9 Netflix Shows That You Didn’t Know Were Based on True Stories

We love fiction, but some great TV shows are loosely based on real events that happened. These dramatized versions of true stories make for some compelling television. Here are some of the best and greatest shows based on true stories.

Dramatized Versions

Gillian Jacobs as Mary Jayne Gold and Corey Stoll as Graham Patterson in Transatlantic
Image Credit: Anika Molnar/Netflix.

These shows are dramatized versions of events that really happened, and some stick closer to the truth than others. So, while some of the characters and events actually happened, these are not documentaries and should not be used as historical references.


Danielle Macdonald in UNBELIEVABLE.
Image Credit: Beth Dubber/Netflix.

Inspired by the real events in The Marshall Project and ProPublica Pulitzer Prize-winning article, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, and the This American Life radio episode, “Anatomy of Doubt”, with episodes directed by Oscar nominees Susannah Grant and Lisa Cholodenko, “Unbelievable” tells the story if Marie Adler who files a police report claiming she’s been sexually assaulted by an intruder in her home.


Gillian Jacobs as Mary Jayne Gold and Corey Stoll as Graham Patterson in Transatlantic
Image Credit: Anika Molnar/Netflix.

Netflix’s newest show is based on the true story of several heroes who helped Jews and others escape Marseilles, France, as it fell under German occupation in WWII.


The story is true, and Varian Fry, Mary-Jayne Gold, Albert Otto Hirschman, and Hiram Bingham were real people who really helped Jews escape from the Villa Air-Bel. However, many of the details are conjecture or fictionalized. Many of the other characters are based on composites of other people who existed at the time.


Inventing Anna

Inventing Anna. Julia Garner as Anna Delvery in episode 103 of Inventing Anna

The Shonda Rhimes limited series Inventing Anna incorporates numerous real-life wild events from the life of Anna Delvey/Sorokin; however, the show acknowledges in each episode’s beginning that a significant portion of the content is fictional.


Alias Grace

Alias Grace
Image Credit: Sabrina Lantos/Netflix.

This mini-series is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a poor, young Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who, along with stable hand James McDermott was convicted of the brutal murders of their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery in 1843. However, the story depicted in the show, while based on true people, is almost all fictionalized.


The Crown

The Crown
Image Credit: Netflix.

Based on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, this show has sparked controversy because of how closely the show follows real events (as well as depicting people who are still living). While the events are true, and the show is based on eyewitness accounts, interviews, and written material, the show is a dramatized and imagined version of what actually occurred behind the closed doors of the most famous family in the world.


The Watcher

The Watcher. (L to R) Jennifer Coolidge as Karen Calhoun, Naomi Watts as Nora Brannock, Bobby Cannavale as Dean Brannock in episode 101 of The Watcher
Image Credit: Eric Liebowitz/Netflix.

The Watcher, a story about a family that was stalked in their new home, is inspired by a true story. However, the creators took many creative licenses, including changing the names of the people involved in the story.

Orange is The New Black

Taylor Schilling in OITNB Orange is the New Black
Image Credit: Paul Shiraldi/Netflix.

Based on the book of the same name, this Netflix Original show is based on the true story of Piper Chapman, who was sent to jail for drug trafficking. The show follows the book for the first season but then deviates drastically for further seasons.


Enola Holmes 2

Enola Holmes 2. Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes
Image Credit: Alex Bailey/Netflix.

This is a movie, not a show, but the story is so interesting I just had to include it.

Enola Holmes 2 is obviously a fictional story based on the famous books Sherlock Holmes books. However, the Matchgirl’s Strike did happen and was a pivotal moment in the fight for worker’s protection. Sarah Chapman was also a real person, but she obviously, never met the fictional Enola Holmes.



Pêpê Rapazote in Narcos Season 3
Image Credit: Nicole Rivelli/NETFLIX.

This raw, gritty series is based on the real-life stories of the drug kingpins of the late 1980s and the efforts of law enforcement to meet them head-on in brutal, bloody conflict.

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Timothy Olyphant, Drew Barrymore in Santa Clarita Diet Season 2
Image Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix.

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Marco Polo
Image Credit: Phil Bray/Netflix.

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Outer Banks. Rudy Pankow as JJ in episode 303 of Outer Banks

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Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. Sarma Melngailis in Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Netflix.

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Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in episode 205 of Bridgerton

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This article was produced by Swoon Hub and syndicated by A Dime Saved. 

Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.