20 of our favorite biopics of all time, from guilty pleasures to the acclaimed
Biopics are having a moment: Rami Malek will play the illustrious Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the highly anticipated Bohemian Rhapsody, out in theaters on November 2nd. Felicity Jones will bring Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to life in On the Basis of Sex out in theaters on December 25th. And Ryan Gosling will take one giant leap for mankind in the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man out October 12th. There’s also the Elton John biopic Rocketman and untitled Fred Rogers project starring Tom Hanks (which will follow a reporter’s relationship with Mr. Rogers) due in 2019.
In anticipation of these buzzworthy projects, we’re rounding up some of our favorite biopics that have hit the screen (big and small). If you’re feeling inspired to delve into the notable lives of others, consider one of these titles. From the influential lives of Amy Winehouse to Malcolm X to Stephen Hawking, learn more about some extraordinary figures with just a few of our favorite biopics.
A heartbreaking film that follows famed musician Amy Winehouse, Amy explores the life and times of the Back to Black singer. Winehouse passed away in 2011.
2. The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as British computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing in the suspenseful The Imitation Game. Turing famously cracked the German enigma code that helped allies win World War II.
3. Hidden Figures
Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, and Octavia Spencer star in this inspirational retelling of three Black women behind the greatest NASA operation in history. Hidden Figures tells the story of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan.
4. The Theory of Everything
Eddie Redmayne stars as theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The tearjerker follows the journey of Stephen and wife Jane Hawking, played by the incomparable Felicity Jones.
Regardless of how you feel about Sean Penn, he gives a stirring performance as activist Harvey Milk in Milk. Milk was the first openly gay political official in the history of California. He also served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
6. Walk the Line
Joaquin Phoenix stars as country music icon Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Phoenix stars opposite Reese Witherspoon, who plays Cash’s love June Carter; their relationship is put to the test by Cash’s turbulent lifestyle.
J.Lo’s acting chops shine through in her role as iconic singer-songwriter Selena Quintanilla in Selena. The Jenny from the Block singer stars opposite Edward James Olmos in this film about Quintanilla’s stardom. Selena passed away in 1995.
8. The Wolf of Wall Street
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort in the wild retelling of Belfort’s life in The Wolf of Wall Street. Belfort is a motivational speaker and former Wall Street stockbroker who pled guilty to fraud. DiCaprio stars alongside Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie.
9. Marie Antoinette
Reviews of Sofia Coppola’s reimagining of the ill-fated queen of France were mixed at best, but Marie Antoinette is a whimsical retelling of the young queen’s reign leading up to the fall of Versailles. It’s got Kirsten Dunst, pastel backdrops, and the indie soundtrack of your dreams.
10. Liz & Dick
Lindsay Lohan sheds her Mean Girls persona in Liz & Dick, which explores the volatile relationship between actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Lohan stars opposite Grant Bowler in the film, which HG’s books editor has dubbed “a beautiful train wreck.”
11. The Social Network
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Harvard undergrad and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, which documents the birth and rise of Facebook. Eisenberg stars opposite Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and two Armie Hammers.
David Oyelowo takes on civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s Selma, which follows Dr. King Jr.’s fight to secure rights for African Americans. Selma, Alabama became the forefront city of the movement. Oyelowo stars alongside Oprah and rapper Common.
13. The King’s Speech
Colin Firth takes on King George VI in The King’s Speech as he ascends the throne of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The King’s Speech focuses on King George VI overcoming his speech impediment. Firth stars opposite Helena Bonham Carter.
14. Malcolm X
Denzel Washington stars as human rights activist Malcolm X in this film documenting the extraordinary life of the black nationalist leader leading up to his assassination in 1965. Washington stars alongside Spike Lee and Angela Bassett.
Salma Hayek stars as Frida Kahlo in Frida, which chronicles the life and times of influential Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Frida examines Kahlo’s life as an artistic and political revolutionary. Hayek stars alongside Alfred Molina and Antonio Banderas.
16. Schindler’s List
Liam Neeson portrays Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. The film tells the story of German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who aids the Jewish escape a Nazi-seized Poland during the Holocaust.
17. I, Tonya
Margot Robbie takes on the role of American figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. The film follows Harding’s rise and fall at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in a scandal that rocked sports history. Robbie stars alongside Allison Janney and Sebastian Stan.
18. The Buddy Holly Story
Garey Busey takes on the role of musician Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story. The film shows Holly’s pioneering role in the rock n’ roll music scene during the 1950s before he was killed in a plane crash in 1959.
19. Whitney: Can I Be Me
Showtime’s Whitney: Can I Be Me chronicles the life and career of influential singer-songwriter Whitney Houston. The biopic also explores Houston’s turbulent marriage to Bobby Brown. Houston passed away in 2012.
Ray Liotta takes on the role of American gangster Henry Hill in Goodfellas. The film follows Hill, who was associated with the prominent Lucchese crime family, as he climbs the ranks of the mob hierarchy. Liotta stars alongside Robert De Niro and Paul Sorvino.
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