Finding the perfect story to make into a movie is not an easy task, and Hollywood producers spend a lot of time doing this. There are plenty of original concepts and scripts born from a writer’s imagination, but real life can often provide the ultimate inspiration. Almost all major studios, from Warner Brothers to Disney, invest a lot of money and manpower in searching for and adapting stories from headlines. The film companies make these stories into the modern cinematic classics we know today. It is no surprise that these films are filled with characters and plots which ring so true!
Walk The Line (2005)
Oscar-nominated drama Walk the Line stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Phoenix plays Johnny Cash, one of the most well-known musicians of his time. The legendary singer-songwriter went through many struggles, which he wrote about in his autobiographies, Cash: The Autobiography and Man In Black. These autobiographies were the basis for this 20th Century Fox film and grossed $187 million. The movie shows the story of Johnny Cash and June Carter, his wife (played by Witherspoon), and his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction.
The King’s Speech (2010)
The heartwarming historical drama The King’s Speech centers around the true story of King George VI, who is not yet king in the movie. He has a severe speech impediment which requires him to get help from the speech therapist Lionel Logue, who has unorthodox tactics. While historical dramas are often riskier at the box office financially, this film was set for success with backing from Momentum Pictures and big names like Firth attached. The King’s Speech had an impressive showing on the festival circuit and it had a box office gross of $424 million. That is a lot considering the production budget was only $15 million.
One of the most well-known blues musicians of the 20th century, Ray Charles had a life story that is truly unbelievable and inspired the biographical drama Ray. Written by James L. White and directed by Taylor Hackford, the film tells the story of Charles and how he still ruthlessly pursued a career in music despite having gone blind at the young age of. The movie is a joint production of Anvil Films and Bristol Bay Productions, with Baldwin Entertainment Group giving some help. Distributed by Universal Pictures, the film had a budget of $40 million but it grossed a whopping $124.7 million and won an Academy Award for Foxx.
Renowned playwright and novelist, Truman Capote wrote works that are still relevant to this day. He tracked the journey of the author by writing the true-crime novel titled, “In Cold Blood”, though it caused him personal turmoil since he had difficulty separating himself from the story that he was telling. The movie starred the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who disappeared into the character of Capote and went on to win an Oscar for his performance. Sony Pictures Classics distributed the critically-acclaimed biopic, which made a solid $50 million and was able to recoup $43 million from what was spent on its production.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this incredible true crime film is based on the known mafia associate Henry Hill’s life and crimes. Ray Liotta portrayed the film’s main character (though Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro steal the show). The screenplay is based on Nicholas Pileggi’s book titled, “Wiseguy”. Goodfellas was produced for $25 million in the late ‘80s and was distributed by Warner Bros. Not only was it a box office success, earning $46 million, but it also cemented itself in pop culture and has become a pillar of movie culture.
The Crown (2016)
The Crown is one series gaining a lot of attention as a Netflix original. The historical drama delves into the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It follows the life of Queen Elizabeth from the 1940s up until today’s modern-day and age. Claire Foy starred as the Queen in the first two seasons. She played the young Queen Elizabeth II and received a Primetime Emmy Award for being an Outstanding Lead Actress Under the Drama Series category.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
For Disney fans, you will get a look behind the scenes of one of the most famous stories of Walt Disney – Mary Poppins. Tom Hanks plays as Disney while Emma Thompson portrays P.L. Travers, the writer of the book series, “Mary Poppins”. The movie focuses on the tense negotiations between Travers and Disney over the copyright permissions that the film can have. The film was a great play for Walt Disney Pictures. They basically capitalized on a story which they had lying around. The budget for the film was $35 million but it had a box office gross of $117.9 million. Centered around the making of a story beloved and cherished by generations, this Tom Hanks vehicle was definitely able to peddle nostalgia.
The Crown (2016)
Olivia Colman took over the role of Queen Elizabeth II after two seasons as the entire cast switched over. The show does this every two seasons to portray a realistic aging process. Colman discussed how this role was one of the hardest she has ever had to prepare for and act in, this is because no one actually knows what the queen is like out of the public eye. This was a major role for Colman as being employed for a straight two years is a great feeling for actors and actresses.
Gorillas In The Mist (1988)
Written by the famed anthropologist Diane Fossey, the book titled “Gorillas in the Mist” is about the life of primatologist Jane Goodall and it is the basis of the movie with the same name. Sigourney Weaver stars as Fossey, one of the most foremost primatologists, and the film tells the story of how Fossey studied great apes alongside Jane Goodall and advocated against poaching of the magnificent and intelligent creatures. With a star like Sigourney Weaver, the movie was unsurprisingly a financial success even though films which have more science and conservation angles do not usually become blockbuster hits. With the help of Warner Bros. Pictures, Universal Pictures produced and distributed the movie which had a box office gross of $61.1 million.
The Crown (2016)
Vanessa Kirby stars as the first Princess Margaret in the series The Crown, in seasons 1 and 2. Kirby was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actress. Princess Margaret is Queen Elizabeth’s sister. Princess Margaret is known for being vibrant, fun, and outgoing. The Princess had an unconventional marriage to a photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones and also a few hiccups in her life which the show explores a much a possible.
The Crown (2016)
The role of princess Margaret is taken over in seasons 3-4 by Helena Bonham Carter. Bonham Carter addresses the complexity of the role as Princess Margaret was a heavily misunderstood character in comparison to what the public perceived. Margaret smoked and drank throughout her life, she smoked in a very particular manner. people thought Maragaret was harsh and cold but in actual fact, she was vulnerable and was rude as a defense mechanism.
A controversial figure, Steve Jobs had an equally-polemic leadership style. This biopic, starring Ashton Kutcher, chronicles Jobs’ life from his time at Reed College in 1974 up until the iPod was introduced by Apple in 2001. Distributed by Open Road Films and released in 2013, Jobs> made a sum of $42.1 million at the box office, $6.7 million of which came from opening weekend. Critics selected the film to close out the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. This is a major honor for director Joshua Michael Stern, who was a newcomer at the time.
Milk is based on the life of politician Harvey Milk, who is one of America’s first openly gay politicians and served during the 1970s. Veteran actor Sean Penn played Milk, who was inspired to become an activist and politician after experiencing the counterculture movement of the ‘60s. Talented director Gus Van Sant led the project, so it’s not a surprise that the movie earned more than $54 million, in spite of the edgier subject matter. Back in 2008, Focus Features distributed the film. Milk was perhaps partly responsible for raising awareness to different gay rights issues like gay marriage, which was only fully legalized in the 2015 Supreme Court decision.
The Crown (2016)
The Queen Mother in the historical drama’s first two seasons is played by Victoria Hamilton. A tough and challenging role to play as the Queen Mother was not the happiest and the role required her to wear a bodysuit of some ort in order to achieve the same shape as the Queen Mother. An honor to play such a historical figure. Queen Victoria accepted the position when she was a teenager and is now known as ‘the Grandmother of Europe.’
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Erin Brockovich won Julia Roberts an Academy Award. The film is about the Anderson v. Pacific Gas and Electric, which was a case filed by the then-lowly law clerk Brockovich. From her investigation, she discovered that her town’s (Hinkley, California) water was getting polluted because of a major corporation. People from Hinkley were becoming sick and dying because the drinking water was contaminated by hexavalent chromium. In the film, Brockovich fights to make people in power take her seriously and get them to take a stand against a heartless corporation to save lives which were seen less valuable than profit.
The Crown (2016)
The role of Queen Victoria or the Queen Mother as she is called was cast to Marion Bailey in season 3. A genuinely fascinating character that is for sure and one that is difficult to portray. However, the show has, of course, been dramatized heavily in certain aspects to make it more appealing and still a series. Thus, specific events were not made to be as big a deal as we see in the series, rather dramatization is what has kept the public entertained and still portrayed the royal family.
