Crazy Lifetime Movies That Are Actually Based On True Stories

There are very few people on the fence about Lifetime movies. Either you love to sit down to a night of grisly murders and teens in terrible danger of being kidnapped or trying pot, or you don't. And for true Lifetime movie fans, nothing is more exciting than a film that promises it was "based on a true story."
Because lets face it, if Lifetime was interested in your true story, it wasn't just violent or salacious. It was weird. Super weird, with some twists that make you shudder, and some that make you call your friend just to describe how unbelievable the situation is.
Here are some of the craziest films from the network that brought you The Unauthorized Full House Story and The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story. It's unclear whether these films were "authorized" or not. But what's really surprising is how little Lifetime had to mess with the facts.
1 of 45
Believe Me: The Lisa McVey Story (2018)

Believe Me unspools an unusual abduction story. On November 3, 1984, 17-year-old Lisa McVey was abducted by a serial killer. In order to survive, she develops a relationship with her captor. Eventually, she negotiates her own release. But when she returns home, neither the police nor her family believe her.
2 of 45
The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar

Simone Biles' potential as a gymnast was detected when she was only six years old. After that moment, she devoted her life to a path that would eventually win her three gold medals at the 2016 Olympics. This movie brings her triumphant story to life.
3 of 45
A Tale of Two Coreys (2018)

Corey Haim and Corey Feldman shot into stardom as teenagers in the '90s. With fame came partying, girls, drugs — and a darkness neither could have predicted. Both men were reportedly sexually abused by Hollywood executives.

“Because it is a TV movie they couldn’t go into specifics—like when it came to who Haim’s actual abuser was, we had to sugar coat that and present it in a more TV applicable that way,” Feldman told People. He also said the movie toned down the realities of their lives. “It’s like putting a G rating on an X-rated storyline. There was a lot of sex and drugs that were a part of the story which obviously you can’t show on television.”
4 of 45
Beautiful & Twisted (2015)

This Rob Lowe-starring movie has an abundance of the elements that make true-crime gripping: Kinky sex, money, and murder. Lowe plays Ben Novack, Jr, the heir to a massive hotel fortune. He is found dead not soon after marrying a dancer, Narcy (Paz Vega). Then, Ben's mother is murdered, too. Narcy becomes the center of the investigation.
5 of 45
Happy Face Killer (2014)

In case you've run out of true stories of serial killers, here's another. David Arquette plays Keith Jesperson, who murdered eight women and taunted police with notes that ended in smiley faces. We don't blame you if you want to pass on yet another gruesome serial killer narrative, though.
6 of 45
Prosecuting Casey Anthony (2013)

Lifetime's the expert in fictionalizing famous trials, and casting famous actors as lawyers. In this case, Rob Lowe plays Jeff Ashton, a lawyer prosecuting a woman, Casey Anthony (Virginia Welch), accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter.
7 of 45
Natalee Holloway (2009)

Lifetime has a habit of taking tragedies and turning them into schmaltzy movies. Such is the case with Natalee Holloway, which tells the story of an 18-year-old's disappearance in the Caribbean.
8 of 45
Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story (2011)

J.K. Rowling's life story is incredibly inspirational — but we didn't need a Lifetime biopic to tell us that. In this fictional rendition of the author's life, Harry Potter appears as visions; she finds herself wandering through the woods of her imagination and scrawling pages like a raving lunatic. The biopic borrows from every genius trope in the moviemaking book.
9 of 45
Menendez: Blood Brothers (2017)

On August 20, 1989, brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez killed their parents, Jose and Kitty, while they watched TV in their Beverly Hills living room. Though they're imprisoned without parole, this Lifetime movie attempts to recount new details about the murder, like Jose Menendez' treatment of his sons.
10 of 45
The Capture of the Green River Killer (2008)

At the start of this miniseries, two teenage girls in Washington State turn to prostitution to escape from their grim, abusive homes — and end up encountering another world of terror waiting in the woods. Between the years 1982 and 2002, Detective Reichert worked tirelessly to find the killer who preyed on 71 victims in total, including girls like these. This grisly miniseries was one of the most critically acclaimed, widely viewed Lifetime telecasts of all time.
11 of 45
William and Kate (2011)

