In honor of National Biography Day, we’re taking a look at the 5 best biopics of all time! These films capture the lives and legacies of some of our most famous human beings – from Steve Jobs to Muhammad Ali – in an unforgettable way. And recent trends? Fantasy movies are definitely on the rise, and biographical films are continuing to be popular options for moviegoers.
So whether you’re interested in learning more about these historical figures or just looking for a good (and entertaining) movie experience, these are the five best biopics out there!
In 2004, a film was released that would change the way people thought about journalism forever. The film, Capote, tells the story of Truman Capote, a writer who is considered to be the father of the New Journalism movement.
Capote’s most famous work, In Cold Blood, is a precise-yet-chilling depiction of a quadruple murder that took place in Kansas in 1959. The book changed the way people thought about crime writing, and it is still considered to be one of the best examples of true crime writing today.
The film Capote focuses on the months leading up to the publication of In Cold Blood, and it shows how Truman Capote crafted his narrative by spending time with the killers and getting to know them on a personal level.
Seymour Hoffman gives an award-winning performance as Truman Capote in the film, and Christina Lee plays his close friend and confidante, Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird).
The film is beautifully shot, and its pristine scenes contrast sharply with the brutal reality of the murders at its center. Capote is a masterful piece of filmmaking that showcases Truman Capote’s brilliance as a writer and Seymour Hoffman’s immense talent as an actor.
Brian’s Song (1971)
The 1971 film “Brian’s Song” is based on the true story of Brian Piccolo (played by Billy Dee Williams), a football player for the Chicago Bears, and his teammate Gayle Sayers (played by James Caan). The film follows the two men as they overcome racism and prejudice, both on and off the field.
The film is best known for its acceptance speech scene, in which Sayers gives an emotional speech about Piccolo after he is diagnosed with cancer. The scene is widely considered to be one of the most memorable and moving moments in cinema history.
Despite its notorious tear-jerker qualities, “Brian’s Song” is also notable for its accurate portrayal of race relations in America during the 1960s and 1970s. The relationship between Piccolo and Sayers was based on real-life friendship between the two men, and their bond is evident throughout the film.
Although “Brian’s Song” was originally intended to be a television movie, it was so well-received that it was released theatrically instead. The film was a huge success, both commercially and critically, and remains popular today.
The Elephant Man (1980)
The Elephant Man is a 1980 American historical drama film based on the true story of Joseph Merrick, a.k.a. John Merrick, who was born with severe deformities and was exhibited as a sideshow freak. The film was directed by David Lynch and stars John Hurt as Merrick, Anthony Hopkins as physician Frederick Treves, and Anne Bancroft as Madame Tussauds proprietress Mrs. Kendal.
Prosthetic makeup design plays an important role in the film, which was created by make-up artist Christopher Tucker. Tucker used latex prosthetics to create the Elephant Man’s distinctive features, including his large head and nose, protruding eyes, and thick skin. The makeup took approximately four hours to apply each day.
John Hurt won widespread acclaim for his performance as Merrick. His portrayal of the character’s physical and emotional transformation earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
The Elephant Man was a critical and commercial success, grossing $26 million at the box office against its $5 million budget. It received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Lynch), Best Actor (Hurt), and Best Supporting Actress (Bancroft).
The Social Network (2010)
The Social Network is a 2010 American drama film directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin. Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires, it portrays the founding of social networking website Facebook and the resulting lawsuits. It stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook; Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Facebook’s co-founder; Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, Napster’s co-founder; Rooney Mara as Erica Albright, Zuckerberg’s former girlfriend; and Armie Hammer as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, identical twins and Olympic rowers who sued Zuckerberg for stealing their idea.
The Last Emperor (1987)
The Last Emperor is a 1987 epic historical drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, starring John Lone as the young Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. The film was based on the life of Puyi, the last emperor of China, who was overthrown in 1911. It spans his life from his ascension to the throne at age three through his years as a puppet ruler under the thumb of foreign powers, his imprisonment and eventual liberation.
The film was shot entirely in Beijing’s Forbidden City and draws on real-life events for its story. It is one of the rare films to be allowed access to this historic palace. The production design by Dante Ferretti creates an immersive experience that transports viewers back in time. The costumes by James Acheson are also stunning, evoking the opulence of imperial China.
The Last Emperor is more than just a lavish historical epic; it’s also a fascinating history lesson. Through Puyi’s story, we see how China went from being a powerful empire to a country occupied and controlled by foreigners. We also see how quickly things can change; after centuries of stability, China was plunged into turmoil in just a few short years.
Bertolucci’s film is both visually stunning and intellectually stimulating; it’s an unforgettable cinematic experience that should not be missed.