Movie Buffs! Here Are The Best True Crime Films Of All Time

Crime films have been popular ever since the first movies were created, and I’m absolutely sure they’ll never grow old. The thing is that the world keeps providing filmmakers with new real-life events, many of which make for great film scripts. After all, who would’ve ever come up with stories like the ones from Goodfellas or Munich, had they not happened in real life? Well, here are the 23 best true crime films ever made. Some of their plots will surely leave you baffled!

Photo: Courtesy of Variety

#23. The Bling Ring (2016)

The Bling Ring is a 2013 crime-drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola – the daughter of the legendary director Francis Ford Coppola – and starred by Katie Chang and Emma Watson. Based on a true story, the movie is about a group of teenagers from Los Angeles who are obsessed with celebrities and end up committing a series of crimes.

Photo: Courtesy of NPR

The group of teens (led by Emma Watson’s character) spy on a few celebrities through online stalking, until they end up robbing jewelry, money, and clothing from their homes. Even though part of the storyline is fictional, it was based on a true case of stalking which involved A-list stars like Rachel Bilson and Paris Hilton.

#22. American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle is one of the greatest heist films of the last decade, and its 10 Academy Award nominations prove it. Apart from its entertaining storyline, it counts with the brilliant performances of Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Amy Adams.

Photo: Courtesy of Variety

The film is about the Abscam sting operation that took place in the late 70s and early 80s, in which a con artist helped the FBI to track down Congressmen who took bribes. I’m sure that the many plot twists will leave you baffled!

#21. Fruitvale Station (2013)

Fruitvale Station tells the story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old African-American who was ruthlessly shot by a transit police officer in Oakland, California, on New Year’s Day 2009. The film reconstructs the last day of Grant’s life, as he crosses paths with friends and enemies before the tragic event.

Photo: Courtesy of El antepenúltimo mohicano

This real-life murder was actually captured from different cell-phone cameras and it triggered a series of both peaceful and violent demonstrations. Without a doubt, Ryan Coogler’s film depicts the vulnerability of the USA’s black population as a result of the police’s impunity.

#20. All The Good Things (2010)

Directed by Andrew Jarecki, All The Good Things is a 2001 film based on the most famous missing person case in the history of New York. The story follows the steps of Robert Dust, a real-estate agent who was accused of murdering his wife Kathie.

Photo: Courtesy of RVWR

This real-life passionate couple was played by Ryan Gosling and Kristen Dunst, both of whom received a few nominations for their performances. After directing this murder mystery and romance film, Jarecki went on to write and direct The Jinx, an HBO miniseries about Durst’s life.

#19. Blow (2001)

Released in 2001 and starred by Hollywood legends Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, this film tells the story of George Jung, the man who established and organized the cocaine market in the United States during the 1970s.

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The film depicts the relationship between Jung and Pablo Escobar, the Colombian kingpin leader of the Medellín cartel, who helps him import hundreds of tons of cocaine from Colombia all the way to the U.S. Jung ends up falling for a woman named Mirtha, but in the end he realizes just how ruthless and traitorous his partner-in-crime and his lover were.

#18. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Dog Day Afternoon is the best film made by Sidney Lumet and arguably one of the best true crime films of the 70s. It follows the steps of two young men who try to orchestrate a bank robbery in Brooklyn, but things don’t go exactly as planned.

Photo: Courtesy of Variety

These two friends hit the bank near its closing time, only to find themselves surrounded by the police in a matter of minutes. Thus, what began as a robbery attempt ends up as a hostage situation. Can you guess how it ends? Don’t miss it, it’s an oldie but goodie!

#17. American Gangster (2007)

Starred by Russel Crowe and Denzel Washington and directed by Ridley Scott, American Gangster is a thrilling biopic that follows the steps of the famous Harlem drug lord, Frank Lucas.

Photo: Courtesy of TNT

The first part of the film shows how he takes his first paths in the drug-dealing world, as well as the political and military ties that he establishes for that purpose. The second part of the film shows how a New York City cop tries to bring Lucas down. Will he make it? Watch it and find out!

