Is Cocaine Bear Really Based on a True Story?

Is Cocaine Bear Really Based on a True Story?

Cocaine Bear is out in the wild – aka cinemas – and it brings with it one of the wildest stories you’ve probably ever heard. What’s even more surprising is that the movie is inspired by real events.

Yes, as you may have guessed, the story involves a bear on cocaine. But how much of the movie that follows that premise is true? Let’s break it down.

The true story of Cocaine Bear

cocaine bear
Image: Universal Pictures

In 1985, a 175-pound (80kg) black bear was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in northern Georgia, USA. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation found the bear among 40 opened plastic containers that held traces of cocaine, The New York Times wrote.

The cocaine was reported to have been dropped from a plane piloted by Andrew Thornton, a convicted drug smuggler on a smuggling run from Colombia, who was attempting to lighten the load on his aircraft. After dropping the duffel bag of cocaine, Thornton jumped from the plane, hit his head on the tail of the aircraft and failed to open his parachute, causing him to fall to his death, The Independent reported.

Tracking the trajectory of the crashed plane, investigators found nine duffel bags full of cocaine and then a tenth ravaged bag, along with a dead bear. The media dubbed the bear Pablo Escobear, after famed drug lord Pablo Escobar.

A medical examiner at the time said the bear’s stomach was packed with cocaine. There was no way it could have survived after ingesting such a huge amount of the drug, although it’s possible other wildlife also consumed some of the cocaine. The package the bear ripped into was worth up to $20 million.

The bear was taxidermied and is now on display at the Kentucky for Kentucky store in Lexington.

How much of the movie is true?

Cocaine Bear follows a black bear on a murderous drug-fuelled rampage in the forests of Georgia.

Initially, the movie sticks close to the facts, opening with a scene of a number of duffel bags filled with cocaine being dropped out of a plane and a bear stumbling upon one. Everything from there is basically creative licence.

There were no reports of the bear killing anyone after it ingested the cocaine, so any deaths you see in the movie are completely fabricated. Nor was anyone reported to have seen the animal while it was on cocaine, so each of the characters who encounter the bear in Georgia in the film is created just for the purposes of the movie.

Really, the only part of the movie that is based on fact is the instance of a bear ingesting a ridiculous amount of cocaine that was dropped from a plane. Which, honestly, is wild enough.

Cocaine Bear is in Australian cinemas now.

While you’re here, check out what other movies are releasing in 2023.

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