- Stillwater takes significant liberties with the true story of Amanda Knox, changing key details including the location and the characters involved.
- Amanda Knox has criticized the film for misrepresenting her innocence and profiting from her story.
- Knox received financial compensation from the European Court of Human Rights for her wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
Directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy, Stillwater is an American crime drama released to positive reviews in July 2021. Loosely based on the true story of Amanda Knox, the story follows Bill Baker (Matt Damon), a blue-collar father from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who ventures to France to visit his daughter Allison Baker (Abigail Breslin) and help her get out of legal jeopardy. When Bill reunites with Allison, she is five years into a nine-year prison sentence for murdering her roommate and former lover, Lina. As Allison staunchly maintains her innocence, Bill goes to extreme lengths to prove Allison was wrongfully accused, get his daughter out of jail in Marseille, and return home safely.
Although the backbone of Stillwater is loosely inspired by the Amanda Knox case, many liberties have been taken to increase the dramatic effect of the story. Knox has since made a statement on X denouncing the accuracy of her portrayal in the film and rebuking the filmmakers for profiting from her misrepresented story. As such, it’s only fair to break down which parts of the movie are based on fact and how much has been fabricated for dramatic purposes. Here’s how accurately the Amanda Knox story is told in Stillwater.
What Parts of Stillwater are True?
Apart from the central crime that incites the plot of the movie, very little about Stillwater is true. Firstly, the murder case that Amanda Knox was involved in took place in Perugia, Italy, not Marseille, France, where the movie is set. Secondly, the Knox family hailed from Seattle, Washington, not Stillwater, Oklahoma. Furthermore, Bill Baker is depicted in the film as a blue-collar construction worker whose Midwestern values define his hardscrabble personality. In reality, Amanda’s father, Curt Knox, was the vice president of finance for Macy’s Department Store in Seattle and lived a much different lifestyle than his fictional counterpart.
While these geographical and socioeconomic details may seem insignificant relative to Amanda’s murder conviction, it’s important to note that the cultural clash Bill experiences in the film was never a factor in real life. In fact, by all accounts, Curt Knox never traveled to Italy to get Amanda out of jail as Bill does to France in the underrated Matt Damon film. Bill’s entire journey overseas and his inability to adjust to life and the legal system in France were made up for the film to reframe the story through a vengeful father’s perspective. In reality, both of Amanda’s parents were forced to await the verdict of her murder trial in America. Amanda’s parents gave her financial and moral support to combat her legal issues abroad, but the entire storyline involving Bill taking legal matters into his own hands in France never happened to Curt in Italy.
How Accurate is the Movie Stillwater?
To gauge the accuracy of Stillwater, it’s important to understand the real Amanda Knox murder case. In 2007, 20-year-old Knox traveled to Perugia, Italy, to study abroad. Knox lived with three other women in a four-bedroom apartment, including the murder victim, Meredith Kercher. After returning home with her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, to find blood in the bathroom and Meredith’s bedroom door locked, Knox called the police. After inadvertently implicating herself in the crime, Knox was arrested and convicted of murdering Kercher. Knox spent four years in an Italian prison despite maintaining her innocence every step of the way. In the movie, the Raffaele character is missing from the story and is replaced by a made-up and misguided sentimental plot involving Bill and a French woman named Virginie (Camille Cottin) and her daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud).
During the initial investigation of the real Knox case, the DNA of a rugby player named Rudy Guede was found. Guede was questioned and admitted to being present at the crime scene but claimed he did not kill Meredith. The Guede character is also conspicuously absent from the movie Stillwater, further calling into question the movie’s veracity. However, one of the biggest dramatic liberties the movie takes involves the fanciful storyline in which Bill kidnaps and tortures a man named Akim (Idir Azougli), whom he believes to be the culprit. In reality, Amanda’s father never kidnapped and tortured Guede or any other murder suspect in the case. The Hollywood contrivance was likely manufactured to increase the stakes of a dramatic action-thriller.
An even bigger myth that the true-crime movie perpetuates, in Knox’s eyes, is how much knowledge and involvement Allison had with the murder of Kercher. In an interview with Today, Knox says,
“The way that Stillwater has chosen to represent my story in their story is that the Amanda Knox character has special knowledge and was at the very least indirectly involved in the killing of the Meredith Kercher character, which is a myth.” (via Marie Claire)
Although Stillwater skips over the laborious retrials and temporary acquittals to streamline the events for the sake of time, the ending of the movie partially adheres to the facts of the Knox case. It’s true that, after serving four years in an Italian prison, her character was exonerated through DNA testing that proved Guede’s guilt. After eight years of court cases, including four years of incarceration, Amanda Knox was definitively acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court in 2015. This differs drastically from the ending of Stillwater, which reveals that Allison hired Akim to “put Lina out” of her apartment. The misunderstanding led to Akim murdering Lina, which Allison never intended. In reality, Amanda never participated in hiring Guede to kill Kercher.
Did Amanda Knox Receive Compensation?
Since Stillwater was “loosely inspired” rather than “based” on the true Amanda Knox story, Knox did not receive financial compensation from the producers for obtaining the legal rights to her story. However, on January 24, 2019, Knox was awarded compensation by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR deemed Knox’s wrongful conviction and imprisonment a violation of human rights and ordered the Italian government to pay Knox $20,800 for failing to provide her with legal representation or a competent interpreter while she was incarcerated.
Despite the financial compensation she received, Knox remains adamant that the overlooked true-crime movie misrepresented her story and capitalized on the fabrications, telling The NY Post:
“By fictionalizing away my innocence, my total lack of involvement, by erasing the role of the authorities in my wrongful conviction, McCarthy reinforces an image of me as a guilty and untrustworthy person.”
Although overt and arguably hurtful creative license was taken to tell a cinematic story loosely inspired by the real Amanda Knox case, Knox has moved on since returning to Seattle following her Italian imprisonment. Upon her return, Knox completed her university degree and has since become a published author of several books, including Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir. Knox has used the proceeds of the book sales to pay for the legal fees incurred by her parents, who never wavered in their support during her wrongful conviction and lengthy legal process. Knox has also become an activist who has championed the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that advocates for people wrongly accused of crime.
In 2019, Knox returned to Italy for the first time since her acquittal and gave a keynote address and spoke on a panel about “Trial By Media” at a legal conference. That same year, Knox also began hosting the podcast The Truth About True Crime and continues to raise awareness about the issue. Now married to newspaper tycoon Christopher Robinson, Knox and her husband had a daughter in October 2021 and recently had a son in September 2023. Stream Stillwater on Paramount+ and Freevee, or the documentary Knox on Netflix.