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The Very Best Biopics About Real People

Updated April 30, 2021 17.6k votes 1.4k voters 60.4k views151 items

List RulesVote 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.

  • 1

    The King's Speech

    Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth


    Directed byTom 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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  • 2


    Robert Downey Jr., Milla Jovovich


    Directed byRichard 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 Downey,...  more
  • 3

    Schindler's List

    Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes


    Directed bySteven 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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  • 4


    Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson


    Directed byMartin 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. The...  more

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  • 5

    Stan & Ollie

    Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly


    Directed byJon 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 reignite their...  more
  • 6

    Walk the Line

    Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix


    Directed byJames 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, Reese...  more

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  • 7


    Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx


    Directed byTaylor 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 stars...  more

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  • 8

    Bohemian Rhapsody

    Rami Malek, Ben Hardy


    Directed byBryan 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) up to...  more

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  • 9

    Catch Me If You Can

    Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio


    Directed bySteven 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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  • 10

    The Imitation Game

    Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch


    Directed byMorten Tyldum

    The Imitation Game is a 2014 historical thriller film directed by Morten Tyldum, with a screenplay by Graham Moore loosely based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. It stars...  more

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  • 11

    Coal Miner's Daughter

    Tommy Lee Jones, Sissy Spacek


    Directed byMichael Apted

    Coal Miner's Daughter is a 1980 biographical film which tells the story of country music legendary singer Loretta Lynn. It stars Sissy Spacek as Loretta, a role that earned her the Academy Award for...  more

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  • 12


    Sharon Stone, Robert De Niro


    Directed byMartin 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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  • 13

    The Pianist

    Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann


    Directed byRoman 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 Pianist, a...  more

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  • 14

    A Beautiful Mind

    Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe


    Directed byRon 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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  • 15


    Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau


    Directed byMel 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 War...  more

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  • 16


    Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell


    Directed byDexter 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 Music...  more

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  • 17


    Jeffrey Jones, Cynthia Nixon


    Directed byMiloš Forman

    Amadeus is a 1984 American period biographical drama film directed by Miloš Forman and adapted by Peter Shaffer from his 1979 stage play Amadeus. The story is set in Vienna, Austria during the latter...  more

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  • 18

    12 Years a Slave

    Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender


    Directed bySteve 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 black...  more

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  • 19


    Daniel Day-Lewis, Ben Kingsley


    Directed byRichard 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 Kingdom's...  more

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  • 20


    George C. Scott, Karl Malden


    Directed byFranklin J. Schaffner

    Patton is a 1970 American epic biographical film about U.S. General George S. Patton during WWII. It stars George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates and Karl Michael Vogler. It was directed by...  more

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  • 21

    Brian's Song

    Dick Butkus, James Caan


    Directed byBuzz Kulik

    Brian's Song is a 1971 ABC Movie of the Week that recounts the details of the life of Brian Piccolo, a Wake Forest University football player stricken with terminal cancer after turning pro, told...  more

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  • 22


    Cate Blanchett, Daniel Craig


    Directed byShekhar 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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  • 23

    The Wolf of Wall Street

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey


    Directed byMartin Scorsese

    The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 American biographical black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on the memoir by Jordan Belfort. An ambitious stockbroker (Leonardo DiCaprio) tells his...  more

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  • 24

    The Elephant Man

    Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt


    Directed byDavid 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, Anthony...  more

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  • 25


    Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Day-Lewis


    Directed bySteven 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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