15 Horror Movies Based on True Stories

These horror movies take inspiration from real life terrors

While most writers create their horror movies from fiction and fantasy, some take inspiration from real life killers and extraordinary occurrences. In fact, some of the most famous horror flicks of all time are based on true stories that plagued real people. Take a look at 15 of the top horror movies that are based on real events in the gallery below and let us know your thoughts on this story on social media.

The Amityville Horror (1979)

The 1979 film, as well as the 2005 remake, are both based on stories by the Lutz family. The Lutz family moved into a home in Amityville, New York in 1975, one year after another family had been murdered there by mass murderer Ronald DeFeo Jr. They lived in the house with their family for 28 days, before leaving due to paranormal disturbances.

Child’s Play (1988)

Chucky pulls inspiration from a doll named Robert, who’s believed to have supernatural abilities that allow it to move, change facial expressions and laugh. It’s said this doll has caused car accidents, broken bones, job losses and divorces on those who’ve disrespected it. The doll is currently available for viewing at the East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This 80s classic written by Wes Craven was inspired by a series of newspaper articles printed in the Los Angeles Times during the 1970s. In these articles, many Southeast Asian refugees, who’d fled countries like Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, began reporting disturbing nightmares that led them to avoid sleeping. Some of the men interviewed died in their sleep shortly after the article was published. Wes Craven named the film’s villain after his childhood bully, who was named Fred Krueger.

Poltergeist (1982)

While many aspects of Steven Spielberg’s horror film may appear to scary to be real, they take inspiration from a house in Long Island. This house was occupied by the Hermann family, who allege that between February and March of 1958, bottle lids popped off, ornaments flew around the house, a bookshelf fell over and a figure of the Virgin Mary hit a mirror from 12 feet away. The family believed that the house was built on a Native American burial site, just like the home in “Poltergeist.”

Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock’s Academy Award winning film is based on the novel of the name name by Robert Bloch, which pulls inspiration from serial killer Ed Gein. Although Bloch didn’t initially know of Gein’s activities, he learned about them when his novel was nearly finished and in an interview with horror author Paula Guran, shared “I discovered how closely the imaginary character I’d created resembled the real Ed Gein both in overt act and apparent motivation.”

The Conjuring (2013)

This film, including it’s first sequel and the “Annabelle” spinoffs, are based on the stories of real life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens are some of the most prolific paranormal investigators in modern history and discovered the real Annabelle doll in 1968, which is now held in their occult museum. The house in the film is based on a real home in Rhode Island and seven children have died there over the years.

The Exorcist (1973)

The movie is based on the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty, which took inspiration from the 1949 exorcism of a 14-year-old boy named Roland Doe. Doe grew up in Maryland and after his aunt’s death, began hearing strange noises and furniture or objects moving on their own. This led his family to bring in a Jesuit priest, who performed a series of exorcisms. The events that ensued during his exorcism inspired the now infamous scene from the movie, from Doe shaking the bed to speaking in a demonic voice to causing objects to fly around the room.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

When making this film, writer and director Wes Craven visited the New York Public Library to find inspiration. He came upon the story of Sawney Bean, a cult leader from Scotland who led the murder and cannibalism of over 1,000 people in the span of 25 years. It’s believed that they lived in a cave in Bennane Head and survived by ambushing, murdering and cannibalizing groups of people.

The Shining (1980)

When writing “The Shining,” author Stephen King took inspiration from The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. This hotel was believed to be haunted by ghosts and King even visited the hotel’s most haunted room, 217—which he wrote into the book. He’d had a dream about his then 3-year-old son running frantically around the hotel and gained the inspiration for his story from there.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

While author Robert Bloch knew of Ed Gein’s killings during the end of his novel, Thomas Harris based many aspects of story around the horrifying killer. Harris took inspiration from Gein for the character Buffalo Bill, who created a skin suit from his female victims. He also borrowed from other famous killers, including Jerry Brudos, Ted Bundy, Gary M. Heidnik, Edmund Kemper and Gary Ridgway.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Director Tobe Hooper’s Leatherface, the antagonist of this cult classic film wears masks made of skin—which takes inspiration from Ed Gein. He also decorated his home with bones from his killings and created a couch upholstered using human skin, much like Gein. In the films, he wears numerous human skin masks—including the Old Lady Mask, The Pretty Woman Mask and his famous, Killing Mask.

The Strangers (2008)

Bryan Bertino based the killers from his movie off the Mason Family, specifically their involvement in the Tate-LaBianca murders. On August 8th, 1969 members of the Manson family invaded the home of actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski, murdering a pregnant Tate, as well as her three friends and an 18-year-old boy. The next night, the crew also murdered Leno and Rosemary LaBianca at their home, who’d hosted a party the Manson family had attended a year earlier.

Deranged (1974)

This Canadian horror movie was directed by Tom Karr, who was obsessed with killer Ed Gein and after coming into some money as a concert promoter for Led Zepplin, made this film. Yet, while many elements of the film take inspiration from Gein, it does stray away when it comes to the topic of necrophilia—as Gein never engaged in that.

Jaws (1975)

Based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, the author took inspiration from shark fisherman Frank Mundus when creating the character Quint. Benchley was inspired to write the novel after learning of Mundus’s story in 1964 and included several details of Mundus’s personality in the character, including his hatred of the two-way radio.

Zodiac (2007)

Based on the 1986 book by Robert Graysmith, this movie tells the story of the real Zodiac killer with Jake Gyllenhaal playing Graysmith, Mark Ruffalo playing inspector Dave Toschi and Robert Downey Jr. playing reporter Paul Avery. The movie chronicles the manhunt of the Zodiac Killer, a serial murderer based in San Francisco who operated from the late 1960s through the early 1970s and used encrypted letters to taunt the Bay Area press.