Is The Pale Blue Eye on Netflix based on a true story?

Starring Christian Bale and dropping on Netflix this week, The Pale Blue Eye is set to impress movie lovers

The Pale Blue Eye
(Image credit: SCOTT GARFIELD/NETFLIX © 2022)

Everyone is talking about The Pale Blue Eye and for good reason: the new two-hour-long mystery thriller is a riveting watch that will have you ask many questions, including.... Is The Pale Blue Eye based on a true story?

Starring Christian Bale and Harry Melling as, respectively, detective Augustus Landor and military cadet Edgar Allan Poe, the movie also features Robert Duvall, Lucy Bonton and Gillian Anderson, who recently went on the record about her "slightly intimate" first meeting with Bill Clinton.


The Pale Blue Eye kicks off in 1830, when Augustus is asked to investigate a number of very gruesome murders that took place at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. The expert enlists the help of Edgar, a student and young military cadet at the academy, to find out more details about the various cases - which are eventually linked to sorcery.


Let’s be clear: The Pale Blue Eye is not based on a true story, but it is the screen adaptation of the eponymous novel by Louis Bayard, which actually is inspired by some real historical details.

Specifically, fans have been wondering whether The Pale Blue Eye is a true story because of instantly recognizing the name of one of the main characters, Edgar Allan Poe. 

Born back in 1809, Edgar was a very famous American writer and poet who penned the likes of The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart, among plenty of other books, before passing away at the age of 40 in 1849.

Although Edgar was a real person who actually spent six months at West Point before being court-martialed for gross neglect of duty and dismissed, the rest of the film is based on fiction - including the character played by Christian, detective Augustus. 

"I needed a detective, somebody who could be Poe's mentor and father figure as they solved this crime together," Louis explained to the official Netflix blog, Tudum. "The name Gus comes from C. Auguste Dupin, who was the detective in Poe's stories The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter." 

Louis also came up with Augustus' last name and a sketch of his home by consulting another short story by Edgar, Landor's Cottage.  

The Pale Blue Eye

(Image credit: SCOTT GARFIELD/NETFLIX © 2022)

To put it even more bluntly, the writer said, "The nice thing about being a historical novelist is you get to make shit up."

The movie's writer and director Scott Cooper also opened up about reality versus fiction while chatting with the blog.

"Of course, this is a work of fiction," he said to Tulum matter-of-factly. "What I'm saying is: these events that occur in our film shaped his worldview and helped him become the writer that he became - with the recurring themes that deal with the questions of death, and the effects of decomposition and reanimation of the dead and mourning – all those things that are considered part of his dark romanticism."


The Pale Blue Eye was released in select movie theaters right before Christmas but will be also be available for streaming on Netflix to anyone with a subscription starting January 6.

Anna Rahmanan

Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor who covers culture, entertainment, food, fashion and travel news. Anna’s words have appeared on Time Out New York, the Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, Us Weekly, Bon Appetit and Brooklyn Magazine, among other outlets.