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.
7. Apollo 13: 1995, directed by Ron Howard, starring Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell, Kevin Bacon as Jack Swigert and Bill Paxton as Fred Haise.
Taking place during the late 60s, early 70s, Apollo 13 is based on a book entitled Lost Moon, written by Jim Lovell himself and Jeffrey Kluger. The book itself is based on the real life events of the Apollo 13 space mission, in which Lovell, Swigert and Haise were sent into space facing serious system failures, such as depleting oxygen or low power.
While in launch, the central engine shut down two minutes early, causing the 4 outer engines to run longer than necessary. The rocket still flew into space as planned and the problem was left alone. Later on, the mission control center told Swigert to turn on the hydrogen and oxygen gas tanks which would help them breathe under the freezing temperatures. The gas tank exploded, causing system failures and power outages, while the pressure went to 1000 pounds per inch. That new pressure caused the bolts of an outer “skin” to break off and hit an antenna, which temporarily caused the mission control to lose communications with the ship. The ship switched from narrow band mode to wide band mode, and communications between the ship and the mission control was restored.
With the oxygen gas tank leaking, the astronauts were to depend on the reserve tanks. This also caused freezing temperatures within the command module and the crew was forced to abort the lunar landing. The crew was then forced to completely shut down the rocket, so it would save energy and allow the moon’s gravity to pull the rocket to the earth. By shutting down, the rocket was able to save enough energy to move towards the earth, allowing inertia and gravity to do the rest. With a makeshift “pipe” holding the gas from leaking, the crew was able to deploy the Command Module Odyssey, separating the Lunar Module Aquarius (since the rocket had two modules- the lunar module was damaged so they used the command module). The Odyssey landed in the Pacific Ocean, a few miles southeast of the American Samoa and the ship USS Iwo Jima. Boarding the ship, all three astronauts were fine, although Haise has a tract infection.
Overall, the film stayed closely on the path with the actual story. Even Jim Lovell, Gene Kranz (Ed Harris in the film) and others had said that the movie is accurate, although some parts were dramatized. The film crew themselves were trained with Jim Lovell and David Scott (astronaut of Apollo 15) and learned every use of over the 500 buttons and switches found in the modules. They were then taken to a NASA simulation of weightlessness in the Johnson Space Center, where they learned how to control their movements as well as film the space sequences of the movie. Ed Harris, Gary Sinise and other actors portraying the flight attendants were trained in a flight controller school taught by Apollo 13 director, Gerry Griffin. They studied the real life events of the flight controllers and ever said word for word what the real controllers said.
Besides some of the technical goofs made by the movie, there is one thing that stands out the most: Marilyn Lovell (Kathleen Quinlan) did get her ring back from the drain.