30 Most Tragic Movie True Stories

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

The Tragic True Story: On 22 August 1972, John Stanley Wojtowicz attempted to rob a bank (along with Salvatore Naturale and Robert Westenberg) in order to pay for the sex reassignment surgery of Wojtowicz’s transgender partner, Ernest Aron.

Wojtowicz was arrested but Naturale was killed by the FBI. Aron had surgery and became Elizabeth Debbie Eden, but layer died of AIDS-related pneumonia.

Movie Version: Sidney Lumet directs a drama inspired by P.F. Kluge’s article The Boys In The Bank, which appeared in Life magazine. Al Pacino plays crook Sonny Wortzik, who embarks on a bank heist.

Saddest Moment: At the climax, Sonny watches the body of his co-conspirator and friend Sal (John Cazale) being taken away.

Sylvia (2003)

The Tragic True Story: In 1956, poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes met and fell head-over-heels in love. They married just four months later and moved to America, where Plath battled with depression. In 1963, she committed suicide.

Movie Version: A handsome biopic following Plath and Hughes relationship. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Plath, while Daniel Craig plays Hughes.

Saddest Moment: The film ends with Plath taking her life.

Out Of Africa (1985)

The Tragic True Story: In her memoir Out Of Africa , Isak Dinesen describes the 17 years of her life that she spent working on a coffee plantation in Kenya.

During that time, she had an affair with aristocrat Finch Hatton, who sadly died when his plane crashed in May 1931.

Movie Version: Sweeping romantic drama directed by Sydney Pollack, replete with THAT hair-washing scene. Meryl Streep plays Karen, who opens a dairy farm in Africa.

Saddest Moment: Karen discovers that Finch (Robert Redford) has died in a plane crash.

Zodiac (2007)

The Tragic True Story: In the 1960s and early ‘70s, a serial killer known only as Zodiac held San Francisco to ransom.

The killer taunted the police with boastful letters, and to this day the culprit has never found.

Movie Version: David Fincher’s adaptation of Robert Graysmith’s novel, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Graysmith, the cartoonist who teams up with Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr) in an attempt to catch the Zodiac Killer.

Saddest Moment: Graysmith’s obsession with the case leads to his wife and children leaving him.

Silkwood (1983)

The Tragic True Story: American chemical technician Karen Silkwood campaigned against the company Kerr-McGee for its reportedly dangerous health and safety procedures.

After she testified about her concerns, she was killed in a car accident.

Movie Version: Nora Ephron scripts and Mike Nichols directs the story of Karen Silkwood’s (Meryl Streep) campaign against the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant.

Saddest Moment:
The film’s inevitable climax, when Silkwood’s car is run off the road.

A Royal Affair (2012)

The Tragic True Story: In November 1766, Caroline Matilda of Great Britain moved to Denmark and married her cousin Christian VII.

However, she brought scandal to the court when she fell in love with physician Johann Friedrich Struensee. When the affair was discovered, she was exiled and Johann was executed.

Movie Version: Lavish, Oscar-nommed Danish drama from Nikolaj Arcel. Mads Mikkelsen plays Johann, while Alicia Vikander is Caroline Matilda.

Saddest Moment: Johann stoically accepts his fate.

The Constant Gardener (2005)

The Tragic True Story: In the 1990s, Kano, Nigeria was the site for clinical trials of Pfizer drug, Trovan. During the trial, 11 children died and others were left severely disabled.

Movie Version: Based on the book by John le Carré, which is inspired by the events in Kano, the film stars Ralph Fiennes as a diplomat who attempts to find out what happened to his wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) in Kenya.

Saddest Moment:
When Tessa gets too close to finding out about clinical drug trials in Kenya, she and her driver are murdered.

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)

The Tragic True Story: American bandit Jesse James revelled in robbery of any kind, but things went wrong when he accepted Robert Ford into his gang.

On 3 April 1882, James was killed by Ford, who wanted to collect the bounty on his leader’s head.

Movie Version : The second film from director Andrew Dominik, based on the novel by Ron Hansen. It’s a three-hour epic of staggering beauty, starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck as the titular bandits.

Saddest Moment: Alone with Ford, James welcomes his fate with grace and dignity.

Fruitvale Station (2013)

The Tragic True Story: On 1 January 2009, San Francisco police responded to a report of a fight on the BART and apprehended, among others, Oscar Grant.

According to reports, he was resisting arrest, and was shot in the back. He died in hospital the next morning.

Movie Version: Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar Grant. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 and won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film.

Saddest Moment: We won’t spoil it…

The Iceman (2012)

The Tragic True Story: Richard Leonard ‘The Iceman’ Kuklinski lived a double life as a family man and a secret mob hitman who claimed to have killed between 100 and 250 people.

Movie Version: A 1960s-set crime thriller directed by Ariel Vromen. Michael Shannon plays Kuklinski, with Winona Ryder as his wife, who’s unaware of what her husband actually does for a living.

Saddest Moment: At the birthday party of Kuklinski’s daughter, his wife starts to suspect that their whole life is a lie.

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