15 Nonfiction Books That Became Movies With Fascinating Stories

From regular movies to Netflix, Amazon Prime movies, and more, each year, we are seeing more books that are turned to great movies. While the big screen is dominated by the adaptation of fictional books, there are also many nonfiction books that became movies and they have so much to deliver, probably even better than fiction.

Apart from having it at the back of your mind that these nonfiction adaptations are real things that happened, they also come with all the entertainment values that you get with fiction and they cut across genres.

Nonfiction Books That Became Movies

1. Travelling to Infinity – Jane Hawking

The Theory of Everything (Image Source)

This is one of the nonfiction books that became movies and it was written by the first wife of one of the greatest American scientists, Stephen Hawking. In the work, Jane Hawking captures her marriage to Hawking and all the challenges that fame brought as well as the battles she faced being married to someone who needed care at all times. She also captured their traumatic divorce as well as reconciliation.

A very emotional work, it has been adapted into the film, The Theory of Everything which was directed by James Marsh. It has won various awards and nominations including Oscar nominations for the best adapted screenplay, best actress, and best original score. Eddie Redmayne took home the Academy Awards for best actor as well as the Golden Globe Award.

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2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – Laura Hillenbrand

Nonfiction Books That Became Movies
Unbroken (Image Source)

In this 2010 biographical work, the story of survival and perseverance is captured in a very interesting manner. It tells about Louie Zamperini, a US Olympia who served in the Second World War. Zamperini grew up as a troublemaker who ends up representing the US at the 1936 Olympics. When World War II came, his career ended and he joined the air corps. By the time the war was over, he had become a survivor- coming out of a plane crash, surviving 47 days on a raft, and surviving Japanese prisoner-of-war camps where he was brutalized for two-and-a-half years.

The book has been adapted into the 2014 film, Unbroken which was directed by Angelina Jolie. With Academy Awards nominations, it won a Hollywood Film Awards, MPSE Golden Reel Awards, and Saturn Awards, among others.

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3. Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family – Nicholas Pileggi

Nonfiction Books That Became Movies
Goodfellas (Image Source)

When he was just 11, Henry Hill began his journey into becoming a notorious criminal. He rose from one rank to the other. 4 years into his life of crime, he was arrested for using stolen cards but would not cooperate with the police. This won him the respect of the mafia boss and American mobster, Paul Vario. The book goes on to tell how Hill would rise and fall as a criminal who later became a police informant.

The book was adapted into the 1990 Martin Scorsese directed movie Goodfellas. The movie got five BAFTA awards and six Academy Awards nominations.

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4. A Night to Remember – Walter Lord

Nonfiction Books That Became Movies
A Night To Remember (Image Source)

In this book, Walter Lord is able to capture what is still seen as the most accurate events of the sinking of the Titanic. Written masterfully, this 1955 work is based on the interviews Walter carried out with survivors of the tragedy. Everything from the tragedy itself to the reaction of crew members and passengers.

Among nonfiction books that became movies, the book has been adapted into a movie using the same title in 1958. The British drama-film was directed by Roy Ward Baker and it still remains one of the most compelling Titanic stories told.

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5. Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 – Jeffrey Kluger and Jim Lovell

Apollo 13 (Image Source)

First published in 1994, this non-fiction work is based on the actual events of April 1970 which saw the failed Apollo 13 lunar landing. The mission which became the third in the Apollo program that was aimed at landing man on the moon was aborted after an onboard explosion of a liquid oxygen tank.

The work has been adapted into the Ron Howard directed movie, Apollo 13 of 1955.

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6. The Accidental Billionaires – Ben Mezrich

This book which is titled The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal was written and originally published in 2009. It tells the story of how Facebook began and how Mark Zuckerberg who is the protagonist of the work became the main man behind the social networking site after outplaying his other friends.

The book which ended at a time when legal battles were still being fought between those involved, was adapted into the 2010 film, The Social Network which was directed by David Fincher and made by Columbia Pictures.

