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.
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.
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.
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.
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
The Tragic True Story: In 1954, teenagers Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme murdered Pauline’s mother, Honorah Rieper during a daytrip in Victoria Park, New Zealand.
Movie Version: Peter Jackson’s groundbreaking examination of Pauline and Juliet’s friendship, inspired by Pauline’s diary and interviews that Jackson and co-writer Fran Walsh conducted with many people who knew the pair.
Saddest Moment: Pauline and Juliet actually carry out the horrific act.
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
The Tragic True Story: Director/star Roberto Benigni was inspired by his father’s true story. Benigni Sr was incarcerated at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for three years before Roberto was born.
Movie Version: Oscar-winning drama about a father and son who are incarcerated at a concentration camp. In order to stop his son being scared, Guido Orefice (Benigni) pretends it’s all just a game.
Saddest Moment: Guido is led off to be executed by a Nazi soldier, but still pretends it’s a big joke to his son, who’s hiding in a sweatbox.
Mississippi Burning (1988)
The Tragic True Story : In 1964, three American civil rights workers – who had been working for the rights of African Americans to vote – were shot dead in Mississippi by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Movie Version: Loosely based on that real-life case, this ‘60s-set drama follows FBI agents Alan Ward (Willem Dafoe) and Rupert Anderson (Gene Hackman), who head to Mississippi to investigate the murders of three men.
Saddest Moment: Deputy Sheriff Clinton Pell (Brad Dourif) assaults his wife.
Michael Collins (1996)
The Tragic True Story: Irish revolutionary Michael Collins played a role in the Easter Uprising and went on to become Minister for Finance before he was ambushed and killed in August 1922.
Movie Version: Golden Lion winning drama directed by Neil Jordan, with Liam Neeson taking the title role.
Saddest Moment: Collins dies during the Irish Civil War, shot dead during an ambush.
The Tragic True Story: Between 1926 and 1928, a number of young boys were abducted and murdered around Los Angeles and Riverside County. The crimes were later discovered to have all been committed by ranch owner Gordon Stewart Northcott.
Movie Version: Angelina Jolie stars as Christine Collins, a single mother whose nine-year-old son Walter disappears. However, when the police tell her they’ve found her son, the boy who’s returned may not actually be Walter.
Saddest Moment: A boy who was kidnapped and escaped reveals just what happened to him – and Christine’s son.
The Tragic True Story: In 1951, Philomena Lee became pregnant out of wedlock and was sent to the Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea in Ireland. Her son was taken away from her and as an elderly woman, she attempted to track him down again.
Movie Version: Steve Coogan adapts Martin Sixsmith’s The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee, with Judi Dench on fine form as the titular character.
Saddest Moment: Philomena discovers that her son is dead – he died eight years ago, and now she’ll never have the chance to meet him.
Beyond The Hills (2012)
The Tragic True Story : In 2005, Maricica Irina Cornici moved in to the Tanacu monastery and was quickly diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Father Corogeanu, though, believed that Cornici was possessed by Satan and set about performing an exorcism. A few days later she was dead.
Movie Version: Rather than a feeble Exorcist -alike, Cristian Mungiu’s film (based on the book by Tatiana Niculescu Bran) is a spare, thoughtful and tense look at religion and belief.
Saddest Moment: Let’s just say the movie follows the real case quite closely when it comes to the tragedy…
Gorillas In The Mist (1988)
The Tragic True Story: American zoologist Dian Fossey spent 18 years studying gorillas in Rwanda. In 1985, she was murdered and the case remains unsolved to this day.
Movie Version: Sigourney Weaver stars as Fossey in a film set almost entirely in the Congo.
There, she gains unprecedented access to the communities of mountain gorillas – but her work is constantly interrupted by violent poachers.
Saddest Moment: Fossey is laid to rest in the same cemetery as the gorillas that were murdered.
Into The Wild (2007)
The Tragic True Story: In the book of the same name, Jon Krakauer tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a post-grad who gave away his $24,000 college fund and went to live in the wild. He died of starvation after 100 days.
Movie Version: Gorgeous drama directed by Sean Penn, with a fantastic score courtesy of Eddie Vedder. Emile Hirsch plays McCandless.
Saddest Moment: McCandless makes an abandoned bus into his home but his health slowly deteriorates as he fails to find food. He dies in his sleeping bag.
Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
The Tragic True Story: Between 1931 and 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow became public enemies when they went on a robbing spree that came to a tragic head when they were ambushed and killed by police in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.
Movie Version: Classic, boundary-pushing crime drama directed by Arthur Penn, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the titular duo. With its unprecedented depiction of sex and violence, it changed the face of cinema forever.
Saddest Moment: The couple is ambushed and riddled with bullets at a roadside in what remains one of cinema’s most shocking sequences.
