Turner Classic Movies is spotlighting films about real life crime in their programming this month. So, responding to that, here are my picks for the best films about true crime that I know.
10. Goodfellas (1990)
The real life Wiseguys and Henry Hill’s decent into the underworld through his friendships with the other Wiseguys.
9. Psycho (1960)
While many details are changed, Norman Bates is a version of the real life murderer Ed Gein who committed his crimes in a small Wisconsin town between 1954 and 1957.
8. The Informant (2009)
Mark Whitacre was deeply involved with corrupt business politics and a lot of fraud and money laundering. Though he was far from innocent, he knew how to use all the ways to use his knowledge of corruption and truth to protect himself from the consequences.
7. Bugsy (1991)
The birth of Las Vegas through gang activity led by Bugsy Siegel.
6. The Joker Is Wild (1957)
Frank Sinatra gave his best performance ironically as a performer who couldn’t sing. Joe E. Lewis had been a great singer whose gang affiliations once funded his career and then ended it when he wasn’t willing to continue following their demands. His former partners cut his throat so he couldn’t make money singing for anyone else. Becoming a comedian and leaving his gang life, the realities of the life of crime he left behind are always with him.
5. Badlands (1973)
Kit and Holly are versions of the real life murder/romance spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in 1958. Though Bonnie and Clyde broke a lot of ground cinematically, Badlands tells its story in a far darker way that feels much more real.
4. Compulsion (1959)
Along with Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope from a decade earlier, Richard Fleischer’s Compulsion recreates, though with different names, the case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.
3. M (1931)
Peter Lorre’s Franz Becker is based on the real life child murderer Peter Kürten, and the investigator is based on Berlin detective mastermind Ernst Gennat.
2. On the Waterfront (1954)
A real Waterfront Commission existed. All the major characters in the movies are based on real people. Terry (Marlon Brando) is based on the whistleblower Anthony DeVincenzo. Father Barry is based on a real waterfront priest, Father John Corridan. And the mob boss Johnny Friendly is based on Michael Clemente.
1. In Cold Blood (1967)
Richard Brooks’ adaptation of Truman Capote’s book follows every moment of the events that led up to the heinous Perry Smith/Dick Hickock murder of a rural Kansas family.