20 Shocking Real Stories That Became Horror Movies

Entertainment, Lists, Other, Shocking

Horror movies show us parts of human experience which are completely alien from our day to day lives. Honing in on some of the most frightening and disturbing people ever to have existed, they show a darker side of life, probing the people in the shadows. Lucky, then, that they’re based on fiction. Or so we believe.

There are many horror films out there which, believe it or not, take real tales as their inspiration. The words “it’s only a movie” mean nothing here; these horror films were all lifted from real life, taking inspiration from some of the darkest tales ever to have been told.

Hard Candy

The tale of a teenage girl who took on a sadistic cyber-groomer was met with shock and disgust when it was released in cinemas. Few people knew at the time, however, that the film was based on a news report seen by producer David W. Higgins, documenting Japanese girls who lured businessmen into deadly traps. A predator can come in any shape or form.


Charlize Theron’s phenomenal performance as murderer Aileen Wuornos in Monster went down in cinematic history. Playing a killer prostitute, Theron showed the real life events of Wuornos, as she attracted and murdered six men over the course of a few years.

Open Water

Thanks to Jaws, going into the water is not something that many of us relish. Since Open Water, things have only become worse. Playing out the events of when a couple were stranded in the shark infested seas of Australia, Open Water was terrifyingly based on a true story. Both in the film and in real life, the couple were never discovered again, a fact which made the film all the more chilling.

The Amityville Horror

We rarely take haunted house stories seriously but in the case of The Amityville Horror, we really should. Based on the paranormal experiences of the Lutz family when they lived in Amityville, the film played out some of the most terrifying and unnerving ghostly events ever to have been documented.

The Mothman Prophecies

In The Mothman Prophecies, a number of sinister and deadly events were predicted by an unknown caller. Little did people know, however, that the film was based on a reporter’s real life experiences of linking together a number of strange and unexplained catastrophes.


Zodiac has gone down in film history as one of the most notorious serial killer movies of all time. The brutal murders and case history in the film were based on real events which took place in San Francisco, when local police were taunted by the cryptic clues of the so called Zodiac killer. Unlike in the movie, however, the real killer was never found.

From Hell

Jack the Ripper is one of the most infamous and widely studied murderers to ever have lived. In From Hell, the case was reopened and the search for the killer began again. Whilst we will never truly know the identity of the man, the hunt for the killer is still the stuff of great movies and it’s unlikely that it will ever go out of fashion.

A Nightmare On Elm Street

Whilst the tale of a dead man who murders children in their sleep is a little hard to stomach, A Nightmare on Elm Street was actually loosely based on real life events. Taking cues from an LA Times article, writer-director Wes Craven has spoken before of a story about a group of immigrants who all died together whilst experiencing some sort of group nightmare.

Dead Ringers

A creepy tale about twin surgeons who trick people into believing that they’re one person, Dead Ringers made for gruesome viewing. The film was based on the tale of real life twins, who were both found dead after suffering from drug withdrawal.

Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer

A grisly film about a psychopathic serial killer, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer showed one of the worst sides of humanity. Terrifyingly enough, the film was based loosely on the real stories of murderer Henry Lee Lucas, who claims to have killed up to 3,000 people in a heartless rampage.

The Conjuring

A tale of paranormal investigation, The Conjuring was one of the scariest films of recent years. Scarier than that, the film was based on the real-life experiences of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose jobs it was to unearth and overcome nasty spirits.

The Silence Of The Lambs

Hannibal Lecter is possibly the most infamous of all psychopaths in history. In The Silence of the Lambs, he helped a detective to solve the case of a murderer named Buffalo Bill, a man who skinned his victims. Author Thomas Harris in fact based Buffalo Bill on a number of real life murderers, who used despicable methods to lure in their victims.


A horror classic, Psycho told the tale of a lonely man at a motel and a number of unexplained and sinister murders which happened there during the night. Unbeknownst to some, Psycho was based on the case of real life murderer Ed Gein, a serial killer who brutally slaughtered women.


One of Australia’s most infamous killers, John Bunting found himself on the big screen in the deeply disturbing horror film Snowtown. Based on the brutal murders that Bunting carried out, the film revealed the extent that the murderer went to cover up his crimes, even phoning his victims’ families to say that they were going away on holiday.

Wolf Creek

The Australian outback is not a place that you would like to find yourself during the night and this is no more apparent than in Wolf Creek. Based on a number of killers who kidnapped outback tourists and tortured them in the woods, Wolf Creek was a genuinely disturbing movie to watch and left many viewers haunted for some time afterwards.

The Exorcist

With its tales of demon possession and head spinning, it’s hard to believe that The Exorcist was linked to any form of reality. However, the film was based on a book by William Peter Blatty, which revealed insight into a young boy who was possessed by an unknown force.


Sharks found notoriety in the most infamous of all deep sea horror films. The terrifying tale of a monster shark was based on the real life stories of Frank Mundus, a fisherman who caught a giant great white in 1964.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The story of the chainsaw wielding family has gone down in cinema as one of the most unnerving of all time. Whilst the film’s plot was entirely fictional, the character of the infamous Leatherface is said to have been based on Ed Gein, a serial killer who was found in possession of a series of “human masks”.

Black Water

This tale of a routine fishing trip gone horribly wrong is the stuff of nightmares. Terrifyingly, though, the story of the family who came face to face with a group of man-sized crocodiles was completely true and if you like happy endings, this is certainly not one for you.

The Rite

The Rite followed the fate of a priest battling a lack of faith, who found himself in the midst of a huge exorcism. Crazily enough, the film was based on real life priest Father Gary Thomas’ experiences in exorcism training, with him acting as advisor on the film.