The Doors (1991)
Even though The Doors didn’t really do well at the box office (it grossed only $34 million which means the studio suffered a $4 million loss), the film has become a sleeper hit over time and has turned into a cult classic. The life of Jim Morrison, the band’s lead singer, is the focus of this film and he was played by Val Kilmer. The movie depicts Morrison as a larger-than-life persona in the 1960s counterculture movement and the singer’s struggle with drugs and alcohol in addition to his macabre interest in death. The band wasn’t really happy with the film.
The Crown (2016)
Emma Corrin plays Lady Di in the hit drama series and boy does she look similar to Princess Diana. The show touches on Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s marriage, its ups downs, and the scandal between Prince Charles and Camilla is certainly on its way to screens. Corrin says she has received tons of attention and paparazzi exposure, it is somewhat a similar experience to that of what Diana too had to go through.
The Crown (2016)
The Crown is one series that actually mentions Prince Philip and his life in more depth than any other show or movie has before. What an interesting life he has had indeed. In the first two seasons, the Duke of Edinburgh is played by Matt Smith and he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for his performance too. The actor has a past of playing characters based on characters in real life, however, he does look like the Prince.
The Crown (2016)
The swap over in season three of cast members brought about Tobias Menzies to play the Duke of Edinburgh. He and Prince Philip do have feature similarities that’s for sure. A supporting role but an important one based on a complex character, he did it well. he was not the obvious choice for the role but both from the casting side, and Tobias’ said it was just a good fit and was perfect for the role. He spent 90 minutes every day in order to look the part.
Alfred Hitchcock has one of the greatest filmmakers ever for his suspenseful masterpieces. This biographical movie is about the famed director’s life and work, specifically focusing on his relationship with his wife (portrayed by Helen Mirren) when he was making the legendary horror flick Psycho. Of course, Psycho is now among the most influential films in history, achieving an almost-mythological place among legends of horror. Critics praised Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of the director and they also noted the uncanny likeness of Hopkins and Hitchcock.
Lincoln tells the story of former US president Abraham Lincoln, who was a Union leader during the Civil War. Directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, the movie was written by Tony Kushner based on the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This film is an intense character study of a nearly-mythologized man who is under pressure. Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed a tormented Lincoln. Produced by industry heavy hitters20th Century Fox and Dreamworks, the movie was a smash hit, with a box office gross of $275 million.
To play Muhammad Ali in this film, Will Smith had to build more muscle, study both boxing and Islam, and immerse himself in the character. It worked since Smith’s role in the biography Ali proved that as a dramatic actor, he had serious mettle. Michael Mann wrote and directed the film, which focused on a specific decade in the famous boxer’s life, from 1964 to 1974. It may have been a short period, but it encompassed a lot. Ali recaptured his title from Sonny Liston, resisted the Vietnam War, and converted to Islam.
My Week With Marilyn (2011)
My Week with Marilyn is centered around a brief period in the life of Marilyn Monroe. The movie stars Michelle Williams as the iconic star while Eddie Redmayne plays her friend Colin Clark, an amateur filmmaker who penned a novel about his experiences that show Monroe around London while she was filming The Prince and the Showgirl. This movie gives us a look at Marilyn behind the legacy that she left behind…not the glamorous and larger-than-life figure everyone knows but instead the real human being who has personal struggles as well as a complex relationship with her fame and image.
127 Hours (2010)
The intense biographical film 127 Hours is about Aron Ralston (played by James Franco), who is a canyon explorer. Ralston got trapped under a boulder in Bluejohn Canyon, which is a slot canyon located in southeastern Utah. The film is shot like a video diary and we can see Ralston trying his best to free himself without success. This movie is an adaptation of Ralston’s autobiography titled, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, where he talks about the 127 hours he spent being trapped. Towards the end of that time, Ralston had to make a brutal choice to keep himself alive.
This biographical film is about the serial killer Aileen Wuornos, whom the state of Florid eventually put to death. Monster depicts the life of Wuornos before she started killing until the police captured her. Wuornos had a mental illness, which started when she was a young girl suffering horrific abuse from her male family members. Theron had to put on thirty pounds, wear prosthetic teeth, and shave her eyebrows to portray the sympathetic Wuornos, who was actually despised far more than male serial killers. Theron won an Academy Award for her stunning transformation.
The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)
Jordan Belfort’s autobiography, “The Wolf of Wall Street”, chronicles the crazy excessive lives that Wall Street stockbrokers led in the 1980s. A true masterpiece, the film adaptation was directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort. Stratton Oakmont, Belfort’s firm, was among the most corrupt Wall Street firms and famously defrauded its clients as well as the government. In the end, Belfort was caught. Margot Robbie plays his wife while Jonah Hill plays his business partner.
The Imitation Game (2014)
The Imitation Game was nominated for several Oscars and won some of them. Starring Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch, the film is based on the true story of the genius Alan Turing, who cracked Nazi codes after getting recruited by M16. Educated at Cambridge, Turing was assigned to crack Enigma, a Nazi code that was previously thought to be unbreakable. This movie is based on Andrew Hodges’ book titled, Alan Turing: The Enigma. The Imitation Game centers around the life of the mathematics prodigy and explores his struggle against homophobia. Turing was sent to prison back in 1952 after authorities found out he was gay.
Into The Wild (2007)
This movie stars Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless, whose wealthy parents seemed to have it all. Actor Sean Penn directs this film, which one publication described as his “most ambitious movie.” Even though McCandless was at the top of the class when he graduated at Emory University, he opted to become a wanderer. After giving his savings to charity and getting rid of his possessions, he went on a journey through the Alaskan wilderness in order to find himself. Based on a true story, this film was nominated for an Academy Award and won Best Feature at the Gotham Independent Awards.
Midnight Express (1978)
In the 1978 film Midnight Express, Brad Davis stars as American Billy Hayes, who attempted to smuggle drugs out of Istanbul but got caught by Turkish police. The movie depicts the cruel treatment, starvation, and abuse that Hayes endured for four years in a Turkish prison. When thirty years were added onto his sentence by a corrupt Turkish High Court, he decided to try escaping. This thrilling film shows that escape attempt. Released in 1978, the movie won Best Picture at the Golden Globes. The great Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Based on the biography that Sylvia Nasar wrote, A Beautiful Mind tells the story of John Forbes Nash, a child prodigy and mathematical genius. Akiva Goldsman adapted and wrote screenplay, and Russell Crowe played Nash. Directed by Ron Howard, the movie won the Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The life story of Nash is incredible. When he was young, he made an incredible discovery and was poised to become famous all over the world for his mathematical genius. However, his career torpedoed when he started struggling with schizophrenia. The film depicts his painful journey as a young man on the road to self-discovery.
American Sniper (2014)
Clint Eastwood is the director of American Sniper, which stars Bradley Cooper. The actor plays U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who was recorded as America’s most dangerous sniper of all time, both to Middle Eastern civilians and combatants. The film is based on the military record of Kyle, which is later revealed to have been inflated by the sniper. Aside from a good performance at the box office, American Sniper was also nominated for six Academy Awards. Later, an Iraq War veteran whom Kyle was helping recover from PTSD killed Kyle. Overall, the film had a box office gross of $547.4 million.
The Pianist (2002)
Released in 2002, The Pianist stars Adrien Brody as Jewish radio station pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, who was living in Poland. The film chronicles Szpilman’s struggle while watching the Nazis tear down his beloved Warsaw. Forced into the Warsaw Ghetto for a short time, Szpilman gets separated from his family because of Operation Reinhard and he is released. He hides in the city ruins, avoiding getting captured by the Nazis. The film is set between 1939 and 1945. Ronald Harwood adapted the screenplay from Szpilman’s autobiography.
