A biographical film, or biopic (/ˈbaɪoʊpɪk/; abbreviation for biographical motion picture), is a film that dramatizes the life of a non-fictional or historically-based person or people. Such films show the life of a historical person and the central character's real name is used. They differ from films "based on a true story" or "historical drama films" in that they attempt to comprehensively tell a single person's life story or at least the most historically important years of their lives.
Because the figures portrayed are actual people, whose actions and characteristics are known to the public (or at least historically documented), biopic roles are considered some of the most demanding of actors and actresses. Ben Kingsley, Johnny Depp, Jim Carrey, and Jamie Foxx all gained new-found respect as dramatic actors after starring in biopics: Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi (1982), Depp as Ed Wood in Ed Wood (1994), Carrey as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon (1999), Foxx as Ray Charles in Ray (2004), and Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything (2014). These are some of The greatest Biopics ever made in History of Cinema. 
In rare cases, sometimes called auto biopics, the subject of the film plays himself or herself: Jackie Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story; Muhammad Ali in The Greatest; Audie Murphy in To Hell and Back; Patty Duke in Call Me Anna; Bob Mathias in The Bob Mathias Story, Arlo Guthrie in Alice's Restaurant; Fantasia Barrino in Life Is Not a Fairytale; and Howard Stern in Private Parts.
Biopic scholars include George F. Custen of the College of Staten Island and Dennis P. Bingham of Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. Custen, in Bio/Pics: How Hollywood Constructed Public History (1992), regards the genre as having died with the Hollywood studio era, and in particular, Darryl F. Zanuck. On the other hand, Bingham's 2010 study Whose Lives Are They Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre shows how it perpetuates as a codified genre using many of the same tropes used in the studio era that has followed a similar trajectory as that shown by Rick Altman in his study, Film/Genre. Bingham also addresses the male biopic and the female biopic as distinct genres from each other, the former generally dealing with great accomplishments, the latter generally dealing with female victimization. Ellen Cheshire's Bio-Pics: a life in pictures (2014) examines UK/US films from the 1990s and 2000s. Each chapter reviews key films linked by profession and concludes with further viewing list. Christopher Robé has also written on the gender norms that underlie the biopic in his article, "Taking Hollywood Back" in the 2009 issue of Cinema Journal. Roger Ebert defended The Hurricane and distortions in biographical films in general, stating "those who seek the truth about a man from the film of his life might as well seek it from his loving grandmother. ... The Hurricane is not a documentary but a parable."
Some biopics purposely stretch the truth. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was based on game show host Chuck Barris' widely debunked yet popular memoir of the same name, in which he claimed to be a CIA agent. Kafka incorporated both the life of author Franz Kafka and the surreal aspects of his fiction. The Errol Flynn film They Died with Their Boots On tells the story of Custer but is highly romanticized. The Oliver Stone film The Doors, mainly about Jim Morrison, was highly praised for the similarities between Jim Morrison and actor Val Kilmer, look-wise and singing-wise, but fans and band members did not like the way Val Kilmer portrayed Jim Morrison, and a few of the scenes were even completely made up.
Casting can be controversial for biographical films. Casting is often a balance between similarity in looks and ability to portray the characteristics of the person. Anthony Hopkins felt that he should not have played Richard Nixon in Nixon because of a lack of resemblance between the two. The casting of John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror was objected to because of the American Wayne being cast as the Mongol warlord. Egyptian critics criticized the casting of Louis Gossett, Jr., an African American actor, as Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in the 1982 TV miniseries Sadat. Also, some objected to the casting of Jennifer Lopez in Selena because she is a New York City native of Puerto Rican descent while Selena was Mexican-American.
Carbine Williams is a 1952 American drama film directed by Richard Thorpe and starring James Stewart. The film follows the life of its namesake, David Marshall Williams, who invented the operating principle for the M1 Carbine while in a North Carolina prison. The M1 Carbine was used extensively during World War II and Korea.
