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Movies Based On True Crimes You Won't Believe

Updated on April 18, 2016

Cleveland Abduction (2015)

The three women abducted by Ariel Castro along with their missing persons photos. From right: Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus, Michelle Knight
The three women abducted by Ariel Castro along with their missing persons photos. From right: Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus, Michelle Knight

Cleveland Abduction (2015)

The “Cleveland Abduction” is a made for TV film portraying the lives of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus, three women who were kidnapped by Arial Castro Between 2002 and 2004, and imprisoned in his home until 2013. Although no film could possibly depict the true terror experienced by these three women throughout their imprisonment and ongoing sexual, emotional, and physical abuse; it seems as though lifetime made a special effort to include to tell their story as accurately as possible.

Viewers are spared no horrific detail as they watch Castro nonchalantly snap a puppy’s neck, taunt his chained up victims, beat a woman multiple times to induce a miscarriage, and many other scenes that will be nearly impossible to stomach. Even harder to cope with than watching this monster do the unthinkable on screen is knowing that these are true events that happened off screen in reality not so long ago.

Karla (2006)

Karla (2006)

This film tells the true story of the two Canadian serial rapists and murders known as the “Ken and Barbie Killers.” Karla Homolka, is a Canadian woman who helped her husband, Paul Bernado in the rape and murder of 3 teenaged girls, one of which was her own younger sister.

Laura Prepon of “That 70’s Show” skillfully portrays Karla’s inner struggle between the part of her that is so insecure and in love with her husband that she is willing to do the unthinkable in order to please him, and her human half that is opposed to her horrifying acts morally and sympathizes with their young and helpless victims. Unfortunately for Karla, the latter side of her is incapable of extinguishing her need to please and she gives in to Bernado’s wishes and becomes and accomplice in a sting of serial rapes and murders.

In a particularly disturbing scene, Karla sits upstairs, feeling neglected and listening to her husband and his school-aged captive in the room below. She goes downstairs and attempts to seduce Paul, but instead he ends up convincing her to participate in the assault of the terrified young victim. When the handcuffed girl opens her eyes as she is enduring this awful abuse, Paul decides that that their only option is to murder her so she will never be able to identify them. Viewers watch Karla cry in the hallway listening to the sounds of her husband strangle the poor teenager as she struggles for her life.

Filled with domestic violence, rape, physical and sexual abuse, and murder, this film is an uncomfortable watch to say the least. A disturbing detail about the real life events – Karla Homolka has been a free woman for years after playing victim and pleading guilty to “manslaughter.” She lives as a free women in Quebec along with her husband and three children.

Compliance (2013)

Compliance (2013)

How dangerous is the human need to respect “authority?” How far past our own moral boundaries are we willing to go in order to obey the commands of someone who wears a badge, or a uniform, or has more power than we do? In 2004, a man impersonating a police officer tested these questions and the results were dumbfounding. “Compliance” is based on these real life events.

Louise Ogborn, real life victim of the prank call scandal
Louise Ogborn, real life victim of the prank call scandal

The basic story of what happened is: man calls Mcdonalds in Kentucky from a phone booth in Florida claiming to be a police officer, he tells the manager that an employee has been accused of stealing from a customer and asks that the employee be detained “until his unit arrives.” Over a phone call, this ordinary citizen causes the humiliating and degrading imprisonment, strip search, and assault of an 18-year-old from a booth states away, all in the name of “Compliance.”

Aside from Mcdonald’s being renamed “Chickwhich,” and a couple character additions, the film is accurate in the details that matter – right down to the forced nude jumping jacks endured by this poor woman. If it’s any consolation, the real life victim Lousie Ogborn received a $1.1 million dollar settlement from Mcdonalds for the hellish ordeal that occurred at their restaurant.

Here is a video of the actual real life security camera footage..if you can bear to watch

An American Crime (2007)

An American Crime (2007)

The 1960’s were a strangely trusting time. “An American Crime” brings to film the story of Sylvia Likens, played by Ellen Page, who endured what was described in 1966 as the "single worst crime perpetrated against an individual in Indiana's history".

In 1960, Sylvia’s parents who were carnival workers had to leave town and entrusted the care of both Sylvia and her sister (who was handicapped due to polio) to a perfect stranger named Gertrude Banizewski. I know this was before “care.com” and babysitter background checks, however surely the Likens’s could have looked into things further..

Ellen Page, actress in the film "An American Crime"
Ellen Page, actress in the film "An American Crime"
Sylvia Likens, the real life victim at age 16
Sylvia Likens, the real life victim at age 16

For the following months, Gertrude Banizewski recieved $20 per week from the Likens as she kept their daughter tied up in the basement of her home as her children along with others in the neighborhood tortured Syvlia in countless ways including: deprivation of food and water, extinguishing lit cigarettes on her skin, throwing her into a bathtub of scalding hot water, being forced to insert a glass coca cola bottle into her vagina, being made to ingest her own feces, forced nudity and assault by numerous neighborhood boys, regular beatings, and countless other horrors.

The film stays true to the gruesome details of the true story, culminating in Sylvia’s eventual death at age 16 in the Banizewski basement, determined by the autopsy to be a result of malnutrition and a brain hemorrhage.

**Note: The film and Jack Ketchum novel “The Girl Next Door,” are both also based on these events.

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