Out of Africa (1985)
Meryl Streep stars in Out of Africa, which tells the story of Karen Blixen. She and her husband,Bror, moves to Africa, with the plan of becoming a dairy farmer. However, Bror spends the money of the family on purchasing a coffee plantation. He turns out to be somewhat of a villain and Karen has an affair with a hunter named Denys (played by Robert Redford). The film becomes a romantic tragedy, since Denys realizes that he’s not that into Karen. The movie is based on Karen’s autobiography published in 1937, which she wrote using the pseudonym Isak Dinesen.
Hidden Figures (2016)
The astronaut John Glenn received all of the credit for going to space, but the feat was actually accomplished by three Black women: Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Katherine Johnson. These female NASA scientists put together everything, and developed all the needed code and science to get the astronaut into space. Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, and Taraji P. Henson portrayed the brilliant women, who got overlooked due to their gender and race. Hidden Figures is a revolutionary film because it depicts the truth behind who should be credited for one of the greatest operations of NASA: Black women, not white men. The film took home an NAACP Image Award.
Reversal of Fortune (1990)
Released in 1990, Reversal of Fortune is based on the story of Claus von Bulow. Claus’ wife, Sunny von Bulow (portrayed by Glenn Close), fell into a coma and the prime suspect was Claus. He was later found guilty in the murder of his wife but was granted a retrial due to a technicality. Claus hired a famous defense attorney by the name of Alan Dershowitz to help overturn the verdict. Even though Dershowitz didn’t personally believe that Claus was innocent, the lawyer enlisted the help of some of his own Harvard Law students to have the verdict overturned.
Apollo 13 (1995)
Directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, this film is based on the lunar mission called Apollo 13. Hanks plays Jim Lovell, who goes on the mission to the moon with Fred Haise and Jack Swigert (played by Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon, respectively). Everything goes according to plan but an oxygen tank explodes. Technical problems threatens the crew’s survival, and Apollo 13 chronicles their harrowing trip back to earth in a “broken” rocket-ship. A SAG awardee for Best Motion Picture, the film is adapted from Lovell’s autobiography, Lost Moon, which details the incident.
The Farewell (2019)
Lulu Wang’s autobiography titled, “What You Don’t Know” is the basis of The Farewell. The film tells the touching story of Bill, an American-born woman who travels to China in order to say goodbye to her dying grandmother. However, the only person in their family who does not know that she is dying is her grandmother herself. The family returns pretending to have a fake wedding while saying a stealthy goodbye. Lulu Wang directed the movie and Awkwafina stars in the lead role. Both funny and sad, the film won Best Actress at the Golden Globes.
The Big Sick (2017)
This Oscar-nominated movie stars Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani comic that falls in love with Emily Gordon (portrayed by Zoe Kazan), a grad student. Nanjiani’s family is super traditionally Muslim, and he gets concerned with what his own parents might think of her. However, Emily gets sick and slips into a coma, and Kumail bonds with her parents. Produced by Judd Apatow, the romance movie had a box office gross of $56.4 million and was nominated for an Oscar. It also won a Prix du Public UBS, Independent Spirit Award, and Critics’ Choice Movie Award. It is based on the real-life romance of Nanjiani and Gordon.
Cinderella Man (2005)
In Cinderella Man, Russell Crowe stars as an ex-boxer named James J. Braddock, who tries his best to survive the Great Depression. He is a day laborer before his fate changes. He meets his former manager, who offers Braddock a fight against an up-and-coming boxer in the ring. Despite all the odds, Braddock wins and decides to become a boxer full-time. This movie is titled after Braddock’s nickname, which is “Cinderella Man,” in reference to his personal “rags to riches” story. The film depicts his life as he works on defeating the reigning champion boxer Max Baer.
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2007)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly centers around Jean-Dominique Bauby, a former Elle Magazine editor-in-chief. At age 43, Bauby has a stroke, and though it doesn’t kill him, it is still debilitating. The only way he can communicate is by blinking one eye since the rest of Bauby is paralyzed. Empire describes the film as “a true cinematic experience.” The Diving Bell and the Butterfly depicts how Bauby dictated his memoirs, painstakingly.
Nicole Kidman plays former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson in Bombshell. Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie also star as Fox anchors, who attempts to take on Roger Ailes (portrayed by John Lithgow), the network’s fearsome head. The true story centers around his pattern of sexually harassing Fox employees. The women risk (and lose) their careers standing up to Ailes, and they come out victorious, in spite of a media onslaught. The film shows their journey to take the powerful media mogul down. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Theron’s portrayal as Megyn Kelly.
Captain Phillips (2013)
Captain Phillips tells the story of Maersk Alabama, which is a ship that got hijacked in 2009. The head of the ship, Captain Richard Phillips, was taken hostage. The hijackers were pirates who came from the Guardafui Channel, which is located near the coast of Somalia, and their leader was Somali Abduwali Muse. Tom Hanks stars as Richard Phillips, who does his best to keep his crew safe from the invaders. With a box office gross of $218.8 million, the 2013 movie won a Writer’s Guild Award and a BAFTA. Barkhad Abdi plays Abduwali Muse.
The Aviator (2004)
In The Aviator, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Howard Hughes, a billionaire tycoon that made his fortune from aviation. In addition, he was a director and the ex-husband of Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner. Aside from directing major films like Hell’s Angels Hughes, he also made TWA into a major airline. However, Hughes struggled with severe depression and debilitating phobias in private. The more success he had in his career, the worse his mental condition became. DiCaprio’s portrayal of the tormented billionaire earned him an Oscar nod. The film had a $110 million budget and Martin Scorsese signed on to direct it.
This Clint Eastwood film is another true story which stars Tom Hanks. The actor plays the pilot Sully Sullenberger, who is forced to land on the Hudson River after the plane he is flying (US Airways Flight 1549) accidentally hits geese which destroys the engine. The film is based on the emergency landing that Sullenberger managed to make without any of the crew and 155 passengers dying. Sully also explores how Sully underwent investigation in spite of doing nothing wrong. It had a box office gross $240.8 million.
Remember The Titans (2000)
Denzel Washington’s performance in Remember the Titans remains one of his most celebrated. The film chronicles the true story of how a Black football coach named Herman Boone attempted to coach a high school football team that is newly integrated. For the first time ever, the high schools in Alexandria, Virginia were integrated in 1971. With Boaz Yakin as its director, the film depicts the racism Boone had to face coming from Alexandria residents while he coached his team. The movie won Best Picture at the NAACP Image Awards. Gregory Allen Howard wrote the screenplay.
Eddie The Eagle (2015)
The sports drama Eddie the Eagle features Taron Egerton playing the role of Michael “Eddie” Edwards, who got cut from the Olympic ski team of the UK. To test his skills in ski jumping, Eddie goes to Germany, where he runs into ski-jumper-turned-snowplow-driver Bronson Peary (played by Hugh Jackman). Eddie impresses Peary with his determination, and Peary agrees to train Eddie. From the start, Eddie is counted out but his efforts pay off and he makes it to the Olympics in 1988. The film won an Empire Award and a Teen Choice Award.
Che: Part One (2008)
Che: Part One is part of an epic biopic that centers around Che Guevara, who was a doctor from Argentina that became a revolutionary. The first part of the film started in 1955 Mexico, with Guevara agreeing to join Fidel Castro’s rebel campaign aimed at overthrowing the Batista regime (US-backed) in Cuba. Guevara is played by Benicio del Toro, and Part One details how Guevara and Castro installed an independent socialist state in the country after the violent ousting of Batista in 1959. The film won a Best Actor Award at Cannes and a couple of Goya Awards—one for Best Art Direction and one for Best Actor.
