nightmare On Elm Street is inspired by events that happened in the hometown the director lived in as a kid. Specifically, Freddy is the name of the kid who tormented wee little Craven, Freddy's appearance was based on that of a old homeless man wee Craven had a terrifying run-in with one night, and the "died in their sleep" thing was based on a few cases of young Cambodian refugees dying in their sleep of no apparent cause after repeatedly saying they were frightened to go to sleep.


The movie 21 and the book Bringing Down the House, both based on the exploits of a blackjack card-counting team based at MIT, both fall squarely into this trope. Probably one of the most infamous changes is that the protagonist, who is Chinese-American in real life, became a Caucasian in the adaptations—but in comparison to some of the other inaccuracies, that's a minor deviation from the truth. Most of the supporting roles are Composite Characters, with one possibly based on three distinct individuals, and several key plot events were entirely invented by the book's author (who was also a co-writer of 21).

Snow White/Rapunzel

Many fairy tales derived from tales of the lives of saints, such as St. Barbara (Rapunzel) or St. Margaret of Cartona (Snow White).


Many films including the animated versions of Pocahontas and Anastasia made many drastic changes from the real stories for dramatic purposes (for instance, having Pocahontas fall in love with John Smith). While that in itself may only constitute Dramatization, having Rasputin come back from the dead (though to be fair, it took a ridiculous amount of trying to kill the real one. Seriously, Jason Voorhees went down easier) or Pocahontas talk to a talking tree are certainly cases of playing up the paranormal.

To be fair, John Smith himself started the story about his having had a romance with Pocahontas in works he wrote long after the real events. So he Very Loosely Based that one on his own True Story, and Disney and everyone else have bought into it for four hundred years.


Practically any story based on Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, who was killed by the Bolsheviks with the rest of her immediate family. Practically every film based on her takes the approach that one of the many claimants to being Anastasia (usually Anna Anderson, or a made up person) really was the Princess/Grand Duchess. Considering that the bodies of the last two missing Romanovs have now been discovered, anything and everything that suggests Anastasia lived is now firmly in Jurisfiction.

Don Bluth's 1997 Animated Adaptation of the 1956 Ingrid Bergman movie probably takes the most liberties but then Bluth admitted he never intended it to be accurate or even close: he made Rasputin into a fantasy character who cast spells, had a talking bat, and came back from the dead as a walking corpse; and even more outrageous — in the sense of being not merely fantastic but allohistorical — was Rasputin being cast out by the Tsar. In fact, Rasputin (quite undeservedly) remained a royal favorite to the end of his life and after. As everything was falling apart, Tsarina Alexandra wrote many letters to Nicholas lamenting, "If only our Dear Friend [Rasputin] were still with us! He would know what to do!"


300 was the Battle of Thermopylae subjected to many, many levels of Sequel Escalation, starting with Herodotus' dramatic but subdued (especially for Herodotus) second-hand record of an actual historical event, passing through 4 or 5 increasingly dramatic versions, and winding up with a movie where the Persian army has a recruiting office in Mordor.

Quite possibly the writers didn't understand how obscure Frank Miller's graphic novel actually is in the real world. It's well known among a small group of young Westerners, but otherwise the actual real Battle of Thermopylae is immensely better-known. The majority of viewers, including most young Westerners, had never heard of 300, and ended up comparing the movie to actual history, against which the movie is a sad, sad joke.

Word Of God says that the novel and movie are the story as told by a Unreliable Narrator. Considering there is magic and fantastical creatures in it, the fact that Viewers Are Morons and can't realize that it isn't truth...

The very reason that the warriors all run around invincible and chewing the scenery and wearing naught but loincloths (which aren't even there in the book...) is because the battle *was* being relayed by an unreliable narrator. In Frank Miller's story, the lone survivor had a job to do, and that was to use his incredible storytelling skills to stir up the rest of Greece into entering the war. Thus, he told the story exactly how the Greeks painted their legends on their urns and sculptures we have in our museums today: naked, over-the-top, and utterly ridiculously badass.


Rumor has it that the director, who's Indian, was just using Elizabeth as a Lawyer Friendly Cameo for Indira Gandhi and her struggles to defuse religious tension, which might explain the... casual attitude to history.

Memoirs of a Geisha

Many readers believe that Memoirs Of A Geisha is a true story. It's not. Really. It's loosely (very loosely, so much so that she later complained and then wrote her own book to set the record straight) based on actual interviews with an actual geisha. The book deliberately creates the illusion of authenticity—before even getting to the actual memoirs, there is a "translator's note" at the beginning from someone named Jakob Haarhuis, who tape recorded and translated Sayuri's story. He speculates on how Sayuri came to tell her story, explains a few of the book's tropes, describes Sayuri's voice and mentions that you're only reading this because she's dead. The "This is a work of fiction" disclaimer and Arthur Golden's dedications are in the back pages, just to put them out of sight.

Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland tells the story of how J. M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan through his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family, but kills off the husband, deletes one of the boys, and repeats the conventional wisdom that the story was really about the boy named Peter (not his brothers)... a bit of baggage that contributed to the real Peter's eventual suicide. Oh, and Johnny Depp went without Barrie's trademark mustache.


Braveheart. While William Wallace is a real person, there are a few people and events in this film that should not be there. Most notably is Princess Isabella, who married Edward I's son several years after Wallace was dead, and a year after Edward I died. She never met either of them. The whole scene about instituting primus noctis because Edward II "couldn't do the deed" with Isabella is incorrect, Not only because Longshanks was dead at the time of their marriage but also because Edward II had four children with Isabella (though Edward II was still rumored to be homosexual).


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Re: Very Loosely Based on a True Story
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2010, 07:26 PM »
I haven't even heard of half of those.


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Re: Very Loosely Based on a True Story
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2010, 08:44 PM »
One of my movie pet peeves is people who don't understand the difference between a movie based on a true story and a movie being a true story. And if you think about it, all fiction is based on a true story, otherwise the audience wouldn't be able to relate to it.
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Re: Very Loosely Based on a True Story
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2010, 09:49 PM »
I'm familiar with almost all of them and while I have some differences with the above I agree for the most part. Missing item that kinda falls into the trope but then again doesn’t is "Fargo", which announces at the start of the ending credits,
"THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred."

In fact the story is as complete a fiction as could be. Some try to relate it to a case in Connecticut that involved a man disposing of his wife's body using a wood chipper, but that's a real stretch. The Coen brothers admit that they weren't entirely honest with that statement in the credits but say that

"If an audience believes that something's based on a real event, it gives you permission to do things they might otherwise not accept."

Yeah, sure.    :-\   Wish I had thought of that during one of the many times when I was in deep doo-doo as a young  troublemaker!