#16. Black Mass (2015)

Directed by Scott Cooper, Black Mass is a 2015 film based on the book of the same name, written by the Boston Globe journalists Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. It tells the real-life story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a Massachusetts senator and one of Boston’s most violent criminals ever.

Photo: Courtesy of News Arena

The film will entice you with its many plot twists: at first a wanted criminal, Whitey becomes an FBI informant who helps the state take down a powerful mafia. Johnny Depp’s excellent performance will surprise you and his demonic laugh will surely give you a few nightmares!

#15. Summer Of Sam (1999)

Directed by the legendary filmmaker Spike Lee, Summer of Sam tells the story of the famous murders that took place in 1977 in an Italian-American Bronx neighborhood. The film brilliantly conveys the spiral of terror unleashed by the murders committed by David Berkowitz, also known as “Son of Sam”.

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The plot is extremely thrilling, and the tension in the neighborhood begins to grow as more and more characters begin to fear for their lives. Besides, the accomplished performances of Adrien Brody and John Leguizamo truly are the icing on the cake. You can’t miss it!

#14. I, Tonya

Released just two years ago, I, Tonya tells the striking story of ice-skater Tonya Harding, one of the most talented female ice-skaters in U.S. history. Just when she had reached the peak of her fame, a mysterious murder ruined her career forever.

Photo: Courtesy of The Buffalo News

Just a few weeks before the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship, Harding’s greatest rival, Nancy Kerrigan, was mysteriously murdered. The police soon revealed that Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly had orchestrated the attack, in what was one of the greatest scandals of sports history. Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harding is just impeccable, so don’t miss it!

#13. Foxcatcher (2016)

Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum are among the greatest actors of these past decades, so a film starring the three of them just couldn’t go bad, could it? This 2016 true-crime drama about brotherly love and tragic rivalry will surely captivate teenagers and adults alike.

Photo: Courtesy of News Arena

The movie follows the lives of wrestling champions and brothers Mark and Dave Schultz, who are trained by the billionaire John du Pont for the 1988 Olympics. However, things get ugly when John’s self-destructive and perverse behavior starts putting their lives at stake. No more spoilers, don’t miss it!

#12. Spotlight (2015)

Directed by Tom McCarthy and starred by Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, Spotlight is one of the most thrilling yet tragic docudramas of this century. If follows work carried out by a Boston Globe research team, which unveiled dozens of cases of child abuse carried out by Boston-based Catholic priests.

Photo: Courtesy of Hail

At first, everyone tried to convince the journalists to drop the case due to a lack of evidence, but impossible was nothing for these reporters who unearthed one of the greatest scandals in the history of the American Catholic Church. Oh, did I mention that the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture? Name me one good reason why not to watch it!

#11. Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)

Released in 2013, The Wolf of Wall Street is one of Martin Scorcese’s greatest and funniest movies. The script was written based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort, a fraudulent stockbroker who amassed fortunes during the 80s and 90s.

Photo: Courtesy of Vanity Fair

The first half of the film shows his rise to a multimillionaire stockbroker, while the second half depicts his fall, involving both corruption and crime. Some people have claimed the film is excessively long, but something is undeniable, and it’s that Leonardo di Caprio nailed it!

#10. All The President’s Men (1976)

All The President’s Men is arguably one of the greatest docudramas ever made. It narrates the investigation carried out by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who uncovered the truth about the infamous Watergate Scandal.

Photo: Courtesy of Atlas Obscura

While everyone initially told the journalists to drop the case due to a lack of evidence, their impressive work resulted in the arrest of five men for illegal tapping and for burglarizing the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. The scandal was such that it resulted in the resignation of President Nixon.

#9. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Catch Me If You Can may not be Spielberg’s best film ever, but it still deserved a place in our top 10! With the brilliant performances of Tom Hanks and Leonardo di Caprio, I assure you it’s one of the most entertaining true-crime films of this century.

