Best Biographical Movies - Part 1

Posted on 1 Dec 00:00


The film industry offers a multitude of movies that movie buffs can watch, enjoy, and enlighten themselves. Among the many film genres available are biographical films. This genre features a popular type of movie that dramatizes a historically-based events and non-fictional person's lives. Biographical films are popular because they comprehensively tell a true story. A single person's account is considered in biopic movies, and the main character's real name is used. And when a film stars A-List actors and actresses, it has a higher potential of attracting an Oscar buzz. Here are a few exceptional biographical movies worth watching.

1.  F for Fake (1973)

Plot: 'F for Fake' is Orson’s final film. It is a documentary of two art fakers, Elmyr de Hory and Clifford Irving. De Hory was indeed infamous but intellectually smart. He made himself popular by forging art by already popular artists like Picasso and Matisse. He later committed suicide. Irving was equally dexterous; he became popular by writing Howard Hughes’s fake autobiography. In the movie, Welles takes a shift to examining the fundamental elements of fraud and the people who commit fraud at the expense of others.

Director:  Orson Welles. Orson Welles also wrote the film’s script and co-produced it.

Main Cast: This film’s principal cast consisted of Orson Welles (Himself), Elmyr de Hory (as The Art Forger), Oja Kodar (as The Girl), Joseph Cotten  (as the Special Participant), and François Reichenbach (as another Special Participant).

Commercial Performance: 'F for Fake' had 183,857 audience admissions. There is no information about the commercial budget and the box office revenue. Consequently, we cannot tell the film’s commercial performance.

Awards and Nominations: At the 2016 Cinema Eye Honors Awards held in the US, Orson Welles won the Influential Award. In 1974, he also was nominated for and won the Best Foreign Film (Mejor Película Extranjera) San Jodi Award.

2.  Hoop Dreams (1994)

Plot: The film is set in St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois. It is about two African-American students, William Gates and Arthur Agee, who, scouted and recruited by St. Joseph High School. At this predominantly white high school, Gene Pingatore, us the coach for the school’s outstanding basketball team. Gene was also the National Basketball Association (NBA) Hall of Fame player Isiah Thomas' coach. The movie features the difficulties Agee and Gates face when they join the school. They must commute for ninety minutes daily, get accustomed to the foreign social government, and put up with the tiresome workouts and training every day. They must also learn to improve their skills to fit in the job market with heavy competition. As all this happens, the teenagers’ families stand with them and support each other while economic hardships are rampant.

Director: Steve James.

Main Cast: This film’s main actors are two youngsters, William Gates and Arthur Agee.

Commercial Performance: 'Hoop Dreams' biographical movie was a tremendous commercial success. $700,000 was the production budget. After premiering worldwide, the film grossed $11.8 million.

Awards and Nominations: At the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, the film was awarded the Audience Award for Best Documentary. In 1994 during the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the film won the Best Documentary award. Both held in 1994, the Chicago Film Critics Award and the Producers Guild of America awarded the film special awards. The awards from the two organizations were Best Picture and Special Merit, respectively. The Academy Awards nominated Hoop Dreams for Best Editing, but it lost the award. In 1995, George Foster won the Peabody Award, while Robert F. Kennedy won the Journalism Award. Both the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle awarded the movie the Best Documentary award. The Directors Guild of America nominated and awarded the movie the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary. In 2005, the National Film Registry inducted Hoop Dreams. In 2007, the International Documentary Association mentioned Hoop Dreams as its selection for the all-time greatest documentary.

3.  The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Plot: This film depicts the court trials and conviction of Randall Adams after he is accused of killing Texas police officer, Robert Wood. It begins one night in 1976 when Randall accepts a drive from Morris, who had stolen the car he was driving. As Wood pulls the car aside to inspect it, he is shot. The movie explores the perjured case of Randall, explaining the hidden sides of the story.

Director: Errol Morris.

Main Cast: The principal cast consists of Randall Adams and David Ray Harris as themselves.

Commercial Performance: This movie grossed $1,209,846. It's not possible to say much about how the movie performed commercially as there is no information about how much was spent on the film's budget.

Awards and Nominations: This film was tremendous critical acclaim that got a 100% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The movie garnered several accolades in the form of awards and nominations. For instance, it won the International Documentary Association IDA Award and the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Best Documentary Award. In 1988, both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review nominated the movie for the Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film Awards. The film also stood a chance to be preserved in the National Film Registry when the National Film Preservation Board selected it.

