Biographical Movies – 25 Best Biography Films

Biographical movies are a kind of feature cinema that tells about the life of some famous or prominent figure. Thus, their protagonists are writers, painters, scientists or politicians. The story here can take a varied form: namely, it can present the entire biography or focus on a selected part of it. An important feature of this genre is the combination of two threads about the character: both his public activities and private life are shown. Very often a love theme is also present.

Biographical films can faithfully reflect real events or merely be inspired by the life of a character. In either case, this cinema focuses on some significant stage of history, its unusual, moving or shocking course. Due to the nature of this genre, a particular character is at the center of the plot, so most of the burden of the film’s success is borne by the actor playing the main role. As a result, biographical cinema gives actors ample opportunity to show off.

Within a biography movies, another important issue is the proper characterization of the character. To make the actor resemble the original is a real challenge. In turn, the effects of this work often exceed the wildest expectations and the actors playing the main roles are often a perfect copy of their hero. And which biographical films are worth seeing? Those that entertain, move and arouse undying admiration. Here is our ranking.

The Best Biographical Movies

1. “The Story of Louis Pasteur”, 1936

biographical movies - the story of louis pasteur

“The Story of Louis Pasteur” is a fascinating biography of one of the most influential scientists of the 19th century. The discoveries of the French scientist, especially the development of a vaccine against rabies, are among the most important achievements of modern medicine. The film presents an extremely interesting silhouette of the famous microbiologist – both as a man of science and as a personality. The leading role in the film was played by Paul Muni. The work was awarded three Oscars for: Best Leading Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay Material.

2. “The Life of Emile Zola”, 1937

biography movies the life of emile zola

A year after the film “The Story of Louis Pasteur”, William Dieterle made another film biography, this time taking on the character of Emil Zola, the great naturalist writer. The main character was once again played by Paul Muni. The film presents an interesting silhouette of the writer, his path to fame, his friendship with Paul Cezzan, and his participation in the famous Dreyfus trial. Also, this work by Dieterli won three Oscars, including for best film.

3. “Isadora”, 1968

the best biography movies - isadora

“Isadora” is a Palme d’Or-winning film at Cannes that tells the story of the life of legendary dancer Isadora Duncan. The artist was famous for her independence and uncompromising behavior, and on stage she promoted a whole new kind of sensual dance. Her turbulent personal life was full of numerous romances, but also tragic events that took a dramatic toll on her psyche. The role of Isadora was played by Vanessa Redgrave.

4. “Mahler”, 1974

the best biography films - mahler

“Mahler” is a biographical movie about the famous composer Gustav Mahler. The time frame of the story is the decline of the artist’s life, when, ailing and conflicted with his wife Alma, he recalls the most important moments of his life. The composer returns with his thoughts to the events of his childhood, but also the beginnings of his career and his marriage to Alma. The most traumatic threads of his biography come before his eyes. The leading role in the film was played by Robert Powell, while Mahler’s wife was played by Georgina Hale, whose performance won a BAFTA Award.

5. “Reds”, 1981

best biographical films - reds

“Reds” is Warren Betty’s acclaimed film portraying the life of John Reed, an American journalist with leftist views who fell in love with the October Revolution and wanted to translate its ideas into the US. The work was awarded three Oscars, while its special asset was a good cast: Warren Betty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman or Maureen Stapleton. Interviews with American intellectuals of the time were also woven into the plot of the film. The movie was awarded many prestigious honors, including three Oscars, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA statuette.

6. “Gandhi”, 1982

top biographical movies - gandhi

Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi” is a film biography of the famous Indian freedom fighter. The lead role was played by Ben Kingsley. The film presents the fate of Mahatma Gandhi in retrospect – the beginning is the assassination of the title character by Nathuram Godse, which took place in 1948. The work presents the most important stages of the famous militant’s activity – from his studies in law through his stay in South Africa to his achievements in India. The movie won as many as eight Oscar statuettes and two Golden Globes.

7. “Wagner”, 1983

25 best biographical movies of all time - Wagner

“Wagner” is a television miniseries made in 1983 by Tony Palmer. The title role was played by Richard Burton. The film presents an interesting biography of Richard Wagner, the famous German composer of the Romantic era. Palmer’s work was critically acclaimed and received an enthusiastic reception. The film also starred Gramma Craven, Vanessa Redgrave and Marthe Keller.

