Seven Thriller Series Based on True Events

Thriller and suspense series are often inspired by real life events. In this article, we talk about seven of them. As well as the series themselves, you can learn a bit about the true events themselves.
Seven Thriller Series Based on True Events

Last update: 23 October, 2021

Thriller series that are based on true events provide two benefits. Firstly, you’re able to enjoy the shows. On the other hand, you’re also able to learn about the real events behind the stories.

You might believe that the best thrillers tend to be completely fictional. However, this isn’t the case at all. In fact, the best thrillers are based on real events. Indeed, as you’ll see in this article, the genre of suspense gets its best inspiration from life itself.

The fact that you’re able to view these stories on screen entertains, amazes, intrigues, and motivates you to find out more about what really happened. This doesn’t mean you’re being morbid. In fact, you’re simply exhibiting a sense of healthy curiosity.

Here are some of the best thriller series based on true stories. They’re interesting, both from a historical and a human perspective. Furthermore, they all approach their subject matter without resorting to sensationalism.


The murder of Laëtitia Perrais shocked Paris in 2011. It was Tony Meilhon who attacked and murdered this young woman. They sentenced him to life in prison in 2013.

This story inspired director, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade to create the series Laëtitia. It was broadcast on Channel France 2. The series consisted of six episodes of 45 minutes each and it attracted an amazingly large audience. He based the show on the book Laëtitia or the End of Men by Ivan Jablonka. This book won the Medici Prize.

To avoid controversy, they didn’t film the series in Pornic, the city where the crime occurred. Instead, they filmed in the Bay of Somme (Dunkirk and Le Crotoy) in the spring of 2019.

The series reconstructs this young woman’s terrifying ordeal. In fact, it starts with her violent childhood which contextualizes the whole story. Furthermore, it means the story isn’t portrayed as just another gory and soon-to-be-forgotten death to be reported by the press.

The series asks the question of why Laëtitia (Marie Colomb) was seduced by this serial rapist. Yannick Choirat portrays the formidable gendarme in charge of the investigation. At the end of the day, the overriding theme is one of patriarchy, as opposed to social determinism. Because, ultimately, Meilhon killed Laëtitia for saying no.



When They See Us

From the first few scenes of When They See Us, you know it’s going to be a painful watch. Because this account of the “Central Park Five” of 1989 tells the human story behind one of the worst miscarriages of justice in American history. As a matter of fact, knowing that they’re innocent makes their ordeal seem even more painful. Furthermore, you see the false confessions and the subsequent damning media coverage of the groupthink process that follows.

The first episode focuses on the crime itself and the arrests of five young men aged between 14 and 16. They were Anton McCray (Caleel Harris), Yusef Salaam (Ethan Herisse), Raymond Santana (Marquis Rodriguez), Kevin Richardson (Asante Blackk), and Korey Wise (Jharrel Jerome).

The police arrest them all after Trisha Meili, a banker in her 20s was raped and left for dead in Central Park. Each of the young men faces intense interrogation regarding the crime.

The surge of media attention reached a crescendo when Donald J. Trump, then a local real estate mogul, took out full-page ads in four New York publications. In these ads, he called for the return of the death penalty. It seems he wanted the five youngsters to be executed.

The creator of the series, Ava Duvarney paints a devastating portrait of the way in which the authorities treated these young men. Furthermore, the extremes that prosecutors go to in order to manipulate the facts. The final resolution came in this case when, 13 years later, a man named Matias Reyes confessed to the crime.




Honour recounts the story of the rape, torture, and murder of Banaz Mahmod, a 20-year-old girl, by five members of her family. Nevertheless, the focus is on the admirable determination of Inspector Caroline Goode to bring Mahmod’s killers to justice. However, this isn’t a story of white saviors. In fact, the central theme is the abject failure of the police to protect a terrified British citizen who sought their help on five separate occasions.

There are two main problems depicted in the policing of this issue. On the one hand, there’s the misogyny that fuels the honor-based killings in certain communities. On the other, there’s the institutional racism inherent in the police force. Together, this created the toxic concoction that led to a young woman being brutally murdered for kissing her boyfriend outside a subway station.

