When I’m reviewing the questions sent in to AskDeb.com, one which comes up over and over is “What biography movies would you recommend?”. While there are many great biography movies available, I decided to put together a list of favorites for my readers.
In case you’re wondering, a biography movie is one which tells the story of a real-life person. Sure, some of the events may be slightly altered for entertainment purposes, but the essential details are always included.
Biography Movie Reviews
Anyway, here’s my answer to “What biography movies would you recommend?”. If you like the following films, I would suggest an Internet search to find many more quality biography movies.
- Raging Bull (1980) – Considered one of the greatest movies ever made, Raging Bull was directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Robert DeNiro as middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta. Other cast members included Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty.
The film deals with LaMotta’s battles inside the ring and outside, as he is eventually consumed by his anger and jealousy. Noted for its realistic and brutal boxing sequences, Raging Bull was nominated for eight Academy Awards, with Robert DeNiro winning for Best Actor.
After receiving eight Oscar nominations, the film won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Ron Howard), Best Adapted Screenplay (Akiva Goldsman), and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly). Many of the events in the movie differ from Nash’s real life, but the filmmakers stated that A Beautiful Mind was not meant to be a literal representation.
- Braveheart (1995) – Mel Gibson stars as William Wallace, one of the leaders of the First War of Scottish Independence against Edward I of England. Other cast members include Sophie Marceau, Catherine McCormack, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox, Patrick McGoohan and Angus Macfadyen.
Braveheart was lauded for it’s epic feel, solid performances and intense battle sequences. A success at the box office, the movie was also popular with film critics. Braveheart won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Mel Gibson), Best Cinematography, Best Makeup and Best Sound Editing. It was nominated for an additional five Academy Awards.
- Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – This epic British masterpiece stars Peter O’Toole as the legendary soldier and writer, T.E. Lawrence. The film follows his pivotal exploits in Arabia during World War I. This epic biography co-stars Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn and Jose Ferrer.
Widely considered one of the greatest films ever made, it has influenced the work of such directors as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Sam Peckinpah and George Lucas. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, it won seven, including Best Director (Sam Spiegel) and Best Picture.
- Amadeus (1984) – While only loosely based on the lives of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, this film still provides a fascinating look at the time period. Beautiful music also abounds, including works from Salieri, Mozart of many other composers of the era.
tarring Tom Hulce as Mozart and F. Murray Abraham as Salieri, Amadeus focuses on the efforts of Salieri to destroy his musical rival. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, it won eight, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Abraham), and Best Director.
- Stand and Deliver (1988) – Edward James Olmos portrays Jaime Escalante, a math teacher in East L.A. who challenges his students to get a better education. Other cast members include Andy Garcia, Rosanna DeSoto and Lou Diamond Phillips.
If you’re looking for something that will uplift and inspire, Stand and Deliver is worth watching. The students in Mr. Escalante’s class must overcome poverty, racism and many other factors to succeed. When I’m asked, “What biography movies would you recommend?”, this one is always high on my list.
- Lean on Me (1989) – Another inspirational movie biography which takes place in a school, Lean on Me stars Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark, an inner city principal in New Jersey. Faced with drugs and gang violence, “Crazy Joe” uses his own unique methods to clean up the school.
While a number of liberties were taken with the real-life facts, Lean on Me remains an inspiring film. It’s one of Morgan Freeman’s best performances, and that’s saying a lot.
- Milk (2008) – Directed by Gus Van Sant, Milk stars Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to a public office in California. The film received eight Academy Award nominations, and it does a great job of capturing the tumultuous political climate of San Francisco in the 1970s.
- Patton (1970) – George C. Scott stars as General George S. Patton. A complex man who believed in reincarnation, Patton was often plagued with the seeming inability to function in times of peace. This led to his career downfall, but his contribution during wartime cannot be denied.
Patton won seven of the 12 Academy Awards it was nominated for (including Best Picture and Best Director). George C. Scott also won the Best Actor award, but he famously refused to accept it.
- Schindler’s List (1993) – Steven Spielberg directed this biographical movie about Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Jews during World War II. The film also stars Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley. It is considered by many to be one of the 10 greatest American movies ever made.
A critical and box office success, the haunting and frequently brutal Schindler’s List grossed over $321 million. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Biography Movies Worth Mentioning
While I wanted to focus on the preceding 10 films, there are a number of other biography movies worth mentioning. If you like movie biopics, you should also consider giving these a try:
- Malcolm X (1992) – Directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washington as the African-American activist.
- Hotel Rwanda (2004) – Starring Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina, a hotelier caught in the middle of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.
- Gandhi (1982) – Starring Ben Kingsley as Indian leader and activist Mahatma Gandhi.
- Frost/Nixon (2008) – Starring Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, this film recreates the famous 1977 Frost/Nixon interviews.
- Walk The Line (2005) – Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon star as Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.
- The Aviator (2004) – Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as eccentric pioneer Howard Hughes.
- My Left Foot (1989) – Daniel Day-Lewis plays Christy Brown, an Irishman who only had control of his left foot, but who went on to become an artist and author.
- Elizabeth (1998) – Cate Blanchett portrays Queen Elizabeth I of England.
- Out Of Africa (1985) – Starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, and based on the novel by Karen Blixen.
- Catch Me If You Can (2002) – Leonardo DiCaprio plays Frank Abagnale Jr., a highly-skilled teenage con artist. Tom Hanks plays the FBI agent trying to apprehend him.