8. “Amadeus”, 1984

best biopic movies - Amadeus

“Amadeus” is Milosz Forman’s eight Oscar-winning work on Mozart’s biography. The director took an interesting perspective in telling the story of the brilliant musician. He showed him from the point of view of Antonio Salieri, the court composer of Emperor Joseph II, with whom Mozart constantly competed. Moreover, the two musicians were personality opposites. The role of Amadeus was played by Tom Hulce, while Salieri was played by F. Murray Abraham.

9. “Out of Africa”, 1985

best biopic films - out of africa

Out of Africa” is a moving film by Sydney Pollack, telling the story of Danish writer Karen Blixen. The work is based mainly on the author’s memories of her stay in Africa. A young woman and her husband go to the Black Continent to cultivate coffee. It quickly becomes apparent that the aristocratic spouse has no intention of staying faithful to his wife, and his numerous infidelities also have unpleasant health consequences for her. The writer decides to get a divorce and run the plantation on her own. Soon a special man appears in her life. Starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, the film won as many as seven Oscars.

10. “Chaplin”, 1992

best biography movies hollywood - chaplin

“Chaplin” is a cinematic portrait of one of the most important directors in the history of cinema, Charlie Chaplin, master of comedy and creator of the unforgettable character Charlie Tramp. Starring Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role, the film also starred Chaplin’s daughter Geraldine Chaplin, who played Hannah Chaplin. Attenborough made his picture based on the memoirs of the famous director. The publisher of his autobiography was played by Anthony Hopkins.

11. “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, 1993

biography movies about singers - whats love got to do with it

Brian Gibson’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It” is a film telling the story of American rock queen Tina Turner. The picture shows the fate of the star from her childhood to her greatest stage successes. The movie deals with the difficult subject of the singer’s toxic relationship with Ike Turner, which caused the artist a lot of suffering. The film stars Angela Bassett (Golden Globe winner) and Laurence Fishburne in leading roles.

12. “Immortal Beloved”, 1994

biographical movies about musicians - immortal love

“Immortal Beloved” by Bernard Rose is a beautiful biographical film about the life of Ludwig van Beethoven. The action of the work begins in 1827, at the time of the death of the famous composer. Beethoven’s brother, bound by the musician’s last will, tries to find his former beloved, to whom – describing her as “eternal love” – the artist bequeathed his estate. Rose’s work is a wonderful blend of classical music and romantic painting. Beethoven is played by Gary Oldman.

13. “In Love and War”, 1996

biographical drama movies - in love and war

Richard Attenborough’s “In Love and War” is a movie about the wartime romance between Ernest Hemingway and Agnes von Kurovsky. The work is set in Italy in 1918, a wounded soldier falls without memory in love with the nurse caring for him. However, the woman, who is eight years older than the young correspondent, is afraid to reciprocate his feelings. At the same time, surgeon Domenico Caraccio (Emilio Bonucci) tries to win the favor of the nurse. The film stars Chris O’Donnell and Sandra Bullock in lead roles.

14. “Selena”, 1997

biographical music movies - Selena

“Selena” is the life story of a popular American singer with Latin roots. When the artist reached the heights of popularity and the world lay at her feet, she was murdered by her close associate. Selena is played by Jennifer Lopez, who created one of the most important roles in her acting career here.

15. “8 Mile”, 2002

biographical music films - 8 mile

“8 Mile” is a great biographical movie depicting the life of Eminem and his difficult path to a career as a white rapper. The lead role was played by Eminem himself, who credibly portrayed the story of his life, and his song, which serves as the film’s musical theme, Lose Yourself, was awarded an Oscar. The singer’s mother was played by Kim Basinger, his sweetheart was played by Britanny Murphy, while his friend was played by Mekhi Phifer.

16. “Frida”, 2002

top biography movies - frida

“Frida”, directed by Julie Taymor, is the story of one of the most eccentric and fascinating artists of the 20th century – Frida Kahlo. The legendary Mexican painter, bravuraly played by Salma Hayek, is shown through the prism of her long relationship with communist activist and renowned artist Diego Rivera. The film presents the rich, charismatic personality of a woman who struggled all her life with a disability from a serious childhood illness, but which did not prevent her from enjoying life, loving and fulfilling her dreams.

17. “Destined for Blues” (“Skazany na bluesa”), 2005

top biography films - destinated for blues

Jan Kidawa-Błoński’s “Destined for Blues” is a film biography of Ryszard Riedel, the legendary singer of the band Dżem. The character of Rysiek is played by Tomasz Kot, while his wife is played by Jolanta Fraszyńska (awarded the Golden Duck). The film highlights the musician’s charismatic personality, his Silesian roots, and his tragic entanglement in drug addiction. In turn, the intriguing story is set against the backdrop of Jam’s cult hits.

