14 Disturbing, Brutal Movies Based on Real-Life Atrocities

When’s the last time you watched a movie and saw “based on true events” in the beginning scene? This is a common marketing tool meant to bring out empathy for the characters. When your brain reads those words, it automatically makes you more drawn to the story because it feels more real. This is all nice and happy when it’s a fun and light hearted movie, however there are a good amount of horror movies like this that may keep you tossing and turning at night.

1. A Serbian Film

This movie is most definitely not a light delight in any sense. It takes an open mind and a strong person to watch such a graphic movie. Many consider it to be far too disturbing to watch, therefore being found on most countries’ movie ban lists. A retired porn star has to make one final film, which is graphic and beyond the average person’s desires (at least we’d like to think so). It begins as the typical porn movie but transitions into violent rape scenes & death during the sex acts. We’re glad that this isn’t real but it sure seems too real.

2. The Strangers

The Strangers, a 2008 slasher/thriller, focuses on a girl named Kristan and a guy named James who stay home expecting a relaxing home vacation, but end up struggling to survive. Three masked torturers end up tormenting them and they end up killing their friend thinking it’s one of the intruders.  It’s based on 3 true events; The Keddie Cabin murders, the Manson family murders, and a personal experience the director went through. This movie is notorious for being a genuinely scary movie solely based of how it could happen to anyone.

3. Zodiac

Zodiac movie image Mark Ruffalo

Zodiac, a 2007 thriller, is based on the true story of the Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer was a late 1960-70s serial killer who would call the police himself to tell about the murders he committed, and sent cryptic letters. The movie revolves around investigators getting invested in the case, trying to figure out who it is. What’s so terrifying about the Zodiac Killer is that his identity was never found and could still exist today.

4. Hostel

You may know Hostel as a 2005 mystery/thriller. It centers around two best friends who go on a post-college trip across Europe. While stopping in Amsterdam, they meet another traveler similar to them. They soon research a practice where participants pay $10,000 to kill someone. It was typically poor people who volunteered to go through this so their family can change their lives. This is very real and equally as terrifying.

5. Boys Don’t Cry

Boys Don’t Cry is a 1999 docudrama centering around a female to male transgender. He has leave his hometown when his ex girlfriends brother finds out about his biological sex. The whole movie is based on the actual story of Brandon Teena, who ended up getting sadly murdered by his own friends for being transgender. What causes this movie to evoke so much emotion is realizing that anyone could be murdered by people they assume love them, just because they don’t agree with their lifestyle or opinions.

6. 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave is a 2013 drama showcasing the history of slavery. The movie is about Solomon Northup, who was a black man from upstate New York. Solomon sadly got kidnapped and sold into slavery. This movie does a really good job proving just how vile slavery was, and the struggles and abuse they went through. This is not a movie you’d want to watch if you plan on going to bed right after.

7. Auschwitz

The holocaust is widely known as the biggest attack on a certain group of people in history. It is a very sensitive topic for many people, and having to watch a movie about it can be very difficult for the average person. The title of the movie alone strikes enough fear into someone’s heart, yet alone the movie itself. Children are graphically tortured and killed, as jews had their teeth pulled out as they were shoved into ovens.

8. Bully

You might know Bully as a 2011 documentary that dives into the topic of bullying. It revolves around Ja’meye, a 14 year old girl who ends up in a reform school because she killed the kids who bullied her for years. It also examines a boy named Alex, 14, who was beaten on a bus that cameras recorded, Kelby, 16, who was bullied and only got worse after she came out as lesbian, and two boys, 17 and 12, who commit suicide to escape the torture.

9. Rosewood

ROSEWOOD, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, 1997, (c)Warner Bros.

Racism is a topic that people have to face to this day. It has always been a sensitive topic, and this movie touches on the reality of discrimination and hate crimes performed on people of color. The south always had the biggest issue with racist violence, and initially ignored the abolition of slavery. It is based on the Rosewood massacre of 1923, and tells a very graphic yet sadly realistic story. A white woman claims she was assaulted by a black man and eventually KKK members murdered half a dozen of black people.

10. Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek is a 2005 thriller/horror that is about two stranded motorists that sadly get taken captive by a man who offers to fix their vehicle. It was inspired by the real life killings in the 1990s by backpackers in Australia. It’s so graphic and gruesome that it had people walking out of the early screenings. It’s not a movie to watch if you’re going to dinner after and want to keep your appetite.

11. Gorillas in the Mist

If you’re a diehard animal lover or a religious vegan who hashtags #vegan in all of your selfies, chances are that you won’t like this movie. Animal cruelty is pretty gross regardless, therefore pushing this movie onto this list for a reason. The anthropologist, Dian Fossey, works with gorillas in Africa. She witnessed a culture that had no mercy for animals, and that can be seen in the movie as dismembered animal parts were sold at markets. Fossey ended up being arrested, and eventually was murdered. Not your average netflix & chill movie. Unless you’re a total freak.

12. Changeling

Not only is this movie disturbing and graphic, it is also a pretty shitty movie. A woman has her son replaced by another boy and eventually goes mad. Sexism and corruption are very apparent themes in the movie, which takes place in the 1920s. Count on a movie that’s already bad enough to make you stay away, find an even better reason to keep you away. Children get axed to death in a chicken coop, which will make your body shiver profusely.

13. The Whistleblower

A Nebraska police officer recruited by the UN uncovers a sex trafficking case in post- war Bosnia & Herzegovina. She was eventually fired by the UN and took her story to BBC. The creators claim that the severity was toned down, but it is still very hard to watch. The movie highlights the unlivable conditions the women were forced to live in, and even shows an unbearable rape scene involving a lead pipe.

14. Bronson

Nicolas Winding Refn has a reputation for thinking outside of the box when it comes to making viewers want to throw up in front of the screen. His Pusher trilogy contained a scene where a person was graphically processed like meat. It’ll make you never want to eat a burger again. Bronson is a real life story about a man who spends the majority of his life in solitary confinement. Violence is a key part of this movie and I would not recommend it to any person who wants an easy movie to get them through the night.

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