25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

A lot of kidnappings unfortunately never get discovered, and that mystery is what piques people’s interest. Filmmakers have also come to the same conclusion and decided to make a lot of kidnapping movies based on true events.

In this article, we are bringing you the best kidnapping movies based on real-life events you can watch right now. Still, choose your next watch carefully, as some of the movies on this list are pretty disturbing.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Victor (Eddie Marsan) and Danny (Martin Compston) met in prison while serving their sentence and fell in love. At liberty, they come up with a plan to get as much money as possible as quickly as possible: they will kidnap Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), the daughter of a rich businessman.

Seemingly they took care of everything, they secured a room where they would keep her, and carefully abducted her, but they didn’t count on the resistance she would offer…

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

The FBI is desperate to find a vicious serial killer known as Buffalo Bill, who kidnaps and flays women. The director of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Division, Jack Crawford, sends Clarice Starling, an FBI academy recruit, to interrogate the infamous Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant forensic psychiatrist turned cannibalistic serial killer, in the hopes of encountering a clue.

The highly educated Lecter initially refuses to give any information, but eventually calls Clarice back to his cell and tells her in the form of riddles about one of his former patients. In exchange for details from her past, he gives her clues that may lead her to the killer.

Solving the puzzle leads Starling to land owned by Benjamin Raspail, a late patient of Lecter’s, in whose car she finds a head in a bowl…

Saw (2004)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Two young men who do not know each other find themselves trapped in an unknown space. After the initial shock, they find a dictaphone and learn that they are in the hands of a psychopath who intended for them to play a “game” of survival in which they will either have to kill each other or cut off a part of their body.

Namely, this is an incredibly cruel killer whose “games” are a trademark, and who the police have been looking for for a long time. As quickly as possible, the heroes must figure out how to escape from his clutches…

Captain Phillips (2013)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

The plot of the film focuses on the relationship between the captain of the ship Alabama, Richard Phillips (two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks) and the Somali pirate leader, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who kidnaps him.

Phillips and Muse find themselves in unstoppable trouble when Muse and his gang attack Phillips’ unarmed ship; deep in the open sea, 145 miles off the coast of Somalia, the two will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.

High and Low (1963)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

In the midst of an attempt to take over his company, a powerhouse executive is hit with a huge ransom demand when his servant’s son is kidnapped. An adaption of Ed McBain’s detective novel King’s Ransom.

An American Crime (2007)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

John Ridley, the screenwriter of the Oscar-winning film “12 Years a Slave”, is behind the anthology series that provides an up-close look at the racial, class and gender conflicts that occur every day in the United States of America. The series won over the audience and critics, and in 2015 it was nominated for an Emmy in as many as ten categories.

Prisoners (2013)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His 6-year-old daughter Anna and her friend Joy are missing. The best clue is provided by a dilapidated van that was parked on their street just before. The main investigator, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrests the driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but has to let him go due to lack of evidence.

As the police follow several leads and tension rises, knowing his child’s life is at stake, a crazed Dover decides to take matters into his own hands. How far is a desperate father willing to go for his family?

Blue Velvet (1986)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Young Jeffrey Beaumont (K. MacLachlan) grows up in a typical American town where nothing interesting happens. His routine changes when he finds a human ear in the grass by the side of the road. He takes it to the police station where it is determined that the ear has been cut off with scissors and that its former owner may still be alive.

The local police engage in a more thorough investigation, but Jeffrey finds their methods too slow, so with the help of the police chief’s daughter, blonde Sandy (L. Dern), he decides to bring the truth to light on his own and try to do justice.

The first clues lead him to Dorothy Vallens (I. Rossellini), a bar singer, and when she catches him hiding in her apartment, he is drawn into a whirlwind of situations from which he can no longer escape. Dorothy is in a bizarre relationship with Frank (D. Hopper), the epitome of evil.

Taken (2009)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

The kidnapping of a child is one of the most serious fears of parents, especially if it is a kidnapping after which every trace of the kidnapped child is lost. Unscrupulous human organ traffickers or reckless mobsters who will turn a beloved child into white slavery are truly characters from a parent’s worst nightmares.

The old fox Luc Besson was well aware of this and took the kidnapping of a child (seventeen-year-old American Kim in Paris) as the starting point of the script. The film’s distributor title (“96 Hours”) suggests the time available to Kim’s father, Bryan Mills, a former secret agent who quit his job to be closer to his daughter from a failed marriage, before all trace of her is lost in the hands of white slave traders. All that has been said takes place in the first few minutes of the film, and then what the director and screenwriter were obviously most interested in in the whole story, which we could briefly call Bryan Mills against the Parisian Albanian mafia.