Originally filmed in black-and-white, it is also shown in a computer-colorized version.Hendrix (film)
Hendrix is a 2000 biographical television film directed by Leon Ichaso about the life of Jimi Hendrix. It stars Wood Harris as Hendrix. It was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for editing in 2001.Mesmer (film)
Mesmer is a 1994 Austrian-Canadian-British-German biographical film directed by Roger Spottiswoode from a script by Dennis Potter. It stars Alan Rickman as Franz Anton Mesmer and depicts his radical new ways as a pioneering physician.National Film Award for Best Biographical Film
The National Film Award for Best Biographical Film is one of the National Film Awards presented annually by the Directorate of Film Festivals, the organisation set up by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India. It is one of several awards presented for non-feature films and awarded with Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus).
The award was instituted in 1984, at 32nd National Film Awards and awarded annually for the short films produced in the year across the country, in all Indian languages.Rembrandt (1936 film)
Rembrandt is a 1936 British biographical film made by London Film Productions of the life of 17th-century Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn. The film was produced and directed by Alexander Korda from a screenplay by June Head and Lajos Bíró based on a story by Carl Zuckmayer. The music score was by Geoffrey Toye and the cinematography by Georges Périnal.Rembrandt (1999 film)
Rembrandt is a 1999 international coproduction biographical film directed by Charles Matton.Rossini! Rossini!
Rossini! Rossini! is a 1991 Italian biographical film written and directed by Mario Monicelli. It depicts real life events of composer Gioachino Rossini. Monicelli replaced Robert Altman that, due to differences with the production, gave up. The film won the David di Donatello for Best Costumes.Salvador Dalí (film)
Salvador Dalí is a 1966 35-minute film directed by Andy Warhol. The film features surrealist artist Salvador Dalí visiting The Factory and meeting the rock band The Velvet Underground.Savitri (actress)
Savitri Ganesan (born Nissankara Savitri; 4 January 1936 – 26 December 1981) was an Indian film actress, playback singer, dancer, director and producer known for her works primarily in Telugu cinema and Tamil cinema. She is also known for her works in Kannada, Malayalam and bollywood. Savitri's first significant role was in the 1952 Telugu film Pelli Chesi Choodu. In 1960, she received the Rashtrapati Award for her performance in the Telugu film Chivaraku Migiledi. In 1968, she produced and directed the Telugu film Chinnari Papalu, for which she received the state Nandi Award for Best Feature Film (Silver). She often referred as "Mahanati" and "Nadigaiyar Thilagam".
Savitri was honored with "women in cinema" at the 30th International Film Festival of India. Her Tamil works include Kalathur Kannamma (1959), Pasamalar (1961), Pava Mannippu (1961), Paarthal Pasi Theerum (1962), Karpagam (1963), Karnan (1963), Kai Koduttha Dheivam, Navarathri (1964), and Thiruvilaiyadal (1965). In 2018, Nag Ashwin directed the biographical film Mahanati which chronicles the life of Savitri, essayed by Keerthy Suresh.Taron Egerton
Taron David Egerton (born 10 November 1989) is a British actor and singer. He gained recognition for his roles in the British television series The Smoke, and the 2014 action comedy film Kingsman: The Secret Service and its 2017 sequel.Egerton has also played Edward Brittain in the 2014 drama film Testament of Youth, appeared in the 2015 crime thriller film Legend, and starred as Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards in the 2016 biographical film Eddie the Eagle. In 2019, he portrayed musician Elton John in the biopic Rocketman.Tchaikovsky (film)
Tchaikovsky (Russian: Чайковский) is a 1970 Soviet biopic film directed by Igor Talankin. It featured Innokenty Smoktunovsky in the role of the famous Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It was nominated for the 1971 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film as well as the Academy Award for Original Song Score and Adaptation.The Bear (1984 film)
The Bear is a 1984 biopic starring Gary Busey and Jon-Erik Hexum. The film was written by Michael Kane, directed by Richard C. Sarafian, and produced by James A. Hearn and Larry G. Spangler.The Fabulous Dorseys
The Fabulous Dorseys is a 1947 fictionalized biographical film which tells the story of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, from their boyhood in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania through their rise, their breakup, and their personal reunion. The film is inevitably a musical, but has many comic overtones.
