Top Movies Based on True Stories: Saving Private Ryan

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.

5. Saving Private Ryan: 1998, directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks as Captain John H. Miller, Tom Sizemore as Sergeant Mike Horvath, and Adam Goldberg as Private Stanley Mellish.

Winning 5 out of 11 Oscar nominations and landing 45th on AFI’s Top 100 movies, this movie has gone on to be well known for its graphic- but literal- violence. It even beat out other great war films in UK to be called (UK’s) Channel 4 greatest war film of all times. Having been the greatest film to gross domestically of 1998, the film has been known to not steer away from the truth, but rather to embrace it fully.

Although the movie is harshly criticized for being “loosely based” on the Niland brothers (the brothers that died and is the reason that Miller’s platoon are in search of the last brother-Matt Damon), it is thought of as the most realistic depiction of the D-Day landings. It goes on to claim that the Ryan brothers have all been killed and the last one must be found to avoid wiping out an entire family. Frederick “Fritz,” Robert “Bob,” Preston, and Edward Niland were the four brothers sent into the war from New York (although the film states the Ryans were from Iowa). Frederick was part of the 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment and fought through D-Day. He later traveled to the 82nd Airborne Division in hopes of finding his brother Robert, and to his dismay, he was told that Robert had died (Robert volunteered to stay behind and stop an advancing German troop). Preston had died in action on Utah Beach and his other brother Edward was missing, presumed dead. For a while, he was believed to be the only Niland alive, so he was ordered out of the warm first traveling to England and then arriving in New York to serve as military police. The twist here is that in actuality, Edward, part of the Air Force, was shot down and had parachuted through the Burma jungles, only to be captured by the Japanese. He remained a prisoner of war for almost a year until he was rescued and brought back to his home in New York.

Remember that incredibly unbelievable sniper shot Jackson (Barry Pepper) made? Well, believe it or not, this actually happened in the Vietnam War with Carlos Hathcock- he shot a sniper through his scope. Though many people couldn’t believe it, MythBusters tested it out and found that it was pretty much true (although their shot hit the dummy above the eyebrow, not in the eye like the movie). Also, MythBusters also tested out the opening scene, where bullets pierced through the water and still had enough force to be lethal. This turned out to be false, that no matter how fast or close [to the water] the bullet is, after a foot or so, it loses power and just drifts.

Overall, the film is loosely based on the story of the Niland Brothers, so there it should not be taken into account the differences between the Nilands and the “Ryans.” However, most of the graphic images seen (within the first half hour of the film) are true and portray the war almost accurately. For a similar movie, watch The Fighting Sullivans, a movie about brothers as well.

Rating: 9/10 ★★★★★★★★★

I’d give it a 9/10 since it keeps you very intrigued, and is able to capture within the film and realize just how it was like to try to breach Normandy, and then fight in the war overall. Mostly, it’s the emotional fight the soldiers have with not only those around them but themselves as well.



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