The Social Network (2010)
Based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by by Ben Mezrich, The Social Network tells the story of how Mark Zuckerberg (portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg) and his college classmates founded the top social networking site Facebook, which has earned Zuckerberg a $69.2 billion net worth. The film also explores the lawsuits which the Winklevoss twins (both portrayed by Armie Hammer) filed against Zuckerberg. They believed that the social media mogul had stolen their idea. Nominated for eight Oscars and winning three, the movie grossed $224.9 million, money that Zuckerberg would perhaps just sneeze at.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Con man Frank Abagnale, Jr.’s stranger-than-fiction story inspired this hit Spielberg film starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. Abagnale was an imposter who famously got away with impersonating a lawyer, doctor, and an airline pilot, even before 22 years old. With its universal appeal, the suspenseful romp did extremely well at the box office and made more than $350 million, nearly half of which from international moviegoers. Spielberg’s successful production company, Amblin Entertainment, produced and distributed Catch Me If You Can.
I’m Not There (2007)
This unconventional film employs different techniques (and actors) to show the life and different public personas of singer Bob Dylan. Cate Blanchett played Dylan’s post-electric phase while other Dylan interpretations were portrayed by Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin, and Ben Whishaw. Directed by experienced filmmaker Todd Haynes, the edgy art film was produced by seven small independent production companies. The now-defunct Weinstein Company distributed the movie, which only made $11.7 million despite having a budget of $20 million.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
This biographical film is about Stephen Hawking (portrayed by Eddie Redmayne), a physicist and researcher that changed scientific history with his various breakthroughs. In the film, the life of the renowned scientist gets the Hollywood effect since the movie does not only focus on his accomplishments but also his romantic life and illness. The Theory of Everything took elements from a book that Hawking’s wife wrote about their life together. Distributed by indie and foreign movie stalwart Focus Features, the film won several Academy Awards and had a box office gross of $123.7 million.
The Blind Side (2009)
In The Blind Side, Quinton Aaron plays Michael Oher and Sandra Bullock portrays Lee Ann Tuohy. In both real life and the film adaptation, Oher was adopted by Touhy, who helped him see that he had a natural talent for football. With Touhy’s help, Oher managed to achieve his goal of becoming a pro player in the NFL, having been drafted in the first round by the Ravens. Michael Lewis chronicled Oher’s true story in the biography titled, “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game”, which was the basis of the movie’s screenplay. Bullock won both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance in the film, which had a box office gross of $309.2 million.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Queen fans will agree that “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of the most famous songs of the band. In addition, Bohemian Rhapsody is the title of the Brian Singer-directed biographical drama about Freddie Mercury. Rami Malek stars as Mercury in this movie which depicts the enigmatic lead singer’s struggles with accepting his own sexuality and Queen’s struggle to achieve success in the constantly changing music industry. His performance in the film earned Rami Malek an Academy Award for Best Actor. Aside from this success, this musical feature which was produced and distributed by20th Century Fox went on to gross a whopping $903 million.
The Express (2008)
The sports drama The Express won Best Sports Movie at the ESPY Awards. The movie stars Rob Brown and Dennis Quaid. It is based on the biography titled, “Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express”, by Robert Gallagher. Football player Ernie Davis overcame obstacle after obstacle and became a player for Syracuse in the NCAA. He went on to become one of the best players in Syracuse history. In 1961, he became the first Black player who won a Heisman. Sadly, Davis was diagnosed with leukemia the following year and passed away at the age of 23, before getting a chance to play pro football in the NFL.
Invictus has become one of most celebrated movies of Morgan Freeman. The actor stars as Nelson Mandela, the well-known South African leader unjustly imprisoned for 27 years. After Mandela’s release from jail, he had the difficult task of making his country united in spite of the deep racial divisions because of Apartheid. The film chronicles how Mandela worked together with the captain of the South African rugby team Francois Pienaar (portrayed by Matt Damon) to try and get rid of the racial division which plagued South Africa. The Clint Eastwood film was honored with the Paul Selvin Award.
Starring Angelina Jolie, this eerie movie tells the story of Christine Collins, a single mom who realizes her son is not actually her son. Changeling is based on the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, which happened in Mira Loma, California between 1926 and 1928. A manhunt ensues when Collins realizes that her son, Walter, is missing. Found in Illinois, Walter is returned to Collins. However, Collins immediately recognizes that the boy is not her son. With the police refusing to listen to her, her only ally is a priest (played by John Malkovich) who is looking to expose the corruption in the LAPD.
Lonely Hearts (2006)
The 2006 neo-noir movie Lonely Hearts is based on the spree killing in the ‘40s that the Lonely Hearts Killers were responsible for. The killers were Raymond Fernandez (portrayed by Jared Leto) and Martha Beck (portrayed by Salma Hayek). The movie also features John Travolta and James Gandolfini, who plays the detectives that are trying to catch the couple. Fernandez and Beck’s victims were women who responded to the pair’s personal ads in the paper. The two murdered at least a dozen people during their killing spree. The movie had a box office gross $2.52 million.
Seabiscuit centers around a businessman trying to cope with the passing of his son. Tobey Maguire stars as Red Pollard, a horse jockey with a long history of bad injuries. Pollard teams up with a horse trainer and the businessman to train the racehorse Seabiscuit, whom everyone else believed was too temperamental and small to race. The horse initially loses a series of matches until the training works, and Seabiscuit becomes one of the racehorses that are the most successful in history. The film was released in 2003, winning an award from the American Society of Cinematographers. Gary Ross directed the movie and wrote its screenplay.
Directed by Ronny Yu, Fearless tells the story of Chinese martial arts master Huo Yuanjia, the founder of Jin Wu Sports Federation. The films chronicles how Yuanjia (played by Jet Li) becomes a national hero in China. He challenged and battled foreign fighters in highly-publicized events. Yuanjia’s winning streak brought pride and nationalism back to China, which was having a hard time shaking off Western imperialist forces as well as dealing with Japanese manipulation towards the latter part of the Qing dynasty.
The sports drama Invincible is based on the life of Vince Papale. Mark Wahlberg plays Papale, a massive football fan and bartender/high school teacher who gets to live out his wildest dreams after trying out for the Philadelphia Eagles. Having made the team as a kicker at 30 years old, he becomes the oldest rookie in the NFL who has not played NCAA football. Ericson Core directed the movie, which was released by Disney. It had a box office gross of $58.5 million, though its budget was just around $19 million.
J. Edgar (2011)
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as J. Edgar Hoover in this film about the FBI director and how he became one of America’s most powerful men for almost 50 years. Hoover served through three wars and eight presidents, becoming the FBI’s ruthless face. This Golden Globe-nominated movie had Clint Eastwood as its director, so J. Edgar Hoover’s portrayal is more fawning and less accurate. Hoover was notoriously private in his personal life and in public. Naomi Watts and Armie Hammer also star in the film.
Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
Charlie Wilson’s War stars big names including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This movie is a classic “What could go wrong?” type and features Hanks as U.S. Representative Charlie Wilson. The congressman seeks out Joanne Herring (played by Roberts) to help him get more funding for Afghanistan militants who were fighting against the Soviet Union back in the ‘80s. Wilson, Herring, and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (played by Hoffman) become successful in their attempts at funding the Afghanistan militants. In the ‘80s, the militants were called “freedom fighters” or “Mujahideen” but later down the road, they would be known by another name: the Taliban.