18. “Walk the Line”, 2005

best biography movies must see - Walk the line

“Walk the Line” is the biographical story of the relationship between two country music stars Johnny Cash and June Carter. The lead roles are played by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who were personally chosen by the singers. The film shows Cash’s difficult personal life – his difficult childhood, traumatic experiences, and drug addiction, which he overcame with the help of his beloved. Reese Witherspoon received an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her performance, the actor playing the lead role also won a Golden Globe.

19. “La Vie en Rose” (“La Mome”), 2007

best biography movies ever made - La Vie en Rose

“La Vie en Rose” is a film story about the life of the legendary French artist Edith Piaf. The role of the famous singer was played by Marion Cotillard, who was awarded an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA statuette for her performance. The actress played the icon of French love music extremely evocatively, whose turbulent and dramatic fate is as moving as her outstanding repertoire. Other roles in the film include Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory and Emmanuelle Seigner.

20. “The King’s Speech”, 2010

biography movies list - the kings speech

“The King’s Speech” is the acclaimed biographical movie depicting the circumstances of George VI’s coronation as King of Great Britain in 1939. The lead role was played by Colin Firth, who won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA statuette. The film centers around the new king’s weakness, which is a significant obstacle to public speaking. George VI, due to his stuttering, urgently needs professional help. Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) is hired as a teacher of correct diction.

21. “My Week with Marilyn”, 2011

biography films list - my week with marilyn

“My Week with Marilyn” by Simon Curtis shows a brief episode in the life of the great American star. The film focuses on one week in 1956, when MM comes down to London to film The Prince and the Actress. Events are presented from the point of view of the assistant director, who develops a closer acquaintance with the Hollywood star. The role of Marilyn Monroe was played by award-winning Michelle Williams.

22. “First Man”, 2018

best biopics movies of all time - First Man

Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” is a biographical movie depicting the story of Neil Armstrong. The picture presents the astronaut’s private and professional life from the moment of his interest in NASA’s project called Gemini to travel to the moon. The film shows the human face of the legendary cosmonaut, his personal family drama and highlights the courage it took to engage in a very dangerous project of historic importance to the entire world. Neil Armstrong was convincingly played by Ryan Gosling, while his wife was played by Claire Foy. The film won an Oscar for special effects and several awards for music.

23. “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018)

movies about famous people - bohemian rhapsody

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a film presenting the silhouette of Freddie Mercury and the fate of the legendary band Queen. The famous singer was played by Rami Malek. The work was showered with awards: four Oscars, two Golden Globes, two BAFTA statuettes – to name the most important ones. The film’s undoubted strength is the cult hits of the famous group.

24. “Elvis”, 2022

latest biography movies - elvis

This picture could not be missing from the list of the best biographical films. “Elvis“, directed by Baz Luhrmann, is a magnificent spectacle in which we can find the spirit of the crazy 1960s and 1970s. Shot with attention to the smallest details, teeming with music and colors, it is a visual feast not only for admirers of the talent of Elvis Presley, one of the most important musicians in history. The lead role is played by Austin Butler, and the story of the King of Rock’n’Roll is shown through the prism of his longtime friendship with Colonel Manager Tom Parker (Tom Hanks).

As befits the creator of spectacular musicals, Luhrmann depicts on screen the legendary phenomenon of Presley and his influence on the culture, fashion and lifestyle of an entire generation. The director is primarily interested in Elvis’ incredible relationship with the public, the source of which he looks for in his incredible talent and the environment in which the star grew up. This is an extremely interesting and innovative look at the King of Rock’n’Roll – not from the point of view of his personal experiences and traumas, but through the prism of how he felt about music and shared it with his audience.

25. “Blonde”, 2022

latest biographical movies - blonde

One of the many film biographies of Marilyn Monroe, though a particularly memorable one. “Blonde,” directed by Andrew Dominik, is the story of Norma Jeane Mortenson, the girl who, under the pseudonym MM, became the most recognizable pop culture icon. The film has stirred up a lot of controversy and accusations that the actress’s image has been tarnished and misrepresented. “Blonde” is worth watching, however, if only because the idea behind the picture is to boldly separate Marilyn Monroe’s public creation from the real person behind the iconic, screen-famous portrait. Dominik performs a cinematic vivisection here, showing his heroine, as it were, from the very inside of her psyche, hence the viewer often witnesses the character’s inner monologue. “Blonde” also negates the myths that still persist about MM, emphasizing her erudition, readership and constant striving for self-education and perfect impersonation. An excellent performance was created here by Ana de Armas.

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