7 Movies Based on True Stories You Can Stream On Hulu!

With Hulu’s eclectic array of films, how can you possibly decide what to watch for your next movie night? Well, we have you covered with recent additions to the platform and some staples that are based (some more than others) on true stories, sure to scratch your realism itch!

Movies that are based on true stories often leave people feeling inspired, or can provide an even more realistic opportunity for people to relate to the characters they watch. That sense of familiarity and the fact that the characters aren’t fictional, but real just like us, opens up the door for more empathy and a stronger emotional connection. Seeing that a movie is based on some aspect of real life, whether it be a specific event, thing, or person, adds more stakes and dramatic weight to the plot that unfolds. Between movies that are recent, old, and somewhere in the middle, here is our roundup of true story movies that you can stream on Hulu!

Hustlers (2019)

Director and writer Lorene Scafaria depicts this crime drama-comedy in a brightly-colored, fun to look at, overall entertaining way whose narrative is really brought to life with the captivating actresses on-hand. It follows Destiny (Constance Wu) as she works in New York City as a stripper to make ends meet and is taken under Ramona’s (Jennifer Lopez) wing, the club’s top earner who shows her how to work the wealthy Wall Street clientele. After the 2008 stock market crash, they are forced to make a change, and they devise a plan with a couple of other strippers, Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (Keke Palmer), to drug and steal money from the sleazy elite. The movie is based on the 2015 New York magazine article, “The Hustlers at Scores” by journalist Jessica Pressler — whose name is changed to Elizabeth in the film, portrayed by Julia Stiles — which dives into the stories of the real life women behind the master scheme who ultimately received no jail time for their multiple charges. They saw themselves as savvy businesswomen. Although all the characters’ names were changed for the movie, Lopez and Wu’s commanding presence as their respective characters resembled the drive that their real life counterparts Samantha Barbash and Roselyn “Rosie” Keo, respectively, seemed to have. Along with Stiles’ role as the journalist who broke the story, they seem to be the ones most directly inspired by the real people, as well as real hustler Karina Pascucci, who said she served as inspiration for Reinhart’s role. This movie is a captivating thrill ride with endearing moments of friendship and women empowerment and is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet.

Spencer (2021)

This historical psychological drama directed by Pablo Larrain highlights a period of the late and famed Princess Diana. Kristen Stewart strips away any preconceived notions from her prior roles as the titular character, giving a transformative look into Diana’s existential crisis during Christmas of 1991. It explores the time that her marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing) has grown strained due to his affair with Camilla, as she considers getting a divorce and leaving the royal family behind while relying on her two young sons as her main motivator for happiness. Spencer is a character study into Diana’s isolation and mental health struggles as she is overwhelmed by the spotlight on her amid public rumors surrounding the Royals, as well as the tension and pressure the family creates for her. This iteration of Queen Elizabeth is played by Stella Gonet, alongside cast members Timothy Spall as Major Alistar Gregory; Sean Harris as Royal Head Chef Darren McGrady; and Sally Hawkins as Royal Dresser Maggie, Diana’s only encouraging friend at the Estate who she is able to confide in. The tribute film starts with the text “a fable from a true tragedy,” recognizing that although these people existed and there was clear apparent turmoil going on behind closed doors, no one can really know for certain what was going on in the mind of Princess Diana during the retelling of those three days for which the movie spans. It’s heartbreaking and haunting, and although its pace is rather slow, Stewart gives a great emotive performance with some visually stunning cinematography, making for a movie you have to see at least once. 

I, Tonya (2017)

Margot Robbie embodies the grit and determination of famous Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in director Craig Gillespie’s biographical drama. The black comedy is in the form of a sports mockumentary, fit with “present day” interviews of the cast as their characters and Tonya’s fourth wall breaking, an effective way for telling this particular story, making many moments for the audience to laugh at. I, Tonya states that the information presented is based on both “true” and “contradictory” interviews with Harding herself and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, making the viewers determine for themselves what to see as the truth from these unreliable narrators. It is loosely based on true events as it follows the life of Tonya and her passion for figure skating, leading up to her 1991 peak of being the first American woman to complete a triple axel and her 1994 downfall of the attack on teammate Nancy Kerrigan, which points to her ex-husband for being at fault. Despite this being such a big historical moment in pop culture and Olympic sports, the movie reframes Tonya into more of a victim narrative in her implication of the crime and other criticism she received for her actions. It’s easy to feel sympathy for the ambitious woman when the movie dives into the awful support system she had around her, her seemingly “white trash” reputation that didn’t stop her, and the various abuse she endured. The cast gives amazing supportive performances that elevate Robbie’s: Allison Janney is her abusive mother LaVona Golden; Sebastian Stan is boyfriend turned husband turned ex-husband Jeff Gillooly; Julianne Nicholson is her skating coach Diane Rawlinson; Bobby Cannavale as former reporter Martin Maddox; Paul Walker Hauser as Jeff’s friend and bodyguard Shawn Eckardt; and Caitlin Carver takes on the role of Nancy Kerrigan. 

