20 Best Abduction Movies Based on True Stories, Ranked by IMDb Score

best abduction movies based on true story

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Some topics are hard to discuss, so we sometimes avoid them completely. One of those topics is abduction. That being said, listening to those stories is gripping and captivating, regardless of their happy or tragic ending. We should all be more aware of it because it’s not just the movies – these things happen all around us, all the time.

That’s why I’ve decided to create this big list of the twenty best abduction/kidnapping movies that are based on true stories. Some are only loosely based on true events, while others depict certain situations exactly how they happened in real life. Without further ado, let’s jump right into the list, ranked solely based on IMDb scores.

20. ‘Abducted: The Mary Stauffer Story’ (2019)

abduction abducted the mary stauffer story

IMDb score: 5.7/10

What it’s about: Mary Stauffer is a high school teacher. However, her life is usurped and changed forever when she and her 8-year-old daughter are abducted and held captive for 53 days by one of her old, obsessed students.

Why you should watch it: I wanted to go with a lesser-known film to open our list. This one, originally titled ‘53 Days: The Abduction of Mary Stauffer’, is a true story that’ll shake your core. Although this Lifetime original isn’t as groundbreaking as some other entries on this list, it’s a nicely crafted film that feels as if the story was told right but remained respectful towards the victims.

19. ‘Amber’s Story’ (2006)

abduction ambers story

IMDb score: 5.9/10

What it’s about: Amber Hagerman was a 9-year-old girl riding her bicycle when she was abducted. When it happened, no system in place alerted the nation of a child abduction. After this, the Amber Alert system was created, saving countless kids so far.

Why you should watch it: Although ‘Amber’s Story’ might not’ve been a hit film in itself, I found it quite interesting to hear the story behind what inspired the creation of the Amber Alert we now know and use to help find abducted and lost children every single day.


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18. ‘The Girl Who Escaped: The Kara Robinson Story’ (2023)

abduction the girl who escaped

IMDb score: 6.1/10

What it’s about: A 15-year-old young woman named Kara was minding her own business when a man approached her and put a gun to her neck, forcing her to step inside his car. Then, he took Kara to his apartment and proceeded to sexually assault her under the threat of death.

As soon as he fell asleep, though, Kara bravely made her escape – and not only that. She led the police back to her captor’s apartment, who proved to be a serial killer responsible for more than one unsolved murder before Kara. Had she not escaped, she’d likely be the next victim…

Why you should watch it: This is a newer Lifetime movie, and the production quality doesn’t really reflect the sheer intrigue and weight of Kara Robinson’s story. Still, I found it decent enough to be on this list, especially factoring in the ending – had Kara not escaped, who knows how many young women would have fallen victim to her captor, too…

17. ‘Cry in the Wild: The Taking of Peggy Ann’ (1991)

abduction cry in the wild the taking of peggy ann

IMDb score: 6.2/10

What it’s about: Peggy, a 17-year-old young woman, is abducted by a mountain man who lives essentially off-grid. He wanted to get himself a woman he’d never let go of, so he just grabbed on and held her captive. The case prompted the largest manhunt in the history of the US state of Pennsylvania.

Why you should watch it: We’re talking about a TV movie here, but the story shook me quite a bit. The idea of a deranged man living in the mountains abducting a woman in broad daylight just gives me chills. We’re always afraid of monsters and animals lurking in the wild – but the scariest creatures always turn out to be human…

16. ‘3096 Tage’ (2013)

abduction 3096 tage

IMDb score: 6.5/10

What it’s about: Natascha Kampusch was only ten years old when she was abducted and taken away while on her way to school in March 1998. Her abductor kept Natascha locked in a basement for over eight years before she could finally make her escape.

Why you should watch it: This is a German movie that shook me to the core because I vividly remember the real-life case of Natascha Kampusch. Wolfgang Priklopil, her abductor, took her as a small child, and when she escaped, Natascha was already an 18-year-old woman.

