There’s nothing we love more than a good old real-life hero, and, when they are immortalized on the silver screen, it’s even better. Watching a story unfold and knowing the events are based on reality makes the tension, emotion and drama even more palpable and we can’t get enough of it.
Here are our favourite real life hero characters of all time.
Erin Brockovich (Erin Brockovich)
Former beauty queen Erin, the subject of the eponymous 2000 film starring Julia Roberts, took on the authorities - and won - with no legal training and a Wonderbra after she discovered that a power company was polluting a Californian city’s water supply. Brockovich continues to work as an environmental activist to this day.
Chris Gardner (The Pursuit of Happiness)
Single parent Gardner’s incredible riches-to-rags-to-riches story was turned into a film starring Will Smith. Gardner went from a married Ferrari owner to living on the streets as a single father with his young son within mere months. After finding a way out of homelessness, he went on to set to up his own very successful company and is now a multi-millionaire.
William Wallace (Braveheart)
A hero to a nation - depending on which side of the border you are - William Wallace, as memorably depicted by Mel Gibson in 1995’s Braveheart, was a 13th century Scottish warrior who led his nation in victory against an invading English army. Freeeeddooooommmmm.
Oskar Schindler (Schindler’s List)
Schindler, a German wealthy industrialist - and a member of the Nazi party - saved 1,200 of his Polish Jewish workforce from the concentration camps in 1944. His tale of bravery, brides and boldness was told by Steven Spielberg in the moving film Schindler’s List with Liam Neeson in the lead.
Harvey Milk (Milk)
A gay rights activist in 1970s America, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the States. He fought political and personal battles against discrimination of homosexuals and paid the ultimate price for his campaigning when he was assassinated. Sean Penn brought his heroic story to life in the Gus Van Saint film, Milk.
Astronauts Jim Lovell , Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise, (Apollo 13)
The world waited with bated breathe for five days in 1970 after the space shuttle carrying men on the third US moon landing mission suffered an explosion that resulted in catastrophic failure of the craft. Despite seemingly impossible odds, Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon), and Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) come back down to earth safely and received a heroes’ welcome for their gutsy determination to find a way to survive.
Władysław Szpilman (The Pianist)
After being imprisoned in a concentration camp in 1942, Polish-Jewish pianist and composer Władysław Szpilman joins the resistance inside the prison, smuggling in weapons under the suspicious gaze of Nazi guards. Szpilman, played by Adrian Brody in Roman Polanski’s film, eventually escapes and survives thanks to his piano skills that so enchant a German officer that he shelters him in his attic until the war ends.