Great Balls of Fire! (1989)
Jerry Lee Lewis is definitely a rock ‘n roll legend, and Great Balls of Fire depicts how he came to have such an impact in the music world. Dennis Quaid stars as Lewis in the film, which The New York Times described as a “cleaned-up” Lewis biography. The movie starts after Lewis lands a music deal with Sun Studio. His cousin Jimmy, portrayed by Alec Baldwin, attempts to convince Lewis not enter the music business but failed. Released in 1989, the biography glosses over the less savory parts of Lewis’ life.
Gia was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe (of which it won). Angelina Jolie stars as Gia Carangi. Wanting to become a supermodel, Gia moves to New York City. She meets an agent, who helps her become famous. However, Gia’s life spins out of control after she gets addicted to drugs. Directed by Michael Cristofer, this made-for-TV movie is a historical drama and it was first released in Germany in September 1998 before being released in America. Faye Dunaway played Gia’s agent, Wilhelmina Cooper.
I Shot Andy Warhol (1996)
Directed by Mary Harron, the 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol tells one of the most shocking and lurid stories from artist Andy Warhol’s life. Lili Taylor portrays Valerie Solanas, a writer who moves to New York and meets Andy Warhol. Solanas tries to get Warhol to produce Up Your A**, a play that she wrote, but Warhol refuses. She was already unstable, and his refusal leads to her becoming a deranged assassin. Everything culminates in Solanas shooting Warhol at point-blank range. The movie received nominations for an Indie Spirit Award and a National Society of Film Critics Award.
Acclaimed cinematographer Oliver Stone directed the historical drama JFK. The film details the investigation of President John F. Kennedy’s shooting. The investigation is led by New Orleans DA Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner), who closes the case and names Lee Harvey Oswald as the suspect. However, conspiracy theorists think Oswald may not actually be the shooter. The film explores the reopening of the investigation by Garrison and the government resistance that he met while he was untangling the conspiracy. Produced by Warner Bros., the movie won Best Cinematography at the Oscars.
Escape From Alcatraz (1979)
Escape from Alcatraz chronicles the escape of a prisoner from Alcatraz Island, which is a maximum-security prison considered to be impenetrable. Sentenced to life in Alcatraz, Frank Morris was an inmate on the island. Even though he wasn’t really a depraved or violent criminal, he was sent to Alcatraz because he had escaped from prison several times. It was assumed that Morris couldn’t escape Alcatraz, but the movie shows why they were wrong. This thriller is based on the non-fiction book written by J. Campbell Bruce. The movie stars Clint Eastwood as Morris and Don Siegel signed on to direct it.
Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
Peter O’Toole stars in the historical drama Lawrence of Arabia. O’Toole plays a British military lieutenant sent on a mission to Arabia to find the Arabian Prince Faisal and negotiate a deal between the Brits and the Arabs in their battle with the Turks. The film depicts how Lieutenant Lawrence refuses to obey orders and goes on his own mission to attack a Turkish port which seems to be impenetrable. Shot by Freddie Young and directed by David Lean, the film won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1962.
The Sound Of Music (1965)
One of the well-loved plays (and films) in history, The Sound of Music stars Julie Andrews as Baroness von Trapp. The Baroness was a nun who came to an Austrian military official’s household to be a governess. The story is about how she forms a bond with the children, starts a romance with their father, and becomes a Baroness. It also details how the family escapes from Austria when the Nazis are closing in as Baron von Trapp was resistant to German rule. Robert Wise directed the movie, which was released in 1965.
Raging Bull (1980)
This true sports drama stars Robert DeNiro as boxer Jake La Motta and netted De Niro an Academy Award for Best Actor. La Motta, a middleweight boxer, rose through the ranks and gained a chance to fight for the middleweight title. Raging Bull depicts the life story of La Motta in and out of the ring out, specifically his romantic relationship with Vicky La Motta (portrayed by Cathy Moriarty). The boxer’s inability to express his feelings and substance abuse later catch up with him, which makes this film kind of a bummer. The director is Martin Scorsese, and Joe Pesci also plays a part in it.
Starring Kirk Douglas, the 1960 historical drama Spartacus tells the story of Spartacus, who was a Thracian raised as a slave prior to being sold and getting trained by Batiatus as a Gladiator. Spending weeks in training, Spartacus then turned on the slave owners and led his fellow slaves to rebel. The films follows the slave rebellion to Southern Italy, with the slaves planning to go back to their homes in Thrace. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Spartacus won several Academy Awards. Dalton Trumbo, Howard Fast, Peter Ustinov, and Calder Willingham are credited as screenwriters.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
In Dog Day Afternoon, Al Pacino plays inexperienced criminal Sonny Wortzik, who was the leader of a failed bank robbery in Brooklyn, New York. The film depicts the unsuccessful bank robbery, which leads to a standoff with the NYPD and FBI and also a media circus. However, this isn’t just about money, and a series of flashbacks reveal Wortzik’s real motives. Sidney Lumet signed on as the director of Dog Day Afternoon, with Frank Pierson writing the screenplay. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards and won the Best Original Screenplay.
Selena tells the heartbreaking story of Selena Quintanilla Perez (portrayed by Jennifer Lopez), a singer born into a musical Texan family. The Tejana singer went on to have international success, but earned the ire of her father, Abraham (portrayed by Edward James Olmos), when she fell for her guitarist. Music fans will know the story of Selena, which has a really tragic end. Selena had a box office gross of $60 million. Gregory Nava directed this Golden Globe-nominated film.
La Bamba (1987)
La Bamba focuses on the success of LA teen Ritchie Valens (portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips), who turned into an overnight singing sensation when he wrote the love song “Donna” for his then-girlfriend, a white girl whose parents didn’t want her to go out with a Latino boy. The film shows the teenaged Ritchie Valens’ struggle with success, including the conflicts he has with his jealous brother and the nightmares he had about a plane crash, which later came true. Luis Valdez wrote and directed this 1987 movie.
Man On The Moon (1999)
This film tells the story of entertainer Andy Kaufman, who was both eccentric and innovative. Jim Carrey plays Kaufman in this dramedy, which had a box office gross of $47.4 million. Directed by Milos Forman, Man on the Moon received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor and won the award, among other accolades. Danny DeVito was one of the film’s producers, and he also played George Shapiro in the movie.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
FBI agent Joseph Piston was tasked to infiltrate the New York City Mafia in its heyday. Using the name Donnie Brasco (played by Johnny Depp), he developed a friendship with Lefty Ruggiero (portrayed by Al Pacino). First released in 1997, the film is about the FBI agent who is grappling with turning his newfound friend to the authorities. The New York Times described the movie as “crackling good.” The movie was released for the second time in 2012 at a show called Mafia’s Greatest Hits, a collection of the greatest mobster films to date.
Malcolm X (1992)
Directed by Spike Lee, Malcolm X centers around the Black liberation activist and it brought home an NAACP Image Award. Denzel Washington was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Malcolm X. The biographical drama depicts several periods of the life of the Civil Rights hero, including the time he was imprisoned in the ‘50s and his later assassination. “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, which was written by Malcolm X, is the basis of this film. Alex Haley is credited as a co-writer for doing the editing.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Bonnie and Clyde have definitely captured the American mind. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty played the criminal couple in this Arthur Penn biographical film. Released in 1967, the film was called a “brutal crime romp” by Empire, who also said the lead actors’ performances were “charismatic.” At the time, the movie received a lot of criticisms for its violence and how it depicted the nitty-gritty life of the couple, but later generations have realized its worth. The film brought home an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Schindler’s List (1993)
Liam Neeson plays the role of Oskar Schindler, an unexpected hero during the Second World War, in the historical drama Schindler’s List. A businessman, Schindler decided to join the Nazi party for expediency. However, when he realized the true agenda of the Nazis, Schindler had already staffed his factory with a lot of Jewish workers. The films depicts Schindler as a character who is flawed but is trying to protect his workers and other innocent people from being taken into Nazi concentration camps. The drama was directed by Steven Spielberg and won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Neeson actually refused to accept a salary for the film, stating that doing so would be accepting “blood money”.
The Untouchables (1987)
Robert De Niro plays a mobster like a boss. Case in point: he played the role of Chicago mobster Al Capone really well. In The Untouchables Capone is pitted against Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (portrayed by Kevin Costner). The movie also stars Sean Connery, who plays the Irish-American cop Jimmy Malone that teamed up with Ness in order to take down the infamous gangster of the bootleg era. Eliot Ness himself wrote the story of The Untouchables in part, but Oscar Freely and David Mamet adapted the story into a screenplay. Sean Connery won an Academy Award for his performance in the film.
Mommie Dearest (1981)
The docudrama Mommie Dearest is about the glamorous actress Joan Crawford, who adopted a child, Christina. The film depicts the acting decline of Crawford and how it affected Christina, since Crawford becomes more abusive. The family starts out happily in Mommie Dearest, but Crawford gets fired from MGM and cannot get a date. Those professional and personal setbacks led to Crawford abusing her daughter. Christina decides to leave home and attempts to become an actress, but she struggles to get out of her mother’s shadow. Faye Dunaway’s portrayal of Joan Crawford earned her a National Society of Film Critics Award.
Not Without My Daughter (1990)
Sally Field plays Betty Mahmoody in this thriller/docudrama. Mahmoody has an Iranian-American husband and a daughter named Mahtob. After visiting Iran with her husband, Mahmoody gets trapped in the country, where women are treated brutally. Not Without My Daughter shows Mahmoody’s struggle to leave Iran with her child. Sheila Rosenthal played Field’s daughter, Mahtob. Directed by Brian Gilbert, the movie had a box office gross of $14.79 million and is now .
Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)
Born on the Fourth of July stars Tom Cruise as Ron Kovic, a teenager from New York who joined the Marines because he felt it was his duty as a citizen of America. During his second tour of duty in Vietnam, he killed his platoonmate by accident. He was also permanently paralyzed later on the second tour. This film depicts Kovic as a Marine who later becomes an impassioned anti-war critic. It also gives a look at the Veterans Administration as a useless bureaucracy which cares more about money than providing help to veterans.
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Winona Ryder plays Susanna Kaysen in Girl, Interrupted, which tells the story of Kaysen’s time in a mental institution where she was placed as a young woman. Angelina Jolie co-stars as Lisa, a fun but dangerous, fellow patient that belongs in the institution more than Kaysen does. Released in 1999, the movie was awarded an Oscar and received nominations for a number of Golden Globes and a Teen Choice Award. Kaysen’s autobiography was the basis of the screenplay.
Almost Famous (2000)
The coming-of-age story of Almost Famous is about Cameron Crowe. He was also the movie’s director and screenplay writer. It is semi-autobiographical, since Crowe was wrote for Rolling Stone magazine when he was a teenager. Almost Famous shows the assignment of a fifteen-year-old music fan to interview Stillwater. The teen writer goes on tour with the band, despite his very protective mother’s objections. The film got nominated for several Academy Awards, winning Best Original Screenplay.
Party Monster (2003)
James St. James’ autobiographical novel titled, “Disco Bloodbath” is the basis of Party Monster. The movie stars Macaulay Culkin as Michael Alig. When Alig was a teenager, he ran away from home and got on a bus bound for New York City so he could leave his boring life behind. In the city, he met James St. James (portrayed by Seth Green) and Peter Gatien (portrayed by Dylan McDermott). The two were quite influential in the club scene. Together with Alig, they created a clubbing empire. Party Monster had a box office gross of $742,898.
My Left Foot (1989)
My Left Foot is based on the true story of Christy Brown, who was spastic quadriplegic due to being born with severe cerebral palsy. He was basically paralyzed, but he could control his left foot. Through his mother’s help, he went on to become a painter, poet, and author, using only his left foot to make masterpieces. The screenplay was adapted from the autobiography of Brown and Jim Sheridan directed the film. Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Christy Brown.
The famous Francis Ford Coppola co-wrote the screenplay for the 1970 movie Patton, which tells the true story of General George S. Patton, the controversial WWII general. Patton was a war hero in World War II but was later removed from the military when he criticized the post-war strategy of the US. The film starts with his arrival in North Africa and covers his different wartime activities until his discharge from command. Franklin J. Schaffner directed this movie, which currently has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. This makes sense because the film won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)
Directed by Rob Reiner, the courtroom drama Ghosts of Mississippi is about the murder of the Black activist Medgar Evers in 1963. Nearly all of the evidence pointed towards Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist named (played by James Woods). However, he was still acquitted by two all-white juries. The film takes place in 1989. Lawyer Bobby DeLaughter (played by Alec Baldwin) agrees to take the case. Among the movie’s accolades is an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Beyond The Sea (2004)
Beyond the Sea’s script and songs were written by Kevin Spacey. He also directed it and played Bobby Darin, the subject of the movie. As a child, Darin struggled with heart disease, so he knew he was on borrowed time. He decided to make the most of his time on earth and make it count. The film covers his rise to fame. Spacey portrayed well Darin’s characteristic of not accepting “no” for an answer. The movie had a box office gross of $8.4 million and received a Golden Globe nomination.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Will Smith stars in this tearjerker as Chris Gardner. Directed by Gabriele Muccino, The Pursuit of Happyness depicts how Gardner struggles to make a better life for himself and his son in despite the fact that they have been evicted from their home and are staying in homeless shelters. Gardner later overcomes his circumstances and becomes a stockbroker, finding his own firm which makes him millions. In real life, Gardner is among the world’s most sought-after motivational speakers. Jaden Smith plays Gardner’s son in The Pursuit of Happyness.
Drama/thriller Foxcatcher stars Steve Carell as the wealthy investor John E. Du Pont, who invites the wrestler Mark Schultz (portrayed by Channing Tatum) to stay in his estate and form a wrestling team for the 1988 Olympics. Mark agrees since he wants to get out of the shadow of his older brother, Dave (portrayed by Mark Ruffalo). Overall, the story is sad, with Du Pont being a violent fanatic and a deranged heir, and Schultz a naïve athlete. Carell’s performance earned him for an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. The film also won Best Director at Cannes.
The Greatest Showman (2017)
The Greatest Showman features Hugh Jackman playing P.T. Barnum, who created the infamous Barnum & Bailey Circus. A very imaginative child, Barnum also displayed talent as a promoter, selling tickets to shows even at the young age of 12. The film chronicles his rise to fame. Michael Gracey directed the movie which won Best Actress at the Teen Choice Awards. Joseph Trapanese and John Debney composed the impressive musical score.
I, Tonya (2017)
When people hear the name Tonya Harding, they usually think of cracking someone’s kneecaps by her ex-husband and his stupid friend, who launched an attack on Nancy Kerrigan, Harding’s rival in the 1994 Olympics. I, Tonya seeks to give Harding a voice. The film tells the story of her tough childhood, her harsh mother (portrayed well by Allison Janney), and what actually happened during the Olympics. When you finish I, Tonya, you will have a completely new perception of Harding’s actual legacy.
Flash Of Genius (2008)
This movie stars Greg Kinnear as Robert Kearns, an inventor who wages a costly legal battle against car companies to get what he is due – name recognition and financial reward. A college professor, Kearns invented what we now know as the intermittent windshield wiper, revolutionizing the automotive industry. In the ‘60s, he brought his invention to an auto convention in Detroit for the first time. While his invention was a massive hit, Kearns was taken out of the picture since the Big Three auto companies practically stole his idea.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, Bird tells the life story of jazz musician Charlie Parker. It is widely known that Eastwood is a jazz fan, and it is easy to tell he poured his heart and soul into the film, which chronicles Parker’s struggles as he worked on becoming famous as well as the tough relationship he had with his wife. The movie also depicted the musician’s struggle with drugs. Forest Whitaker plays Parker, who died at just 34 years old from an overdose. Released in 1988, the film earned Eastwood a Golden Globe Award for Best Director.
