Nowadays, it can be easy to feel like we know everything about our favorite celebrities. We know the names of Taylor Swift’s cats and the fact Tom Brady doesn’t eat strawberries (I know, I don’t get it either). But way back when, before we all started sharing and oversharing, public figures actually had private lives. And that’s why we have biopics to give us a peek behind the curtain.
If you’re looking to learn the story behind a famous name or two, these 10 biopics will make you feel like you were in the middle of all the action:
- Lincoln (2012)
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was certainly larger than life, which is what made Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance all the more impressive. Set in 1865 at the end of the Civil War, it follows the last days of the assassinated leader’s life. The incredible cast also includes Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln.
- Malcolm X (1992)
Director Spike Lee’s epic portrait of the groundbreaking and controversial African-American activist is more than three hours long, and worth every minute of watchtime. Denzel Washington’s award-winning turn gets better every time I see it. Angela Bassett plays his wife, Betty Shabazz.
- Walk the Line (2005)
This movie may be centered on the life and career of singer-songwriter Johnny Cash (played by Joaquin Phoenix), but it’s hard to ignore Reese Witherspoon’s scene stealing (and Oscar-winning performance) as June Carter Cash. The two had such amazing chemistry, and who knew she could sing?
- The King’s Speech (2010)
When we think of royals, we usually think of curtsies, crowns and polished ceremonies. But Colin Firth’s heartwarming time as King George VI, took us behind the scenes to witness the personal struggle of the English monarch to overcome his stammer and become the leader he, well, never wanted to be.
- Judy (2019)
There are few American performers as iconic as the late Judy Garland, who sadly only lived to be 47 years old. Renée Zellweger steps into her shoes during the final year of her life, as she fights to keep her place in the spotlight, dazzling audiences in the UK. I am definitely here for the Renée-ssance.
- I, Tonya (2017)
The villainess at the center of one of the most infamous scandals in sports, Tonya Harding was both hated and misunderstood. Margot Robbie brings the athlete to life alongside Allison Janney as LaVona Golden, Harding’s manipulative mother, in this origin story that also covers the brutal attack on fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan.
- Milk (2008)
Politician Harvey Milk broke down barriers when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. In this touching film, Sean Penn portrays the gay rights activist who was sadly assassinated not long after his historic win, along with James Franco and Josh Brolin.
- Selena (1997)
While I would happily watch a Jennifer Lopez-led rom-com any day of the week, her performance as the slain Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla Pérez will always be my preferred J.Lo flick. The singing, dancing and costumes are all just perfection — I can’t imagine anyone could ever top it.
- The Aviator (2004)
During quarantine, I was a bit worried we would go the route of Howard Hughes, the eccentric businessman, filmmaker and pilot who becomes a recluse, preferring jars to toilets. Dodged that bullet, I’m happy to say. I’ll just stick to enjoying Leonardo DiCaprio’s turn as Hughes in this story set in the golden age of Hollywood.
- Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
He may not have actually sung in the film, but Rami Malek had me convinced he really was Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. My favorite scene had to be the recreation of the band’s legendary performance at Live Aid in 1985. All together now: “Ay-oh! Ay-oh! Ay doh doh doh doh doh!”
Which biopic could you watch over and over? Share which movies blew you away in the comments.