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Feels fitting that a biographical film about the success of the rock band Queen, specifically lead singer Freddie Mercury, would be in the form of a musical drama named after one of their most widely successful songs, Bohemian Rhapsody. While it may not be very complex in its exploration of Mercury’s inner workings of his personal life, including the depths of his sexuality, it is comprehensive in the clear vision of his momentous career, which the movie does show how the price of success and fame affects him. His greatest joy came from performing to communities that welcomed him and his talent with open arms, shown by frequent segments of the band’s concerts. Rami Malek shines as the leading star, though he has admitted it’s just very convincing lip-synching, with the vocals being an overlay of a few voices, including Mercury’s own. Playing his fellow bandmates are Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, and Joe Mazzello as John Deacon. Taking up other supporting roles is Lucy Boynton as Freddie’s former fiance, close friend, and muse Mary Austin; Aiden Gillen as Queen’s manager John Reid; Mike Myers as fictional executive Ray Foster; Allen Leech as Freddie’s personal manager and lover Paul Prenter; and Tom Hollander as Queen’s lawyer-turned-manager Jim “Miami” Beach. Despite a lot of production ups and downs, directors Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher captured the eccentricity of Mercury — with the help of Malek’s performance — documenting from when the band was formed in 1970 to their Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985. Though there are some historical inaccuracies, the movie is still an entertainment must-see, especially if you’re a Queen fan!

Bombshell (2019)

With Bombshell, director Jay Roach tells a dramatized version of the provocative accounts of three women working at Fox News who expose their CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. The star-studded cast depicts Charlize Theron unrecognizably herself, but with makeup, bears resemblance to her character Megyn Kelly. At her side is Nicole Kidman as real-life Gretchen Carlson and Margot Robbie as fictional Kayla Pospisil, though her character is inspired by the real women who have endured the painful reality of scenes depicted throughout the film. John Lithgow takes on the role of Ailes with Connie Britton as his wife Beth; Malcolm McDowell is Fox’s co-creator Rupert Murdoch; Kate McKinnon plays the fictional Jess Carr; and Allison Janney as lawyer Susan Estrich. Told through convincing performances, the movie is important in highlighting the mass abuse of power by rich CEO executives, particularly in the media. As always, there are some differences from real life to fill in the behind-the-scenes gaps and have an exaggerated flair, but it’s great for conveying the message of the poignant stories from women who share experiences to situations like in the film. So much of this movie is worth watching because of the impressive acting jobs that give across all the emotions of workplace sexual harassment. 

War Dogs (2016)

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller play off of each other superbly as Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, respectively, in director Todd Phillips’ War Dogs. The film is loosely based on the true story of the two young American men who won a $300 million Pentagon contract to arm American allies in Afghanistan. They start out small, raking in the money from exploiting a government initiative, but things escalate and intensify as they find themselves involved in shady business dealings. While the plot centers around the war, it’s largely a black comedy, taking inspiration from reporter Guy Lawson’s Rolling Stone 2011 article, which he further detailed in his 2015 book Arms and the Dudes. Diveroli’s 2016 memoir Once a Gun Runner also lends itself a hand in fleshing out the story. The movie has an unreliable narrator and is heavily fictionalized as some of its events were invented for sake of enjoyment or pulled from screenwriters Stephen Chin, Jason Smilovic, and Phillips’ own lives. Bradley Cooper and Ana de Armas are featured in supporting roles, but it’s the star leading duo’s dynamic that makes this crime story about war profiteering fascinating to watch unfold. Intermixed into the jokes is a drama about greed and some action sequences, making for never dull moments. This is a recent addition to the platform, so make sure to check it out if you haven’t yet!

Fruitvale Station (2013)

Another Hulu addition for November is Ryan Coogler’s feature directorial debut Fruitvale Station. Michael B. Jordan takes on the weight of the late Oscar Grant, a young Black man who was killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California’s Fruitvale station. The two cops involved in his death had their names changed for the film, with Chad Michael Murray playing Officer Ingram (Mehserle’s counterpart) and Kevin Durand playing Officer Caruso, based on Tony Pirone. Octavia Spencer plays Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson and Melonie Diaz plays his girlfriend Sophina Mesa. Coogler worked closely with Grant’s family and dedicated himself to researching public records so that he can accurately depict the events that occurred, resulting in a movie that is mostly true to its story. He wanted to restore Grant’s humanity as a person to remember both the good and the bad, recreating his last day in an honest way. It’s a realistic, emotional experience to watch, which Jordan is exuberantly powerful in, yet he does it so naturalistically. It may not be easy, but it’s a necessary watch that is always timely and insightful in the American landscape. Compared to the possibility of doing a story like this as a documentary, the narrative driven “fictional” format does more to create an intimate, personalizing feel of the person that 22-year-old Oscar Grant was and could’ve been.

About the Author

Avatar photo
Karissa Schaefer

Karissa Schaefer is a senior Journalism major with minors in Publishing and Psychology at Emerson College, focusing on all things entertainment. As she navigates the city of LA, she is a fall '22 intern at AfterBuzz TV and Better Together with Maria Menounos.