There are hundreds of movies based on true stories- some that are made direct to DVD or for TV, and others that are released in theaters. The list below names the top movies (in my opinion) that are based on true stories. Not only are they rated by just how widely known they are, but just how close they stick to the actual occurrence of events.
3. Casino: 1995, directed by Martin Scorsese starring Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna and Joe Pesci as Nicky Santoro.
Yes, one of the many Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese team ups, this movie was adapted from a book by Nicholas Pileggi -yes, just like Goodfellas – again involving De Niro, Pesci and Scorsese. The film garnered an Oscar nod for Sharon Stone, as well as Golden Globe nominations for Stone and Scorsese. It was also nominated to be part of AFI’s Top 100 Movies and Top 10 Gangster Movies. It even has a Guinness World Record for most uses of the word “fuck,” a whopping 422 times, or about 2 and a half times a minute.
Being adapted from a true story was something hard for Scorsese to say, since there happens to be a difference between “based” on a true story and “adapted” from a true story. Pileggi and Scorsese worked on a script for 5 months, and many of the characters were “remade” for cinematic effect, and the setting was changed from Chicago to Las Vegas. Although the real “Ace” (Frank “”Lefty” Rosenthal) owned many casinos (including the Stardust, Hacienda, Fremont and Marina), Scorsese and Pileggi decided it would be best if they focused only on the Tangiers Casino since they believed it would be too much for the audience and leave them uninterested and confused. And again, trying to avoid confusion from the audience, the first scene was changed from a fight between Sam and Ginger to Sam being thrown from the car explosion, resembling a soul going to hell.
Pesci’s Nicky character was based on Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro, and Ginger McKenna was based on Geraldine McGee Rosenthal. Kevin Pollak’s character of Phillip Green was based on Allen Glick. Just as the movie depicts, the mafia did pressure the teamsters to loan the Argent Corporation (owned by Glick) money to buy the casinos. And remember that scene in which a scammer’s hand gets pounded with a hammer? That also happened in real life, but it involved more than two people. (Fun fact: this technique is called spooking, and is legal in Nevada today, but since the scammers used electronics to signal each other, hence it became illegal). Lester Diamond (James Woods) is really Lenny Marmor. and he and Geraldine had a child named Robin. Geraldine later met Frank, and the two also had Stephanie (in the movie) and Steven.
Nicky’s family gang was called “The Hole in the Wall Gang” since he (Anthony) and his brothers would cut holes into walls and ceilings to steal from homes and stores. That famous “head vice” (warning: clip is graphic) scene also happened in real life, and Scorsese only put it in the movie as a “sacrifice” scene so the MPAA would overlook other violent scenes within the movie.
In all, the movie is a perfect representation of a certain part of Lefty’s life. Virtually everything that happened in the movie happened in real life except that Lefty never juggled on his show nor did the FBI agents run out of fuel. (They had mechanical problems that caused them to land near Rosenthal’s backyard.) And yes, Rosenthal indeed survived a car explosion because of a metal plate, although his driver’s door was opened. Rosenthal also ordered there to be an equal number of blueberries, stating that there should be at least ten per muffin. Lastly, Anthony and his brother were beaten together and buried in a cornfield, but they were actually told that they were promoted to higher ranks in the mob. The two were driven to a Bensenville, Illinois mob home where they were beaten to death and later buried in a Enos, Illinois cornfield.