Best Biographical Movies - Part 2

Posted on 1 Jan 00:00


Biographical movies often add flesh to words and help us to understand the motivation behind certain choices individuals make and the prevailing conditions. These are movies based on true events or real people. Many individuals have been motivated by the real-life experiences of characters in biographical movies. Another big motivating factor in watching biographical movies is learning what shaped these characters! Significant lessons can be learned from these films. Here are just a few excellent biographical movies.

1)  Grizzly Man (2005)

Plot: This documentary is built on a nearly two-hour video shot by Timothy Treadwell in one of the final moments before the attack by the bears. The documentary is narrated by the director of the film, Werner Herzog. Treadwell had an unusual attachment to bears and believed that he had a special relationship with them. Whenever the bears became aggressive, he would simply instruct them not to do that. Surprisingly, the bears would calm down - in front of the camera. Treadwell passionately shows the audience his love for the bears while at the same time indicating the cruel death he would suffer in case he made a wrong move. He said a show of weakness could cause the bears would kill him… which they ultimately did.

Director: Werner Herzog.

Main Cast: Timothy Treadwell and Werner Herzog.

Commercial Performance: Grizzly man grossed a total of $4,061,305.

Awards and Nominations: 'The Grizzly Man' received a nomination for the Gotham Award for Best Documentary. It also won various nominations, including the Best Documentary/ Non-Fiction Film from Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, San Francisco Film Critics Circle, and the Toronto Film Critics Association. Furthermore, the film also won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, apart from being nominated for Grand Jury Prize during the Sundance Film Festival in 2005.

2.  The King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters (2007)

Plot:  At the outset of the 1980s a 'Donkey Kong' game winning record was established by Billy Mitchell. His record remained standing for about 25 years. Steve Wiebe tries to record higher scores which are supervised by a team of players linked to Walter Day, an Iowan guy running Funspot, a yearly tournament. As Wiebe successfully breaks Mitchell's record in public, Michell sends a provocative videotape that shows him establishing another record. This forces Wiebe to travel to Florida with the hopes of battling him during for the 2007 Guinness World Record. There is suspense and curiosity, specifically on whether Michell will engage and who between these two will establish a new record in the end.

Director:  Seth Gordon.

Main Cast: Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, Walter Day, Brian Kuh, Tod Rogers, Steve Sanders, and Doris Self.

Commercial Performance: in the US the film earned $677,914. Worldwide, gross earnings of $790,128 was recorded.

Awards and Nominations: This film won three Academy Awards, including Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects.

3.  Senna (2010)

 Plot: The documentary starts with the  arrival of Aryton Senna,  Brazil's native motor-racing champion, in the 1984 F1 Championship in Brazil. The first race saw Senna coming in second and fellow driver, Alain Prots winning the Championship. Later, the rivalry between the two would escalate, with political rivalry playing a part.

Later, Prost quits the team to join William Cars after a heavy fallout with Senna. Prost eventually retired, and Senna joined Williams, whose cars are now reconfigured, reducing their safety. On the D-day, April 30th, 1994, Senna crashed while on lap 7. The documentary comes to an end with Senna's Formula One friends and family mourning at his funeral. 

Director: Asif Kapadia

Main Cast: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams, and Ron Denis

Commercial Performance: Senna grossed $1.6 million in the USA. However, it recorded a worldwide gross of $ 10.9 million.

Awards and Nominations: Senna won the BAFTA award for the best documentary.

4.  Grey Gardens (1975)

Plot: The two brothers Albert and David Maysles visit  80 year old Edith Bouvier Bealeand and her daughter, Edie leaving in the Grey Gardens, their mansion located in East Hampton.  The mansion, now rundown is also inhabited by cats and raccoons escaping the hostile outside conditions.  The women were living in a dangerous, unhealthy, and unsafe squalid conditions despite their high social background (the aunt and the first cousin, respectively, of former US First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis).  Edith and Edie engage in a lengthy conversation with the two filmmakers discussing their habits and desires. More of their conversation focuses on their relationship as mother and daughter.

Directors: The documentary was directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffle Meyer.