Lilja 4-ever (2002)
The Tragic True Story: In 1999, Lithuanian teenager Danguol Rasalait moved to Sweden, where she was sold as a sex slave. In 2000, she escaped by jumping off the bridge in Malmö, dying three days later.
Movie Version: A brutal drama from director Lukas Moodysson, loosely inspired by Rasalait’s story. Oksana Akinshina plays Lilja, who moves from the Soviet Union to Russia and works for a violent pimp.
Saddest Moment: The bridge-jumping moment is harrowing, but the real kicker is the film’s epilogue, which offers two different conclusions…
The Tragic True Story: In 1981, Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland embarked on a second hunger strike in protest against – among other things – Margaret Thatcher’s regime.
During the strike, striker Bobby Sands was elected a Member of Parliament, but died from starvation.
Movie Version: A harrowing debut from director Steve McQueen following the hunger strike carried out by Sands (played by Michael Fassbender).
Saddest Moment: A weak but defiant Sands manages to stand and confront an Ulster Defence Association orderly before crumbling to the floor.
The Tragic True Story: On 10 April 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton with over 2,000 passengers onboard. Just five days later, the ship struck an iceberg and sunk; over 1,500 people drowned.
Movie Version: Big budget spectacle directed by James Cameron, focussing on star-crossed lovers Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), who are unaware that their voyage aboard the Titanic is doomed.
Saddest Moment: An old couple cuddle in bed as the ship sinks…
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
The Tragic True Story: In 1994, the Rwandan Genocide resulted in the murders of up to one million people by the Hutu-led Government. Almost 20% of the country’s population were killed.
Movie Version: Don Cheadle stars as hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who makes it his mission to rescue innocent civilians from the Rwandan Genocide by giving them shelter at his Hôtel des Mille Collines.
Saddest Moment: Paul and his family watch as their neighbours are slaughtered.
The Tragic True Story: Former prostitute Aileen Wuronos was placed on death row for the murders of seven men between 1989 and 1990. Though she claimed she killed them in self-defence, Wuronos was handed the death penalty and was executed in 2002.
Movie Version: Charlize Theron bolsters an Oscar-winning performance as Wuornos as a misunderstood victim. Directed by Patty Jenkins, the film also gives her a love interest in the form of Christina Ricci’s Selby.
Saddest Moment: Wuornos and Selby share an emotional farewell before the former is arrested.
The Tragic True Story: In 13th Century Scotland, warrior William Wallace fights for Scottish independence against King Edward I of England.
Movie Version: A historically-tenuous interpretation helmed by Mel Gibson, who plays William Wallace.
It’s inspired by the epic poem The Actes And Deidis Of The Illustre And Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace , which could account for its various inaccuracies.
Saddest Moment: Wallace refuses to beg for his life as he’s hanged, drawn and quartered…
Boys Dont Cry (1999)
The Tragic True Story: Nebraska resident Brandon Teena, a female-to-male non-operative transgender who identified as male, was raped and murdered by his male peers when they discovered he was transgender. He was 21.
Movie Version: Oscar-winning drama from Kimberly Peirce, with Hilary Swank playing Brandon. The film revolves around his relationship with Lana Tisdel (Chloë Sevigny).
Saddest Moment: The final scene, where Brandon is shot dead.
The Tragic True Story: The Snowtown Murders were committed by John Bunting, Robert Wagner, and James Vlassakis in the South Australian town between 1992 and 1999.
In total, they killed 11 people, all of them viewed by Bunting and his cohorts as weak or abnormal in some way.
Movie Version: A haunting, dark portrait of Bunting as told through the eyes of 16-year-old Jamie (Lucas Pittaway), whom Bunting recruits to his cause.
Saddest Moment: Jamie is forced to kill his brother Troy.
The Killing Fields (1984)
The Tragic True Story: In 1975, photojournalist Dith Pran was imprisoned in Cambodia, which had fallen to Communist Khmer Rouge and his deadly regime. Pran endured four years of torture, while 50 members of his family – including his sister and brothers – were all killed.
Movie Version: Drama directed by Roland Joffé and inspired by Dith Pran’s devastating story. Newcomer Haing S. Ngor won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Pran.
Saddest Moment: During one escape attempt, Pran slips into a slurry that turns out to be the killing fields, where the bodies of two million Cambodians have been dumped.
Schindlers List (1993)
The Tragic True Story: During the Holocaust, six million Jews were killed. Nazi party member and German spy Oskar Schindler was responsible for saving over a thousand Jews when he employed them in his factories.
Movie Version: Steven Spielberg adapts Thomas Keneally’s novel and delivers a devastating look at World War II.
Saddest Moment: Schindler (Liam Neeson) is forced to leave to save himself and is thanked by his workers, but he’s also crippled by the feeling that he could have done more to save others.