What Criminal Minds episodes are real?

While the stories are not real, throughout its 16-year run, Criminal Minds used real-life serial killer cases; here are three of the top-rated episodes inspired by real people.


Criminal Minds had a 16-year run which concluded in 2020, and by the time the procedural crime drama series ended, it had produced 15 seasons and over 323 episodes. Each of these episodes, or told in parts, focussed on a serial killer being caught by the Behavioural Analysis Unit (B.A.U).

While the show used fictional storylines throughout the years, it also borrowed inspiration from real-life events that featured serial killers that existed in history. In an effort to fictionalise the stories, the show would either conclude with a similar ending or completely change the ending from how it happened in real life.

Is it common for shows to be inspired by real-life events?

Autobiopics in television, refers to television shows that use real-life events or people as the basis of how to tell the story. However, even an entirely fictional series which is based on fictional characters or events can use real life situations and people as inspiration for its storylines.

The difference is that the show will not explicitly state that the episode or series is inspired by real-life events, as the show might have taken liberties with characterisation or the sequence of events that happened in real life. Similar to how Criminal Minds used real-life serial killers as inspiration for its fictional characters.

What Criminal Minds episodes are real?

Terminology is important when it comes to how television shows refer to autobiopics, versus shows that might have been inspired by real-life events.

Therefore, a simple answer to the question is that all the episodes from Criminal Minds are not real. However, there are episodes that are inspired by real serial killers and actual events that took place in history.

In this regard, what the procedural crime drama did was write out its own sequence of events inspired by the case study or profile of a certain serial killer.

This is as, according to IMDb the premise of the show was, “The cases of the F.B.I. Behavioral Analysis Unit (B.A.U.), an elite group of profilers who analyze the nation’s most dangerous serial killers and individual heinous crimes in an effort to anticipate their next moves before they strike again.”

Here are three of the most highly rated episodes inspired by true-life events and persons, according to IMDb.

To Hell… And Back

To Hell… And Back was the two-part season finale of season four. IMDb rated the episode 8.4 out of 10, and the premise of the episode was, “The team head to Canada to investigate the disappearances of a number of homeless people, drug users and sex workers and uncover something horrific.”

The story is believed to have been inspired by Canadian serial killer, Robert Pickton, who was known as the Pig Farmer Killer, who fed his victims to his pigs. In the series, Pickton is represented by two fictional characters, Mason and Lucas, who send the BAU on a chase starting in Detroit and ending in Canada.


Omnivore was the eighteenth episode of the fourth season of Criminal Minds. IMDb rated the episode 8.4 out of 10, and shared the premise of the episode by writing, “After being inactive for 10 years, Hotch’s first BAU case, an elusive serial killer known as the Reaper, starts killing again.”

The Boston reaper was the nickname given to recurring fictional character George Foyet. The character is believed to have been inspired by one of the most prolific serial killers in the United States, whose identity and motive to this day is still unknown, the Zodiac Killer. However, unlike in real-life, the Boston Reaper was finally apprehended.


Hostage was the fourteenth episode of the eleventh season of the procedural crime drama. IMDb rated the episode an 8.2 out of 10, sharing the premise of the episode as, “The BAU goes to St. Louis when an 18-year-old woman escapes from a house where she and 2 other women were held for a decade.”

The storyline is understood to have taken inspiration from the real-life and tragic case of Ariel Castro. Castro was found guilty of kidnapping multiple women, who he held captive for close to a decade. During this time, he would abuse the women, physically, mentally and sexually. This is as one of the women gave birth, while the other women suffered miscarriages.


Autobiopics are understood to borrow from real-life characters and events in order to tell a story, whether as a television series or film. However, that does not mean that series and films that do not fall under the autobiopic genre cannot be inspired by real-life events and people.

Like with the hit procedural crime drama series, Criminal Minds. During its 16-year run from 2005 until 2020, the series included multiple storylines that were inspired by real-life events and serial killers that existed. The difference being the liberties the series takes in order to better tell its story.