Based on a True Story

Movies based on real people or events have always interested me because they add another element to your viewing — the awareness that something like this actually happened. I'm often disappointed but there are some films that I really love and have watched many times. Here are just a few of them.

To Die For is loosely based on the Pamela Smart story. In 1990, Pamela Smart hired her teenage lover to kill her husband. This dramedy stars Nicole Kidman in one of her best performances. The cast also stars Matt Dillon and Joaquin Phoenix (who is fabulous in Walk the Line, another based-on-true-events film I highly recommend).

Although I laughed out loud in parts, you never forget the seriousness of the situation. The buildup to the murder is scintillating and suspenseful and will have you holding your breath. And the way the murder plot is discovered is equally riveting.

I first saw Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures. She plays Juliet Hulme, who along with Pauline Parker (played by Melanie Lynskey, the hilarious, crazy neighbor on Two and a Half Men — also recommended, but nowhere near true life), plot to kill Pauline’s mother. The film is fantastical and has some of most interesting cinematography I have ever seen. There is a sexual tension between the girls that drives their decision to kill.

The girls’ families are realistically portrayed. You can understand their concern that the relationship between their daughters is too intense. They just want them apart. The most interesting part of this story is that the real Juliet Hulme is a well-known author, who writes murder mysteries. Ever heard of Anne Perry? That’s her, and yes the library carries many of her books.

Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood is a classic, so it’s hard to live up to the hype when creating a film version. But the classic 1967 version is fantastic. Robert Blake plays Perry Smith, one of the killers (who could have foreseen how dead on that casting was?). If you’ve read the novel, you will see that Blake's portrayal is exactly as Capote described Smith.

Along with Richard Hickock, Smith killed all five members of the Clutter family. Watching Smith’s character unfold will keep you guessing — is he telling the truth? Did he kill everyone? Did he kill no one? Some of those questions are still unanswered to this day.

What’s Love Got to do With It? came out, and everyone knew Tina Turner’s secret: She had been a battered woman for years. Angela Bassett makes us feel every punch, every slap and every degrading word that Ike Turner (played by Laurence Fishburne) unleashes.

This film takes us through the journey of abuse; how it starts and why it continues. I will say that it’s hard to watch some of the scenes, but I came away from this film so proud of Tina Turner for finally standing up to Ike and leaving.