The outcome is known, and the road to the goal is full of rushes and adrenaline and paved with corpses. The strength of films signed by Luc Besson as a director and/or screenwriter rarely rested on the development of characters and their psychological experiences and mostly relied on the attractiveness of the theme and visual splendor, so “96 Hours” is no exception.

Taken 2 (2012)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Liam Neeson returns as Bryan Mills, a retired CIA agent with special skills who stops at nothing to save his daughter from kidnappers. Murad (Rade Serbedzija), the father of one of the murdered kidnappers, wants revenge for the death of his son and kidnaps Mills’ ex-wife, which is why he takes up arms again.

Alpha Dog (2006)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Although very young, Johnny is already a well-known name in the world of drug dealing. He has a big house – where he constantly organizes crazy parties, a luxury car and friends, who work for him and sell narcotics mostly to rich people’s children. The problem arises when one customer, Jake Mazursky, does not have the money to pay for the “goods”.

Johnny and his friends decide to kidnap Jake and ask his parents for ransom money. When they break into Jake’s house, they run into his younger brother Zack, who seems like a much easier target for kidnapping, so they take him away. Frankie, one of Johnny’s friends, gets close to young Zack, introduces him to the rest of society, girls, rich people’s lifestyle, and takes him to parties. However, the situation gets complicated when Zack’s parents refuse to pay the ransom…

Fargo (1996)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Used car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (W.H. Macy) has fallen heavily into debt, so he decides to kidnap his wife in order to get a high ransom from her wealthy father, Wade Gustafson (H. Presnell). Jerry lives in Minneapolis, in the federal state of Minnesota, and for the kidnapping he hires two stupid and cruel criminals who live in the city of Fargo, in North Dakota.

One of them, Carl Showalter (S. Buscemi), is always talking, while the other, the dumber and more dangerous Gaear Grimsrud (P. Stormare), is always silent. Jerry makes an agreement with them to split the ransom money. They carry out the kidnapping very clumsily. While driving with Jerry’s wife in a car through the snow-covered roads of Minnesota, they are stopped by a police officer.

From that moment on, events will take an unplanned course. Kidnappers leave dead bodies behind. The case is taken over by police officer Marge Gunderson (F. McDormand), who cannot be distracted even by pregnancy…

A Perfect World (1993)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

In order to escape from prison, Butch Haynes (Kevin Costner) must team up with Terry Pugh (Keith Szarabajka), of whom he does not have the best opinion. Shortly after escaping, the two kidnap a young boy, Philip Perry (T.J. Lowther), who they take with them across Texas. Along the way, Butch and Philip discover that they share many interests and hobbies, which delights the boy who grew up in a rather strict, religiously-restricted family.

Butch treats the boy as a friend, teaches him the difference between good and evil and forces him to make independent decisions. What started as a kidnapping slowly turns into a relationship full of respect and love, but to the outside world and Sheriff Red Garnett (Clint Eastwood), Butch is just a dangerous criminal who needs to be caught as soon as possible.

The film contains an escape from prison, hostage taking, a chase through Texas, two murders, robberies, a showdown between fugitives and law enforcement… But the film is not about that. His topic is much deeper and more interesting: what is the true nature of violence and what are its most serious consequences? The focus is on the relationship that develops between the outlaw and the boy, and at first it is difficult to even guess how this relationship will develop, in any case it does not follow any of the expected conventional patterns of film stories.

12 Years A Slave (2013)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

“12 Years a Slave” is a British-American historical drama, adapted from Solomon Northup’s 1853 autobiography of the same name, about the kidnapping of a free African-American man in Washington in 1841 and his sale into slavery where he spent 12 years working on a plantation.

All The Money in the World (2017)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

The story follows the young 16-year-old John Paul Getty III who is kidnapped, and his mother Gail tries to convince his grandfather, the billionaire Getty, also the richest man in the world, to pay the ransom. When old Getty refuses, the captors turn brutal. In the race between life and death, the question is whether love for the grandson or money will prevail.

The Missing (2003)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

The movie Missing is a suspenseful story about love and redemption, set in the wilds of the American Southwest in 1885. Maggie Gilkeson, (Cate Blanchett) a rancher in New Mexico, is a hard-working young mother, who is dedicated to raising two teenage daughters, Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) and Dot (Jenna Boyd).

For a long time, Maggie has had a cold relationship with her father, who abandoned his family. Estranged from her father Jones (Tommy Lee Jones), who left her when she was a little girl, Maggie finds herself in a situation where she has to ask him for help. Namely, Lilly’s older daughter was kidnapped by a gang headed by Chidin (Eric Schweig) in order to sell her into slavery in Mexico.

Desperate Maggie must now team up with her father and regain their lost trust, while trying to catch the kidnappers before they cross the border. With time running out, the daughter and father must band together before they lose Lilly forever.