Photo: Courtesy of IFC Center

The film follows the steps of Frank Abagnale, a 19-year-old conman who earned millions of dollars by posing as a doctor, lawyer, and pilot when he was neither of those things. However, an FBI agent will try to track him down and put him behind bars.

#8. Monster (2002)

Monster is a 2003 biopic based on the tragic life of Aileen Wuornos, one of the USA’s first female serial killers in history. Wuornos lived in poverty and worked as a prostitute in Daytona Beach, Florida, and was eventually charged for the murder of six men.

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Wuornos was portrayed by South African icon Charlize Theron, in what may be the most impressive female performance of this century. Obviously, it comes as no surprise that this role earned her her first and only Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress.

#7. Casino (2005)

Even though it’s not Martin Scorcese’s greatest masterpiece, this crime-drama film still deserved to be in our top 10. Released in 1995, Casino follows the life of a casino executive who ran four casinos for the mafia.

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But tension begins to arise when the casino executive and the mafia leader start competing against each other, both over the control of the gambling empire and over the love of a beautiful socialite. With Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone as the lead characters, Scorcese couldn’t have made a better choice.

#6. In Cold Blood (1967)

In Cold Blood is the film adaptation of Truman Capote’s famous crime novel. It narrates the gruesome assassination of the Herbert Clutter family in 1959 by ex-cons Richard Hickok and Perry Smith.

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Directed by Richard Brooks and starred by Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, the film offers a very accurate reconstruction of real-life events. While these two convicts elude the police at first, they end up turning themselves in to the police, bringing an end to this spine-chilling crime story.

#5. Munich (2005)

Munich is one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest classics. It narrates the so-called “Operation Wraths of God”, the secret retaliation orchestrated by the Israeli government against the Palestinian Liberation Organization after the infamous Munich Massacre.

Photo: Courtesy of Plugged In

The film begins with a haunting recreation of the Munich Massacre, where 11 athletes of the Israeli delegation were murdered by PLO terrorists. Munich is an authentic political thriller, as it depicts the endless violence and mutual reprisals between the Israeli and Middle Eastern peoples.

#4. The Untouchables (1987)

Directed by Brian de Palma and starred by Hollywood legends Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, and Sean Connery, The Untouchables is a crime-thriller film set in the Prohibition Era, a time where the urban populations were terrorized by gang warfare.

Photo: Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

The movie follows the steps of Elliot Ness, An FBI agent who took on the challenging task of bringing down one of the USA’s most powerful criminals ever, Al Capone. But will he manage? Watch it and find out for yourself!

#3. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Boys Don’t Cry is one of the most touching and heart-wrenching films ever made, and there’s no arguing about that! This crime-drama film tells the story of Brandon Teena, a young transexual man who was raped and murdered by two ex-cons in rural Nebraska.

Photo: Courtesy of Empire

The film delves into the struggles and injustices faced by the transgender community, an issue that had seldom been addressed in films until that time. Hillary Swank took on the role of Brandon and she won multiple awards for her performance. In fact, did you know that Boys Don’t Cry became the first independent film to ever receive an Academy Award for Best Actress?

#2. Bonnie And Clyde (1967)

Without a doubt, Bonnie and Clyde is one of the greatest classics of the 60s and it became a milestone in the history of modern cinema. The film received a whopping 10 Academy Award nominations, of which it won 2: Best Cinematography and Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Photo: Courtesy of Variety

The film tells the story of a waitress named Bonnie Parker and an ex-con named Clyde Barrow, who team up together and start stealing cars, robbing banks, and murdering people throughout the country. Believe it or not, the whole story is true!

#1. Goodfellas (1990)

I could easily spend all day talking about Scorcese’s Goodfellas if no one stopped me. Based on Nicholas Peggi’s novel Wiseguy, this gangster epic depicts the life of Henry Hill and his life in the mafia.

Photo: Courtesy of Radio Cantilo

The film also explores Henry’s relationship with his wife Karen and his partners in crime Tommy DeVito and Jimmy Conway, with whom he spends most of the time partying and spending money like crazy. Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci sure nailed it with their performances!

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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