Biographical pictures, or bipics for short, have become some of the most popular award show favorites over the years which shouldn’t be a shock seeing as it takes some truly great writing, direction and acting to bring a real person’s experiences to the big screen. It requires a lot of transformation, research and careful preparation which is why these films are so fascinating. In 2018 we got numerous such films to present us with real life stories and whether these films embraced creative license or strived for historical accuracy they all worked to paint a picture of real life stories that have stood the test of time and continue to fascinate us even, in some cases, hundreds of years later. Continuing my examination of the best films of 2018 in each genre I looked back at all the biographical or historical pictures I reviewed and picked my favorites from the last twelve months. These are my picks for the Top 10 Biopics of 2018.
For this list I looked at any movie that was themed around real life people to tell a story from history even if the depiction of that story included falsehoods or creative license. As long as it was inspired by a real person or real persons I considered it a biopic. For these films the historical accuracy wasn’t as important as the overall quality of the film.
As usual films can only apply to a single list in my Best of 2018 series so if you didn’t see a movie on this list you thought should be included you can check out the rest of my Best of 2018 segments to see where your favorite movie landed. This shouldn’t be a big problem here because many of these films ARE the ones excluded from other countdowns for the sake of this very list.
I also know there are several biographical films I did not get to see do top their severely limited release, so I’m sure there are movies that should have been considered for this list but never were. That brings me to you. What was your favorite biopic of 2018? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list! Also, remember if you’d like to read my reviews of these films you can click each movie title to do just that.
10. “Boy Erased”
The idea of gay conversion therapy has long been a controversial one but in 2018 this practice took center stage in “Boy Erased”. Based on the real-life experiences of gay man Garrard Conley, this film might have changed the names but the content is based on Conley’s memoirs after he himself was sent to conversion therapy by his parents where he experienced traumatic and abusive behavior towards the “patients” as well as a cult-like atmosphere. Amazing performances by the likes of Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, and Russell Crowe as stand ins for real life figures help bring this story to life and while I didn’t find it to be a perfect telling of a timely and important tale I can still call “Boy Erased” a powerful cinematic experience to behold that shines a light on a practice seen by many as an unacceptable assault on homosexuality.
9. “Bohemian Rhapsody”
I know a lot of people love this movie and I do to, but there were several biopics that were better overall films than “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 2018. That said “Bohemian Rhapsody” is still one of the most entertaining pictures of the year and is definitely worthy of all the love that it has received over the last few months. The film focuses on the origins of the band Queen and specifically their lead singer the late Freddie Mercury. Named after their most well-known song, “Bohemian Rhapsody” chronicles the group from their humble beginnings to their famed Live Aid concert in 1985 considered by many to be the greatest rock performance of all time. It all culminates in a truly enthralling musical experience that balances drama and comedy nicely with a little bit of creative flair thrown in to give the film a more linear story. Queen is a band whose history and style have mesmerized fans for decades. This film is proof that this fascination is still as strong as ever.
8. “Molly’s Game”
It really feels like only yesterday I was posting my first review of 2018, which happened to be “Molly’s Game”. I called it “the first great film of 2018” and it remained one of the year’s best biopics right to the end. The story revolves around the real-life exploits of Molly Bloom who created a poker empire before becoming the subject of an FBI investigation. Led by a Golden Globe nominated performance by Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game” is one of the best poker movies I’ve ever seen, laying out the general rules and competitive concept of the game in a way that even people like myself who never play Poker can understand. Combine that with some fascinating historical facts (with a few names changed of course) and great storytelling and you get a picture that is thrilling, fun and engaging that helped kick of 2018 on the right foot.
7. “Beautiful Boy”
Drug addiction is sadly one of the most prevalent issues in modern society and while a lot of movies have tried to capture the destructive nature of this disease few have done it as perfectly as “Beautiful Boy”. Based on the real-life struggle of addict Nic Sheff and his father David Sheff, “Beautiful Boy” examines the difficulties both individuals faced during Nic’s addiction as Nic himself sought to recover while his father tried to support him. The result is an emotionally charges journey supported by tremendous performances by Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet that perfectly encapsulates how hard it is to walk away from drug dependence and how equally difficult it can be for a parent and family to watch one of their loved ones suffer through a pain they can hardly comprehend. These are the kind of stories that make for some of the most inspiring cinematic productions and “Beautiful Boy” does not disappoint.
