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17 Movies Based on Magazine and Newspaper Articles (And Where To Read Them)

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When it comes to adapting stories for the big screen, novels and comic books aren't the only things to get love from Hollywood (it just seems that way). Here are 17 examples of magazine and newspaper articles that inspired major feature films—some will probably surprise you.

1. Argo

Screenwriter Chris Terrio adapted Joshuah Bearman's article, "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran," from Wired and CIA operative Tony Mendez's book, The Master of Disguise, to write the screenplay for Argo. The film went on to be one of the most profitable movies of 2012, and it received the Academy Award for Best Picture the following year.

"How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran" [Wired]

2. The Fast and the Furious

While the Fast and the Furious film franchise has certainly grown and evolved over the past 13 years, it's often forgotten that the first movie in the widely popular series was based on an article from a 1998 issue of Vibe magazine. Kenneth Li Rafael wrote the piece, “Racer X,” which chronicled the illegal street racing subculture of the late '90s.

"Racer X" [Vibe]

3. Shattered Glass

Based on Buzz Bissinger's article “Shattered Glass” from Vanity Fair’s September 1998 issue, writer/director Billy Ray’s film of the same name adapted the story of the rise and fall of Stephen Glass, a young journalist for The New Republic. Glass came to prominence in the '90s before it was discovered that he fabricated a number of quotes, sources, and events in magazine articles he wrote over the span of three years.

“Shattered Glass” [Vanity Fair]

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Believe it or not, the horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street is based on a series of newspaper articles from the Los Angeles Times. The articles reported on a series of deaths in Southeast Asia where young men apparently died in the middle of terrifying nightmares. Wes Craven read these articles and was inspired to make A Nightmare on Elm Street.

"Medical Experts Seek Clues to 'Nightmare Deaths' That Strike Male Asian Refugees" [Los Angeles Times]*

*This is a 1988 Los Angeles Times article that summarizes some of the previous reporting

5. Bigger Than Life

Nicholas Ray’s 1956 masterpiece Bigger Than Life was based on Berton Roueché's New Yorker article “Ten Feet Tall” from 1955. The piece chronicles a teacher’s descent into addiction after his doctor prescribes him the drug Cortisone.

"Ten Feet Tall" [New Yorker]

6. The Killing Fields

Based on Sydney H. Schanberg’s New York Times Magazine article “The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” The Killing Fields followed two journalists trapped in Cambodia during Pol Pot’s Year Zero takeover and genocide in 1975. The film went on to receive seven Academy Award nominations, and Haing S. Ngor won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Cambodian photojournalist Dith Pran, the centerpiece of Schanberg’s article.

“The Death and Life of Dith Pran” [New York Times Magazine]

7. The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm is based on “The Storm,” an Outside article from journalist Sebastian Junger published in 1994. The piece was eventually expanded into a book titled The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea in 1997. The film adaption starred George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, John C. Reilly, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, William Fichtner, and Karen Allen.

“The Storm” [Outside]

8. American Gangster

For American Gangster, screenwriter Steve Zaillian and director Ridley Scott adapted Mark Jacobson’s New York Magazine article “The Return of Superfly,” which follows the rise and fall of '70s drug kingpin Frank Lucas.

“The Return of Superfly” [New York Magazine]

9. Boogie Nights

Mike Sager's 1989 Rolling Stone article, “The Devil and John Holmes,” was used by Paul Thomas Anderson as inspiration for his film on the adult film industry, Boogie Nights. The article chronicles porn star John Holmes' descent into drug abuse and his involvement in the Wonderland murders of 1981.

"The Devil and John Holmes" [Rolling Stone]

10. Saturday Night Fever

British rock journalist Nik Cohn’s "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” was first published in the June 1976 issue of New York Magazine. It follows New York City's disco subculture in the mid-'70s from the point of view of Vincent, a young man from Brooklyn who turns to the music to get away from his troubled life. While the article was the basis for the hit 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever, it was later revealed to be a complete fabrication.

Nik Cohn came out with the truth 20 years after his article was first published. "My story was a fraud," he wrote. "I'd only recently arrived in New York. Far from being steeped in Brooklyn street life, I hardly knew the place. As for Vincent, my story's hero, he was largely inspired by a Shepherd's Bush mod whom I'd known in the Sixties, a one-time king of Goldhawk Road."

"Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” [New York Magazine]

11. Adaptation

Adaptation was partly based on a New Yorker piece titled “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean. Adaptation uses Orlean’s article (and subsequent book) as a framing device for a meta-story about the struggles of adapting non-fiction into fiction.

“The Orchid Thief” [New Yorker]

12. Almost Famous

Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous is based on “The Allman Brothers Story,” an article he wrote for Rolling Stone in 1973 as a teenager.

“The Allman Brothers Story” [Rolling Stone]

13. Dog Day Afternoon

P.F. Kluge’s 1972 LIFE magazine article, “The Boys in the Bank,” tells the story of a bank robbery that turns into a media sensation. It eventually became the basis for Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon. Interestingly, Kluge describes the main bank robber John Wojtowicz as “a dark, thin fellow with the broken-faced good looks of an Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman." Al Pacino was cast as Sonny Wortzik, the film’s lead.

“The Boys in the Bank” [LIFE]

14. Live Free or Die Hard

The fourth installment in the Die Hard film franchise took its cues from a 1997 Wired article by John Carlin, “A Farewell to Arms." The article surmises that cyber warfare is going to be the new form of terrorism in the future. Live Free or Die Hard follows John McClane on hot pursuit of the hacker responsible for a nationwide cyber attack on government and commercial computers.

“A Farewell to Arms” [Wired]

15. The Insider

Michael Man’s The Insider was adapted from Marie Brenner's 1996 Vanity Fair article, "The Man Who Knew Too Much.” The article follows Jeffrey Wigand, played by Russell Crowe in the film, who is a whistleblower in the tobacco industry, and his journey from Capitol Hill to his TV appearance on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

"The Man Who Knew Too Much” [Vanity Fair]

16. The Bling Ring

Nancy Jo Sales’ “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” was first published on in March 2010 and tells the story of a group of entitled teens who break into the homes of celebrities across the Hollywood Hills. Sofia Coppola turned Sales' piece into The Bling Ring, a stylized crime movie about privilege in America.

“The Suspects Wore Louboutins” [Vanity Fair]

17. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Terry Gilliam’s film is based on Hunter S. Thompson’s two-part Rolling Stone epic “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.” The articles were first published in 1971 and followed the drug-induced exploits of Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, the fictionalized versions of Thompson and his attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream” [Rolling Stone]

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  


Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  


Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.


In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.


Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.


A deep well

Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.


In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.


Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade

Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.


In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.


An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.


In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.


These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.


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