Learn More About the Incredible True Stories Behind These 12 Netflix Original Shows
Netflix's original content library includes some incredible TV shows based on true stories, and there's something for everyone in this selection! Along with a slew of documentary shows and harrowing true crime investigations, Netflix's originals also include semifictionalized depictions of some of the biggest events and figures in history and true stories you might never have heard about until now. It's further proof that, sometimes, reality is even more interesting than the fiction could ever be!
As a bonus: many of these shows are actually miniseries, although some are long-term commitments, so whether you're looking for a weekend binge-watch or something to spread out over a longer period of time, there's definitely plenty of options! Keep reading for 20 of our picks for Netflix originals based on true stories — and see if any of these stories spark an interest in finding out more.
The historical drama is based on a Margaret Atwood novel, which in turn is loosely based on a true crime case: the 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery and the conviction of their servants Grace Marks and James McDermott. In this version, a doctor tries to get to the bottom of Grace's apparent lack of memory of the murders and uncovers something suspicious indeed.
In the 1980s, a professional women's wrestling circuit called the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was founded in an attempt to prove public interest in women's wrestling. Although Netflix's version involves fictional characters and storylines, the concept of GLOW — and its cast of colorful, quirky stars — is very real.
Based on a nonfiction book, Mindhunter follows two FBI agents and a psychologist who interview some of the most horrifying convicted criminals in an attempt to gain knowledge on how they think. In the second season, the focus shifts to a real series of murders between 1979 and 1981, for which one culprit was suspected but could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Drug lord Pablo Escobar led one of the most famous cartels in history. The series traces his rise and fall, along with the DEA agents who were tasked with bringing him down, in a tense thriller that's based on the real pursuit of Escobar.
Orange Is the New Black
Did you know that Netflix's signature original was based on a true story? This long-running story of a women's prison was initially based on a memoir of Piper Kerman (renamed Piper Chapman in the show), who was arrested after laundering money to help her drug dealer girlfriend.
Based on a harrowing true story, this miniseries follows a pair of detectives investigating a series of rapes. Along the way, their story crosses with that of a young woman who was charged with lying about a similar sexual assault, and they set out to prove the truth.
When They See Us
The case of the Central Park Five is one of the most infamous in modern American history. This miniseries traces the teenagers' prosecution, imprisonment, and eventual exoneration, following them through the trauma of the wrongful convictions through to their lawsuits against the city and their later activism work.
Beginning just before Queen Elizabeth II took the throne, The Crown is based on the real — and complicated — lives of the British royal family and the people around them. Spanning decades (complete with cast resets), the show is not a beat-by-beat depiction of history, but combines what we know from history with some imagination about what goes on behind the most famous front doors in the world.
The spinoff of Narcos shifts focus to the drug trade in Mexico (whereas the original series focused on the famous Colombian cartels). As one ambitious drug lord unites several factions to build a nearly unstoppable illegal empire, a DEA agent pursues every possible means to stop him.
A Jewish Egyptian man is rejected from the military and eventually is recruited by the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, to infiltrate the Syrian government at great personal risk. The spy thriller is based on the true story of Eli Cohen, a spy who gathered crucial intelligence ahead of the Six Day War in 1967.
Apache: The Life of Carlos Tevez
This eight-part series is based on the true story of Argentine soccer star Carlos Tevez. After a difficult childhood, involving family upheaval and a terrifying accident that left him permanently scarred, Tevez went on to be a popular and successful athlete on the international stage.
In medieval Florence, the Medici family unofficially ruled the city through political prowess and economic might, but not without a lot of drama and conflict. This series follows the family through multiple generations as they consolidate their power, often with devastating personal consequences.