Misery (1990)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Paul Sheldon (J. Caan) is a prolific and very successful writer of popular novels about the romantic heroine Misery, who one snowy winter day has a serious car accident. Waking up in bed in an unfamiliar room, Paul can’t remember either the blizzard in which his car ran off the road, or who saved him.

When a buxom and temperamental woman (K. Bates) enters the room, Paul learns that it is his big fan Annie Wilkes, a simple-minded and somewhat naive nurse who knows the characters and plots of all his Misery novels extremely well. Paul has no idea that the nice and caring Annie, after reading the manuscript of his latest and at the same time the last novel about Misery, will turn into a violent psychopath…

Oldboy (2003)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Dae-su Oh (Choi Min-Sik) is a young clerk from Seoul who has a good family and a more or less settled life. However, one day, at the end of the eighties, he is kidnapped while walking down the street and spends fifteen full years imprisoned in a small, dark room, with a television set as his only contact with the outside world, without getting any answers as to who did it and why.

Although he tried many times to escape and even kill himself, it didn’t work out, he decides to stay cool and wait for the day when he will be freed. One day it comes true, Dae-su Oh is free, and when he was released from captivity, he received a cell phone through which he communicates with an unknown man who suggests to him where and how he could track down his tormentors…

Gone Baby Gone (2007)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Private detectives, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), are hired to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a little girl.

Using their knowledge of the underworld they soon uncover a tangled web of deception and lies where nothing is as it seems. Ultimately, they must risk everything – their relationship, their sanity, and even their lives – to find the missing girl.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Former military commander Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the leader of the secret agents who guard American President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and guarantees the safety of America’s first family. Banning is also a friend of the president’s family, first lady Margaret (Ashely Judd) and their son Connor (Finley Jacobsen).

During the return to Camp David, from an event and collecting contributions for the campaign, the president’s vehicle went off the bridge due to ice on the road, Banning managed to save the president, but the vehicle carrying the first lady fell off the bridge. Eighteen months later, Banning was dismissed and worked at the Treasury headquarters.

During a meeting between Asher and the Prime Minister of North Korea, terrorists, led by Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune), attack the White House from all sides and capture it.

The Lovely Bones (2009)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

The story takes place in 1973 in a small town in Pennsylvania where 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) lives with her parents and younger brother and sister. Her carefree childhood is brutally interrupted when her neighbor George Harvey (Tucci) lures her into a specially built den. Soon after, Susie discovers that she is no longer alive, that is, that she has fallen victim to Harvey’s twisted urges.

After that, he refuses to cross over to the “other side” and instead wanders as a ghost through a world he no longer has any influence over. Thus, he cannot prevent her grief-stricken parents from breaking up their marriage, nor can he help police detective Fenerman (Imperioli) to solve her murder. In the meantime, her younger sister Lindsey (McIver) grew up, and thus became the object of Harvey’s interest.

Mysterious Skin (2004)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

Based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Scott Heim, this haunting story of sexual abuse follows two very different young men—one a smooth-talking hustler, the other a shy student obsessed with UFOs—as they cross paths, both haunted by disturbing events one summer when they were eight years old.

I Am Elizabeth Smart (2017)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

On June 4, 2002, in Salt Lake City, the Smart family, father Ed, mother Lois and their six children, peacefully went to sleep. Two daughters, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth and nine-year-old Mary Katherine slept together in the room. In the middle of the night, a man entered the house with a flashlight and a knife, checked which of the girls was Elizabeth, and with a knife at her throat forced her to leave the house silently with him.

He threatened to kill the whole family if they wrote. Mary Katherine was frozen with fear, she pretended to be asleep and kept silent so that the man with the knife would not harm her sister and the whole family. When the police arrived at the scene, based on the torn screen on the door and some details from Mary Katherine’s story, they concluded that the kidnapper knew the house well.

The Most Hated Woman in America (2017)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

The true story of Madalyn Murray O’Hair – iconoclast, opportunist, and outspoken atheist – from her controversial rise to her untimely demise.

Changeling (2008)

25 Best Kidnapping Movies Based on True Stories

One morning in 1928, in a working-class suburb of Los Angeles, Christine goes to work and greets her son. When she returns home, her son is gone. The search for him lasts for years and Christine finally receives information that her son will be returned to her.

However, instead of being happy about the return of the child, Christine experiences a shock, because the returned child is not hers. Faced with corrupt police and a skeptical public, Christine is desperate for answers. She finally comes to the truth that will change her forever.


  • Mitchel Pemberton

    As a movie geek, I loved ranking movies, shows, anime, and fictional characters with my friends. Writing about them now is a dream come true for me.

    View all posts

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