Main Cast: Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (Big Edie), Edith Bouvier Beale (Little Eddie)

Commercial Performance:  'Gray Gardens' grossed $13,845 in the US opening weekend and a cumulative worldwide gross of $ 36,923.

Awards and Nominations:  The documentary won awards and nominations, including Cinema Eye Honors Awards, USA in 2011, 2014, 2015, and 2016.  Also, it was involved in various nominations, including Faro Island Film Festival (1975), National Film Preservation Board, USA (2010).  The 2014 Sight and Sound poll placed 'Grey Gardens' among the best documentaries ever made. It is a cultural and historic movie that entertains and enlightens.

5.  The Fog of War (2003)

Plot: This documentary was edited from the archival footage, Errol Morris' interview with U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, and conversation recordings of the US Cabinet of that time.  The interview between Morris and McNamara lasted about 20 hours. In the interview, McNamara sheds light on international security and his political career. Also, he reveals the American history from the 1945 Tokyo bombing, the Vietnam war, and America's invasion of Iraq.  The documentary reveals the psychology behind sending men to War. Also, it highlights the likelihood of heightened military conflicts when American forces invaded Iraq. 

Director: Errol Morris

Main Cast: Robert S. McNamara

Commercial Success: The movie grossed $ 41,499 at the US Opening weekend Box Office. In the US, it earned $4,198,566 and cumulative worldwide gross $5,038,841.

Awards and Nominations:  'The Fog of War' received 14 wins and 16 nominations. It won the best documentary in the 2004 USA Academy Awards. Also, it also won for best documentary at the 2004 AARP Movies for Grown-Up Awards. In 2003 during the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, the movie won the BSFC award for Best Documentary.

6.  Crumb (1994)

Plot:  Crumb is a documentary film that centers on Robert Crumb, a notable underground cartoonist, and his traumatized family. This Terry Zwigoff's masterpiece is about Crumb's biography, his controversial art, and his deeply disturbed family. This documentary is produced with interviews involving Crumb’s mother, wife, two brothers, and ex-lovers. Also, the graphic portraits are involved in helping understand Crumb's mind and his take on life. Blood-chilling images of Charles, who committed suicide before the film's release, also resurface in the documentary.

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Main Cast: Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky Crumb, Charles Crumb, and Jack Harrington.

Commercial Success: The movie grossed $19,859 in the US on its opening weekend and earned $3,174,695 at the box office.

Awards and Nominations:  'Crumb' received accolades in the form of awards and nominations. For instance, it won the Grand Jury Prize Documentary award at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. Many awards later followed in the same year.  The National Board Review awarded the movie the Best Documentary in 1995. New York Film Critics also awarded the movie the Best Documentary. In 1995, the movie won the Best Feature Documentary award from the International Documentary Association. Also, the National Society of Film Critics gave it the Best Non-fiction Film award in 1995.

7.  Man on Wire (2008)

Plot: 'Man on Wire' is about an artistic crime of the 20th Century. The documentary chronicles Philippe Petit, an acrobat who performed the daring and illegal high-wire walk in 1974 between New York City’s World Trade Centre’s twin towers.  The archival footage shows how Petit prepared and performed the acrobatics on the thin Wire. It took him six years to fully prepare for the extremely dangerous walk that left people shaking their heads. James Marsh uses the archival footage, images, and new re-enactments to recreate the 1974 high-wire walk. Petit lays the plan with his friends from accessing the building, stringing the wire, and performing the life-threatening walk. It was a once-in-a-lifetime act captured on film.

Director:  James Marsh.

Main Cast: Phillippe Petit

Commercial Success:  'Man on Wire' was a success.  Approximately $1.9 million was used to produce the film. In the USA, the movie grossed $3 million at the Box Office. It earned $5.3 million worldwide.

Award and Nominations: This film won the BAFTA awards for an Outstanding British Film in 2009. Also, it won the Best Documentary Film in the Australian Film Critics Association Awards. In 2008 during the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the movie scooped the Special Jury Award and Audience Award.


Biographical movies help us to better understand events in history and gain better insight in to people and events that we are curious about.

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