We already know the real life fairy tale of how Great Britain's heir to the throne fell in love, and subsequently married, a commoner. But why not relieve a schmaltzy version, Lifetime style?
12 of 45
Anna Nicole (2013)

The melodramatic lifetime movie tracks Anna Nicole Smith's trajectory from small town beauty to Playboy centerfold starlet to an early, tragic demise.
13 of 45
Georgia O'Keeffe (2009)

This dully titled Lifetime movie is about the affair between two great artistic minds: painter Georgia O'Keeffe (hence the title) and photographer Alfred Stieglitz. How they got Jeremy Irons to star in this is slightly beyond us, but hey — enjoy.
14 of 45
Britney Ever After (2017)

The biopic will chronicle Britney Spears' younger days, from her rise to fame to her more troubling days, including her head-shaving incident.

We've already seen a teaser featuring a moment when Spears lashed out at paparazzi, so the film is sure to be an emotional one. Britney Ever After will premiere on February 18.
15 of 45
Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy (2011)

Years before Netflix released its documentary about Amanda Knox, Hayden Panettiere played her in a lifetime movie. Knox was charged with the murder of her roommate while studying abroad in Italy, but she was later acquitted of the crimes.
16 of 45
Coco Chanel (2008)

Shirley MacLaine was nominated for a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the famous fashion designer.
17 of 45
Cries Unheard: The Donna Yaklich Story (1994)

Steroid abuse is a serious subject. Spousal abuse is a serious subject. But it's hard to take anything seriously with peak Lifetime drama mood music and early '90s hair.
18 of 45
Lizzie Borden Took An Ax (2014)

The story of Lizzie Borden, starring everyone's favorite spooky leading lady, Christina Ricci, was so popular it spawned a miniseries.
19 of 45
The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story (2014)

The experience of watching a bunch of teen actors who kind of, sort of look like the stars you grew up watching after school is way crazier than any of the backstage antics the movie explored.
20 of 45
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (2015)

The tragic but infinitely compelling story of Marilyn Monroe's life got the Lifetime treatment in 2015.
21 of 45
Clevleand Abduction (2015)

Orange Is The New Black star Taryn Manning stars in this movie based on the experience of the three women held hostage by Ariel Castro for a decade in his home in Cleveland.
22 of 45
Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story (2003)

Based on the memoir by Liz Murray, Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, the movie follows the life of Murray as she faces incredible odds to get her education.
23 of 45
Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
Girl in the Box (2016)

Colleen Stan was in her early 20s when she was picked up hitchhiking by a couple (played by Zelda Williams and Zane Holtz) who would keep her prisoner for seven years. As part of their torture, they kept Stan in a box under their bed.
24 of 45
Liz & Dick (2012)

This movie didn't give Lindsay Lohan her big comeback. But it did give the internet a pretty essential reaction GIF. Not bad for a film that ranks just 33% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
25 of 45
The Pregnancy Pact (2010)

Once you've finished Googling, "What's Thora Birch been up to these days?" you might then wonder just how much they had to stretch the truth to get a story about a bunch of high school girls purposefully pulling a Juno. Though the high schoolers in Gloucester, Massachusetts, who inspired the film, deny there were any grand plans to become moms before graduation, there were 18 pregnant girls at Gloucester High in 2008.
26 of 45
Who Is Clark Rockefeller? (2010)

How can we quickly convey this man is up to no good? We'll give him a pipe and have him give the camera an evil look! Genius! is a conversation I imagine the Lifetime executives having. The inspiration for the film, Christian Gerhartsreiter, really did convince his then-wife that he was a Rockefeller.
27 of 45
Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story (2011)

An IRL, Not Without My Daughter, Taraji P. Henson starred in this Lifetime movie two years after her Oscar nomination and four years before she became Cookie. The real life Rubin was able to go after her seven-year-old son, who had been kidnapped and taken to South Korea by his father, after she received a tip on her MySpace page.
28 of 45
Abducted: The Carlina White Story (2012)

