While movies can transport audiences to a new world, they can also give a glimpse into important real-life events.
Many of cinema's best blockbusters were films that were based on true stories. Whether these movies focused on a celebrity, historical event, or noteworthy figure, here are the highest-grossing movies based on true stories.
There Was Palpable On-Screen Chemistry In Titanic
Titanic is one of the highest-grossing movies in film history because it made over $2.2 billion at the box office.
While the characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were fictional, many of the other characters were based on real people who were on board the actual ship. Also, the on-screen chemistry between the actors made the story come to life.
Bohemian Rhapsody Honed In On Freddie Mercury's Tumultuous Journey
Bohemian Rhapsody was one of the biggest films of the late 2010s after grossing over $910 million at the box office.
The film was based on the life of Freddie Mercury and his time in the legendary rock band Queen. Rami Malek earned the Best Lead Actor Oscar for his performance as Mercury.
Pearl Harbor Brings A Pivotal World War II Event To Life
Directed by Michael Bay and starring A-listers such as Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, and Kate Beckinsale, Pearl Harbor is a 2001 biopic that details the events of December 7, 1941.
The love triangle serves as a respite for the film's darker scenes. Pearl Harbor became a success at the box office and grossed about $449 million.
The Greatest Showman Became A Massive Musical Hit
The Greatest Showman is based on the life of circus entertainer and entrepreneur P.T. Barnum and stars several Hollywood legends, including Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, and Zendaya.
The movie had original songs that got audiences on their feet and wanting more. This led the film to gross about $435 million at the box office.
Steven Spielberg Told A Moving Story In Schindler's List
One of Steven Spielberg's most famous directorial works was 1993's Schindler's List. The movie focused on the dark events during World War II.
Schindler's List grossed about $322 million at the box office. Audiences and critics thought Liam Neeson's performance made the film worth watching. Stylistically, the film is shot in black and white, but there are some scenes where the color red is visible.
An Unlikely Friendship Blooms In Green Book
Green Book is an Oscar-winning film starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Set in the Deep South during the 60s, it centers on an African American pianist who forms a friendship with his driver and bodyguard.
Many critics thought the film was able to balance humor and heartbreak well. Green Book grossed around $321 million at the box office.
Will And Jaden Smith Made The Pursuit Of Happyness A Family Affair
Real-life father and son duo Will and Jaden Smith play father and son in 2006's The Pursuit of Happyness. The story centers on a struggling salesman who must take full custody of his son as he begins a new career change.
The Pursuit of Happyness was an audience favorite and grossed $307 million at the box office.
Austin Butler Channeled The King For Elvis
Austin Butler earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Lead Actor for his portrayal of the iconic Elvis Presley in Elvis. The film followed Elvis' life from the start and end of his career.
Elvis was one of the highest-grossing films of 2022 and made $288 million at the box office.
Julia Roberts Transformed Her Persona For Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich is based on a true story about a single mother who starts working as a legal assistant to look further into a water contamination issue in a small California town.
This was one of the defining roles for Julia Roberts and proved she could do more than rom-coms. Erin Brockovich grossed $256 million at the box office.
American Hustle Is Based On A True Story
Hollywood stars Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Jennifer Lawrence joined forces to make the 2013 film American Hustle.
The movie is about a con man and his partner who are forced to work for the FBI and end up under the watchful eye of powerful New Jersey groups. American Hustle grossed about $251 million at the box office.
Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood Takes Viewers Back To The 60s
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as struggling actors who are trying to survive the entertainment industry.
Many 1960s historic moments were included in the film, but Tarantino did take liberty and change a few things. The movie grossed over $142.5 million at the U.S. box office.
Was Disney's Pocahontas Accurate?
Disney released several hit musical films during the 1990s, including 1995's Pocahontas. The movie was loosely based on the story of the daughter of a Native American chief who falls in love with an English soldier.
Pocahontas became an instant Disney classic and grossed over $141 million at the domestic box office.
Facebook Comes To The Big Screen In The Social Network
Jesse Eisenberg took on the persona of the infamous Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. The movie centered on how Facebook got its start and how powerful it came to be.
The Social Network was one of the highest-grossing films of the 2010s because it made around $97 million at the box office.
Tom Hanks Gets Captured In Captain Phillips
If you remember the iconic movie line, "I am the captain now," then you may know that it is from the 2013 biopic Captain Phillips.
The movie is based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips getting kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2009. Captain Phillips grossed over $107 million at the domestic box office.
Braveheart Is Based On The Life Of William Wallace
One of Mel Gibson's most well-known roles was as Scottish warrior William Wallace in 1995's Braveheart. The movie tells the story of a Scotland village that fights to stand up to English rule.
