Immersing yourself in the following review of the great biographical films in the history of cinema is at the same time discovering the exciting lives of characters who changed history from power and anonymity, with small gestures and great deeds.
From emperors, presidents and revolutionaries to geniuses, artists and ordinary people, all of them have served as sensitive material for the development of great creations of the seventh art. Get moved again with these lives worthy of a movie.
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1. Historical biographical films.
2. Biographical films of politicians.
3. Biographical films of musicians and artists.
4. Biographical films of anonymous characters.
5. Biographical movies on Netflix.
Historical biographical films
The best biopics that we offer below show that sometimes the best way to approach a time or a historical event is through its characters. Discover Gandhi, Christ, Nelson Mandela and Hitler in the following movies.
1. Julio Cesar (1953)
Undoubtedly, one of the historical characters that has given more movies is Julio Cesar, but few have achieved the artistic heightand the closeness to his epic as the Joseph L. Mankiewicz film starring Marlon Brando. In this case, the director’s genius springs from the eternal literary source of William Shakespeare.
A period movie with a classic flavor that portrays Caesar’s reign as emperor after the civil war and the conspiracy of his enemies to assassinate him. The camera captures at all times the torment of the characters in one of the best biographical films.
In the film there is a clear desire to approach the time of Julius Caesar, but there is also a clear political background, with mythical scenes such as Marco Antonio’s speech in defense of Caesar, and it is inevitable to perceive criticism against totalitarian regimes .
2. Spartacus (1960)
One of the best biographical films in history is this epic recreation of the character of Spartacus, the gladiator who led the revolution of the slaves against the Roman Republic in 73-71 BC In it, the political message of Dalton Trumbo can be perceived, the screenwriter cursed for his communist affiliation.
In addition, this film left one of the best performances of the moment, that of Kirk Douglas, who was forever associated with the mythical figure of this classic hero, although the cast contains other top-level figures such as Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier. . More than three hours of adventures and pure cinema .
3. Gandhi (1982)
Mythical work by Richard Attenborough that approaches an idyllic character of undoubted magnetism such as the Hindu pacifist leader Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to the realism with which this historical figure approaches us , the film is a delight of expressiveness and technique that gives biographical cinema an epic and grandiloquent character.
This epic about pacifism, anticolonialism and heroicism won eight Oscars, among others the best actor for Ben Kingsley , who maintains the narrative nerve with his interpretation. The movie has some flaws that are hidden under a special force that leads to a convincing final result and with a moral. Highly recommended.
4. Braveheart (1995)
“They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom.” A phrase that has remained in the history of epic cinema and that returns to our memory with the image of Mel Gibson with his face painted in the colors of the Scottish flag, white and blue. Braveheart marked a milestone by surprising with a blockbuster on the medieval Scottish national hero .
The movie has it all: action, wit, epic, a classic hero and a moving love story. It also captures the spirit of romantic nationalism, presenting the heroic struggle of a handful of villagers against a tyrannical kingdom. The film, which portrays the Scottish rebellion led by William Wallace against England in the fourteenth century, won five Oscars.
5. The Pianist (2002)
Adrien Brody embroiders the best role of his career by putting himself in the shoes of one of the most tragic characters in recent film history, a Jewish pianist whose existence becomes a Dantesque struggle for survival when the Nazis invade Poland .
The Pianist is a crude realist fresco of the Warsaw ghetto in which Roman Polanski portrays despair, hunger and suffering outside of the recurring concentration camp picture. And it is that the film portrays the existence of the pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman , who is miraculously saved from deportation but had to survive hidden in the city.
When it seemed that everything had already been said about Nazi horror after Schindler’s List, this film came to us that shows that there can also be beauty in horror and death.
6. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson dared to offer a renewed version of the last hours of Jesus Christ in one of the best biographical films in history. The passion of Christ wants to be so realistic that it raised a great controversy due to the crudeness with which it portrayed the physical punishment suffered by this historical figure. Sometimes it is recreated with blood.