6. “I, Tonya”
It can be argued that “I, Tonya” was actually a 2017 film but it didn’t receive a true wide release until 2018 when Golden Globe and Oscar nominations peaked the public’s interest. Regardless of when you consider it being released “I, Tonya” is an incredibly entertaining and comedic take on the story of Tonya Harding from her origins as a figure skater to her Olympic dreams, the infamous attack on Nancy Kerrigan and her eventual ban from the sport as a result. With Margot Robbie in the titular role and an Oscar winning turn by Allison Janney as Harding’s mother “I, Tonya” packs some of the best performances of the year with a comedic edge that adds levity to an otherwise disturbing true story. The fact that the entire film is presented through a series of unreliable narrators in mockumentary fashion only adds to the movie’s effective lighthearted tone while also shining some harsh light on the national judgement of a troubled athlete.
5. “First Man”
It’s kind of surprising that it took this long for a film about Neil Armstrong to become a thing, but when it finally did it had some epic talent to bring it to life. “First Man” follows Armstrong’s rise through the ranks to become the first astronaut to set foot on the moon exploring his training and family life as well as the actual mission. One of my favorite directors Damien Chazelle led this film which is powered by a tremendous career highlight performance by Ryan Gosling as one of America’s most iconic astronauts. “First Man” is more than just a solid picture. It’s a truly mesmerizing look into the complicated life of a man who did something miraculous and saw it as nothing more than getting the job done. I called it a “cinematic achievement” in my review and it really is in more ways than one from the acting to the visuals, direction and its ability to combine subtlety with spectacle to present a truly inspiring classic American story.
It seems like nearly every list I’ve done for my Best of 2018 series includes at least one film that involves race relations in the United States. “BlacKkKlansman” was one of the most talked about movies of the summer and could earn director Spike Lee his long overdue Best Director Oscar if all goes well. Telling the story of Ron Stallworth, a black detective who infiltrated the KKK, “BlacKkKlansman” tackles a truly unique tale from American history, but the struggles Stallworth endured to bring down an organization against his own race are handled with respect. A surprising aspect of the film is that it doesn’t shy away from shining both negative and positive light on both the KKK and the Civil Rights Movements showing how the KKK managed to be so likable to its target demographic while the Civil Rights Movement suffered from hypocrisy in its goal for “all power to all the people”. It’s a fascinating and complete product marred only by its attempts to pander to the discord of today’s world to drive home its finale.
The latest film I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing on Cinema Spotlight, “Vice” has become a potential award season favorite with six Golden Globe nominations to its record. Those nominations are quite warranted as this comedic take on the vice presidency of Dick Cheney, arguably the most powerful VP in American history, packs great acting, awesome direction and a well written script even if the narrative can be a bit one sided in how it depicts the infamous politician. “Vice” provides a fascinating take on a controversial figure whose actions and thirst for power may have changed the course of American history, even going so far as to humanize him to some extent and capture how charming he really was while in power. No matter what you think about the criticisms and biased depiction of Cheney there’s no denying “Vice” is an entertaining comedy masterpiece led by stellar performances from the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams focusing on a man whose legacy deserved the cinematic treatment.
2. “Green Book”
The second film on this list to tell a story of racism in America’s past, “Green Book” is a simply awesome look at the real life friendship of African American pianist Don Shirley and his white Italian-American chauffeur and bodyguard Tony Vallelonga. Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson give career highlight performances as the main duo of the film who learn from each other and bond over the course of their journey in a tour through the south. Sharp direction and writing give “Green Book” an effective comedic edge that never overshadows the subtext in the narrative. At the same time “Green Book” never feels too preachy but it very willing to tackle prejudices that still stain the history of America. Despite some significant historical inaccuracies plaguing its reputation “Green Book” has earned five Golden Globe nominations and truly deserves each and every one as one of the year’s best biopics and best comedies.
1. “The Favourite”
More a historical comedy than a straight up biopic, “The Favourite” is a hilarious take on the real life rivalry between cousins Abigail Hill and Sarah Churchill who sought to become the favourite of Queen Anne in the 1700s. Impressive performances by Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz as well as an immaculately written and fun script that packs some of the most effective humor I’ve heard in any comedy picture in years, “The Favourite” lives up to the hype that has helped it earn five Golden Globe nominations and become a critical darling. “The Favourite” is the whole package. It’s well written, perfectly acted, and take enough creative liberty to add to its story without losing touch with its historic roots. Save for some questionable cinematography decisions (I’m still not over it’s strange use of wide-angle lens shots) “The Favourite” is a near perfect picture and certainly in the running for my favorite film of 2018.