10. What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)
We start our list of top 10 biopics with the movie What’s Love Got To Do With It. Many were unsure if Angela Bassett would be able to pull off the story of music giant Tina Turner. Bassett put all her critics skepticism to rest with this 1993 biopic hit.
Turner (Born Anna Mae Bullock) discovers her love of singing in her Tennessee church choir. She decides to move to St. Louis to pursue a career, and there she meets the charismatic Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne).
He rechristens her Tina, and the new brand of Ike and Tina take the charts by storm. Ike begins to physical and verbally abuse Tina, forcing her to decide about her life and career.
Director: Brian Gibson
Cast: Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne
Release date: June 25, 1993
Runtime: 118 minutes
9. Capote (2005)
#2 on our list of top biopic movies is Capote. Reading about the murder of a Kansas family, New York City novelist Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) decides to take a closer look for himself.
He travels to a small Kansas town with his childhood friend–novelist Harper Lee (Catherine Keener). When Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Dick Hickock (Mark Pellegrino) are arrested and charged, Capote forms an emotional bond with Smith. Despite the criminal’s apparent guilt, Capote continued his jailhouse visits.
Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Bruce Greenwood, Mark Pellegrino, Amy Ryan, Chris Cooper
Release date: September 30, 2005
Runtime: 114 minutes
8. Walk the Line (2005)
If were talking about a movie about country legend Johnny Cash, we’ve gotta be talking about one of the best biopics you can watch.
Johnny Cash was a big personality and filling his shoes on screen takes superior acting skill. Tinseltown picked the right actor for this biographical film in Joaquin Phoenix.
The rise of the country music legend Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) begins with his days as a boy growing up on the family farm. It was here where he struggled under the scorn of his father (Robert Patrick). As the years pass, Cash ends up in Memphis with his wife Vivian (Ginnifer Goodwin).
He soon breaks into the music scene after developing his trademark sound. While on tour Cash meets the love of his life, singer June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). A great country western singer–but his volatile lifestyle threatens to end his relationship.
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick
Release date: November 18, 2005
Runtime: 136 minutes
7. The Kings Speech (2010)
Great acting and great writing merge in The Kings Speech. This top 10 biopic won four Academy Awards including Best Picture.
England’s Prince Albert (Colin Firth) must ascend to the throne as King George VI, but a speech impediment threatens that.
Aware that the country needs her husband to communicate effectively, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) hires Australian actor and speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). An extraordinary friendship develops between the two men, as Logue uses unconventional means to teach the monarch how to speak with confidence.
Although the Kings Speech doesn’t sound like it would be very entertaining on paper, trust us it is. In fact, it’s one of the best biopics movies of the last decade.
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, Claire Bloom
Release date: November 26, 2010
Runtime: 119 minutes
6. Milk (2008)
The best biographical movies start with a terrific story. One that easily resonates with lots of folks. Second, they ensure a cast that will deliver on that story. Third, great actors commit 100% to a role.
In 1972, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) and his lover Scott Smith (James Franco) leave New York for San Francisco, with Milk determined to accomplish something meaningful.
Settling in the Castro District, he opens a camera shop and helps transform the area into a mecca for gays and lesbians. In 1977 he becomes the nation’s first openly gay man elected to a notable public office when he wins a seat on the Board of Supervisors. But the following year, Dan White (Josh Brolin) seeks to change that.
Sean Penn’s performance shows his dedication and commitment to delivering the best. His effort helps to create a great film, and one of the best biopics on Netflix.
Director: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco
Release date: November 26, 2008
Runtime: 128 minutes
5. My Left Foot (1989)
Next on our top 10 biopics movie list stars Daniel Day-Lewis. There are some great actors in the film business and then there’s Mr. Daniel. His performance in the biopic My Left Foot will leave you in awe.
No one expects much from Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), a boy with cerebral palsy born into a working-class Irish family. Though Christy is a spastic quadriplegic and essentially paralyzed, a miraculous event occurs when, at the age of 5, he demonstrates control of his left foot by using chalk to scrawl a word on the floor.
With the help of his steely mother (Brenda Fricker)–and no shortage of grit and determination–Christy overcomes his infirmity to become a painter, poet and author.
Director: Jim Sheridan
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Ray McAnally, Brenda Fricker, Cyril Cusack, Fiona Shaw, Hugh O’Conor, Adrian Dunbar, Ruth McCabe, Alison Whelan
Release date: February 24, 1989
Runtime: 103 minutes
4. Malcolm X (1992)
#4 on our top 10 biopics list is Malcolm X. A Spike Lee classic that needed cash from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Janet Jackson, and even Prince to prevent a production shutdown.
An honor to the controversial black activist and leader of the struggle for black liberation. Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) hit bottom during his imprisonment in the ’50s, he became a Black Muslim and then a leader in the Nation of Islam. His assassination in 1965 left a legacy of self-determination and racial pride.
There is a lot to unpack in X: race relations, education inequality, prison reform, and more. But it takes on those obligations–enlightening and entertaining at the same time. Malcolm X is not only one of best black biopic movies made, but also one of Hollywood’s best films as well.
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee
Release date: November 18, 1992
Runtime: 201 minutes
3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
It’s a long movie for sure, but that doesn’t stop Lawrence of Arabia from making our top 10 biopics list. O’Toole, Guinness, and Sharif collaborate to give us one of best biopics of all time.
Due to his knowledge of the native Bedouin tribes, British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is sent to Arabia to find Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) and serve as a liaison between the Arabs and the British in their fight against the Turks.
With the aid of native Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), Lawrence rebels against the orders of his superior officer and strikes out on a daring camel journey across the harsh desert to attack a well-guarded Turkish port.
It is hard for a good film to get noticed by Hollywood or by the Oscars, but Lawrence of Arabia is, and it did. The seven Academy Awards it won proves it’s one of the best biopics of all time.
Director: David Lean
Cast: Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Peter O’Toole, José Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Jack Hawkins, Arthur Kennedy
Release date: December 10, 1962
Runtime: 227 minutes
2. Ray (2004)
Jamie Foxx becomes Ray Charles in this inspirational biopic. This Oscar winning biography is one of the best Hollywood has produced recently. The backstory and the development of Ray Charles Robinson Sr. is enthralling.
Some actors are born to act in movies spanning decades, while others were born to play one specific role. Jamie Foxx was born to play Ray Charles. You will enter the world of Mr. Charles and remain there for two and half hours. (Jamie Foxx breaks the fourth wall at the end.)
The music, the supporting cast, and the engaging story, all do an expert job of paying tribute to the overwhelming talent of Ray Charles.
Director: Taylor Hackford
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix, Regina King, Terrence Howard, Larenz Tate, Richard Schiff
Release date: October 29, 2004
Runtime: 152 minutes
1. Gandhi (1982)
When Ben Kingsley takes hold of a role, audiences can rest assured they are getting the best of the best. Gandhi won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor and is #1 on our top 10 biopics list.
Kingsley played the famous non-violent leader Mohandas Gandhi. A three hour and twenty-minute biographical force. Sir Kingsley physically becomes Gandhi by losing weight, practicing yoga, meditating, and even learning to spin cotton.
The political weight that this great biopic movie deals with is enormous. But somehow, the spirit of Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, and Kingsley’s stellar performance shine through.
Director: Richard Attenborough
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Martin Sheen
Release date: December 6, 1982
Runtime: 191 minutes