Some also criticized her for being anti-Semitic. But the historical value of the film is unquestionable, recorded in Aramaic and taking care of the references of the time down to the last detail. Jim Caviezel puts himself in the shoes ofa human Jesus Christ who suffers and is afraid , far from the sweetened versions of those old movies.
7. Der Untergang (2004)
Surely the best film that has been shot about a character as exploited as Hitler, since the great success of director Oliver Hirschbiegel is to capture the moral and atmospheric filth of the bunker of the Nazi elite in the last days of the WWII.
The physical resemblance and the brilliant performances of the actors in this German-produced film (you have to see it in the original version) bring us closer to the most relevant characters of the Third Reich with unusual realism , from the hysterical and proud Hitler to the fundamentalist Joseph Goebbels and the faithful Eva Braun.
Special mention deserves the character of Hitler’s secretary, who serves as the common thread of the film, and a memorable scene that has remained in history : Hitler’s monumental anger when he discovers that the military maneuvers have failed.
8. Invictus (2009)
Another of the historical figures honored by cinema is that of Nelson Mandela, in this case thanks to the cinematographic genius of Clint Eastwood who turns John Carlin’s book into a film , by screenwriter Anthony Peckham. The result is an ode to the strength of conviction and firmness of the ideals of the man who ended apartheid in South Africa.
Who but the famous Morgan Freeman, accompanied by Matt Damon, to embody the hero of South African freedom in a story that, coming from John Carlin, had to have a sports background: in 1995, after becoming president of the country after leaving prison , Mandela tries to reconcile black and white through the Rugby World Cup.
9. The King’s Speech (2010)
Excellent and original biographical film about the English King George VI and his speech problems that moved viewers and won four Oscars , including Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper) and for best actor (Colin Firth). He did a duet with Geoffrey Rush, who plays the speech therapist the monarch turned to, Lionel Longe.
The director’s skill is to achieve a finished product halfway between drama and comedy that culminates in an emotional ode to the ability to overcome and the panic at ridicule of a common man challenged sudden historical responsibility. The film has moments of fine irony playing on the king’s stutter.
biographical films In the political biographies that follow, you will find wonderful films, some more pompous and others more crude, about characters who in one way or another changed the course of history. Behind it there is always a political message.
10. Malcolm X (1994)
Undoubtedly one of the best films in history is this portrait of the political career of Malcolm Little, a black man from Omaha, Nebraska, whose time in prison after a youth of delinquency and conversion to Islam was a revelation to start a movement of liberation of the North American black community.
Denzel Washington brings Malcolm X to life in this Spike Lee movie that, although it was too long, as a whole manages to convey a hard and realistic message without reservations whose great achievement is to address the personality of a man from all its facets . That is why it is one of the most memorable film biographies.
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11. Salvador (2006)
Tearful biographical portrait of the Francoist’s last political crime, that of the young Catalan anarchist Salvador Puig Antich. Director Manuel Huerga turns the personal tragedy into an intimate and sincere tribute to the fighters of the transition , at a time in our country where rebellion and the fight for freedom were paid for with life.
The success of the film is to approach the tragedy of a humble family that suffers from the fate of Salvador, and the fight against the clock of politicians and lawyers to get a pardon that never came. A faithful and cruel portrait of the last death rattles of Francoism whose tragic depth reaches the heart thanks to the music of Lluis Llach.
12. J.Edgar (2011)
In this film, Clint Eastwood approaches one of the most powerful and darkest characters in the history of the United States, J. Edgar Hoover, who from 1924, when he was only 29 years old, until his death in 1972, was director general of the FBI. , position from which he accumulated compromised documents of the most important personalities of the nation.
Eastwood portrays the tormented personality of a character obsessed with eliminating political enemies, dissidents, gangsters and criminals, who survived seven presidents using methods that are not always common. He highlights the interpretation of Leonardo Di Caprio and the revelation of issues such as J. Edgar’s homosexuality.
13. The Iron Lady (2011)
In this film Phyllida Lloyd, also director of the musical Mamma Mia, Meryl Streep shines with her own light as one of the most controversial political figures of the end of the cold war, Margaret Thatcher, who led the conservative revolution in the Western bloc. An interesting movie that was not saved from the burning of critics .
