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The Very Best Biopics About Real People 

Ranker Film
Updated January 3, 2020 12.9k votes 1.2k voters 54.2k views 140 items

List Rules Vote up the top biographical movies & films

List of the best biopics ever made, as ranked by film critics and movie fans. History is filled with remarkable individuals and stories that are worth telling over and over. People write books and create amazing art works depicting these incredible people and their lives, but no medium is more memorable than biographical films. This movie genre has been around since movies could be made, with Jeanne d’Arc in 1900. Some of the most memorable films of all times are biopics, as well as the most beloved and critically recognized performances. 

This list is the answer to the question, “What are the best biographical movies of all time?” Movies like Schindler’s List, Raging Bull, and Lawrence of Arabia are often put on lists of the best movies ever made. Without even knowing about the history behind the movies, they’re as enjoyable as any made up story. Newer films like The Social Network and Lincoln swept at award shows because of their mesmerizing performances and great directing. Of course, you'll find a range of options on the list below, from inspiring athlete stories to the best African American biopics

The films on this list range from 1928 to 2012, covering subjects like great leaders of wars to amazing musicians, and even LGBTQ+ biopics. The movies that made the list are among the best of all time in any genre.

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list ordered by
1
The King's Speech is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth, Guy Pearce

Released: 2010

Directed by: Tom Hooper

The King's Speech is a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. Colin Firth plays King George VI who, to cope with a stammer, sees Lionel Logue, an ...more

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#309 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #14 of 239 The Best Movies Based on True Stories

2
Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Robert Downey Jr., Milla Jovovich, Diane Lane

Released: 1992

Directed by: Richard Attenborough

Chaplin is a 1992 British-American biographical comedy-drama film about the life of British comedian Charlie Chaplin. It was produced and directed by Richard Attenborough and stars Robert ...more

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#248 of 493 The Funniest '90s Movies #56 of 239 The Best Movies Based on True Stories

3
Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley

Released: 1993

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas ...more

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#508 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #18 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

4
Goodfellas is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, Joe Pesci

Released: 1990

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Goodfellas is a 1990 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a film adaptation of the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese. ...more

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#52 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies 15 Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Goodfellas'listed on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

5
Bohemian Rhapsody is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Rami Malek, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee

Released: 2018

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Bohemian Rhapsody is a 2018 American-British biographical drama film directed by Bryan Singer. A chronicle of the years from the formation of Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) ...more

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#296 of 373 The Best Musical Movies of All Time The Real Bohemian Rhapsody Ending: What Actually Happened To Queen After Their Live Aid Performancelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

6
Stan & Ollie is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Nina Arianda

Released: 2018

Directed by: Jon S. Baird

Stan & Ollie is a 2018 British biographical film directed by Jon S. Baird. Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly), the world's most famous comedy duo, attempt to ...more
7
Walk the Line is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Ginnifer Goodwin

Released: 2005

Directed by: James Mangold

Walk the Line is a 2005 American biographical drama film directed by James Mangold and based on the early life and career of country music artist Johnny Cash. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, ...more

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#462 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #4 of 206 The Best Movies About Musiclisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
The Mercy is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis

Released: 2018

Directed by: James Marsh

The Mercy is a 2017 British biographical drama film directed by James Marsh. Amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) attempts to circumnavigate the globe alone as his family awaits his
9
Catch Me If You Can is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jennifer Garner

Released: 2002

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 American biographical crime drama film based on the life of Frank Abagnale, who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by ...more

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#160 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #28 of 363 The Best Movies Based On Books

10
Ray is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx, Terrence Howard

Released: 2004

Directed by: Taylor Hackford

Ray is a biographical film focusing on 30 years in the life of rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles. The independently produced film was written, produced and directed by Taylor Hackford, and ...more

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#334 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys #135 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Starslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

11
A Beautiful Mind is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Ron Howard

Released: 2001

Directed by: Ron Howard

A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. The film was directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay written by Akiva ...more