4.  Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (2011)

Plot: This film features the problems of movie production. It portrays the events around Francis Coppola's wife, Eleanor Coppola, as they try to produce the Apocalypse Now film. The film opens with Eleanor Coppola narrating the behind-the-scenes.

Director: This film was co-directed by Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, and Eleanor Coppola.

Main Cast: This movie was acted by Eleanor Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, George Lucas, John Milius, and Martin Sheen as themselves.

Commercial Performance: This film had no documented information about the budget and the gross value. Therefore, it is not possible to know the film’s commercial performance.

Awards and Nominations: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse' won several awards. In 1991, the film won the National Board of Review Best Documentary Award and the American Cinema Editors society award for Best Edited Documentary. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awarded the movie for ‘Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Directing’ and ‘Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Picture Editing.’ In 1992, the International Documentary Association awarded the film.  Critic Gene Siskel listed the movie as the best movie of 1991.

5.  The Last Waltz (1978)

Plot: This film was shot by Martin Scorsese and featured great performances by rock legends such as Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Muddy Waters. The movie also features interviews that trace the groups' history and discusses road life.

Director:  Martin Scorsese.

Main Cast: This movie's principal cast includes Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Robbie Robertson, all as themselves.

Commercial Performance: there is no information about the movie’s budgetary allocation or the financial gross.

Awards and Nominations: The DVD Exclusive Awards granted the Best Audio Commentary, Library Release Award to Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson. The movie won the KFCCC Award during the 1978 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards. In 2019, the National Film Preservation Board selected the film to be preserved in the National Film Registry for being aesthetically, culturally, and historically significant. The Satellite Awards nominated the movie for Golden Satellite Award for Best DVD Extra (For the commentary).

6.  Dear Zachary (2008)

Plot: In this film, Kurt Kuenne, the director, relates how his friend, Andry Bagby, was killed after he terminated his affair with Jane Turner. Shortly after the murder, Jane Turner announced she was pregnant with Andry’s son, whom she later named Zachary. The film was composed of numerous interviews that Kuenne conducted with Bagby’s friends, associates, and relatives that would form the remembrances for the son Bagby never knew.

Director: This movie was written, edited, produced, and directed by Kurt Kuenne.

Main Cast: Kurt Kuenne is featured in the film as himself. Archival voice footage of Andry Bagby was also used. Andy's parents, Kathleen and David Bagby took part as themselves.

Commercial Performance: This movie's box office value was more than $18,000. It was not possible to tell the film’s commercial performance as the the movie's budget was no disclosed.

Awards and Nominations: The Chicago Film Critics Association gave this movie the Best Documentary Award nomination. It received the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Best Television Documentary (Network) from the Society of Professional Journalists. At the Cinequest Film Festival, the movie received the Special Jury and Audience Awards. Additionally, it was named an Audience Favorite at Hot Doc. At the Orlando Film Festival, the film was named the Best Documentary. At the same event, this film won the best international documentary at Docville.

7.  American Movie (1999)

Plot: This movie chronicles 'Coven', a short horror film directed by Mark Borchardt between 1996 and 1997. 'Coven' was purposefully created to provide financial assistance for 'Northwestern', another epic film that Mark was yet to produce. In the 1999 'American Movie', Chris Smith, the director, features the difficulties faced in the production process of 'Coven'. There is poor planning, lack of finances, the director’s (Mark) alcoholism, and the unsupportive friends and family Mark uses as his team. The film displays Mark's filmmaking process starting from script to screen, with footage that combines both processes.

Director: Chris Smith.

Main Cast: This film had a large cast consisting of actors, directors, and playwrights. The principal cast includes Mark Borchardt (as the Filmmaker), Tom Schimmels (as Tom Schimmel, an actor in 'Coven'), Monica Borchardt (as Monica Borchardt, Mark's Mom), and Alex Borchardt    (as Alex Borchardt, Mark's Brother).

Commercial Performance: This film was a top office box hit, with a $1.2 million gross. There is no information regarding its budgetary allocation.

Awards and Nominations: At the Sundance Film Festival, 'American Movie' won the Grand Jury Prize - U.S. Documentary Award.


Biographical films provide audiences with deeper insight into real people and events. This article presents 7 of the best biographical films produced. 

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