'Emily the Criminal' Arrives on Netflix This Week — Is It Based on a True Story?

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author
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Dec. 6 2022, Published 2:50 p.m. ET

In case you missed its theatrical run, you'll be able to stream the acclaimed film, Emily the Criminal on Netflix this week. The 2022 crime thriller stars Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Legion) as Emily Benetto, a woman who turns to the criminal underworld of Los Angeles to recover from debilitating debt and financial ruin.

The film was released in August 2022 to rave reviews, with many critics offering praise to Aubrey's performance.

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The film is a harrowing glimpse into the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles' criminal factions. While its subject matter is intense, much of it has a basis in reality. But does that make Emily the Criminal a true story? Here's what we know.

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Is 'Emily the Criminal' a true story?

Throughout the film, Emily becomes embroiled ever deeper in crime and scandal in her hometown. Though she starts off participating in petty theft, she slowly becomes more involved in heavier offenses as she seeks to regain control over her circumstances. But as the movie progresses, she begins to discover how good she is at being a criminal and how much she legitimately enjoys it.

As for whether or not the film is based on a true story, the events of Emily the Criminal are mostly fictional. However, much of the elements are derived from real events in the life of director and writer John Patton Ford.

In an interview with the Golden Globes, John confessed that Emily's struggle with student debt reflects his own experience as well as the experience of many other US college grads.

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"I had about a hundred thousand dollars of student debt when I came out of graduate school and I think I had a lot of anxiety and fear and depression about that ... That's what started it," John said on his inspiration for the film.

The film also dives into the organized crime of "dummy shopping," which is featured heavily in the film. Reportedly, John lived in an LA neighborhood where a dummy shopping FBI bust took place.

While Emily's story may be fictional, the events within it draw heavily from real life.

Emily the Criminal begins streaming on Netflix on Dec. 7.

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