As horrific and unfathomably traumatic as her experience had to be, it was just as harrowing listening to how difficult it was for Natascha to reacclimate and blend into society as she lost her teenage years locked inside a basement. It’s an awful story but a very good movie.

15. ‘Abducted: The Carlina White Story’ (2012)

abduction abducted the carlina white story

IMDb score: 6.6/10

What it’s about: Netty Nance was raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Now an adult, she finds out that her real name is Carlina Renae White and that her mother, Ann Pettway, kidnapped her from the Harlem Hospital when she was only 19 days old.

Netty reaches out to her biological parents, who never stopped searching for her, and is torn between the identity she built over the course of her entire life and the taken identity she would’ve had as Carlina White…

Why you should watch it: I can’t even imagine the pain and horror of having your infant taken away from the hospital, where you should feel safe with your newborn. But finding out your life was built on something like that is even more brutal. How do you move forward after learning that your life was supposed to be completely different? I highly recommend this film.


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14. ‘Cleveland Abduction’ (2015)

abduction cleveland abduction

IMDb score: 6.6/10

What it’s about: Ariel Castro is a Cleveland native who abducts a single mother and keeps her locked away in his home for eleven years. Over that span, two other women are also abducted and held captive, being constantly sexually assaulted and then forced to abort. 

One of them even had a child with Castro, who eventually managed to escape and get the police to catch Castro and free the other two women from captivity.

Why you should watch it: Honestly, the best part about this movie, for me, was the outstanding performance of Raymond Cruz as Ariel Castro, the abductor. Cruz was absolutely riveting and brilliant, but the story is anything but.

I feel like some important details were left out of the film, though, so if the movie piques your interest, I highly recommend researching the real-life case.

13. ‘All the Money in the World’ (2017)

abduction all the money in the world

IMDb score: 6.8/10

What it’s about: John Paul Getty III was kidnapped when he was 16 years old. The captors believed that they could hold him for a big ransom due to his grandfather, Jean Paul Getty, being a billionaire. They didn’t count on Getty to love his money more than anything else in the world – even more than the well-being of his grandson. 

The movie is not completely factual, though, but rather inspired by true events.

Why you should watch it: No matter how much money you have, it’s never going to be enough for some people. The high-profile case of John Paul Getty III’s kidnapping went down in history as one of the most bizarre cases of money corrupting a person to the core.

Despite being a billionaire, the boy’s grandfather didn’t want to pay the ransom for his grandson and even tried to bargain with the captors to get to a certain amount that was tax-deductible. ‘All the Money in the World’ is the first high-budget movie on this list – and it shows. The cast is brilliant, and the storytelling pulls you into the movie.

12. ‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ (2017)

abduction abducted in plain sight

IMDb score: 6.8/10

What it’s about: The Brobergs were a happy, church-going family from a small town in Idaho. They all fell under the charm of a friendly neighbor who turned out to be a pure sociopath, setting his eyes on Jan, their 12-year-old daughter. This true story will absolutely blow your mind.

Why you should watch it: This is the only documentary I chose to include on this list, but it’s also one of my favorite entries. Once the story unravels, you’ll get more and more shocked with each passing minute.

Nothing is as it seems, and it’s unfathomable how the manipulation of a single man could fool and shatter an entire family without them even realizing what’s going on.

11. ‘Alpha Dog’ (2006)

abduction alpha dog

IMDb score: 6.9/10

What it’s about: A group of 20-ish-year-olds think they’re gangsters, dealing drugs and wielding guns. When one of them, Jake, fails to give back the money he owes to Johnny, Johnny and his crew kidnap Jake’s 15-year-old brother, Zach. Zach is cool with it, believing his brother would simply repay the money – but it doesn’t happen.

Meanwhile, Zach hangs out with his captors and parties with them, and things slowly start spinning out of control…

Why you should watch it: I actually watched ‘Alpha Dog’ years back, but I only recently learned that it’s actually based on a true story – which is quite bizarre. The kidnapped boy was basically held as a way to get back money from his brother, but instead, the guy literally hangs out and parties with his captors, developing a brotherly bond with one of them.

If you find this movie bizarre, wait until you hear its true story.

10. ‘Adam: His Song Continues’ (1986)

abduction adam his song continues

IMDb score: 7.0/10

What it’s about: The sequel to the 1983 movie titled ‘Adam,’ this film follows up on the harrowing story of the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh. We follow his parents, John and Reve, who fight to raise national awareness of just how many children go missing, not each year, but each and every day.

Why you should watch it: Although the first film is clearly better, I teared up while watching ‘His Song Continues’ because the true story is heartbreaking. Despite losing their child so brutally, John and Reve kept fighting to help other children be saved…


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9. ‘Adam’ (1983)

abduction adam

IMDb score: 7.0/10

What it’s about: Adam Walsh is a sweet little boy who goes missing one day. His parents frantically search for him with all the means at their disposal. Sadly, they end up finding Adam – murdered. Who could’ve done such a horrific crime? The manhunt continues.

Why you should watch it: The real story of Adam Walsh shook the world back when it came out. Despite being a TV movie, it’s very well-made and really gives a voice to the victims – the poor children who go missing daily. It’s the oldest movie on this list, but it won 4 Primetime Emmys and still holds as one of the best abduction films I’ve ever seen.

8. ‘An American Crime’ (2007)

abduction an american crime

IMDb score: 7.2/10

What it’s about: In the 1960s, a woman named Gertrude Baniszewski lived in Indiana and held a young woman captive in her basement for years, exposing her to brutal assaults, torture, and more. The case shocked the nation and the world and is still known as one of the most brutal crimes ever committed against one person.

Why you should watch it: This story is just as bizarre as it is horrific, as the crimes against the young woman were just utterly brutal. And they happened in a home that had six children in it. I won’t even go into details, but if you can get through the film, look up the real-life case behind the movie. It’s one of the most shocking stories you’ll see in a long time…

7. ‘Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey’ (2018)

abduction believe me

IMDb score: 7.2/10

What it’s about: Lisa McVey was coming home one evening after her shift at a local doughnut shop when she got abducted, blindfolded, and taken to her captor’s apartment. Ironically, Lisa was ready to take her own life that evening but instead fought for it.

She manages to convince her captor – a serial killer – to release her, but when she gets home and tells everyone she has been kidnapped and assaulted, no one believes her.

Why you should watch it: This story just gets crazier as you get deeper into it. No one believed Lisa except for one detective because of how calmly she could recall every detail of her abduction – how the car looked, smelled, how many steps there had been to the abductor’s apartment, etc. 

One usually can’t remember such details in such a stressful situation. But, the thing is, Lisa has been reliving that very same situation for half of her life, as a man in her own house repeatedly assaulted her almost every night, and nobody seemed to care. Lisa’s escape stopped a serial killer and a sexual predator simultaneously – all the while, she planned on taking her own life.


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6. ‘Trade’ (2007)

abduction trade

IMDb score: 7.3/10

What it’s about: The true story of Adriana, a 13-year-old Mexico City native who gets abducted by Russian sex traffickers, with plans to be lucratively sold at an online auction in New Orleans as a virgin. Her brother, Jorge, looks for his baby sister and uses not-so-legal methods to try to find her.

He gets help from a Texas cop who’s trying to find his illegitimate daughter after finding out that her junkie mother had sold her into the sex trade about ten years before.

Why you should watch it: I couldn’t believe that ‘Trade’ was actually based on a true story – but you’d be blown away by just how often and common situations like this are. I won’t spoil the movie’s ending for you, but I have to point out that the film shook me for a while. 

The things human beings are ready to do to one another are scarier than any horror movie you can think of.

