Best Biographical Movies - Part 6

Posted on 1 May 00:00

Biographical movies add flesh to the words, events and insight into a person's life. Some biopic movies are entirely accurate, while others have a few discrepancies and made up information for dramatic affect. But many are still great films. Many people learn to identify with the protagonist through biographical movies and love, cherish, or hate them depending on how they are portrayed in the film. Biographical films also compensate for the hardship of trying to get a person's biography from the family and possibly long gone witnesses and transfers it to a screen for broader viewing.

1.  Pumping Iron (1977)

Plot: Pumping Iron is partly real and partly scripted. It depicts body-building activity through competitions in the 1970s. The competitions feature two categories, Mr. Universe for novices and Mr. Olympia for people with experience and expertise. Mr. Universe is represented by two great players, Mike Katz and Ken Waller, who are profiled in the movie. For Mr. Olympia, the primary contenders are Lou Ferrigno, Franco Columbu, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is optimistic about taking home a sixth win. George Butler and Charles Gaines wrote the book that inspired the movie. Arnold and Lou are the most featured players. 

Director: George Butler and Robert Fiore.

Main Cast: This film features many characters, among them being Arnold Schwarzenegger (as himself), Lou Ferrigno (as Louis Ferrigno), Matty Ferrigno (as Matty Ferrigno), and Victoria Ferrigno (as Victoria Ferrigno).

Commercial Performance: Many critics received 'Pumping Iron' well and gave it a high approval rating. It was produced on a budget of $1million. Box office receipts are unknown.

Awards and Nominations: 'Pumping Iron' won one award and had no nominations. During the 1977 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards, 'Pumping Iron' won the KFCCC Award for Best Documentary. There are no other awards on record.

2.  The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005)

Plot: This film is the true story of musician, Daniel Johnston. Growing with bipolar disorder, Daniel had a rough go of life. This film chronicles what happens in his life from childhood until the present time, showing how one can rise above abnormal conditions. The director, Jeff Feuerzeig uses a mix of home movies, Johnston's own audiotapes, vintage performances, and current footage to portray the life of this manic-depressive artist and musician. Daniel has amassed a prolific portfolio of sketches. He has more than ten full-length albums despite his condition. Among his fans are Matt Groening, the late David Bowie, Sonic Youth, Beck, and Tom Waits. The film helps people know how to cope with difficult situations in life. When a person cannot do away with something in life, all that’s left is learning to manage it, and that’s what this film is about.

Director: Jeff Feuerzeig.

Main Cast: Daniel Johnston as himself.

Commercial Performance: This movie earned a box office of $453,337. There is no information regarding the budget.

Commercial Acclaim:  Rotten Tomatoes granted the film an 89% approval rating based on 110 reviews. Metacritic also reviewed the movie and gave it a rating of 77 out of 100 from 33 critics.

Awards and Nominations:  'Devil and Daniel Johnston' received one award. At the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, The Devil and Daniel Johnston movie was awarded the Best Documentary Directing Award. It has never won another.

3.  35 Up (1992)

Plot: This film depicts a character named Neil, the loner who has become the most worrisome of Apted's subjects in his series to follow the lives of 14 British school children through adulthood. Neil is an extraordinary person. At seven years old, Neil already knows that he wants to be a bus driver with the route of his choosing. Sadly, something takes place between his fourteenth and twenty-first year, and he is discontented and angry at twenty-one. At twenty-eight, he is  an outcast and makes it to thirty-five. In '35 Up', Neil is still alive and resides on a Scottish island. There, he finds it hard to trust others. He lives along and doubts whether he will find a wife to love him. A year earlier, he directed a village pageant but was not invited to direct this year.

Director: Michael Apted.

Main Cast: Neil Huges (as himself), Bruce Balden (as himself), Jacqueline Bassett (as herself), Symon Basterfield (as himself), and Andrew Brackfield (as himself)

Commercial Performance: Unknown.

Awards and Nominations: Michael Apted won the Flaherty Documentary Award (TV) at the 1992 BAFTA Awards. Felix was nominated for the Best Documentary during the 20/20 Awards. In 2005, Satellite Awards awarded the movie the Golden Satellite Award for the Best Documentary DVD.

4.  Amy (2015)

Plot: Tis film is about the life and death of Amy Winehouse, an American songwriter and singer. The movie focuses mostly on how Amy struggled with substance abuse that eventually cost her life. She abuses drugs before and after the blossoming of her songwriting and singing career.

Director:  Asif Kapadia.

Main Cast: the film’s principal cast consists of Amy Winehouse (as herself through archive footage), Lauren Gilbert (as Lauren Gilbert, Juliette Ashby (as Juliette Ashby), and Nick Shymansky (as Nick Shymansky).

Commercial Performance: This movie was a commercial success. It was produced on a budget of $3.4 million and grossed $24.7 million, making it one of the most successful documentary films. It was a subject of great critical acclaim, and many critics praised it.

Awards and Nominations: Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. ACE Eddie Awards gave Chris King the Best Edited Documentary. The film won many Best Documentary Awards from different organizations, including Chicago Film Critics Association, Critics' Choice Awards, Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association, Detroit Film Critics Society, and East End Film Festival. It also received several nominations for the same award. 

5.  The Look of Silence (2014)

Plot: 'The Look of Silence' features the wars that occurred in Indonesia between 1965 and 1966. In a genocidal society, an optometrist Abdi Rukun, breaks his silence. His brother was brutally murdered by the communists. In this film, he visits the killers in the pretense of giving them an eye examination to learn their motives for the killing.

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer.

Main Cast: the main cast consists of Abdi Rukun (as himself, the brother of murdered Ramli Rukun), Amir Hassan (as himself, the former leader of a death squad in archive footage), Inong (as himself, the former leader of the village death squad), Kemet (as himself, the survivor from Snake River massacre), and Joshua Oppenheimer.

Commercial Performance: 'The Look of Silence' had a top office box value of $156,000. The film making budget is not known.

Awards and Nominations: At the 88th Academy Awards, this film received an Oscar nomination for the Best Documentary Feature.

6.  Free Solo (2018)

Plot: This film’s plot depicts Alex Hannold, an American free climber. The movie follows the pro as he tries to conquer the first free solo climb of the famed El Capitan's 900-meter vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.

Main Cast: Alex Hannold, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, and Jimmy Chin as themselves.

Commercial Performance: 'Free Solo' is one of the most successful documentary films. The film grossed more than $29 million. The production budget is unknown.

Awards and Nominations: the film was a successful critical film. It received many acclaims in the form of awards and nominations. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes, and Shannon Dill won the Best Documentary Feature Award. On September 14, 2019, the primetime Emmy Awards gave the film seven awards for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media within an Unscripted Program, Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin), Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program  (Bob Eisenhardt), Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction Program, and Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special.

7.  My Best Friend (1999)

Plot: Director, Werner Herzog, relates his tumultuous relationship with German actor Klaus Kinski which turned productive in spite of their issues. The film shows relives Klaus and shows his works. In the movie, the two have a fraternal relationship but also experiences rage when they both want dominance in their five-film partnerships.

Director: Werner Herzog.

Main Cast:  Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski (archival footage), Eva Mattes, and Claudia Cardinale as themselves are the film’s principal cast.

Commercial Performance: Unknown.

Awards and Nominations: None.


Biographical films portray a character or an event with a degree of accuracy and helps the audience get to know the character or the situation better. That way, they can love and cherish, fear or hate the subject. In this series of articles, here are seven examples of the best biographical films to watch.

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