Netflix series Inventing Anna stars Julia Garner as Anna Sorokin, a socialite scammer living in New York City who pretended to be a German heiress named Anna Delvey between 2013 and 2017 in order to defraud banks, hotels, and wealthy acquaintances.
While the Shonda Rhimes-created show is based on true events, the main inspiration for the nine-part series comes from the New York magazine article “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People” (opens in new tab) by Jessica Pressler. In the show, Anna Chlumsky plays Vivian Kent, a version of Pressler working for the fictional Manhattan magazine, and the series is just as much about the process of her article getting to print as it is about Anna’s scamming.
Inventing Anna isn’t alone in taking inspiration from the glossy pages of a magazine – movies from Top Gun to Boogie Nights started out as stories told by journalists. From political exposés to meta-comedies, here are 10 movies that are also based on magazine features to watch after you’ve binged Inventing Anna.
Another New York magazine article, also written by Pressler, titled “The Hustlers at Scores” (opens in new tab) formed the basis for the 2019 movie Hustlers. Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez play strippers who steal from wealthy clients by drugging them and using their credit cards. Julia Stiles plays a fictionalized version of Pressler named Elizabeth, and her role in the movie is mostly to frame the narrative – her interview questions for Destiny (Wu) prompt the story of the movie to unfold.
Based on Susan Orlean’s 1995 The New Yorker article “The Orchid Thief” (opens in new tab), Adaptation stars Nicolas Cage as screenwriter Charlie Kaufman – and his fictional twin brother Donald – who’s struggling with writer’s block as he tries to adapt The Orchid Thief. Meryl Streep plays Orlean, while Chris Cooper plays John Laroche, the subject of the feature. The meta comedy drama ultimately descends into completely fictional events, but the basis of the story is rooted in Orlean’s New Yorker piece, which later became a book.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s second movie, Boogie Nights, was inspired by “The Devil and John Holmes” (opens in new tab), a 1989 Rolling Stone article by Mike Sager – John Holmes is the porn star that Mark Wahlberg’s character, Dirk Diggler, was based on, and the movie charts his rise (and fall) in the porn industry in ’70s California. Sager’s essay also inspired the movie Wonderland, starring Val Kilmer, about Holmes’ involvement in the 1981 Wonderland Murders.
Coyote Ugly was inspired by the GQ article “The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon” (opens in new tab) by Elizabeth Gilbert, also known as the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert worked in the table dancing bar in New York where the movie is set and the article is a memoir of her time working there. The movie, released in 2000, follows an aspiring songwriter from New Jersey (Piper Perabo) who’s trying to make it in the big city and gets a job at the Coyote Ugly Saloon.
Saturday Night Fever
“Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” (opens in new tab), written by Nik Cohn for New York magazine in 1976, was the basis for the movie Saturday Night Fever. Originally published as a piece of factual reporting, Cohn revealed 20 years later that his story was actually fictional and the man that John Travolta’s Tony was based on didn’t actually exist. In the movie, Tony is a young Italian-American who uses his local disco as escapism from the harsh realities of real life.
Almost Famous is based on “The Allman Brothers Story” (opens in new tab), a Rolling Stone feature by Cameron Crowe. Crowe also directed the movie, which is semi-autobiographical, and follows a teenage Rolling Stone reporter (Patrick Fugit) who goes on tour with a fictional band called Stillwater in the ’70s as he tries to get his first cover feature. Rather than being fully based on The Allman Brothers, Crowe says that Stillwater are an amalgamation of many of the bands he encountered during his time as a music journalist.
The basis of Tom Cruise actioner Top Gun was the 1983 article “Top Guns” by Ehud Yonay in California magazine, about the lives of fighter pilots at Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego (also known as “Fightertown USA”), which was the location of the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School. In the 1986 movie, Cruise plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a US Navy pilot who goes to train there. A sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, is releasing in May 2022.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is based on the two-part report of the same name for Rolling Stone (opens in new tab) by Hunter S. Thompson (which Thompson later turned into a novel). The first article was an exposé about the death of a Mexican-American journalist at the hands of LA police, while the second was a report on the National District Attorneys Association’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Johnny Depp plays Raoul Duke, a fictionalized version of Thompson, while Benicio del Toro is Dr. Gonzo, a fictional version of Oscar Zeta Acosta, an attorney and Thompson’s primary source.
The Fast and the Furious
Director Rob Cohen was inspired to make The Fast and the Furious after reading Ken Li’s 1998 VIBE magazine article “Racer X” (opens in new tab) about a street racer named Rafael Estevez from New York City. The feature also mentions the popularity of Japanese import car customization and law enforcement efforts to cut down on street racing. The first movie in the Fast franchise follows an undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) tasked with uncovering the identities of a group of car hijackers led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel).
The Bling Ring
Sofia Coppola’s 2013 movie The Bling Ring was based on “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” (opens in new tab), an article by Nancy Jo Sales in Vanity Fair. It tells the story of a group of teenagers who tracked celebrities’ whereabouts online in order to burgle their homes when they were empty – their victims included Paris Hilton and Rachel Bilson (Hilton also had a cameo in the movie). Over the course of around 10 months in 2008 and 2009, they stole around $3 million worth of cash and belongings.
For more viewing suggestions, be sure to check out the best Netflix movies available to watch right now.