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Real Life Movies on Netflix, Ranked: 10 Stories That Are Sure to Inspire

Find out the amazing true story of Bethany Hamilton and these other inspiring people!


Whether they’re serving as comic relief from life, thrilling adventures we imagine ourselves being a part of or stirring romances we can immerse ourselves in, movies are usually an escape from reality — unless, of course, you’re talking about movies based on true stories on Netflix.

These films adapted from real-life events have a secret sauce all their own that can really pull the emotion out of you. In some ways, they create an even greater connection with the people you’re watching, because in the back of your mind you know that this is something that they’ve actually gone through.

For example, Soul Surfer (2011) and Hacksaw Ridge (2016) — just two movies based on true stories on Netflix — are the perfect inspirational watches that will likely trigger more than a few tears, but in the end will leave you with an overall great feeling.

And now it’s easier than ever to find them, thanks to the Netflix category “Real Life Movies,” although we’re making it easier still with the following guide to 10 great movies you’ll find there.

10. Father Stu (2022)

After an injury ends the career of boxer Stuart Long (Mark Wahlberg), he relocates to Los Angeles in search of fame and money. When he meets Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a Sunday School teacher, Stuart starts going to church to impress her. Throughout his journey, Stuart realizes he can use his second chance to help others and finds his purpose as a Catholic priest. 

In an interview with TODAY, Mark Wahlberg explains the meaning of this PART. “It’s the greatest role that I ever got to play.” Wahlberg believed in the movie so much that he ended up partially bankrolling it after he was turned away by production companies. “I had to finance the movie myself and ask some friends to chip in.”

This uplifting movie and inspiring story is definitely worth the watch.

9.  Apollo 13 (1995)

This Ron Howard-directed classic explores the amazing true story of the Apollo 13 space mission of 1970. The routine space flight that was meant to go to the moon never made the incredible mission, but it certainly was miraculous. After the spacecraft undergoes massive internal damage, NASA must work hard to bring three astronauts home safely.

Starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon, this film shows the inspiring story of how three men made a safe return to Earth despite overwhelming odds.

8. Stronger (2017)

After the horrendous Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) has to deal with the loss of both his legs. Although Jeff is able to give a description of the bomber and they catch the man, he continues to struggle with his own battle of rehabilitation.

Gyllenhaal described the intent of the film in an interview with IndieWire. He said, “We set off to make a movie that was as honest as it could be… To understand pain in a way, but to understand the triumph through pain.”

The inspiring true story of Jeff Bauman brought hope and healing to the city after the tragic events. Definitely give this film a watch if you’re looking for incredible movies based on true stories on Netflix.

7. Fatherhood (2021)

Based on the memoir Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Matthew Logelin, Fatherhood follows the tragic story of a widowed father. After Matt’s wife dies a day after giving birth, he must raise their daughter, Maddy, as a single father.

Through this unexpected twist in his life, Matt learns how to take care of his daughter and himself. This emotional story truly captures the essence of a father learning to live with loss and a daughter growing up with unconditional love.

6. The Impossible (2012)

A family vacation to Thailand turns into a nightmare when a devastating tsunami strikes, leaving only destruction in its path. The 2004 disaster portrayed in this movie causes chaos and emotonal darkness for all involved, especially Maria (Naomi Watts) and her family.

She and her son, Lucas (Tom Holland), get swept away from the rest of the family and must survive long enough to be reunited with them. As far as movies based on true stories on Netflix go, The Impossible is a must-watch.

5. Brain on Fire (2016)

This incredible true story about Susannah Cahalan (Chloë Grace Moretz) is brought to life in this film, Brain on Fire. As an up-and-coming journalist, Susannah starts becoming plagued by seizures and erratic behaviors. Unable to explain her actions, she undergoes dozens of medical tests with no answer in sight.

Despite being dismissed by doctors who claim she has schizophrenia, Cahalan continues to search for answers. After getting the opinion of a clinician turned professor, Susannah and her family learn she may have a serious neurological disorder.

With the hope instilled by her boyfriend and parents, Susannah learns to deal with this new diagnosis. This beautiful, inspiring story shares the unimaginable life of Susannah Cahalan.

4. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

When Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is drafted during World War II, he has just one caveat— he refuses to bear arms. Many didn’t understand Doss’ ways, but over time he earned respect from his fellow soldiers. During the Battle of Okinawa, Doss, who hasn’t fired a shot, is commended for saving the lives of 75 men, going on to receive the receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

This amazing story, based on the real-life events of Desmond Doss, was one that he didn’t want told incorrectly. His only son, Desmond Jr., recalled to People, “I grew up in a house where there was an endless stream of people coming through the door wanting to make a movie,” noting that he insisted, “that it be accurate.” Luckily, his son approved of the 2016 film being made. This is the perfect choice if you’re in search of movies based on true stories on Netflix.

3. Elvis (2022)

This 2022 biopic, based on the iconic life of Elvis Presley, beautifully tells the story of his burgeoning fame. Through the ups and downs with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), Elvis (Austin Butler) deals with the trials and tribulations of his superstardom.

Butler took up the role and put his all into the performance. During his year of preparation, he hired an acting coach, a dialect coach, a movement coach, and a singing coach. The actor said, “It was this constant searching, and curiosity, and fear that guided me towards the things that I needed to keep working on.” Butler’s hard work paid off, too, as he went on to win a Golden Globe for best actor in 2023, among many other accolades.

Though he was an unconventional artist, Elvis pushed through to become one of the most influential musicians of early rock and roll. If you’re a music buff or you just love Elvis (or Austin Butler), be sure to check this film out.

2. Erin Brockovich (2000)

Unemployed, single mother Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) is in a tough spot. After a failed lawsuit from a car accident, Erin becomes a legal assistant. While on the job, she discovers that a multi-billion-dollar company is trying to buy land they contaminated with an illegally dumped toxic waste.

Erin eventually becomes the point person on the case, leading one of the biggest class action lawsuits in American history. This Oscar-winning film shares the inspirational story of the real Erin Brockovich and will certainly move you.

1. Soul Surfer (2011)

An up-and-coming surfer, Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), is on the path towards success. But after Bethany loses her arm in a horrific shark attack, her life and career changes forever. With the support from her family and friends, Bethany finds the strength and courage to pursue her dreams.

When she heads to Thailand to assist after the 2004 earthquake and tsunami, Bethany discovers that her life can have a greater purpose. She uses her experience and what she witnessed to help others in need and make a difference.

When asked about what it was like to make the film, Bethany Hamilton said, “It was very important to us that the movie really captured our entire journey as accurately as possible.” She explains that sharing the truth about her journey was most important to her.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story about a girl doing the impossible, you should check out Soul Surfer.

For more Netflix recommendations, keep reading!

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