I have had little to no interest in a movie that claims it is "Based On a True Story" since Fargo. It's well known that it was a lie that Fargo was based on a true story. There are many movies though that alter so much of the real story though that they end up more fiction than reality. So what is the point of putting "Based on a True Story" in the movie description?
Lots of reasons:
- Usually, the creative team wishes to use artistic license to make the story more entertaining. They might condense the time frame, eliminate or combine minor characters, imagine sequences or conversations that cannot be known, or leave parts out that seem to distract from the primary story.
- There may be a fear of litigation if they don't get the story exactly right.
- There may be a wish to protect innocent parties.
- The creators heard a great story and wanted to use it as a starting point for their own creation, yet they still wanted to give credit for the idea.
- The creators want to build believability in from the start, so they give you the subtitle to pique your interest (which in your case does the opposite). The subtitle "Based on a True Story" has been so overutilized by cheap television productions emanating from salacious headlines, that it does tend to make you want to run!
In literature, sometimes an author (think Erik Larson) will publish a book as non-fiction even though it has fictionalized dialogue and a certain degree of supposition, which I find equally annoying. James Frey's memoir A Million Little Pieces contained enough fabrication that libraries don't know where to put it! If the story (movie or book) is interesting enough, "based on a true story" always makes me want to research the true story.
Mike Dowse: (a bit embarrassed) This "truth/fiction" thing was totally the idea of the U.S. distributor, who wanted to propagate that myth. We never thought about doing that when we shot it. We say, "Based on a true story," but that was more of an homage to the Coen brothers. When they picked up the film after [the Toronto International Film Festival], they were all, "It’s gonna be a true story!" We’ve convinced a few people, even offended Guy Dixon [in The Globe and Mail] with our treatment of the handicapped. But I think it’s pretty fucking obvious it’s not a true story. Don’t you think?
Hour: I dunno… Americans might buy it. They buy Fox News, after all.
Dowse: I was terrible about lying about the true story thing. I was always hit-and-miss. I’m actually much more interesting when I pretend Frankie’s a real guy, because, you know, lying is so much more interesting than the truth. But then I would tell a whole festival crowd that I made it all up. And the distributor would get mad.