Fascinating, diverse and frequently controversial, the biopic crosses genres to dramatise real lives in engrossing ways.
Once largely confined to the depiction of important historical figures, the biographical film has expanded generously to provide insight into all walks of life, from politicians to film stars, from dreamers to fighters, from children to pensioners.
The biopic has also become known as a showcase for actors’ talents, with the ability to convincingly inhabit and display the inner life of often mercurial figures rightly garnering awards and praise.
Biopic2017108 minsDirector: Michel Hazanavicius
From the Oscar-winning director of The Artist, a brilliantly realised portrait of France’s maestro director Jean-Luc Godard spiralling into philosophical and romantic crisis.
Biopic2017106 minsDirector: Paul McGuigan
Annette Bening and Jamie Bell bring to life the true story of the love affair between Gloria Grahame and young, Liverpudlian actor Peter Turner.
Biopic2017116 minsDirector: Dome Karukoski
The story of a gay icon is brought to life in Dome Karukoski’s handsome biopic of Touko Laaksonen, the artist whose homoerotic drawings gave visual expression to a growing gay culture.
Crime2017105 minsDirector: Craig William Macneill
Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart captivate in this bodice-ripping retelling of the strange and fascinating case of Lizzie Borden.
Biopic201794 minsDirector: Mark Gill
A deeply insecure young Morrissey dreams of escaping drudgery but seeks the confidence to bloom, in this captivating account of The Smiths' genesis.
Biopic2007122 minsDirector: Anton Corbijn
The life story of Ian Curtis, the tortured singer of Joy Division who suffered epilepsy and crippling self-doubt, filmed in stunning monochrome.
Biopic1986113 minsDirector: Alex Cox
A raw and unnerving depiction of the short, incendiary life and times of Sex Pistols punk rockstar Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
Biopic201684 minsDirector: Richard Tanne
This smart, sophisticated, Sundance-nominated romance follows the first date of a couple who would go on to change the world – Barack and Michelle Obama.
Biopic2014128 minsDirector: Ava DuVernay
David Oyelowo’s stunning performance as Martin Luther King Jr. adorns this gripping account of the campaign that changed the course of American civil rights.
Biopic2016106 minsDirector: Dexter Fletcher
Relive the inspiring story of one of Britain’s most memorable Olympic characters, with Taron Egerton as the ski-jumper who made history at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Biopic2015103 minsDirector: Stephen Frears
Ben Foster is Lance Armstrong in this kinetic account of the cyclist who fell from grace, from acclaimed director Stephen Frears.
Biopic201698 minsDirector: Jonathan Teplitzky
Brian Cox is superb as the political titan and great British hero; here presented as plagued with self-doubt on the eve of his finest hour.
Biopic2014115 minsDirector: Morten Tyldum
Benedict Cumberbatch’s roundly acclaimed performance anchors the incredible, Oscar-winning story of code-breaker Alan Turing.
Biopic2008110 minsDirector: Saul Dibb
Keira Knightley plays an 18th-century duchess who challenges convention by responding to her husband’s infidelities with affairs of her own.
Biopic2016125 minsDirector: Terence Davies
Terence Davies' elegant and deeply moving biopic of poet Emily Dickinson, played with sensitivity and rebellious spirit by Cynthia Nixon.
Biopic2016110 minsDirector: Pablo Larraín
Pablo Larraín's bold, inventive detective thriller offers an electrifying contemplation of the Chilean poet's life on the run in the late 1940s.
Biopic2013114 minsDirector: Bruno Barreto
Beautifully told true story of the love affair between American poet Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian architect Lola de Macedo Soares.
Biopic2012111 minsDirector: Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s book about the long-standing affair between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan.
Comedy1998124 minsDirector: John Madden
A creatively stymied bard finds love and inspiration in the form of one of his players, a cross-dressing actress, in the impeccably crafted, Oscar-winning period romance.
Biopic2016100 minsDirector: Pablo Larraín
Natalie Portman is exceptional as the iconic First Lady who has to quickly adjust to the world-shaking trauma of her husband’s assassination.
Biopic2013119 minsDirector: Steven Soderbergh
Michael Douglas dazzles as the flamboyant virtuoso pianist Liberace in this fascinating biopic by Steven Soderbergh.
Biopic2015124 minsDirector: Jay Roach
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Argo) gives a cracking performance as Dalton Trumbo, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who became a Hollywood outcast.
Drama2006103 minsDirector: Stephen Frears
Helen Mirren won as Oscar for her performance as the enduring monarch who comes under scrutiny following the death of Princess Diana.
Historical drama2010113 minsDirector: Tom Hooper
Oscar-winning tale of the relationship between King George VI (Colin Firth) and the Australian speech therapist who treated his stammer.
Drama201497 minsDirector: Julian Jarrold
Julian Jarrold’s charming historical drama recreates Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret’s night of celebrations on V.E. Day 1945.
Biopic2013118 minsDirector: John Ridley
OutKast’s André Benjamin stars as Jimi Hendrix on the cusp of greatness, honing his act in Swinging London, in this revealing and alternative take on the rock biopic.
Biopic2016110 minsDirector: Stephen Frears
Meryl Streep plays the wealthy socialite determined to make it as an opera singer despite being tone deaf, in a delightful comedy from Stephen Frears.
Biopic200896 minsDirector: Steve McQueen
Northern Ireland, 1981. In the Maze prison, Bobby Sands begins a hunger strike to reclaim the status of Republican inmates as political prisoners.
Biopic200892 minsDirector: Nicolas Winding Refn
Tom Hardy is sensational as Britain’s most notorious criminal, Michael Gordon Peterson, in Nicolas Winding Refn’s visceral and stylised biopic.
Biopic201393 minsDirector: Jeffrey Friedman
Porn star Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) finds herself abused by the industry and her maniacal husband– so she sets off to embrace feminism and, vitally, herself.
Historical drama2015106 minsDirector: Mika Kaurismäki
Lush retelling of the story of lesbian monarch Queen Christina of Sweden, combining period drama with a deeply personal love story.
Action and Adventure2013109 minsDirector: Wong Kar-wai
Wong Kar-Wai’s lavish martial arts biopic tells the story of Ip Man, the legendary trainer who became Bruce Lee’s mentor.
Crime2015131 minsDirector: Brian Helgeland
Tom Hardy’s magnetic double-performance as infamous East End gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray commands Brian Helgeland stylish biopic.
Biopic2016123 minsDirector: Jérôme Salle
Jérôme Salle's candid biopic of the underwater explorer and photographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau is a bold tribute to the lure of the sea.
Biopic198693 minsDirector: Derek Jarman
Derek Jarman’s unique biopic of the 17th century Italian artist Michelangelo da Caravaggio is a powerful meditation on sexuality, criminality and art.