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Entertainment

The Best Activist Biopics  

Ranker Film
361 votes 100 voters 1k views

List Rules Vote up the best biographical movies about social activists and whistleblowers

Martin Luther King. Malcolm X. Gandhi. These are just a few of the famous activists and civil rights crusaders featured on this list of the best activist biopics. David Oyelowo portrays MLK in Selma, a look at the 1965 voting march from Selma to Montgomery. Denzel Washington plays Malcolm X in Spike Lee’s epic biographical film. The movie takes a broad look at the Civil Rights movement as well as a closer study of the life and death of Malcolm X.


On this list of the greatest activist biopics, you will also find two films portraying South African activist and political leader Nelson Mandela, played by Idris Elba and Danny Glover, respectively. Other political leaders featured in biopics include Che Guevara in
Che, Cesar Chavez in the film of the same name, and Gandhi, played by Sir Ben Kingsley.


We also included
Goodnight, and Good Luck. This George Clooney-directed biopic deals with newsman Edward R. Murrow standing up to Joseph McCarthy during the HUAC days. Although not an activist in the traditional sense, Murrow stood up for freedom of thought and expression, and remains a hero to this day. Vote up the best activist biopics below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section. 
list ordered by
1
Gandhi is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Gandhi is a 1982 epic biographical film which dramatises the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the leader of India's non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement against the United ...more
2
Selma is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Selma is a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, and ...more
3
Good Night, and Good Luck is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Good Night, and Good Luck. is a 2005 American drama film directed by George Clooney and starring David Strathairn, Clooney, Robert Downey, Jr., Patricia Clarkson and Jeff Daniels. The movie was ...more
4
Malcolm X is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Malcolm X is a 1992 American biographical drama film about the African-American activist Malcolm X. Directed and co-written by Spike Lee. The film dramatizes key events in Malcolm X's life: his ...more
5
The Hurricane is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
The Hurricane is a 1999 biographical film directed by Norman Jewison, and starring Denzel Washington. The script was adapted by Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon from the books Lazarus and the ...more
6
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a 2013 British-South African biographical film directed by Justin Chadwick from a script written by William Nicholson and starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris. ...more
7
Born on the Fourth of July is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Born on the Fourth of July is a 1989 American drama film adaptation of the best-selling autobiography of the same name by Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic. Tom Cruise plays Ron Kovic, in a performance ...more
8
Erin Brockovich is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
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Erin Brockovich is a 2000 biographical film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Susannah Grant. The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia ...more
9
North Country is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
North Country is a 2005 American drama film directed by Niki Caro, starring Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sean Bean, Richard Jenkins, Michelle Monaghan, Jeremy Renner, Woody Harrelson and ...more
10
Milk is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Milk is a 2008 American biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, ...more
11
Michael Collins is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Michael Collins is a 1996 historical biopic written and directed by Neil Jordan and starring Liam Neeson as Michael Collins. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
12
Battle in Seattle is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Battle in Seattle is a 2007 political action film and the directorial debut of actor Stuart Townsend. It is based on the protest activity at the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999. The film ...more
13
Norma Rae is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Norma Rae is a 1979 American drama film about a factory worker from a small town in North Carolina who becomes involved in the labor union activities at the textile factory where she works. The ...more
14
The Lady is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial The Lady is a French-British biographical film directed by Luc Besson, starring Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi and David Thewlis as her late husband Michael Aris. Michelle Yeoh called the ...more
15
In the Name of the Father is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
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In the Name of the Father is a 1993 Irish-British-American biographical courtroom drama film co-written and directed by Jim Sheridan. It is based on the true life story of the Guildford Four, ...more
16
Snowden is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Ferry73 added
Snowden is a 2016 biographical spy thriller film directed by Oliver Stone, based on books by Luke Harding and Anatoly Kucherena. The NSA's illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the ...more
17
Cesar Chavez is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Cesar Chavez is a 2014 American biopic film produced and directed by Diego Luna about the life of American labor leader César Chávez, who cofounded the United Farm Workers. The ...more
18
Che! is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Che! is an American biographical film starring Omar Sharif as Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. It follows Guevara from when he first landed in Cuba in 1956 to his death in ...more
19
Joe Hill is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Joe Hill is a 1971 biopic about Swedish-American labor activist Joe Hill, born Joel Emanuel Hägglund in Gävle, Sweden. It was directed by Bo Widerberg and depicts Hill's involvement ...more
20
The People vs. Larry Flynt is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
The People vs. Larry Flynt is a 1996 American biographical drama film directed by Miloš Forman and starring Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, and Edward Norton. It chronicles the rise of magazine ...more
21
Hunger is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
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Hunger is a 2008 film directed by Steve McQueen.
22
Invictus is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
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"From director Clint Eastwood, “Invictus” tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar ...more
23
Mandela is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Mandela is a 1987 HBO television film directed by Philip Saville. The film stars Danny Glover as Nelson Mandela and Alfre Woodard as his wife Winnie.
24
Viva Zapata! is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Viva Zapata! is a 1952 biographical film starring Marlon Brando and directed by Elia Kazan. The screenplay was written by John Steinbeck, using as a guide Edgcomb Pinchon's book, Zapata the ...more
25
Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck S... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Activist Biopics
Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story is a 2014 documentary film directed by Mark Herzog and Sandrine Orabona.