Film à clef
A film à clef or film à clé ([film‿a kle], French for "film with a key"), is a film describing real life, behind a façade of fiction. "Key" in this context means a table one can use to swap out the names. It is the film equivalent of the roman à clef.
Notable films à clef
- 8½ (1963) is based on Federico Fellini's experience suffering from "director's block."
- Adaptation (2002); while parts of the film are adapted from Susan Orlean's non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, most of the film is a heavily fictionalized account of Charlie Kaufman's difficulty in adapting the book into a screenplay.
- All Good Things (2010) is inspired by the life of Robert Durst.
- Alpha Dog (2006), based on the story of Jesse James Hollywood and the murder of Nicholas Markowitz.
- Annie Hall (1977), believed to be a version of Woody Allen's own relationship with Diane Keaton (whose birth name is Diane Hall). Allen has denied this in interviews, however.
- Casino (1995) is based on Frank Rosenthal and the Stardust casino.
- Citizen Kane (1941), a thinly disguised biographical film about William Randolph Hearst.
- The Celebration (1998) was based on an alleged real-life story that director Thomas Vinterberg heard on Danish radio.
- The Devil Wears Prada (2006) is based on Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour.
- Diva (1981) is based on the early European career of soprano Jessye Norman.
- Dreamgirls (2006), the musical film based on the career of The Supremes.
- Guru (2007), based on the rise and business practices of Dhirubhai Ambani.
- I'm Not There (2007), a series of stories loosely inspired by the life of Bob Dylan. While some segments are more literal interpretations of parts of Dylan's life (such as the segment featuring Cate Blanchett), others are heavily fictionalized accounts inspired by Dylan's music (such as the segment featuring Richard Gere).
- Last Days (2005), a barely concealed dramatization of Kurt Cobain's final days.
- The Last Samurai (2003), inspired by the 1876 Satsuma Rebellion and also on the story of Jules Brunet, a French army captain who fought in the Boshin War.
- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), which features a protagonist based loosely on Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
- Lost in Translation (2003); Charlotte and John are believed to be based loosely on writer-director Sofia Coppola and her ex-husband, Spike Jonze.
- Magnolia (1999), is loosely inspired by Paul Thomas Anderson's experience in dealing with his father's death from cancer.
- Primary Colors (1998) is a thinly veiled depiction of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign.
- Rope (1948), based loosely on the Leopold and Loeb murder case of 1924.
- Saving Private Ryan (1998), based loosely on the Niland brothers.
- Velvet Goldmine (1998) is largely based on the career of David Bowie.
- Withnail & I (1987) is based on the experiences of writer/director Bruce Robinson, represented in the film by "I" (Paul McGann), and his friend Vivian MacKerrell, represented in the film by Withnail (Richard E. Grant), as struggling actors living in Camden Town in the late 1960s. The character of Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths) is based on Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli, who Robinson claims made amorous advances during the filming of Romeo and Juliet.
- The killers in Psycho (1960), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) are all modeled closely after Ed Gein, who murdered two women, robbed many graves, and made clothing and furniture out of human skin and bones.