Based on actual events.
In 2021, Netflix Originals accounted for around 40% of all available content in their US library. Across series, movies, comedy specials, and documentaries, Netflix Originals are renowned for their high quality and binge-worthiness. As pioneers of the streaming revolution that changed how people consume digital content, their storytelling prowess shows no signs of slowing down.
And if Netflix knows one thing for sure, it's that sometimes stories write themselves. In some cases truth is stranger than fiction, in others, the truth is so shocking that it couldn't have been imagined. If you're looking for juicy stories, Netflix has you covered with con artists, spies, serial killers, and everything in between. And they all actually happened.
Inventing Anna stars Julia Garner as Anna Delvey, a mysterious arrival on the New York social scene that made a name for herself with ambitious projects and a lavish lifestyle. Reporter Vivian Kent, played by Anna Chlumsky, is tasked with investigating the trail of deceit and debt behind Anna, and who she is or claims to be.
Anna Delvey/Sorokin conned banks and socialites out of an estimated $275,000, at one point having her friend pay for a $62,000 vacationin Morocco that she was meant to cover! TV legend Shonda Rhimes created Inventing Anna which began airing on the first anniversary of Anna Delvey’s (or Sorokin’s) release from prison. On IMDb, the series has a rating of 6.9/10 on IMDb.
Eli Cohen (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a Jewish-Egyptian immigrant that is recruited by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and sent undercover to post-war Syria as a businessman in the 1960s. He becomes known for throwing elaborate parties for Syria’s elite and gaining the trust of high-ranking political and military personnel, allowing him to gather intelligence at the source.
The six-part limited seriesThe Spy is based on the life of the real Eli Cohen, Israel’s most famous spy in the 1960s. Sacha Baron Cohen gives an exceptional performance in a rare dramatic role, showcasing the balance that Cohen (the spy, not the actor) had to find between a loving husband and a patriotic spy.
In the 1970s, two FBI agents and a psychologist interview and profile some of America’s most dangerous and chilling criminals, including David Berkowitz and Charles Manson. Criminal psychology is not yet mainstream, and the three theorize that the crimes committed by these people aren’t impulsive but methodically planned and predictable.
Acclaimed director David Fincher based Mindhunter on the book of the same name, written by former FBI agent Jonathon E. Douglas. Douglas and his team pioneered criminal psychology and even coined the phrase “serial killer." Mindhunter has an impressive rating of 8.6/10 on IMDb.
In the 1970s, a young Pablo Escobar begins building his drug empire from the ground up in a time when cocaine was taking the USA and Latin America by storm. Two DEA agents are sent to Colombia to detain and kill him, but the elusive Escobar and his organization grow exceedingly well-connected and violent. As he rises to infamy he leaves a bloody trail of sacrifice, deceit, and murder in his wake.
Narcos didn’t just draw its inspiration from the violent albeit fascinating life of big-name drug lord Pablo Escobar, but most of the characters existed, and plot lines unfolded as viewers see them in the show. The DEA agents in the show even admitted they binge-watched Season 2. The series has an 8.8/10 on IMDb.
Newly engaged public relations executive Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) perfect life is upturned when her past relationship with a drug runner catches up with her. Having smuggled money across international borders, she is named as a member of a drug ring and sentenced to 15 months in jail. The culture shock of life on the inside hits hard, but not as hard as discovering her drug-runner ex is also serving time in the same prison.
Orange Is The New Black originated from the similarly titled book by Piper Kerman about her year in a women’s prison. Kerman says that while the TV show exercises a lot of creative freedom, much of the content is her life, as it was, on screen. The women-forward, diverse cast, and excellent writing have earned the show cult status. The series landed an 8.1/10 on IMDb.
Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), an Irish immigrant in Canada, is working as a maid when her employer, Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross), and his housekeeper are brutally murdered. The sixteen-year-old Grace is convicted as an accessory to the murder and is later moved to an insane asylum. There she recounts the story of her life to a psychiatrist that hopes to prove her innocence.
The true story of this gruesome double murder was originally adapted into a novel by Margaret Atwood before being picked up as a series in 2017. Grace Marks’ level of involvement and culpability in the crimeremain uncertain to this day, making the performances of Sarah Gadon and Edward Holcroft all the more deep and mysterious. On IMDb, Alias Grace has a 7.7/10.
An eighteen-year-old woman who grew up in foster homes is violently attacked and assaulted in her apartment by two men. When she reports a violent sexual crime, police accuse her of making the story up. But two detectives find evidence that proves her story true and work to detain a serial rapist and give the woman the justice she deserves.
The series is adapted from an article that won a Pulitzer Prizeand stays responsibly close to the truth. The show received 40 award nominations and won six awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Toni Collette for her portrayal of Detective Grace Rasmussen. The miniseries has an 8.4/10 on IMDb.
In 1989, five Black-American teenagers, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, and Raymond Santana, are wrongfully convicted of attempted murder and sexual assault. The boys are pressured into confessing and are nationally vilified by the media. The boys are imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit and have trouble adjusting to the world on their release.
When They See Usis based on a high-profile crime in New York where the boys came to be referred to as The Central Park Five. Director Ava DuVernay takes a brutally honest dive into the effects of the systematic oppression and racism that led to a harrowing true story. On IMDb, the series has an 8.6/10.
Ryan Hayes (Ryan O'Connell) is a gay man with cerebral palsy that feels constricted by his labels and smothered by his over-protective mother. He decides to cut ties and fight for his independence, moving out of his mother's house and getting a job as an online blogger. Ryan finds a fresh start away from what he thought defined and tries to build himself the life he always dreamed of.
Netflix’s Special is based on the life writer, star, and producer Ryan O'Connell and his memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves. While Special is his acting debut, O’Connell is no stranger to these themes having written for Will & Grace and Netflix’s Awkward, his experienceshining through every narrative step of a witty and charming journey. Special has a rating of 7.6/10 on IMDb.
The Crown follows the reign of Elizabeth II from when she married Prince Philip at the age of 21, to being crowned Queen at age 25, all the way up until the 21st century. The young woman accepts the royal responsibility as historic events, scandals, and difficult political decisions intertwine with her life and reign as the longest-serving monarch in British history.
Unsurprisingly, this period drama is based on the actual British monarchy and dramatizes completely factual events. The show has a 90% Rotten Tomatoes rating from critics and audiences alike, receiving praise for its realistic and accurate telling of events. The Crown has a rating of 8.7/10 on IMDb.
KEEP READING: The Best Period Dramas On Netflix
Alastair Prentice writes TV & Movie listicles for Collider. He is a world traveler, cinephile, and budding screenwriter.
10 Best Netflix Originals Based On True Stories, According To IMDb – Collider
Based on actual events.