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8 TV Series Based on True Stories To Watch on Netflix

Writing more blog posts about Netflix (my one true love) has been at the top of my to-do list for a long time but there’s been very little action on my part. Can you guess what I’ve been doing?

Yeah… watching Netflix.

I had a wake up call yesterday when I asked my Instagram followers for recommendations for what to watch and I’d already watched pretty much every, single show recommended. I really need to get out more.

An excuse I’ll often use to make myself feel better after I’ve spent the day binge watching an another entire series on Netflix is that they can often be really educational, if you pick the right show. So here are 7 TV shows based on true stories, which are all available on Netflix.

They’ve taught me about the American legal and prison system, the FBI’s serial crime unit, the extraordinary birth of Nasty Gal, the history of the British royal family and the wealthiest criminal in history. Who knew Netflix could be so informative?

Keep reading to find out more about these series based on true stories:

TV Series Based on True Stories To Watch on Netflix

The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story

The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story is a fictional adaptation of the real O. J. Simpson murder case, or People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson (I’m a law student ok)

Even if you have never heard of this case, I can guarantee that you will have, at some point in your life, been influenced by this case. This case is responsible for the fame of the Kardashian family. You might have heard of them.

Robert Kardashian, the father of the Kardashian girls, was part of the team of attorneys defending his good friend OJ Simpson, a famous NFL player in the 90s.

In 1994, OJ Simpson was tried for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman. Despite overwhelming evidence indicating his guilt, OJ Simpson was found by the jury to be “not guilty”.

Say what? 

The true story really is quite as unbelievable as it sounds. OJ Simpson was found not guilty. I hope I haven’t just spoiled the whole series for anyone but this was the most publicised trial in America’s history and it is infamous for its final judgement so this really shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

I hope the fact that this is based on a legal case to put anyone off watching this because it is honestly one of the most interesting and shocking stories from recent American history.

This adaptation gives viewers a fantastic look into the American criminal justice system as well as all the juicy details from one of the most incredible news stories from the 90s.

Watching this, you could honestly believe that this is a fictional drama because some of the things that happen just seem so outrageous but that’s what makes it all the more interesting.

All the facts in this drama are based on the real-life trial and it is one of the best, if not the best, TV series based on true events. I was gripped from beginning to end and really wish I’d been old enough at the time to have read the news in real-time, but this will have to do.

Watch American Crime Story on Netflix here.

TV Series Based on True Stories To Watch on Netflix

Mindhunter

A question most people ask when watching this show is: is Mindhunter based on a true story? Unfortunately, it is.

Mindhunter is based on the true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker.

It revolves around a couple of FBI agents working in the 1970s just when the first steps were being made into criminal psychology and profiling.

They start interviewing notorious serial killers who are imprisoned in order to try and understand their motives and thus solve ongoing murder cases.

Whilst I would highly recommend the other 5 shows on this list to anyone and everyone, Mindhunter is one that will most certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea.

I found it to be highly interesting but thoroughly disturbing and I know many people who didn’t really feel comfortable finishing the series.

Throughout the interview process, the incarcerated serial killers are probed about their innermost thoughts, feelings and desires. These include Ed Kemper, Charles Manson and more.

Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) uses some unauthorised techniques to get the convicted killers to talk, which are highly uncomfortable to watch.

What’s perhaps most disturbing is that the FBI agents and serial killers are all modelled on real characters and much of the dialogue is taken from real interviews with these serial killers.

Mindhunter is definitely one of the most disturbing shows I have ever seen, which is obviously exacerbated by the fact that it is mostly based on true accounts of serial killers. Not for the faint-hearted, but grossly fascinating.

Purchase the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit on Amazon now before you watch the series!

Watch Mindhunter on Netflix now here.

When They See Us

When They See Us is a four-part series that dramatises the real-life story of 5 boys who were wrongfully convicted of rape when they were still teenagers.

They later came to be known as the “Central Park 5” as they were found guilty in the “Central Park jogger case” in which Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old white woman was beaten and raped.