For fans of Face on the Milk Carton, (and Finding Carter, for the younger set) is this truly terrifying true-life story that will convince you to have a home birth. According to a New York Magazine profile, this is pretty much how White's first call to the missing children hotline went, after twenty-three years of believing her kidnapper was her birth mother.
29 of 45
The Client List (2010)

This Lifetime movie was so gripping (and so full of animal print), that it received its own series. According to a Texas Monthly profile, the biggest liberty the network took was with showing the amount of guilt the "massage therapist" had over her profession. Though, the attention and complications from the job did eventually seem to get to her.
30 of 45
Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal (2008)

It's like someone's B-teen movie script came alive in Texas. Teens cheered, teens jeered, teens took photos of themselves drinking and lounging around an adult toy shop, and faced very few consequences. A solid mix of Mean Girls and Spring Breakers.
31 of 45
Girl Fight (2011)

A Lifetime movie that you would hope came from the twisted mind of a screenwriter, was really ripped from the headlines. A group of high schoolers actually beat a girl (unfortunately believable), then thought it was a great idea to upload actual video evidence of their crime online (though in real life they didn't get a chance to). If only all criminals sought hit-based validation — getting justice would be a lot easier.
32 of 45
Taken in Broad Daylight (2009)

Poor James Van Der Beek (a.k.a. Dawson) donned a ski-cap for his role as the super bold kidnapper in this Lifetime movie. The real life kidnapper got a life sentence for kidnapping and assaulting his teenage victim for six days.
33 of 45
Love, Lies and Murder (1991)

Was anyone else waiting for that Saved By the Bell clip to just pop up amongst the screaming? In 1985 David Brown did allegedly convince his daughter to kill his wife, but not before asking his teenage sister-in-law (who he was also in a relationship with) to do it.
34 of 45
Restless Virgins (2013)

This Lifetime movie could double as a new CW pilot. The film was based on a case in Massachusetts' Milton Academy, where five boys were expelled for receiving oral sex from a fifteen-year-old girl. The sex tape angle was created, I'm guessing, so parents could have even more things to be afraid of.
35 of 45
Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story (2013)

A modern take on Lizzie Borden, this story of possible patricide and matricide gets pretty gruesome.
36 of 45
The Two Mr. Kissels (2008)

John Stamos stars as one of the two incredibly ambitious and competitive brothers who meet very grisly ends at the hands of people they thought they could trust.
37 of 45
The Craigslist Killer (2011)

You'll never feel quite the same about browsing through the internet's favorite place to sell a used couch, or a never been used bike, after watching this movie about a murderer who first got in contact with his victims through Craigslist.
38 of 45
On Thin Ice (2003)

Diane Keaton stars as a woman who finds herself going to desperate measures to provide for her family—but the very thing that she thought would keep them afloat threatens to tear them apart.
39 of 45
The Bling Ring (2011)

Before Emma Watson played one of the infamous teenage thieves on the big screen, Lifetime tackled the adolescent crime spree.
40 of 45
Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal (2008)

This film is basically what happens when you mix Bring it On with Law and Order.
41 of 45
Odd Girl Out (2005)

Though the details of this tale of adolescent bullying saga are fictional, it's based on the nonfiction book of the same name examining how vicious middle and high school cliques can be.
42 of 45
Gracie's Choice (2004)

Kristen Bell stars in this story, based a Reader's Digest profile, of a teen who adopts her younger siblings so the family won't be split up.
43 of 45
Not Like Everyone Else (2006)

A bullying story with a freedom of speech twist, this movie follows the case of Brandi Blackbear, a teen who was targeted by school officials because of her love of writing dark horror short stories.
44 of 45
Too Young To Die? (1994)

This legal thriller was inspired by the story of Attina Marie Cannaday, a teenager who faced the death penalty after she went on a crime spree.
45 of 45
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of celebrity news, fun takes on pop culture, and trending stories on the Refinery29 Entertainment Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Movies


R29 Original Series