5. ‘I Know My First Name Is Steven’ (1989)

abduction i know my name is steven

IMDb score: 7.7/10

What it’s about: Steven Stayner was seven years old when he was abducted by Kenneth Parnell, who convinced the child that his parents had moved away and left him with custody over Steven. 

For seven years, the boy lives with Parnell and suffers from serious physical and sexual abuse until the age of 14, when he realizes that he has to escape somehow. He does so and is reunited with his real family, who haven’t stopped searching for him after all those years.

Why you should watch it: This is actually a mini-series – the only series I’ve decided to include on the list – but it’s a story that deserves to be rewatched and retold more than once. This harrowing true story of Steven Stayner will absolutely shake you up, showing how predators can convince children to believe the craziest things.

4. ‘Misery’ (1990)

abduction misery

IMDb score: 7.8/10

What it’s about: Paul Sheldon, a famous writer, has a car accident but is found by Anne Wilkes – his ‘number one fan.’ Anne takes care of Paul and nurses him to health, but after she learns that he killed off Misery – the lead character from his bestselling novels – Anne’s patience and kindness quickly runs dry…

Why you should watch it: Okay, this is the only entry on this list that is NOT actually based on a true story but rather a Stephen King novel. Still, making a list of abduction movies without ‘Misery’ is blasphemous, so I had to include it because it’s one of the wildest, most epic King flicks of all time.

Plus, some suggest that King wrote ‘Misery’ based on his own inner demons, so I guess you can say that the story is loosely inspired by the real-life inner issues of the writer of the book that eventually became a movie. Voila!

3. ‘Sound of Freedom’ (2023)

abduction sound of freedom

IMDb score: 7.8/10

What it’s about: A former government agent leaves his job to become somewhat of a vigilante, doing everything he can to save hundreds of children from sex trafficking. It all started when he managed to save a little boy, only to discover that his sister was still held captive deep within the Columbian jungle…

Why you should watch it: ‘Sound of Freedom’ turned out to be one of the most controversial movies of 2023. Even some conspiracy theories emerged around the film, believing theaters deliberately chose not to present the movie despite its amazing reviews because it exposed the dark underbelly of government business.

We’ll leave those theories aside and say what we do know – and we do know that ‘Sound of Freedom’ is an incredible movie based on a true story, with an incredible plot that is just as heartwrenching as it is incredible.

2. ‘Fargo’ (1996)

abduction fargo

IMDb score: 8.1/10

What it’s about: Jerry is a worker in his father-in-law’s car dealership, embezzling large amounts of money in various schemes. Before his father-in-law discovers it, Jerry, as a last resort, hires two goons to kidnap his wife so that they can get ransom money out of his boss/father-in-law.

What was imagined as a simple, non-violent money scheme turns sour when bodies start piling up, and a new sheriff gets involved with the case…

Why you should watch it: Although the movie’s opening states it was based on a true story, I’d rather say that ‘Fargo’ is inspired by true events. The story did happen, but the real-life facts don’t really line up with everything that happened in the movie. Still, it’s a phenomenal film combining thrill and comedy.


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1. ’12 Years a Slave’ (2013)

abduction 12 years a slave

IMDb score: 8.1/10

What it’s about: Solomon Northup is a free African-American citizen of New York. However, that changes one day when Solomon is abducted and sold as a slave. Northup fought for his freedom for 12 whole years when a chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist helped him change his life once again. The true story was written down in Solomon’s memoires.

Why you should watch it: Finally, ‘12 Years a Slave’ makes me shiver every time I rewatch it. Even if the story was fictional, it would be heartbreaking and riveting, but the fact that it’s based on true events makes the film that much harder to digest.

The IMDb score tells you a part of the story of how good the film is, but I do believe it’s the best abduction movie ever made – despite the ‘abduction’ not being your typical kidnapping story we’re used to seeing in movies on this list.

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