These boys were unjustifiably pursued by the detectives who wanted to paint these five as guilty even though there was no evidence against them whatsoever. They were questioned using brutal tactics and without their parents present.

The system completely and utterly failed them and each spent somewhere between 6 and 14 years of their lives in prison. For a crime they knew nothing about.

One boy, Korey Wise, was sent straight to an adult, male prison because he was just over 16 at the time he was accused, whilst the other boys went to juvenile facilities and were released much sooner. At 16, he was still a child himself.

When They See Us is incredibly moving but a hard (and necessary) watch in a time when we need to amplify black voices. It’s directed by Ava DuVernay, an incredibly talented, female director who also directed 13th, an eye-opening documentary on Netflix.

Watch When They See Us on Netflix here

Check out this article to see where those 5 men are now.

Donate to charities like The Innocence Project to help others like the Central Park 5 get their freedom.

The Crown Season 1 - Netflix True Story

The Crown

Gah where do I even start with The Crown? The Crown is one of Netflix’s most successful television series (and thank God because it cost a whopping £10 million to make!) and since its debut, Queen Lillibet has captured hearts all over the globe.

I must say before watching The Crown, I had very little interest in the British Royal Family, particularly the more elderly royals such as Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

However, all it took was one episode of The Crown and I was hooked. There I am rewatching the opening scene from the London Olympics where Daniel Craig, Queen Elizabeth II and her corgis make their way to the Olympic Stadium on YouTube. There I am, shedding a tear.

Of course, a lot of the story is dramatised, but the main events in The Crown are generally seen to be fairly true to life from the research (lots of it) that I’ve done online.

In seasons 1 and 2 of The Crown you’ll see some of the Royal Family’s biggest moments from the 20th century. This includes the abdication of King Edward, the coronation of King George, Queen Elizabeth’s marriage and the King’s subsequent death.

Then there’s the Queen’s coronation, the births of her children, the scandal of Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend, Winston Churchill’s second time in office and more. Yes, all that and more!

One of the central plot lines to the show is the marriage between the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Whilst most of this is based on speculation, as the Royal Family are rather private on such matters, as far as I’m aware, everything has been inspired by little snippets from their family or their friends over the years and major scandals as well.

The role of the Royal Family today when it comes to the rule of our country has been significantly diminished. However, it has not yet disappeared entirely and a lot has changed during Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that the Royal Family have no influence over government anymore but that is not entirely true. What a lot of people don’t know either, is just how much influence the government have over the Royal Family.

If you’re of the opinion that the Royal Family are currently nothing but mere figureheads, then I would highly recommend that you watch The Crown so you can gain a greater understanding of exactly what Queen Elizabeth’s role has been over the years, and why she is so beloved today.

Watch The Crown on Netflix here.

TV Series Based on True Stories To Watch on Netflix

Narcos

I think I was a significant way through Narcos on Netflix before I realised that it was a true story TV series. Pablo Escobar, the lead character, really did exist and was the wealthiest criminal in history.

In fact, he was also one of the wealthiest men in the world at his peak. He was a Colombian drug lord, nicknamed “The King of Cocaine”.

The progression of Escobar’s “career” as a drug lord is followed pretty accurately in Narcos actually and all the details about his operations, his rise to prominence, the methods he used to remain on top are true.

Watching the series knowing that most of it is in some way true is really quite shocking and it made me hungry to find out more about the drug wars in South America and what the current situation is.

I think the best sorts of TV shows are those that inspire you to actually find out more about different countries, different periods, different social issues etc and Narcos is definitely at the top of the list of shows that do that.

If you want further proof of just how vicious this family were, check out this article on NME about the Narcos location scout who ended up dead. Then Escobar’s brother sent Netflix some chilling messages. Coincidence? I think not.

Buy the Narcos boxset on Amazon here.
Watch Narcos on Netflix here.

