Mandatory Top 10 of the 2010s: The Best Biopics of the Decade
Throughout the annals of Hollywood history, the biopic has undoubtedly remained a mainstay. From the early ’40s and onward, the genre has proven to bring a wealth of compelling stories to the big screen, offering once-in-a-lifetime roles for actors and actresses alike. Although biopics have historically provided a dramatic proving ground for the actors who portray them, the 2010s have seen an explosion in the number of biopics that are made every year. From films about public figures that remain incredibly influential to those about the personalities that history nearly forgot, here are some of the best biopics of the 2010s.
Cover Photo: Netflix
True stories galore: The 20 Best Biopics of the 21st Century
Lincoln is arguably the most classic version of a biopic that we would get throughout the decade. However, that doesn’t mean that Steven Spielberg’s historical drama about the 16th President is any less relevant. Held together by an incredible, Oscar-winning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, Spielberg’s long-delayed passion project offers a tour de force in writing, directing, and acting. Especially in today’s political and social climate, Lincoln reminds us that as much as things change, they also stay the same.
9. '127 Hours'
127 Hours tells the harrowing real-life story of Aaron Ralston, a mountaineer who gets trapped under a boulder and is eventually forced to amputate his own arm. While the film is essentially a fictionalized survival story, it also borders on being a documentary due to its intense realism. Not only does it feature one of James Franco’s most exceptional performances, but Danny Boyle’s energetic direction becomes so fierce that it’s hard to stomach. Even though 127 Hours isn’t necessarily a comfortable viewing experience, it’s an essential story about the resilience of the human spirit.
8. 'Straight Outta Compton'
While Get On Up is also worthy of a spot on this list, Straight Outta Compton represents so much more than the rise of a singular musician, but rather an entire genre. Even though the film gets a little too bloated in its third act, director F. Gary Gray’s energetic and detailed direction offers a brilliant representation of the rise of gangster rap. Ironically, Paul Giamatti has crucial roles in both Straight Outta Compton and Love & Mercy, further proving that he’s clearly the key to making a successful biopic.
Jackie may not be the best movie on this list, but it certainly is the most unique. Considering that the assassination of JFK is one of the most examined events of the 20th century, Jackie offers an essential piece of the story that often went unexplored – how the former fist lady dealt with the tragedy. Anchored by an outstanding performance from Natalie Portman, Jackie provides a subtle and intimate look at the emotional impact on Kennedy in the moments, days, and years following the most famous assassination of all time.
6. 'Dolemite Is My Name'
As the most recent entry on this list, Dolemite Is My Name features Eddie Murphy’s best performance in a long time playing Blaxploitation legend Rudy Ray Moore. Although the film is certainly a return to form for Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes nearly steals the show with arguably the best performance of his career. Aside from this, Craig Brewer’s direction is infectious, ultimately offering a valuable lesson about chasing your dreams, no matter the obstacles or circumstances. More than anything, Dolemite Is My Name proves that Netflix actually has the ability to make great crowd-pleasing movies.
Loosely based on the unbelievable real-life relationship between John du Pont and Olympic gold medal-winning wrestlers Mark and David Schultz, the story of Foxcatcher seems like fiction brought to life. Although situations were taken directly from Schultz’s book, the specific characterization is mostly fictional. Despite this, Foxcatcher features superb direction from Bennett Miller and a career-best performance from Steve Carell. The result is easily one of the most taut, gripping, and bone-chilling biopics of the decade.
4. 'Molly's Game'
This biopic is based on Molly Bloom's memoir of the same name. It's an account of her exploits running a high-stakes, underground poker ring. Molly’s Game is the type of story that is so fascinatingly audacious that it’s hard to believe that it actually happened. It did, and we’re the better for it. Ultimately, famed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut not only lives up to his reputation, but it also features Jessica Chastain in one of her most memorable roles.
3. 'Love & Mercy'
As one of the most underrated biopics of the past decade, Love & Mercy also happens to be one of the best. The film tells the story of legendary musician Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys fame, but it’s also the rare biopic to showcase two actors playing the same character, albeit at different points in his life. Whereas Paul Dano plays Wilson in the 1960s as he creates his most famous work, Pet Sounds, John Cusack plays a middle-aged version of Wilson as he struggles with mental illness in the 1980s. Ultimately, the outstanding performances from the cast culminate in a movie that is not only touching but also properly honors Wilson’s legacy.
2. 'I, Tonya'
As the most stylized biopic of the decade, I, Tonya also happens to be the most enjoyable on a pure entertainment level. Endlessly rewatchable, the film dramatizes the story of Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on fellow Olympic ice skater Nancy Kerrigan. Although the film itself states that it's told using unreliable narration, that narrative device is also what makes it so fascinating. Craig Gillespie's direction is solid, and Margot Robbie is perfect as Harding. However, it’s Allison Janney’s Oscar-winning performance as Harding's mother that steals the show. While I, Tonya is the type of movie that tweaks the facts of the real-life story, that doesn’t make any less of an entertaining story.
1. 'The Social Network'
There’s no doubt that The Social Network might be the essential biopic of the decade, and it’s still a travesty that it was straight-up robbed of Best Picture in 2010. While the film was immediately relevant from the moment that it was released, it only gets better with age. In an era where Facebook comes under seemingly constant scrutiny from both the general public and governing bodies alike, David Fincher’s masterpiece still paints a brutal and unflattering – yet vital – portrait of Mark Zuckerberg.