Braveheart grossed over $75 million at the domestic box office and won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1996.
Howard Hughes Comes To Life In The Aviator
The Aviator is a biopic that depicts the life of filmmaker and aviation icon Howard Hughes from the 1920s to the 1940s.
Leonardo DiCaprio stepped into the lead role for the film, starring alongside Kate Beckinsale, Cate Blanchett, and Jude Law. The Aviator grossed over $102 million at the U.S. box office.
Hear The Sounds Of Early Hip-Hop In Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton tells the story of how MC Ren, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E revolutionized the hip-hop genre in the late 1980s.
Some fans may not know that Ice Cube's son O'Shea Jackson Jr. plays his father in the film. Straight Outta Compton grossed over $161 million at the domestic box office.
Robin Williams Brought Humor To Patch Adams
Robin Williams dabbled in the biopic film genre. He was able to show off his comedic and dramatic acting chops in 1998's Patch Adams.
The film was about a doctor in the 1970s who would do anything to make his patients laugh to forget their pain. Patch Adams grossed over $135 million at the U.S. box office.
Tom Hanks Gets Stranded In An Airport In The Terminal
Tom Hanks has starred in many successful biopics including 2004's The Terminal, which was directed by Steven Spielberg. In this film, he plays a man who gets stranded at an airport after fleeing his homeland.
The Terminal earned over $218 million at the worldwide box office and over $77 million at the national box office.
Remember The Titans Is Inspirational For Football Lovers
Denzel Washington and Will Patton star as two football coaches who must overcome their differences to lead their team to victory in Remember the Titans.
Critics thought the movie was a bit predictable but had phenomenal acting performances. Remember the Titans grossed over $115 million at the U.S. box office.
The Vow Made Audiences Tear Up
Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams starred in the 2012 romantic drama The Vow. McAdams' character falls into a coma and loses the last five years of memories, so Tatum must figure out how to make her fall in love with him all over again.
The Vow grossed over $125 million at the domestic box office.
Elton John Gets Intimate With Rocketman
Elton John left no questions unanswered after the story of his life was seen onscreen in 2019's Rocketman. Taron Egerton stepped into the lead role and perfected his musicality.
The film included many of Elton John's greatest hits and one-of-a-kind costumes. Rocketman grossed over $96 million at the domestic box office.
The True Story Of Johnny Cash Was Seen In Walk The Line
Johnny Cash was one of the most profound singers of the mid-20th century, and Walk the Line tells the true story of his life and rise to fame.
Critics also praised Reese Witherspoon's performance as his wife, June Carter. Walk the Line grossed over $119 million at the domestic box office.
True Journalism Shines In The Post
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks teamed up with Meryl Streep to make the 2017 biopic The Post. The movie is about an all-female led newspaper publisher who teams up with an editor to battle it out against the government.
The Post did well at the U.S. box office and grossed over $81 million.
Lee Daniels' The Butler Was Also A History Lesson
In Lee Daniels' The Butler, Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, a butler who served eight presidents working at the White House. The movie takes place during several historical moments in time, including the civil rights movement and Vietnam.
Lee Daniels' The Butler grossed over $116 million at the U.S. box office.
Hacksaw Ridge Is For World War II Buffs
Starring Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge is about an American soldier in World War II named Desmond T. Doss, who becomes the first Conscientious Objector in history to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Hacksaw Ridge saw a lot of success at the box office and grossed over $67 million in the U.S.
Alexander Is An Epic Tale Set During The Persian Empire
Colin Farrell stars in the titular role in Alexander as the King of Macedonia who leads an invasion against the Persian Empire.
After a successful invasion, he and his army move west to India. Alexander grossed about $34 million at the U.S. box office but grossed over $167 million worldwide.
People Risk Their Lives To Stop A Runaway Train In Unstoppable
A veteran engineer and a young conductor risk their lives to stop a runaway train carrying toxic chemicals in the 2010 biopic Unstoppable.
According to the critics' consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, the film was considered to be "perfect popcorn entertainment." Unstoppable grossed over $81 million at the U.S. box office.
World Trade Center Is Told From The Police's Point Of View
World Trade Center is about two police officers who try to fight for their life after getting stuck under the rubble during the events of September 11.
Critics of Rotten Tomatoes found that the film was not only visually pleasing but paid tribute to the lives that were lost. World Trade Center grossed over $70 million at the domestic box office.
Bobsledding Fans Loved Cool Runnings
The journey of the first Jamaican bobsledding team can be seen in the classic 1993 Disney film Cool Runnings.
Critics on Rotten Tomatoes said, "Cool Runnings rises above its formulaic sports-movie themes with charming performances, light humor, and uplifting tone." The film grossed over $68 million at the domestic box office.