Is Hell or High Water Based on a True Story?

The 2016 neo-western small-town heist drama ‘Hell or High Water‘ gained widespread critical acclaim due to its ambient exploration of the tale of two brothers living life on the edge. Helmed by David Mackenzie, the indie venture revolves around brothers Toby and Tanner, who go on a heist spree to save their family ranch from the clasp of a bank. They plan to walk into the sunset with the cash and the oil and live a better future.

But rangers Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges delivers a commendable performance) and Alberto Parker become hindrances to the brother’s bombastic plan. Following its release, the movie garnered widespread critical and audience acclaim due to its somber ambiance, stunning cinematography, and daunting characterization. With its gunfire and grit set aside, you may want to know whether the ode to small-town Texas is based on a true story. If so, let us refrain you from looking at the newspapers.

Is Hell or High Water Based on A True Story?

No, ‘Hell or High Water’ is not based on a true story. The tale may seem natural, but it is imaginative, even in its complex characters, events, and fatalities. But set against the modern backdrop of a dying town with burdensome mortgages, the story rings universally. David Mackenzie of ‘Perfect Sense’ fame directed the movie from an original screenplay penned by Taylor Sheridan.

Taylor Sheridan named the tale ‘Comancheria’ after the region in the American Southwest. The movie is set in West Texas and filmed in New Mexico. The writer is himself from East Texas, and thus the name makes sense. A title competition among the interns at one of the production companies led to the name change. However, as the name, the story may be closer to the writer’s heart than you can imagine. Sheridan wrote ‘Hell or High Water’ following his first scripted ‘Sicario.’ However, ‘Hell or High Water’ was sold earlier, after winning the best Black List script in 2012. The movie makes up the second installment in the “the modern-day American Frontier” trilogy in the writer’s canon.

The author was exploring the death of a specific brand of life in Texas. The consequences of the mortgage apocalypse in Texas also caught his attention. When the debt crisis hit bottom, Sheridan was visiting Pulitzer-winning Texan novelist Larry McMurtry’s hometown of Archer City. The town practically felt abandoned, and that is how the idea of the heist movie came to Sheridan. Sheridan wanted to make a buddy road movie that would include elements of an old-school heist thriller. According to Sheridan, the best movies give the audiences a thrill, while the stories linger on for days and weeks.

Sheridan’s own 2017 movie ‘Wind River‘ completed the thematic trilogy about the plundering of Indian reservations. None of the films follow a clearly defined structure, and all of them walk the grey lines of morality. None has heroes or villains. Sheridan did not attend any film school. He learned screenwriting with acting stints in shows like ‘Veronica Mars‘ and ‘Sons of Anarchy.’ For Sheridan, making a good script is all about bending the stereotypes. Therefore, the story may not have a basis in reality, but the writer’s keen understanding of the socioeconomic backdrop of small-town West Texas shows in the movie.

Read More: Where Was Hell or High Water Filmed?