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30 Most Tragic Movie True Stories

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…

Hunger (2008)

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.

Titanic (1997)

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.

Monster (2003)

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.

Braveheart (1995)

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.

Snowtown (2011)

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.