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#1,015 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #42 of 363 The Best Movies Based On Bookslisted on Movies That Won Best Picture at the Oscars and Golden Globes

12
Gandhi is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Daniel Day-Lewis, Ben Kingsley, Martin Sheen

Released: 1982

Directed by: Richard Attenborough

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

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#186 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #86 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Starslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

13
The Wolf of Wall Street ... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
gschwayze added Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie

Released: 2013

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 American biographical black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese. The screenplay by Terence Winter is adapted from the eponymous memoir by Jordan Belfort and ...more

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#196 of 363 The Best Movies Based On Books #9 of 82 The Best Movies Based on Non-Fiction Books

14
Braveheart is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
MaximilianoAmaral added Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson

Released: 1995

Directed by: Mel Gibson

Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical medieval war drama film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. Gibson portrays William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First ...more

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#20 of 292 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry #53 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

15
The Pianist is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox

Released: 2002

Directed by: Roman Polanski

The Pianist is a 2002 historical drama film co-produced and directed by Roman Polanski, scripted by Ronald Harwood, and starring Adrien Brody. It is based on the autobiographical book The ...more

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#81 of 374 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #28 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Againlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
Amadeus is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Jeffrey Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Christine Ebersole

Released: 1984

Directed by: MiloŇ° Forman

Amadeus - Directors Cut is a 1984 biography drama film written by Peter Shaffer and directed by Milos Forman.

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#55 of 373 The Best Musical Movies of All Time #81 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

17
Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field

Released: 2012

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Lincoln is a 2012 American epic historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as United States President Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. The ...more

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#158 of 374 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #12 of 82 The Best Movies Based on Non-Fiction Books

18
12 Years a Slave is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch

Released: 2013

Directed by: Steve McQueen

12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film directed by Steve McQueen, based on the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free ...more

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#127 of 721 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #302 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

19
Elizabeth is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Cate Blanchett, Daniel Craig, Lily Allen

Released: 1998

Directed by: Shekhar Kapur

Elizabeth is a 1998 biographical film written by Michael Hirst, directed by Shekhar Kapur, and starring Cate Blanchett in the title role of Queen Elizabeth I of England, alongside Geoffrey Rush, ...more

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#316 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #351 of 804 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Madelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

20
The Elephant Man is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft

Released: 1980

Directed by: David Lynch

The Elephant Man is a 1980 American-British biographical film about Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man in 19th century London. The film was directed by David Lynch and stars John Hurt, ...more

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#91 of 292 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry #23 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

21
Rocketman is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden

Released: 2019

Directed by: Dexter Fletcher

Rocketman is a 2019 British-American biographical musical film directed by Dexter Fletcher. The life of Elton John (Taron Egerton) is tracked from his years as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of ...more
22
Ali is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith

Released: 2001

Directed by: Michael Mann

Ali is a 2001 American biographical film directed by Michael Mann. The film tells the story of the boxer Muhammad Ali, played by Will Smith, from 1964-74 featuring his capture of the heavyweight ...more

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#332 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies #10 of 27 The Greatest African American Biopics

23
The Social Network is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Justin Timberlake, Rashida Jones, Rooney Mara

Released: 2010

Directed by: David Fincher

The Social Network is a 2010 American drama film directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin. Adapted from Ben Mezrich's 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of ...more

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#487 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys #189 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars

24
The Aviator is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
Kate Beckinsale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwen Stefani

Released: 2004

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

The Aviator is a 2004 American biographical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by John Logan and produced by Michael Mann, Sandy Climan, Graham King, and Charles Evans, Jr.. It ...more

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#63 of 68 The Best Movies That Are Super Long #249 of 581 The Greatest Film Scores of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

25
Casino is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Very Best Biopics About Real People
MaximilianoAmaral added Sharon Stone, Robert De Niro, James Woods

Released: 1995

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Casino is a 1995 American drama film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film with ...more

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#141 of 336 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #1,128 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies