Movies based on real people’s lives can be extremely effective storytelling tools. Whether or not they are completely correct, they can add life to words and shed light on a person’s decisions, the experiences that shaped them, and their quest of happiness. Listed below are The Culture Trip’s picks for the top 10 biopics of all time.
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Because of copyright and family approval issues, adapting a person’s life story for the film is tough, but also because it is difficult to do honor to a person’s life without turning them into a caricature. It is possible to identify with the protagonist in a biopic, as well as to feel adoration, uncertainty, or even hatred for him or her.
As depicted by Ed Harris in Pollock, this film follows the artist’s journey from his first dripping technique through the sadness and drunkenness that eventually led him to abandon his artistic pursuits. Lee Krasner and Marcia Gay Harden both shine in their supporting roles in this Oscar-winning film about Jackson Pollock’s troubled genius and his wife Lee Krasner’s life. Standing in front of a blank wall-length canvas, Jackson Pollock remains mute.
2. The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro)
The difficult subject of euthanasia is the focus of the 2004 Spanish film The Sea Inside Of Me. After a diving accident, Ramón became quadriplegic and battled for euthanasia and the right to die for 28 years. After the church and the Spanish government refused to grant him the freedom to choose to die, he continued to battle for his rights, supported by his lawyer Julia. Rosa, a local woman who has affections for him, tries to persuade him otherwise. As a result, it’s an emotionally gripping film based on a true incident, and Bardem’s portrayal of a middle-aged man in a hospital bed for 28 years is nothing short of breathtaking. In the end, the film was awarded Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. The scene where Ramón looks out the window and sees himself going on a beach with Julia is particularly memorable.
In this 1984 American period piece directed by Milo Forman and based on Shaffer’s play Amadeus, the mixed feelings of Salieri for Mozart as a person and as an artist are examined. After ten years of Mozart’s life, this story takes place in Vienna and covers the final decade of his life. Mozart’s victories and ordinary life are depicted by Salieri, the composer to Emperor Joseph II, from 1781 to 1791. In keeping with the story’s central conceit, Amadeus instead of Mozart serves as the film’s working title. Because of Salieri’s belief that Mozart was blessed beyond measure, the name “Amadeus” aptly describes him as a man consumed by a violent jealousy. Eight Academy Awards were bestowed upon Amadeus for his outstanding performance. When Salieri hears Mozart’s requiem, it’s a scene that sticks in his mind
4. A Beautiful Mind
Biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash (directed by Ron Howard) was released in 2001 in the United States of America. A Beautiful Mind tells the story of his life, from his undergraduate days through his diagnosis with paranoid schizophrenia to his Nobel Prize win for a ground-breaking idea. As a result of Russell Crowe’s remarkable versatility and his performance as a man from the age of 19 to the age of 60 in this film, the life of its protagonist is completely explored from adulthood onward. The role of Nash’s wife, played by Jennifer Connelly, is given depth and emotion. Finally, the superb supporting actors, including Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, and Adam Goldberg, brilliantly capture the frightening milieu in which Nash is lost. Academy Award winners included best film and director, as well as best supporting actress in a supporting role. This is a memorable scene: Nash at the office of his therapist.
5. The Last Emperor
When Pu Yi became China’s last emperor in 1912 and was crowned in a lavish epic directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, it became one of the most talked-about films of the year. Best Picture and Best Director were two of nine Academy Awards won by the 1987 film filmed at the Forbidden City, which took place in Beijing. Three-year-old Pu Yi becomes Emperor of China in 1908, and for the next few decades, viewers will follow his experiences, including his decadence, decline, denial, imprisonment and the struggle to be accepted by the people. Forbidden City is beautifully portrayed in the film, and the images create an intriguing story filled with vibrant hues. A scene that jumps out is when an old guy hands a cricket to the tiny ruler.
6. Hotel Rwanda
Paul Rusesabagina’s narrative is the inspiration for Hotel Rwanda. Following Paul, a manager of a luxury hotel during the Rwandan genocide, this film focuses on his efforts to save countless Tutsis in spite of international organizations’ indifference. Ordinary people gathered exceptional courage in order to save over one thousand refugees from starvation. Actor Don Cheadle does a fantastic job of portraying Paul, making it plain to the audience that he’s just a normal guy who happens to be a hero. Both Cheadle and Okonedo, who portrayed Paul’s wife Sophie, were overlooked by the Academy for their roles in this 2004 picture, which was filmed in the Rwandan capital of Kigali as well as Johannesburg, South Africa. The most memorable scene is the reunion of the refugees and their children.
7. The Elephant Man
David Lynch directed this 1980 biopic about ‘The Elephant Man,’ a hideously disfigured man, and his doctor, Frederick Treves. Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) saves John Merrick (John Hurt) from a carnival, where he was paraded as a circus display. During John’s introduction to the high society of Britain, he quickly learns that there are numerous ways in which he might be exploited. Oscars for Best Makeup and Hairstyling were established when The Elephant Man was nominated for eight Academy Awards, thanks to its stunning make-up effects. Merrick’s outburst: ‘I am not an elephant,’ stands out. I’m not a beast. It’s true that I am a living, breathing human being. This is my manhood declaring:
8. The Pianist
Adrien Brody portrays Wladyslaw Szpilman in this 2002 historical drama film co-produced and directed by Roman Polanski based on Wladyslaw’s autobiographical novel The Pianist, which was written by Szpilman. The hero was propelled on by music as beautiful as Chopin’s, which elegantly draped the unfolding events. The Pianist exposes Szpilman’s brutality, atrocities, and tragic experiences without him doing anything special – he was just trying to live. With a drastic change in look and a forceful performance, Adrien Brody shows his incredible talent. For Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor, the film won three Oscars (Brody). Szpilman was discovered by a German officer and made to play the piano by the officer’s command.
As shown by Richard Attenborough in Gandhi, Ben Kingsley portrays India’s spiritual as well as political leader. From a key point in Gandhi’s life in 1893 to his efforts in India’s freedom, to his assassination and funeral in 1948, the film covers his life. This biopic, which was shot entirely in India, is one of the most comprehensive in cinematic history. One of history’s greatest leaders, Gandhi used ‘passive resistance’ to gain the freedom of his people without resorting to violence. Kingsley was awarded the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar for his performance as Gandhi. When he starts torching the Indians’ passes, it’s a scene that jumps out for me.
10. Schindler’s List
Based on Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark, Steven Spielberg directed Schindler’s List. Towards the beginning, Oskar Schindler is a carefree and confident German businessman. He becomes anxious and determined in the midst of the film and honorable and modest at the end of it. Black-and-white film with eerie music score tells a heart-wrenching narrative of a Holocaust survivor’s journey from adolescence into adulthood and his determination to save lives. In addition to Liam Neeson’s outstanding performance, the supporting cast of Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley is flawless. Seven Academy Awards were bestowed for the film, including Best Picture, Best Director (Spielberg), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. There is a little girl in a red coat sticking out in the background in this scene.