Three days before she disappeared, she handed over a list of suspects of all the men in her family she claimed intended to kill her. However, the police did nothing.

In fact, an officer who visited her in hospital after she was attacked by her father claimed she was “hysterical”. He even considered charging her with criminal damage for breaking a window. There’s also a video in which Banaz makes a statement at a police station. She says, “In the future if something happens to me … it’s them”. The series creators didn’t show this video for the purposes of dramatic license. It actually exists.



22 July

This Norwegian series shouldn’t be confused with the extremely popular Norwegian film Utøya July 22 which has the same theme. 22 July is a drama and thriller series. It consists of six episodes. It first aired on NRK1 in 2020.

The series follows those involved before, during, and after the terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011. Based on various true experiences, Sarah Johnsen’s series sheds light on the terrorist attack in Oslo and Utøya from different perspectives. It tells the story of those professionals who had to deal with the aftermath of the terrorist attack.

The series shows the domino effect of a bomb explosion in the government district of Oslo and the Utøya massacre. The main characters are Anine (a journalist for Aftenposten), Anne Cathrine (an anesthetist at Ullevål hospital), Eivind (a policeman at Nordre Buskerud police district), Helga (a teacher at Henningsvær school in northern Norway, and Mads (a right-wing extremist blogger on the Breidablikk website).

All the characters are fictional. However, they’re based on what the creators learned in their extensive preparation for the series.



The Hunt for a Killer

If you like police investigations that let you in on the minutest of details without ever becoming boring, this series is for you. Directed by Mikael Marcimain, it’s based on true stories of homicide investigations in southern Sweden between 1989-2004. However, the police work you see in this series is far from the adrenaline-charged spectacles you might be used to.

The series stars Anders Beckman (Midsommar) as Per-Åke Åkesson and Lotten Roos (Wallander)as Monica Olhed. Magnus Schmitz plays the murderer, Ulf Olsson. The Hunt for a Killer aired on Swedish broadcaster Yellow Bird. It’s now been shown in various other countries.

The six-part series revolves around a chilling case. In March 1989, a ten-year-old girl named Helen Nilsson was kidnapped and murdered in Hörby, southern Sweden. It shocked the nation. The case remained unsolved for 16 years, creating a chasm between the community and the police who were meant to have been protecting the town. Furthermore, on the night in March 1989 when Helen disappeared, around 20 pedophiles were living in Hörby.

This mini-series follows police officers, Per-Åke Åkesson and Monica Olhed. They lead an investigative team that’s already solved many murders in southern Sweden in the past. Against all odds, they’re given the task of finally locating the person responsible for Helen’s murder.


The Pacific

The Pacific is a powerful mini-series. It might be seen along the same lines as those Hollywood films of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks that provide us with so many history lessons. In fact, this series is reminiscent of Band of Brothers. They released it in 2001 and it presents similar intense audiovisuals as well as harsh psychological truths.

Both series immerse you in the noisy, anarchic ground action of World War II when drone pilots and video game warfare didn’t even exist. However, there are some significant differences between the two series.

The men on the islands in The Pacific find themselves in an environment that’s largely alien to them. They face different challenges to the European soldiers in the form of incessant rain, humidity, and jungle insects.

The series is a poignant evocation of ten hours of fierce internal battles, as the marines struggle to remain human, or at least to feel that way.




In 1993, Lorena Bobbit was 24 years old and a relatively recent immigrant to the US. During that summer, after years of suffering intense physical and mental abuse by her husband John Wayne Bobbit, she took a large knife from the kitchen and, while he was asleep, cut off his penis.

Lorena will change your perception of this particular event with which the tabloids had a field day. Indeed, there were numerous jokes circulating at the time, surrounding what she’d done to her husband. Jordan Peel directed this series and Joshua Rofé directed it. In the show, Lorena points the finger at the media who paid more attention to her husband, than they did to her, the woman he regularly raped and abused.

The series even subtly makes use of the #MeToo lens. It shows images of Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer speaking about and mocking the story. This demonstrates that the storyteller is often as significant as the story itself.




This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.