Binge-watching has become a great comfort and connection as we all stay close to home during this pandemic. Movies based on true events are—in our professional opinion—perfect for getting a dose of personal history along with great storytelling. Here are six of our favorites!
BlacKkKlansmen: Set in the 1970s, this Spike Lee film follows Ron Stallworth, the first Black officer in Colorado Springs. Ron infiltrates a local division of the KKK (pretending to be white while talking on the phone), recruiting his white coworker, Flip, to meet Klan members in person. It’s an absolute rollercoaster of a film—with bonus points for the incredible soundtrack.
Julie & Julia: The stars of this film are the biggest of big names—Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Stanley Tucci. But it’s an RLM must-watch because it’s a twofer: the real-life stories of culinary genius Julia Child and her young acolyte, Julie Powell. Powell’s goal is to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, and to record it all on her blog, and later in a memoir. The relatable and funny screenplay is by Nora Ephron (natch), the last one she wrote before her death in 2012.
Adaptation: This is—quite simply—a crazy movie based on a crazy book (The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean). The meta narrative follows Nicholas Cage as a screenwriter struggling to turn Orlean’s investigation of a Florida orchid poacher (yes, that’s a thing) into a film. Cage stars as both the writer and his own twin brother. Meryl Streep (her again!) is a highly fictionalized version of the super-accomplished Orlean. Lean into the weirdness.
Hidden Figures: RLM is not exactly a STEM kind of company, but we enjoyed every minute of this inspirational film. It’s the fascinating and often-underlooked story of Black NASA mathematicians—Katherine Goble, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan—making huge scientific strides while facing overt racism and sexism. Taraji P. Henson is a boss, and the 1960s fashions are as iconic as the stars!
The Social Network: We all know Facebook, but what you probably don’t know is the real-life drama surrounding its birth. Jesse Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg as a Harvard undergrad who founds a website, called Facemash, devoted to ranking the attractiveness of female students. The twists and turns in the plot, coupled with the incredible soundtrack, make this a movie that’ll entertain you while you consider everything wrong with now-ubiquitous social media.
Unorthodox: Okay, okay—this one’s a TV series, but the four episodes are so easy to binge-watch that it feels like a movie! Esty, born into an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, is trapped in an awful arranged marriage. After escaping to (of all places) Berlin, she starts a new life—one with its own unfamiliar challenges. The raw emotion in this series (loosely based on a wonderful, and highly recommended, memoir by Deborah Feldman) made us cry more than once. Primarily in Yiddish, a first for Netflix, this is a fascinating peek into one woman’s journey of transformation. Shira Haas gives the performance of a lifetime: equal parts vulnerability and power.