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7. Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History – George Crile

This book captures what is arguably the biggest covert operation in history. It tells of how US Senator Charlie Wilson got involved in the Cold War as well as the arming of the Jihad freedom fighters in Afghanistan. Among nonfiction books that became movies, one may easily have the feeling that this will be a boring one to watch, but it is not. It is packed with political intrigues, action, and suspense.

The book has been adapted into the film, Charlie Wilson’s War in 2007. It was directed by Mike Nichols and has got both Golden Globes and Academy Awards nomination Mike Nichols.

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8. In the Heart of the Sea – Nathaniel Philbrick

In 1820, the Whaler Essex was lost in the Pacific Ocean after it was attacked by a sperm whale. While in the open ocean, those that survived fed on those that died in the tragedy and when that was not even enough, they had to sacrifice some for others to live. The travails were captured in different works including In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex which was published in 2000.

In 2015, it was adapted into a film of the same name.

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9. The Perfect Storm – Sebastian Junger

Written by Sebastian Junger, this work tells the story of events of 1991 in which the Andrea Gail boat and its crew members were caught in a massive storm that destroys its antenna and leaves the crew lost. With much effort to save their lives, no one on the ship returns home, not even their bodies.

The book was adapted into a movie in 2000, three years after it was released. The tragic movie was directed by Wolfgang Petersen and it got two Academy Awards nominations.

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10. Dead Man Walking – Helen Prejean

Nonfiction Books That Became Movies
Dead Man Walking (Image Source)

In this work, Helen Prejean captures the story of a convicted killer who has been sentenced to death. Prejean, a reverend sister, looks at the life of the murderer as he awaits his fate as well as the rage of the families of those who have been killed as well as those whose job is to carry out the execution. She tries to balance all these in relations to Christian teaching of love and forgiveness, ending with a masterpiece of a book.

The book was adapted to a movie in 1995 and was directed by Tom Robbins. The movie got four Academy Awards nominations, from which it won one, as well as a Golden Globes nomination.

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11. All the President’s Men – Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

This is one of the most important books out there on investigative journalism. But more than that,  it is also important as that book that brought down a president. It tells about Watergate in a way only it tells. The book chronicles the investigations of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward on the Watergate scandal. The book was adapted into a movie in 1976.

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12. The Wolf of Wall Street – Jordan Belfort

The Wolf of Wall Street is a memoir of Jordan Belfort, a young man employed into a Wall Street brokerage firm. He would go on to found his own firm which he uses in defrauding people of millions. While he keeps having the time of his life, the FBI and SEC close in on him.

The book was adapted into a very successful 2013 movie which was directed by Martin Scorsese.

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13. Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally

This is an award-winning book novel which tells about a Nazi Party member, Oskar Schindler who saves the lives of 1200 Jews from concentration camps in Germany and Poland. The work is a historical fiction which means that there is some part of it that has been fictionalized even though most of it is actually from events in the past.

It has been adapted into the 1993 film, Schindler’s List and was directed by Steven Spielberg.

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14. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

In 1959, there was a murder in the farming community of Holcomb, Kansas. This non-fiction novel is on the murder which had four members of the Herbert Clutter family as the victims. Inasmuch as there were other works of nonfiction on the crime, this book is considered to be one of the most important.

It was adapted into a movie of the same name in 1967 and was directed by Richard Brooks.

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See Also:

15. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game – Michael Lewis

This is one of the great sports nonfiction books that became movies. It looks at how baseball teams pick their players based on statistics of performance rather than scouts who have always been highly skilled in getting the right players for teams.

It was adapted into a sports film in 2011 and was directed by Steven Zaillian.

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Chux Dezman
Chux Dezman
Chux has been writing and editing for several major websites and publications for over 16 years, when he is not crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s, you might catch him at home watching his favourite TV shows


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