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Is Netflix's Ozark Based On A True Story?

Out of the dozens of Netflix Original series, "Ozark" is definitely one of the most thrilling. The drama series follows the story of the Byrdes, a seemingly normal family that relocates from Chicago to Missouri at the behest of the family patriarch, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman). However, the Byrdes are anything but normal, as Marty's reason for uprooting his family was so that he could keep his job (and his head) as a money-launderer for a Mexican drug cartel. 

Netflix is currently airing the fourth and final season of "Ozark," which will be split into two 7-episode installments. While it's unclear when the second and final set of episodes will air, it's sure to answer the major question of if Marty, his wife Wendy (Laura Linney), and their children will be able to make it out of the business alive. 

"Ozark" is a pretty over-the-top crime drama. After all, how many families do you know who have to dodge the FBI while cutting deals to laundering millions of dollars for a massive criminal enterprise? That being said, stranger things have happened, and it does make you wonder whether "Ozark" is based on any real-life money laundering schemes. 

Ozark isn't based on a true story, but it is true to real-life money laundering operations

Although "Ozark" is not directly based on a specific family involved in the drug trafficking business, the premise of cartels using businesses to launder money is totally rooted in real life. Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones has spent years covering topics like drug trafficking and gangs. In a conversation with Netflix, Quinones said that he's definitely encountered characters like Marty. Specifically, Quinones explains that the drug trafficking world works because there are "people on the lower level" doing jobs like money laundering, mainly in cash-only businesses. 

While the idea of cash businesses laundering money has been utilized wildly in drug cartels, "Ozark" definitely takes it to an extreme level, as Quinones points out. If you remember, when Marty first arrives in the Ozarks, he's tasked with laundering a whopping total of $500 million. "I would say, though, if you're asking someone to launder $500 million, it would be difficult to do that in any kind of rapid way without a bank," Quinones said. 

So, while the Byrde's exact story may not be based on a real family, there are many truths at the heart of "Ozark."