15 Best Biopic Movies of the 21st Century (So Far)

15 Best Biopic Movies of the 21st Century (So Far)

What is a biopic? A biopic (short for “biographical picture”) is a non-fictional film that depicts the tale of a real person’s life. Biopic movies are usually about a historical figure or a well-known individual. However, they can be about anyone as long as the subject exists. A biopic film must focus on a single protagonist and portray the narrative of that person’s life across many years (rather than simply one event or era in their life).

Biopics are the goldmines of Hollywood movies, regardless of whose life they show. Many of these films served as stepping stones in the careers of their filmmakers and actors, helping to launch them to stardom. Even though many excellent biopics are produced each year, a special few have gone above and beyond after the turn of the millennia.

Updated on March 30, 2023, by Jessie Nguyen:

The most recent biopic about the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis, once again serves as further evidence of both the appeal of the genre and how these films frequently bring out talented actors like Austin Butler, who received his first-ever Oscar nod for the part. The movie’s success immediately piques viewers’ interest in seeking out similar biopic movies and learning more about their favorite historical personalities from a cinematic perspective.


15 ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2001)

A Beautiful Mind (2001) (1)

Inspired by the 1998 biography of the same name by Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind chronicles the life of John Forbes Nash Jr. (Russell Crowe), who went through it all – from fame’s pinnacles to its darkest abysses. He was a mathematical prodigy who was on the verge of receiving international renown when he made an astounding discovery early in his career. Yet he quickly finds himself embarking on a torturous and terrifying quest of self-discovery.

A Beautiful Mind has become one of the most engaging and well-liked movies of all time, despite issues with tone and structure as well as some significant absences from Nash’s real life. Because Nash’s life is the focus of the film rather than his mental health, and because of Russell Crowe’s stirring portrayal, Nash is given a second chance to relive both his success and his failure.

Watch on Apple TV+

14 ‘Elvis’ (2022)

Elvis (2022) (1)

Elvis chronicles the life story of American music legend Elvis Presley, played by Austin Butler, from his youth to his 1950s rise to rock and roll stardom while retaining a complicated bond with Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), his manager.

Butler’s spectacular portrayal of Elvis humanized the legend by bringing down the spotlight from his physical gestures to the enormous, gruff voice to reveal the troubled man hiding behind the timeless God of Rock. In addition, the wild singing, set design, reenactment of iconic incidents, and compelling performers give the impression that audiences are viewing a documentary instead.

Watch on Apple TV+

13 ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (2013)

A man being praised

The story of 1990s stock trader Jordan Belfort, whose company, Stratton Oakmont, participated in unprecedented levels of corruption and fraud, is told in Martin Scorsese‘s smash biopic The Wolf of Wall Street.

Scorsese’s picture is the ultimate of excess, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort giving a truly outrageous performance. As they are in many of Scorsese’s films, the sins are visited upon the sinner, but the “Wolf” warns us at the end that no number of cautionary stories will prevent future generations from engaging in short-sighted, amoral, selfish ambitions.

Watch on Apple TV+

12 ‘I, Tonya’ (2017)

An emotional woman in the kitchen

After her husband ordered an assault on her opponent, Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) went from one of the most skilled athletes in the country to a worldwide laughingstock. Her troubles as an outcast, her dysfunctional family, and her outspoken nature were all depicted in the film.

Craig Gillespie‘s film does more than convey Harding’s story, it completely reframes the narrative and rewrites her as the hero of her own story in a complicated but persuasive way. I, Tonya also provides Robbie with her first opportunity to demonstrate her entire range as an actor, and she is radiant.

Watch on Hulu

11 ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (2013)

A woman and a man sitting on a bench but facing different directions

Dallas Buyers Club follows Ronald Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a philandering, drug addict, and homophobic electrician from Texas, living a carefree life until his doctor diagnoses him with HIV/AIDS which will likely kill him in 30 days. Woodroof discovers an experimental medicine that can potentially prolong his life and establishes the titular “Dallas Buyers Club” to import the drug from Mexico to anyone who needs it.

The combination of sharp character study and moving pharmaceutical docudrama is lively and memorable at just under two hours. Moreover, McConaughey and Jared Leto’s performances are the reason to visit this biopic. Not only do they successfully give voice to the disaffected of the 1980s, but to everyone who is suddenly confronted with unfathomable challenges.

Watch on Peacock

10 ‘Hidden Figures’ (2016)

Hidden Figure 2016 (1)

Loosely based on the 2016 non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures chronicles the story of a group of female Black mathematicians (played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe) who played crucial roles in NASA during the early stages of the US space program.

With its recognizable period-piece perspective on a neglected moment in space history, Hidden Figures maintains optimism for what science and technology may accomplish when the sharpest minds work together. Moreover, the film respectfully honors the unheralded female heroines of history by featuring three exceptional performances from the three leads.

Watch on Disney+

9 ‘Milk’ (2008)

A man is smiling on stage with people applauding behind him

Milk is about the life of an openly gay activist and politician, Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn), who became the first LGBTQ+ person elected to public office in California. The film chronicles the period from Milk’s 40th birthday until his horrific killing in 1978, using archival footage from his life.

The film, directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black, immerses us in the political process as Penn’s brilliant performance captures Milk’s playful intellectual personality. Furthermore, by combining 1970s news footage with newly shot sequences, Van Sant constructed his film around some massive, screen-filling set pieces, making the audience feel as if they had stepped inside the story.