TV Series Based on True Stories To Watch on Netflix #whatshotblog

Girlboss

Girlboss is the televised series based on Sophia Amoruso’s bestselling book, #Girlboss. The book is a non-fiction account of the CEO of Nasty Gal, a multi-million clothing brand.

It works as a sort of autobiography but also an inspirational book for getting your life and career on track, so it can’t have been easy to fashion this into a television show.

Unfortunately, this series was met with mixed reviews. The most common complaint was that the series didn’t seem to reflect the girl in the book at all. They thought the portrayal of Sophia was inaccurate and the just downright annoying. These comments annoy me so much.

People seem to have forgotten that the book version of #Girlboss is written by a 30 year old Sophia Amoruso and often mentions how when she was younger she could be rude, she would steal etc.

So why are people surprised when the televised version, of a 20-something Sophia Amoruso, portrays a different sort of tone?

There are 10 years between the person writing the book and the person on the TV show so it’s no surprise that they are very, very different. That’s just a sign of how far Sophia Amoruso has come!

Personally, I think it’s a pretty good portrayal of the girl Sophia describes herself as in her youth. It shows her to be tenacious, punchy, quite rude, but very driven. It’s not the best show on Netflix but it is a good adaptation and will be of interest to those who’ve read the book or those who are fans of the brand.

Check out my review of The Girlboss Workbook here.
Buy #Girlboss on Amazon here.

Watch Girlboss on Netflix here.

TV Series Based on True Stories To Watch on Netflix

Making a Murderer

Making a Murderer is a true-crime documentary aired on Netflix that tells the story of Steven Avery. This man spent almost two decades in jail for the wrongful conviction of attempted murder and sexual assault.

He was released in 2003 only to be arrest again two years later and then convicted for another murder. The first season documents the years between 1985 and 2007 and also focus on Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, who was convicted as an accessory to murder.

The first season was filmed over a whopping ten years and has won numerous awards including four Emmy awards. It was followed by a second season which showed the aftermath of the two men’s convictions.

Making a Murderer is almost the opposite to The People v OJ Simpson as we follow the plight of a man likely framed for murder. It’s well worth a watch for a fascinating insight into the injustices that take place in our world and how the legal system can fail those who rely on it.

Watch Making a Murderer on Netflix here.

TV Series Based on True Stories To Watch on Netflix

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black is based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, entitled: Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.

What is true is that she was involved with a woman, Nora Jansen in this case, who was both her lover and a drug smuggler. She made several trips with Jansen around the world, even carrying a suitcase of laundered money for her.

She was later caught and sentenced to prison for 15 months. Whilst the show is initially based on Piper Kerman’s experiences in prison, the show is mostly fictionalised. For more info on how much of Orange is the New Black is based on the truth, check out this article on Grazia.

Orange Is the New Black is one of Netflix’s most-watched original series so it’s well worth a watch though I would take the portrayal of a women’s prison with a pinch of salt in the later series.

Buy Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison on Amazon here.

Watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix here.

So there you have my top seven Netflix series based on true stories that are available to watch now. There are some other TV shows which are based on characters that really did exist but have perhaps taken too many liberties with real history.

This includes shows like Medici: Masters of Florence. I was absolutely crazy about this show when it came out but I’ve been told it’s not the best adaptation of the Medici family at the time.

Do you have any more TV series based on true stories to recommend? Share your favourites in the comments below!

If you liked this post, check out these:
10 Reasons Why Orange is the New Black Season 3 Sucked
15 of the Top TV Series to Binge Watch Now
The Perfect Movie for Any Occasion
Altered Carbon Netflix Review

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TV Series Based on True Stories To Watch on Netflix #whatshotblog

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[This article was first published in 2018 and updated in 2020]

SusanEtc

Saturday 2nd of June 2018

Narcos was by far that series I intended to just watch one episode of and kept going. My entire family ended up watching 2 seasons over 3 days haha. LOVE The Crown too! I'm nervous about how I'll feel about a new season with a new cast and I'm also nervous about who they'll cast as Diana eek - previous on screen depictions haven't been great!