The Dorsey Brothers starred as themselves. Other actors include Janet Blair, William Lundigan, Sara Allgood and Arthur Shields. Janet Blair demonstrates that she is a highly competent singer.
The "side plot" focuses upon a romance between Jane and Bob. Bob strives to improve himself, and rather than playing support music in the cinema, strives to write a concerto.
There are also cameo appearances by other musicians of the period: Paul Whiteman, Charlie Barnet, Henry Busse, Bob Eberly, Helen O'Connell and Art Tatum. Pianist Tatum "is shown playing in a night club with the piano surrounded by the Dorsey brothers and other well-known musicians, who finally join him in an ensemble blues."The Jimmy Dorsey composition and theme song "Contrasts" is played in the movie. "Green Eyes", "Tangerine", "I'll Never Smile Again", "Marie", and "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" are also featured in the movie, along with "To Me" and "Dorsey Concerto". Paul Whiteman and the Orchestra perform "At Sundown".
The film was written by Art Arthur, Richard English and Curtis Kenyon. It was directed by Alfred E. Green.The Keeper (2018 film)
The Keeper is a British-German biographical film directed by Marcus H. Rosenmüller and starring German actor David Kross as the footballer Bert Trautmann. Although the subject of the film was a sportsman, the film has been described as "not primarily a sports film" but instead a drama.The film premiered at the 2018 Zurich Film Festival, and was released in Germany under the title Trautmann on 14 March 2019. It is slated for release in the UK and Ireland on 5 April 2019.The Life of General Villa
The Life of General Villa (1914) is a silent biographical action–drama film starring Pancho Villa as himself, shot on location during a civil war. The film incorporated both staged scenes and authentic live footage from real battles during the Mexican Revolution, around which the plot of the film revolves. The film was produced by D. W. Griffith and featured future director Raoul Walsh as the younger version of Villa.
Currently the film is presumably lost, with only unedited fragments and publicity stills known to exist.
The making of the film and associated events were dramatized in the film And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003) with Antonio Banderas starring as Villa and Kyle Chandler playing Walsh.The Mighty Barnum
The Mighty Barnum is a 1934 film starring Wallace Beery as P.T. Barnum. The movie was written by Gene Fowler and Bess Meredyth, and directed by Walter Lang. Beery had played Barnum four years earlier in A Lady's Morals, a highly fictionalized biography of singer Jenny Lind. The supporting cast features Adolphe Menjou, Virginia Bruce as Jenny Lind, and Rochelle Hudson.Timothy Spall
Timothy Leonard Spall (born 27 February 1957) is a British character actor and occasional presenter. He became a household name in the UK after appearing as Barry Spencer Taylor in the 1983 ITV comedy-drama series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.
Spall received critical acclaim for his performance in Secrets & Lies (1996), for which he was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He gained international acclaim for his role as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter films. Subsequently, he starred in many films, including Hamlet (1996), Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Enchanted (2007), The Damned United (2009), The King’s Speech (2010), Ginger and Rosa (2012), Denial (2016), and The Party (2017).
He has famously collaborated with director Mike Leigh, making six films together, including Home Sweet Home (1982), Life is Sweet (1990), Secrets & Lies (1996), Topsy-Turvy (1999), All or Nothing (2002), and Mr. Turner (2014).
He starred in the television documentary Timothy Spall: ...at Sea (2010–2012) and in 2014 won the Best Actor award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for portraying J. M. W. Turner in Mike Leigh's biographical film Mr. Turner.
|By movement |
|By demographic groups|