And it is that the most purists described her as soft, superficial and flattering, although she managed to arouse the interest of the public and went up to slide through the main controversies of the mandate of the Iron Lady delving into her personal ambitions, her concerns and her resentment of gender and class .
14. Lincoln (2012)
Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States (1861-1865), is one of those historical figures who drags behind him a mystical and intriguing halo , and who has motivated not a few artistic creations around his person.
In the cinema, the best attempt to approach his figure was outlined by Steven Spielberg, who linked him forever to the image of Daniel Day-Lewis. This won the Oscar for best actor. The other was taken by the artistic direction, for a film that rejects the common places and legends about the character and tries to delve into the facts with all the risks .
And it is that the film focuses on the agonizing race against the clock of the president to achieve the abolition of slaveryin the last stages of the civil war.
15. My name is Harvey Milk (2008)
What price is a man willing to pay for his freedom
From him Harvey Milk, tired of living in hiding, decided to risk everything and become the first openly gay politician chosen as representative in the United States . A year later he was assassinated, but he left behind a long fight for the rights of homosexuals.
And it is that the film, which features the brilliant performance of Sean Penn in the role of Harvey Milk, develops the political career of this common citizenwho led a broad movement in defense of sexual rights facing politicians, businessmen and trade unionists while maintaining a destructive relationship with the young Jack Lira.
Narrated with a seventies aesthetic by Gus Van Sant.
The best biographical films of musicians and artists
Musicians and artists have always had a special personality, a spirit touched by genius and depth that has often led them to both success and failure and madness. Do not miss the best movies of musicians and artists.
16. The Madman with Red Hair (1956)
Emotion and obsession undulate like Vincent van Gogh’s energetic brushstrokes through one of history’s great biopics and reaches into the expressionist dimension of the soul.tormented by a brilliant painter driven to madness. Vincente Minnelli let us enter the life of the Dutch artist whose interpretation is performed by Kirk Douglas.
A sober and stark film that avoids idealization at all times to draw the genius with its lights and shadows, with deep dialogues that reflect on art and forms of expression. Other artists such as Toulouse Lautrec (Jose Ferrer) and Gauguin (Anthony Quinn) parade through this fresco.
17. Amadeus (1984)
A poisonous mixture of admiration and envy is filtered by this masterpiece of cinema signed by Milos Forman where Antonio Salieri, the best court musician of Emperor Jose II, is shaken by jealousy at the appearance of a talented young man namedWolfgang Amadeus Mozart that revolutionizes the music scene of the moment.
The eight-time Oscar-winning film confronts Salieri’s (F. Murray Abraham) attempts to ruin Mozart’s (Tom Hulce) career and his eccentricities. A film with doses of elegance, dramatic and ironic moments, and an impressive portrait of the time . Without a doubt, one of the most recommended biographical films.
18. Sid and Nancy (1986)
Director Alex Cox offers us in Sid and Nancy a nostalgic trip to the streets of British punk by the hand of his tragic icon, Sid Vicious. Through the trajectory of the group Sex Pistols, the film focuses on the path to the downfall of the leader of the gang.which was, in turn, the tragic destiny of a generation overcome by excesses.
The whole movie is a suggestive invitation to remember the punk era and remember that there was a time when life had something authentic far from commercial garbage.
However, the last part of the tape seems to be taken from a horror film, although it really happened: Nancy, Sid Vicious’s partner, appears murdered in bed next to him, who was accused of the murder and died of an overdose shortly before of the start of the trial.
19. The Doors (1991)
Oliver Stone achieved something very difficult in The Doors: to give life to a unique character like Jim Morrison, due to his imprint, his charisma and his aura. She did so by summoning the ghost of the Doors frontman into the body of Val Kilmer, accompanied by a magnetic Meg Ryan. For this reason, even with some errors, it is one of the best biographical films of musicians.
The great attraction of the film is descending into the complex spirit of such a special person and penetrating a spiral as hypnotic as the rhythm of his songs From him. Undoubtedly a risky but successful proposal in which one cannot help noticing the flattering hint of an irregular but visual, elegant and intense film.
