Biopics or biographical films can often be off-putting to those who enjoy fiction and would rather watch a fictitious psychopath descend into insanity than watch the dramatization of real-life events. However, certain filmmakers use their creative ingenuity to take some artistic liberty and delve deep into the consciousness of the central character. They end up presenting livelier, more intriguing yet mainly historically accurate accounts of the same.
While this personal touch makes the stories commercially viable, not every source material is worth the viewers’ rapt attention. Netflix’s penchant for dramatizing real-life events has reached its peak as the streamer continues to invest in making documentaries, especially true-crime which present fictionalised non-fiction in a stylized format.
The streamer has also adorned its shelves with several biopics, many of which have won Academy Awards due to the subject matter and the brilliant performances from some of the leads. From Sean Penn to Matthew McConaughey, several actors and actresses have gained traction after starring in such biopics.
Here are the five best biopics you can watch on Netflix:
The 5 best biopics to watch on Netflix
Milk (Gus Van Sant, 2008)
Gus Van Sant took a break from his decade-long career of arthouse filmmaking to make a biopic, becoming one of his most fascinating works. Starring Sean Penn in the lead, the film explores the life and career of Harvey Milk, California’s first openly-gay official. Milk openly talked about his sexuality and started a camera shop which served as a safe space for the gay community before running for office.
Penn won an Academy Award for his brilliant performance as Milk as the film traced the man’s life from his 40th birthday to his death. A spirited and luminous man, Harvey Milk gets the respect he deserves in Van Sant’s ingenious creation and Penn’s seamless performance.
The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
Mark Zuckerberg is a famous face in media, but not always for the best reasons. Fincher’s Academy Award-winning adaptation of how this Harvard University sophomore managed to create one of the greatest social networking sites after being dumped by his girlfriend is definitely worth the watch. The film delves deep into the struggles Zuckerberg faced in his initial days while facing intellectual theft lawsuits and an estranged relationship with his former friend, Eduardo Saverin.
A brainchild of the combined geniuses of Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, the film is also adapted from Ben Mezrich’s book albeit with some creative freedom. A gripping character study, it was, however, dismissed as completely fictional save for his impeccable wardrobe by Zuckerberg himself.
The Theory of Everything (James Marsh, 2014)
As the title suggests, the film is based on the life of the legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Hawking battled all odds to reach the zenith of his academic career and the film traces his journey as a Cambridge University student who deals with his motor neuron disease while embarking on a daunting quest. By dint of perseverance and unwavering support of his peers, he goes on to study time.
Adapted from Jane Hawking’s memoir, this story champions determination and the desire to succeed despite all odds; the secret to it is embedded in the power of love and support in the film. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are splendid in their respective roles.
Mank (David Fincher, 2020)
One of the greatest releases in 2020, Fincher’s film stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Tom Burke, Charles Dance, Tuppence Middleton, Lily Collins and Tom Pelphrey, among others. With brilliant visuals and performances, it perfectly outlines the story of how the brilliant Orson Welles film Citizen Kane came into making.
With its monochromatic palette, it gives an intimate insight into Hollywood through the eyes of a jaded alcoholic screenwriter, the legendary Herman J Mankiewicz, who is called amidst the Great Depression and the inevitable World War II by wunderkind director Orson Welles to write the screenplay for a film that exposes the megalomania in Hollywood.
Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2013)
This biographical drama revolves around the story of Ron Woodroof, an electrician from cowboy Texas, who gets diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the mid-80s when the social stigma regarding the disease ostracised the patients. With only a month in hand, Ron is desperate to experiment with various forms of treatment. He sets up the titular Dallas Buyers Club to distribute the same treatment to similar patients.
Based on a true story, the film is a harrowing account of one’s struggle for survival. As Ron Woodroof, Matthew McConaughey delivers an agonising and inspiring performance. A career-defining role, the actor befittingly won an Academy Award for it and praised real-life Woodroof’s resilience and perseverance in his acceptance speech.