The Glorias (2020)
Noted feminist scholar Gloria Steinem had a big impact on the feminist movement. The Glorias chronicles her life and her struggles to get her voice heard. Young Steinem is portrayed by Alicia Vikander, while Julianne Moore stars as the older Steinem. Directed by Julie Taymor, the movie has other famous faces including Bette Midler, Janelle Monae, Timothy Hutton, and Lorraine Toussaint. The screenplay was written by Julie Taymor and Sarah Ruhl but Steinem had the final say since it was her biopic.
First Man (2018)
Nominated for the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, First Man features Ryan Gosling playing astronaut Neil Armstrong. its screenplay is based on the book titled, “The First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong”. The biopic, which was directed by Damien Chazelle, starts with Armstrong becoming an engineer in NASA and depicts the years of training he went through, consistently risking his life when doing test flights. The movie also features the famous Apollo 11, which sent Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin into space. Released in October 2018, the film had a box office gross of $105.7 million.
Lady Sings The Blues (1972)
In the 1972 biographical drama Lady Sings the Blues, Diana Ross plays jazz singer Billie Holiday. The film chronicles Holiday’s traumatic and difficult youth as well as her early tries to become a well-known singer. While the movie does show her becoming famous, it also reveals fame’s ugly side. Her tumultuous relationship with her manager-boyfriend, Louis McKay, and her severe drug addiction caused her to live in peril constantly. Produced by Motown Records, this Oscar-nominated film is based on Holiday’s biography and was directed by Sidney J. Furie.
Robert Downey Jr. stars in the 1992 drama Chaplin, which chronicles the life of Charlie Chaplin. Downey Jr. was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Chaplin and won a London Film Critics’ Circle Award and BAFTA for his performance. The movie follows took a Chaplin through his tough childhood in London and his career in silent movies in America, as well as his other masterpieces. It also chronicles his personal life and turbulent marriages. In 1972, Chaplin received an Honorary Academy Award.
Soul Surfer (2011)
The 2011 movie Soul Surfer Surfer is based on surfer Bethany Hamilton’s autobiography, which includes her experience about losing an arm in a shark attack. The film stars AnnaSophia Robb as Hamilton, while Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt played Hamilton’s parents in the movie. The movie shows Hamilton’s struggle to go back to surfing with only one arm and what her life was like when she discovered a higher purpose. Sean McNamara directed the movie and adapted the screenplay.
Without Limits (1998)
In Without Limits, Billy Crudup plays Olympic athlete Steve Prefontaine, who was a University of Oregon track star in spite of constantly clashing with Bill Bowerman, his track coach (played by Donald Sutherland). The movie shows Prefontaine’s eventual bond with the coach and his relationship with Mary, whom the athlete falls in love with. This sports drama was produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, and directed by Robert Towne.
Brian’s Song (1971)
Brian’s Song stars James Caan and Billy Dee Williams as Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers respectively. Piccolo and Sayers were NFL teammates (the Chicago Bears) during the ‘60s. Even in those days, there was racial tension and segregation in professional football, and the film depicts the bond that grew between a white athlete (Piccolo) and a Black athlete (Sayers). Their wives also become friends, and the four’s close bond becomes a sort of symbol of racial harmony during the strained ‘60s. The movie’s screenplay was written by Gale Sayers.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
Quentin Tarantino may have taken great artistic liberties, but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is actually based on a true story, so the film makes this list. This film is about actor Rick Dalton (who was famous during the ‘50s) and his friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth. Dalton and Booth are neighbors with actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski. The Manson Family murdered Tate and six other people in ritualistic killings under Charles Manson’s direction. Booth and Dalton are fictional characters, but Tate and Manson are real people.
Woman In Gold (2015)
Helen Mirren stars as Maria Altmann in Woman in Gold. During the invasion of Vienna by the Nazi, the elderly Jewish woman Maria Altmann’s family possessions were seized. She had to flee Austria with only the clothes she was wearing, and the film depicts the arduous legal struggle she had to go through in order to reclaim her possessions, particularly her Aunt Adele’s portrait, which Gustave Klimt had done. Ryan Reynolds plays the young, hotshot lawyer Randy Schoeberg, who helps her. Simon Curtis directed Woman in Gold and Alexi Campbell wrote the screenplay.
Julie & Julia (2009)
Julie & Julia tells the true story of how author Julie Powell and cooking expert Julia Child managed to conquer not only French cooking but also other hardships after Powell decides to cook all of the recipes in Child’s cookbook titled, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Nora Ephron wrote and directed this movie, which won a Golden Globe. In real life, Child wasn’t really fond of Powell because the author “wasn’t a serious cook” and swore too much.
One year after garnering massive acclaim for his role in The Godfather, Al Pacino played cop Frank Serpico in this Sidney Lumet-directed feature which follows the journey of the NYPD officer with the corrupt police force. The film was a big hit with audiences and critics alike, having a box office gross of almost $30 and a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Al Pacino’s performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Written by Diane Lake, Clancy Sigal, Anna Thomas, and Gregory Nava, and directed by Julie Taymore, Frida focuses on the professional life as well as the personal struggles of one of the 20th century’s most famous artists. Salma Hayek plays Frida Kahlo, and her performance in the film is still considered her best. The film is based on Hayden Herrera’s biography of Kahlo. Frida depicts the famously dysfunctional relationship between the artist and Diego Rivera and the painful personal drama that she went through.
The Report (2019)
This overlooked gem from 2019 is based on the groundbreaking CIA report leak about the agency’s controversial conduct after 9/11. In spite of its standout performances and timely subject matter, The Report didn’t do so well at the box office. Adam Driver showed a sturdy and steered performance playing a Senate employee who was tasked with exposing the 6,000+ page report. We are reminded by the movie why he is one of the best actors of today.
I Still Believe (2020)
The romantic drama I Still Believe is based on Christian music star Jeremy Camp’s life. Currently signed to Capitol Records, Camp’s journey to becoming a Christian music star was filled with love and loss. KJ Apa, known for his role in the series Riverdale, stars as Camp while Britt Robertson plays Camp’s girlfriend Melissa, who had a severe illness. There were other guest appearances including country star Shania Twain, Melissa Roxburgh, and Nathan Parsons. This film was released in March 2020 and made $11.4 million at the box office.
Ammonite stars Kate Winslet as the famed self-taught paleontologist Mary Anning. In the 1840s, Anning worked in the wild, brutal coastline of Lyme Regis, a Southern English region. She had famous discoveries, but she still had difficulty paying her bills and those of her widowed mother. Saiorse Ronan plays Charlotte, a tourist’s young wife who buys a few of Anning’s fossils. The two fall in love and starts a love affair even though they had really different personalities and were from different worlds.
The Two Popes (2019)
The Two Popes is based on a play called The Pope by Anthony McCarten. Anthony Hopkins plays Pope Benedict XVI, who was infamous for abdicating his papacy after the leaks scandal in Vatican. Jonathan Pryce plays Cardinal Bergoglio, who resigned as Archbishop as well. This tense drama premiered in late August 2019 and later had a limited theatrical release in the US. The movie is now on Netflix. The screenplay was written by Anthony McCarten, and Fernando Meirelles directed the film.
