Biography movies genre
Biography movies or biopics are a subgenre of epic and drama films focuses on non-fictional people as they intend to shine a light to a set period of time in the life of a historical figure. Many times, though, biopics tend to stretch the truth and tell the stories with different degrees of accuracy. The genre is not to be confused with “historical drama” or “based on a true story” because those only take portions and pieces of the history records and fill the holes in between with fiction and imagination. Biopics often travel through different subgenres as well, as the stories may contain elements of action, adventure, comedy, war, horror, thriller, and so on. The style depends on the character the motion picture will showcase an artist, an outlaw, a religious figure, a military hero, a doctor, a politician, a celebrity, a scientist, or even regular people with an unusually interesting life. Possibilities are endless.
The history of biopics and the movies you should see
Since the 1990s, the genre has spurred several cinema classics that have reached an important spot in the cinematic industry. Some of the most historical accurate biographical films you need to see include Ed Wood (1994), Man on the Moon (1999), Ray Charles (2004), and Gandhi (1982). In some rare cases, the biopics become “auto biopics” when the historical figure portrays himself. Such is the case in features like To Hell and Back (Patty Duke), The Bob Mathias Story (Arlo Guthrie), or The Greatest (Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., also known as Muhammad Ali). Biopics reached huge popularity in the 1930s. Big-screen biographical projects started revolving around a historical person's rise and fall from grace, and they often tell the entire life of the figure, from his childhood to his death. Such is the case of Georges Méliès’ feature-epic Jeanne D’Arc (1899), or Abel Gance’s six-hour epic Napoleon (1927). In fact, Jeanne D’Arc (Joan of Arc) is the first biopic featurette in history. It’s a black and white silent video telling the story of the French war heroine. The work gave birth to the genre with a big focus on the religion, beliefs, and personal dramas of a war-related historical character. Back in the day, though, biopics were far and in between.
The evolution of the biopic genre
Various biopic academics like the late film producer Darryl F. Zanuck believe the genre died alongside the Hollywood Studio Era. Others think it has become a contemporary motion picture genre because it has continuously evolved to fit the tastes and needs of today’s audiences. Over time, the cinematic industry decided that is best to trim the genre and make the products shorter and the stories more contained, and so now we may see biopics telling stories around small periods of time like, for example, the crash accident and the aftermath of the accident in 2016’s Sully (Tom Hanks), a flick directed by Steven Spielberg But such evolution has also damaged the historical accuracy of the biographical pics of old. Film directors tend to enhance the drama and change true facts for fiction in order to make the story more attractive and spicy. Modern filmmakers describe it as “conventions,” and most of the time they have to add plot devices like flashbacks, voiceovers, and montages to make the story move forward in a more believable way. Such conventions didn’t exist during the Hollywood Studio Era when the historical truth was of utmost importance. You could spot all kinds of plot devices on 2014’s “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Said feature-length is a great example of modern biopics. In fact, the genre the genre has seen so much evolution and has included so many elements to its core that, on 2007, director French Vincent Paronnaud released an animated biopic named Persepolis, which one of the cartoon movies online you can watch for free.
The success of the biographical films and how it evolved in different countries
Biopics are often considered as “Oscar-bait,” which refers to flicks that are made with the sole purpose of winning an Academy Award. The standard class of biopics revolves around drama, romance, sickness, and the struggles to success, and the regular moviegoer might find most biographical stories boring and dull. While that is the case in the standard example of the genre, biopics have evolved and changed so much that it's difficult to spot them nowadays. For example, Hollywood has become so adept at making entertaining biographical motion pictures that they have successfully made the genre a mainstream thing. Mel Gibson’s Oscar-nominated Hacksaw Ridge, a biographical war drama that tells the story of U.S. pacifist combat medic Desmond Doss in a mix of thrills, explosions, visual effects, and astonishing shots. Whereas in France, where the genre was born as a medium to tell boring and long war dramas, filmmakers now prefer small and contained dramas rather than long and world-changing epics. Such is the case in 2016’s Jackie, a project where U.S., Chilean, and French producers contributed. It’s also worth noting the existence of musical biopics, and you can go see free musicals online for yourself such as 8 Mile and La Vie en Rose.
What are other related subgenres can I watch?
There are tons of successful, entertaining, and recognized biopics out there, and you could probably find one of the genres you like. For example, if you love martial arts pieces, you can see the featurette about the legendary Bruce Lee, a 1993 classic called Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Japanese feature-length Yip Man (2008), although it emphasizes too much on the action, is praised as one of the best martial arts films in history. It tells the story of a wealthy sensei who had to leave his home during World War 2, and he has to train others in Wing Chun in order to support his family. On the comedy branch, you may see 1999’s Andy Kaufman starring Jim Carry, or even 1998 Patch Adams starring the late Robbin Williams. As for the action biopic genre, the best you could find is 1995 Braveheart, a cinematographic work starred and directed by Mel Gibson telling the story of Sir William Wallace, a Scotish military leader who revealed against King Edward I of England. Last piece of advice: IMDB’s top 10 biopics selection of historical movies to watch online is as follows: Schnindler’s List (1993), The Pianist (2002), Downfall (2004), Raging Bull (1980), Bravehear (1995), Papillon (1973), Serpico (1973), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Catch me If you Can (2002), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Keep in mind most of these pictures should be considered as “Dramas inspired by true events” instead of pure biographical films.
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