20. Chaplin (1992)
Ten years after having triumphed in the first biography of him, with Gandhi, director Richard Attenborough again played it with a complicated genre with the biopic, and once again demonstrated his undoubted artistic quality with Chaplin. It doesn’t have the quality of that first autobiographical film, but you always want to revisit Charlie Chaplin.
In this case, Attenborough manages to complete a well-deserved tribute with a film with very recurring moments and a beautiful and moving final flourish. The role of Robert Downey Jr. stands out, who manages to uncover the sentimental and endearing side of the silent film master, and actors who accompany him such as Anthony Hopkins and, of course, Geraldine Chaplin.
21. Pollock: The Life of a Creator (2000)
The drama that hides behind this biopic about one of the most important American avant-garde painters of the 20th century is the typical story of two souls thirsty for creativity who share a common dream that is reached by the path of self-destruction.
And that is the great success of director Ed Harris, who portrays the exciting life journey of the couple made up of artists Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner since she decides to abandon everything to dedicate herself body and soul to her husband’s career, which in full composition from a play that launched him to fame, he begins to experience madness and violence .
Rarely has a phenomenon of symbiosis as brutal as that of Salma Hayek with the character of Frida been seen in the cinema: she seemed born to play that role . And what about the big man Alfred Molina in the role of Diego Rivera. Without a doubt, a great duo for a nostalgic movie.
Both complete one of the best duets among the best biographical films, conveying with the same bittersweet taste the explosive mixture of love and hate, passion and jealousy, egos and shared dreams of a unique and repeatable couple . It also reviews Frida Kahlo’s adventures with other women and with the exiled Russian communist Leon Trotsky.
Incidentally, it allows us to penetrate the revolutionary Mexico of the 1930s, where they furiously coexistedartistic freedom and socialist dreams .
23. Ray (2004)
Jamie Foxx’s physical resemblance to the king of jazz Ray Charles is immediately left alone as an anecdote in the face of his interpretive extravagance that manages to put into execution one of the best biographical films in history. In it we can see the lights and shadows of the life of this musical genius at the time of his leap to success.
The film has a color, a photographic treatment and a special elegance that manages to capture the atmosphere of the Seattle jazz boom , and gives us the beautiful story of a young musician whose dream of succeeding in music is fulfilled while being challenged. by vices, childhood traumas and blindness.
24. Walk the Line (2005)
Translated into Spanish as On the Tightrope, this is one of the best movies about someone, especially because of the interpretation that Joachim Phoenix gives us, since it is not easy to imitate the deep voice of Johnny Cash with such precision . The rest is put by an energetic Reese Witherspoon in the role of June Carter (Oscar for best actress).
But beyond the interpretations, this biopic of one of the most authentic singers of American music is a success of its director, James Mangold, along with the screenwriter Gil Dennis, to capture the rebellious soul of Cash , with its complexities and its problems. , and portray the key moments of his life in a long parable that leads to an emotional ending.
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25. Truman Capote (2005)
Philip Seymour Hoffman makes a commendable effort to recreate the histrionic personality of Truman Capote, a successful writer whose effeminate manner and effeminate voice raised suspicions among the neighbors around a Kansas farm where he had been murdered a family when he is sent at his own request to investigate the case.
The great risk was to fall into excess, caricature and superficiality, but the great work of Hoffman and Bennett Miller’s direction rounded off an almost perfect film, well measured and balanced, about a writer who always chased fame by going down to the lowest. of the human soul.
26. Trumbo (2015)
Many critics destroyed it for its excesses, but what did they expect from a movie about Dalton Trumbo scripted by John McNamara. Brilliant acting from Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) lends credence to an outlandish story about a fascinating character : America’s greatest screenwriter, a victim of a witch hunt.
The film starts from the height of success in which Dalton Trumbo amassed fame and money for movies like Spartacus and Roman Holiday. However, his career is hampered by the accusation of being a communist by the Un-American Activities Commission, which put him on the blacklist and forced him to survive by writing under a pseudonym.
27. Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
This film by Bryan Singer about the great artistic icon of the late 20th century, Freddy Mercury, has recently hit the big screen. Presented as a total personality, with his contradictions and his genius, Mercury is actually the pretext to culminate a true tribute to music, freedom and what Queen represented.
The group’s fans have very well received this ambitious production in which Queen’s music is the thread that threads the plot, which covers from the group’s creation and its irruption in the fever of success, to the crisis that opens with the Freddy Mercury’s fall into excesses and culminated in the realization of one of the largest concerts in history .
biographical films of anonymous characters
The characters on which the following feature films were inspired did not have great positions or were known, but their stories show that even the most ordinary lives can hide exciting lessons.
28. Serpico (1974)
Al Pacino stars in this biographical film about an unknown character whom Sidney Lumet dusted off and turned into film history: Frank Serpico. This is the story of an incorruptible policeman who refused to bow to corruption and bribery , and therefore confronted his colleagues and risked his life.
Frank Serpico was an officer of the New York Police Department who stood out for being the first police officer to testify in a trial against police corruption, in 1971. A story of heroism that Sidney Lumet used to reflect the idealism of principles , signing a of his best films of his long career.
29. The Elephant Man (1980)
Few autobiographies manage to arouse empathy with a person’s suffering with such enthusiasm as this little wonder of the seventh art, The Elephant Man, with which David Lynch invites us to reflect on the human condition through of the surprising existence of John Merrick.
The film, in black and white, takes us to the end of the 19th century when Dr. Frederick Treves meets John Merrick, a man with a deformed head who is used as a daily exhibit in a circus. The plot revolves around the humiliating existence of this man under whose monstrous appearance a good heart was hidden.
30. Raging Bull (1980)
Among the movies about boxing (and there are quite a few) stands out one of the most recommended movies we’ve seen, directed by Martins Scorsese and in which Robert De Niro plays the sickly violent young boxer Jake La Motta . With a dizzying pace, Raging Bull is one of those movies that one watches all the time with a knot in the stomach.
Scorsese manages to reflect the intrinsically violent personality of this young man who, despite having great talent in the ring, unloaded his aggressiveness on the people around him. When he achieves success, his life becomes hell, with a failed married life and continuous pressure from the mafia to fight .
31. Ed Wood (1994)
A tribute by Tim Burton to those losers who inspired him so much, in this case with the biography of an ordinary man whose vital and professional frustration, together with an admirable commitment to the pursuit of dreams, makes us reflect on the concept of success and failure and the true value of illusion.
Tim Burton humorously portrays the life of Ed Wood, played by Johnny Depp, who was for years considered the worst film director in history . It is about a young man who liked to dress as a woman and who dreamed of making great movies, although he only managed to shoot some pieces of little artistic value with a particular cast.
Undoubtedly a delirious and transgressive film in which the contribution of Martin Landau, winner of the Oscar for best supporting actor, stands out .
32. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Far from the pomp and excess sensitivity, the director Ron Howard presents us coldly (perhaps too linearly) the wonderful phenomenon of the mathematician John Forbes Nash, one of those exceptional minds obsessed with always going further. In his eagerness to discover something original , he develops an innovative theory that serves to decipher codes.
However, while he is hired by the United States Department of Defense, the young genius begins to suffer from schizophrenic disorders . Brilliant biographical drama starring Russell Crowe and whose unique emotional depth is offered by Jennifer Connelly in the role of a student who shows Nash the power of love.
33. Monster (2003)
The best thing about this Patty Jenkins movie is undoubtedly Charlize Theron’s ability to transform into a sinisterly tragic character as Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute executed after confessing to the murder of six people . However, Monster shows behind the life of this assassin a much more powerful love story.
And it is that the life of this woman, subjected to abuse since she was a child and condemned to practice prostitution amid continuous aggression and mistreatment from her clients , becomes a desperate struggle to free herself from her destiny. Along the way, she meets a young lesbian traumatized by her family’s opposition to her sexual condition.