Famous for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit”, author J.R.R. Tolkien is the focus of the biopic Tolkien, which was released to high expectations in 2019. So far, 150 million copies of Tolkien’s novels have been sold since they were first published in the ‘50s. Tolkien depicts the early life of the author and ends (no spoilers) with Tolkien becoming a professor at Oxford. The film had a $20 million budget but only made $9 million.
The moving biographical film Rocketman centers around musician Elton John’s life. Written by Lee Hall and directed by Dexter Fletcher, the movie stars Taron Egerton as John and had been in development for quite a while before Focus Features picked it up. Originally, Elton John himself executive-produced the film but due to creative differences between the famous singer and Focus led to another producer. Rocketman cleaned up awards at the Oscars, SAG Awards, BAFTAs, and Critics’ Choice Awards.
Ride Like A Girl (2019)
In 2015, Michelle Payne became the first female jockey who won the famous horse-racing tournament Australian Melbourne Cup. Ride Like a Girl shows her journey, including all the hurdles that she had to overcome (figuratively and literally) as a woman in a sport that is male-dominated. This movie is available on Netflix and stars Teresa Palmer as Payne. Payne’s father is racehorse trainer Paddy Payne (portrayed by Sam Neill in the film).
Rosamund Pike played Marie Curie in this biographical movie about the life of the scientist who discovered the elements radium and polonium. Much of the film focuses on Curie’s relationships with her husband and her colleague Paul Langevin (portrayed by Aneurin Barnard). In addition, Radioactive focused on the impacts of Curie’s work, such as atomic bombings, brachytherapy, Chernobyl, the Manhattan project, and other events. This movie had a box office gross of $1.2 million.
The biographical drama Judy stars Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland. The movie follows the famous singer/actress’s later career, when Garland moved to England. The film also flashes back to her years as a teen, including the famous role she played in The Wizard of Oz. Major publications, such as the The New York Times, gave Judy glowing reviews. The final years of Garland’s career were marked with tragedy and health issues, something that the film unflinchingly covered. As for Zellweger, her performance in the movie earned her an Oscar, BAFTA, SAG, and Golden Globe.
The Irishman (2019)
The Irishman had big names attached to it, including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Bobby Cannavale, and Ray Romano. Based on Charles Brandt’s book, “I Heard You Paint Houses”, the film tells the (allegedly) true story of Jimmy Hoffa’s fate. This Martin Scorsese feature was both produced and financed by Netflix. Cutting-edge de-aging technology was pioneered to tell this epic, spanning over half a century. Even Oscar-winning actor Joe Pesci came out of retirement to co-star in this film.
The Haunting Of Sharon Tate (2019)
The Manson Family murders are really infamous. Actress Sharon Tate and a number of other people were murdered by Charles Manson and his family. Former Disney star Hilary Duff starred as Tate in this film, which tells the true story (along with fictional elements) of the gruesome murders in 1968. The Haunting of Sharon Tate is a combination of truth and premonitions since Duff’s Tate has visions of being murdered by the Family. The film was released by Saban Films in 2019. Daniel Farrands wrote, directed and produced the movie.
Ford V Ferrari (2019)
Starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, Oscar-nominated film Ford v. Ferrari tells the story of how Ford planned to build the GT40, a race car that was American-made and hopefully going to defeat the racing team of Ferrari, who had dominated different car races (including the 24 Hours of Le Mans) for years. In the ‘60s, there was an unexpected rivalry between Ford and Ferrari. Speed was not something people associated with the American company, and Ford was certainly the underdog in the world of racing. Originally, the starring roles were to be played by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, but the plan fell through.
Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
Eddie Murphy showed in Dolemite Is My Name how good of an actor he really is. The comedian played the filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore in the biographical comedy-drama. Moore’s best-known work is playing Dolemite, a faux persona he developed for his standup comedy. Ultimately, the role became a vehicle for several blaxploitation films. Dolemite Is My Name told the story of Moore’s entry into filmmaking and his experiences as a struggling artist working in a record store. The Netflix movie shows how he created his famous character in addition to the pitfalls of fame. Many consider Moore as the “Godfather of Rap.”
Released in 2019, Bombshell was was nominated for several Academy Awards. This film stars Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, and John Lithgow as employees at Fox News. A News Corp subsidiary, Fox was rocked by several scandals which eventually led to Roger Ailes (portrayed by John Lithgow) leaving Fox. This movie is based on Megyn Kelly’s and Gretchen Carlson’s real-life accounts. The two on-air personalities brought the scandal to light. The film ended up becoming a stirring awards darling.
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (2019)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood stars Tom Hanks as the popular and well-loved TV host Fred Rogers. He has a famous show called, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, which is one of America’s most famous children show. Mr. Rogers was widely known not only for his penchant for sweaters, but also for his kindness and quiet dedication to various social causes. Even his show was home to major corporations, it was always available on PBS (public access television) since Rogers wanted to give children a chance to watch quality education programming whatever their financial status or background.
On The Basis Of Sex (2018)
The 2018 biographical drama On the Basis of Sex is based on the true story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It covers her life when she was a law student and lawyer, and includes her early cases and different personal struggles, such as her husband, Martin, getting diagnosed with cancer while he was also a law student. Universal Studios and Focus Features co-produced this movie, which premiered at the AFI Fest in November 2018, and in the US in December 2018. Aside from the generally positive reviews that the movie received, Felicity Jones’ portrayal of Ginsburg was also well-received.
Released in 2018, Lizzie was a biographical thriller about Lizzie Borden. She was charged with the murders of her family in the New England Fall River but was later acquitted. Her role in the gruesome 1892 axe murders has never been really clear. Chloe Sevigny played Lizzie (aside from serving as executive producer). Craig MacNeill directed the tense thriller, and Bryce Kass was its screenwriter. The film premiered at Sundance and nine months later, it received a theatrical release.
Green Book (2018)
Oscar-winning film Green Book stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. This biographical comedy/drama depicts the true story of Don Shirley, who is a Black classical pianist that toured the Deep South together with Italian-American bouncer Tony Vallelonga. In the 1950s, Victor Green wrote a book which documented their story and identified places which were safe—and not that safe—for African Americans to go to in the racist Deep South. The film won several Oscars and awards from the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and the Screen Actors Guild.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
Nicole Holofcener and Marielle Heller worked together on the film Can You Ever Forgive Me?, starring Melissa McCarthy. The actor plays Lee Israel, who is a struggling writer trying to fix her failed career in writing by faking letters from dead authors and playwrights. The film marks a turn for the actor, who previously starred in several comedies including Bridesmaids and Mike & Molly. McCarthy’s and Richard E. Grant’s performances both received plenty of praise and earned them Oscar nominations. Julianne Moore was originally cast as Lee Israel, though the role ended up going to McCarthy.
Released in 2018, Blaze is based on country star Blaze Foley’s life. It was directed and produced by actor Ethan Hawke Blaze and stars musician Ben Dickey as Foley. One of Foley’s contribution is helping popularize Texas Outlaw Country, which is a music style that used to be underground but has gone to major studio labels. The film is based on a memoir written by Sybil Rosen called “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze”. Ben Dickey may not be known as an actor, but his performance in the film was well-received and garnered him critical acclaim. Former “Texas Outlaw” musician and Country star Kris Kristofferson appeared in the movie as well.
Singer Jennifer Hudson stars as one of the 20th century’s most influential musicians, the legendary Aretha Franklin. Titled after a famous Franklin song, Respect is a biographical drama slated for release in January 2021. Aside from Hudson, the film also stars Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Tituss Burgess, and Mary J. Blige. Tracey Scott Wilson wrote the screenplay while Wilson and Callie Khouri wrote the story. Distributing the film is United Artists Releasing, and Liesl Tommy has signed on to direct the movie.