Watch on HBO Max

8 ‘The King’s Speech’ (2010)

Two men talking with a microphone

When Albert “Bertie” George’s father, King George V, dies and his brother King Edward VIII chooses love over the kingdom, he is compelled to crown himself king. The King’s Speech depicts the narrative of King George VI’s friendship with his speech therapist, who helped the king overcome his stutter to confidently address his subjects.

Instead of being a film about a monarch triumphantly leading his folks to victory, it is about a would-be king battling to find his voice and the strength to lead his people through one of the most challenging periods in their history. Colin Firth as Bertie also imbues his restrained character with complexity, dignity, and wit, making a lasting impression.

Watch on Prime Video

7 ’12 Years a Slave’ (2013)

A group of slaves standing behind a fence

Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) was a free Black man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. For a dozen terrifying years, he was subjected to various forms of torture and wickedness before being free once more.

Though 12 Years a Slave is full of intriguing characters, Ejiofor steals the show by maintaining the character’s dignity throughout. Moreover, director Steve McQueen immerses the spectators in an unforgivably hideous era from which there is no way out. It’s about as intense as a biopic can go and many viewers deem this movie to be too heartbreaking for a second screening.

6 ‘The Pianist’ (2002)

The Pianist (2002) (1)

Based on the autobiographical book of the same name by a Polish-Jewish pianist, composer, and Holocaust survivor, Władysław Szpilman, The Pianist follows Szpilman (Adrien Brody), who after being forced into the Warsaw Ghetto, loses contact with his family as a result of Operation Reinhard. He then hides in various places among the rubble of Warsaw from this point until the captives of the concentration camps are released.

The film is a masterpiece about the struggle between good and evil, the tenacity and mercy of art, and the horrific personal toll left by one of history’s worst moments. Like many films about the Holocaust, The Pianist can be difficult to see, but it’s important to remember what happened and Brody was mesmerizing in it.

Watch on Apple TV+

5 ‘The Social Network’ (2010)

Four men staring at a computer screen in a dorm room

Though it wasn’t perfectly accurate, The Social Network covers the narrative of Facebook’s early years and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) initial social decline, starting with the break-up of his romantic relationship with Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) and concluding with the tragic end of his friendship with co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).

The film is one of the best performing and acclaimed films of 2010, thanks to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin‘s typical quick-witted writing and Jesse Eisenberg’s riveting portrayal of the renowned social network creator. Moreover, everyone in the film is on the verge of snapping, which adds to the film’s authenticity and realism.

Watch on Apple TV+

4 ‘Catch Me If You Can’ (2002)

Image via DreamWorks Pictures

Catch Me If You Can follows Frank Abagnale Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a skilled con man who pretended to be a doctor, lawyer, and pilot while only being 21 years old. Meanwhile, Tom Hanks‘ FBI agent Carl Hanratty gets obsessed with finding Frank and later succeeds in persuading Frank to become an FBI assistant for atonement.

The story was brought to life by Stephen Spielberg‘s skill as a filmmaker, exquisite cinematography, elegant editing, brilliant script, and a beautiful score by John Williams. Not to mention DiCaprio and Hanks’ incredible chemistry and performances resulting in a gentle, charmingly adventurous film that makes you feel wonderful.

Watch on HBO Max

3 ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (2018)

blackkklansman (2018) (1)

Based on Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir Black Klansman, BlacKkKlansman takes place in the 1970s in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and follows the city’s first Black detective (John David Washington) as he attempts to infiltrate and out the local Ku Klux Klan chapter.

BlacKkKlansman is timely because it engages in a crucial national dialogue that is full of metaphors and juxtapositions. Moreover, the chemistry between Washington and Adam Driver is crucial to keep the film’s rhythm enjoyable as it alternates between comedy and crime. Also, through their characters, viewers feel like they have just walked through the lane of history in over 2 hours.

Watch on Apple TV+

2 ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ (2018)

A woman working surrounded with a cat and lots of typewriters

Melissa McCarthy plays Lee Israel, a struggling writer who seeks to revive her career by selling counterfeit letters from celebrities who have died. Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Marielle Heller is one of the finest contemporary films on economic hardship and ethical compromise.

The biopic is an intellectually interesting drama due to the contradiction between blatant deception, undeniable necessity, and a group of victims who, presumably, can afford to be fooled. Moreover, McCarthy’s impressive performance is both fierce and compassionate at the same time, constantly improving the material and stealing every scene she is in.

Watch on Apple TV+

1 ‘Selma’ (2014)

David Oyelowo and the cast of Selma in Selma
Image via Paramount Pictures

Selma was praised for its historical authenticity as it followed Martin Luther King Jr. as he fought for Black voting rights. The film follows King’s frenetic three months leading up to the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. Their efforts directly contributed to President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The film focuses primarily on King’s role in the events without diminishing the importance of the other leaders’ contributions to molding this pivotal moment in American history. Moreover, the screenplay by Paul Webb and David Oyelowo’s performance as King gives us a profound, gratifying depiction of King as a man capable of errors, self-doubt, and pain.

Watch on Showtime

NEXT: Great Biopics That Got Surprisingly Dark

Related posts

‘Sister Wives’: Kody’s Daughter Didn’t Mention This While Slamming Dad?


’90 Day Fiance’: Nicole Sherbiny Ready to Turn ‘The Other Way’?


‘Life After Lockup’: Shawn Osborne Plays the Victim Card?


Leave a Comment