The love between these two tormented souls advances towards the precipice pushed by the personal history of Wuornos, who after murdering a client starts a chain of crimes.
34. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Dallas Buyers Club brings together two great ingredients to be a reference movie: an attractive script with an interesting story, and the metamorphosis of Matthew McConaughey in one of the best performances of recent times that earned him the Oscar.
And it is that the famous actor, who lost more than 20 kilos, seems to descend into hell hand in hand with his character, an alcoholic, drug addict and womanizer Texan rodeo cowboywho begins a fight for survival when he is diagnosed with AIDS. He is joined by a touching Jared Leto in the role of a transsexual who becomes his partner.
Based on a true story, the background of the film is the heroic struggle against the state apparatus of two people who have nothing to lose.
35. Sully (2016)
Clint Eastwood loves those anonymous characters who become heroes almost unintentionally, as if he were crazy to portray that strange power that we all carry inside . On this occasion he chose an anonymous character who, unwittingly, starred in one of the most amazing stories of aviation: the landing on the Hudson River.
It happened in 2009, when pilot Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) saved the lives of 155 pilots aboard a damaged plane with which he had to seek an emergency landing. The film is a tribute to the human factor and deals with Sully’s fight against the airline , which tries to shake off responsibility by accusing the pilot of recklessness.
The best biographical films on Netflix
In the Netflix distributor, you will also find films as evocative as that of an anonymous traveler to the wilds of Alaska, the life of Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination of her husband or the homosexual trial of the hero who made The Allies won World War II.
36. Into the Wild (2007)
Freshness, daring, adrenaline, ambition and rhythm are some of the qualifiers for this film directed by Sean Penn based on the life of Christopher McCandless, an idealistic young man who gave his possessions to charity and left the civilized world to embark on adventure and enter the wild nature.
This young man’s journey into the Alaskan wilderness is also the inner journey of a boy who came to change his name (he renamed himself Alexander Supertramp) to start a new life. Great role of Emile Hirsch, but the best is how Sean Penn condemns us to the unstoppable rhythm of wild nature in breathtaking scenes.
37. Deciphering Enigma (2014)
Seen without many pretensions, The Imitation Game is one of the autobiographical movies on Netfilx that you cannot miss, a very interesting movie that takes us to a fascinating true story: in the middle of the Second World War, the British mathematician Alan Turing manages to decipher the secret codes Nazis contained in the Enigma machine.
However, far from being received as a hero he is accused of his homosexuality and tried in 1952, and that is the object of interest on which director Morten Tyldum focuses. The film won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and discovered a great duo formed by Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.
38. The Theory of Everything (2014)
As one of the great autobiographical movies on Netflix, you will find this biopic about the most influential scientific eminence of the last half century, Stephen Hawking. Like all geniuses, his personality has many facets , but in this case the director of The Theory of Everything, James Marsh, focused on his love relationship and his illness.
It is an intimate story of a young man with a privileged mind who, while meeting the woman in his life, begins to experience the effects of a degenerative disease with which both learn to live. Beyond the minimalism with which we are offered a more than interesting product, there is the surprising metamorphosis of Eddie Redmayne .
39. Jackie (2016)
Always in the shadow of her husband’s power, the figure of the American first lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) is illuminated by the spotlights of director Pablo Larrain to narrate the days immediately after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A drama of beautiful and painful invoice.
The film becomes so ambitious and disconcerting that it ends up becoming, almost unwittingly and due to its own oversize, a tribute that transcends the figure of Jacqueline Kennedy and represents the most heartbreakingly human female heroine .
40. Walt the dreamer (2015)
With a script that lacks spark and brilliance, Walt is nevertheless an endearing film that not only traces the life of a unique creator like Walt Disney, but offers a return to the amazing world that sprung from his sketches.
In fact, this film directed by Khoa is subtitled Before Mickey because it focuses on the failures and hopes of young Walt, the dream embryo of a captivating mind that created animated film. Perhaps the film lacks ambition, which is firmer the further it moves away from the pain and darkness of the protagonist’s soul.
- More movies: The 30 best war movies in history.
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