Biopic movies remain a top choice for filmmakers as audiences are always interested in the personal lives of public figures. But many a time, filmmakers also base their movies on biographies and memoirs of not-so-famous figures who’ve led interesting lives; real-life stories often make for more exciting and interesting tales than fiction.
Here’s a list of 6 movies that are based on biographies or memoirs –
1. Girl, Interrupted
This 1999 psychological drama was directed by James Mangold and starred Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Elisabeth Moss, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jared Leto. The film was based on Susanna Kaysen’s 1993 memoir of the same name.
Set in the 1960s, the plot recounts the life of Susanna, an eighteen-year-old who overdoses on aspirin, following which she’s admitted to a psychiatric hospital. She denies that she’d attempted suicide and then is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which extends her stay at the hospital. Susanna ended up staying at the hospital for almost two years. The story also features several other characters who were patients at the hospital during Susanna’s stay.
Though the film received mixed reviews, Jolie’s performance was appreciated, and she went on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
2. A Beautiful Mind
This 2001 biographical film is based on the life of Nobel Laureate John Nash. It was directed by Ron Howard and starred Russell Crowe in the lead, with Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, and Paul Bettany in supporting roles. The film was inspired by Sylvia Nasar’s 1997 Pulitzer Prize-nominated book of the same name.
The movie traces Nash’s life as a student at Princeton University through his appointment at MIT and his subsequent life with his wife and friends. Nash was diagnosed with schizophrenia and suffered from delusional episodes that made him think he had friends called Charles, Marcee, and Parcher. His diagnosis even led to him spending time in a facility where he was given a course of insulin shock therapy. Upon his release, he secretly stopped taking his medicines which led to a relapse. Over time, Nash learns to live through his hallucinations and eventually wins the Nobel Prize in 1994.
The film was lauded by critics as “both a moving love story and a revealing look at mental illness” and went on to win 4 Academy Awards.
3. Catch Me If You Can
Directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, this 2002 crime film was based on the semi-autobiographical book by Frank Abagnale Jr. and Stan Redding.
The story follows a 19-year-old con artist Frank (Leonardo Di Caprio), who successfully cashes in over 2.5 million dollars through forged checks by assuming over eight identities and several professions. He is finally caught by FBI Agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) at the age of 21. He later becomes a consultant for the FBI bank fraud unit but soon gets bored. The film ends with Frank living in the Midwest with his wife and their three sons, having built a successful business as a leading expert on bank fraud and forgery.
The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, with critics praising Di Caprio’s performance.
4. The Blind Side
This 2009 film featured Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, and Kathy Bates in leading roles, a biographical sports drama directed by John Lee Hancock. It’s based on the 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis.
The film focuses on Michael Oher(Aaron), an impoverished 17-year-old who’s been in-and-out of foster care due to his druggie mother. “Big Mike”, as he was nicknamed, is offered admission at Wingate Christian School due to his athleticism. He is spotted by the Touhy’s, a prominent family of the town, on a cold night, and Leigh Anne Touhy (Bullock) offers him their couch for the night. He is then invited for Thanksgiving and subsequently moves in with them. They subsequently adopt him, and he becomes the correct tackle for the Baltimore Ravens (an American football team).
The film received mixed reviews but was a huge commercial success. Bullock won an Oscar for her performance.
5. Julie & Julia
Directed by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, and Chris Messina, this 2009 comedy-drama is based on two books – My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homm, and Julie Powell’s memoir Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen.
The film is set in two different timelines and narrated through a series of back-and-forths and flashbacks. In the 1950s, Julia Child (Streep) is an American who moves to Paris with her diplomat husband (Stucci). She joins a French cooking class where she’s judged, being the only female cook there. Uncaring, Julia continues her endeavours and begins compiling a book on French recipes for American housewives, which subsequently gets published in1961.
The other timeline set in 2002 follows Julie Powell, a young blogger bored with her job at a call centre, who decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. She chronicles her experiments and experiences via her blog. Her blog soon garners readers, and she begins to gain a following.
The film garnered a positive response from the critics, with Streep’s performance receiving high acclaim.
6. Beautiful Boy
This 2018 biographical drama directed by Felix van Groeningen featured Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet in the lead roles. The screenplay was based on two memoirs by a father-son duo – Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nicholas Sheff.
David Sheff (Carell) is a New York Times writer whose high-school-going son suddenly goes missing. Nic (Chalamet) turns up in their home a few days later, and seeing the signs of drug abuse, David takes him to rehab. Happy with his progress, Nic’s doctors shift him to a halfway house, from where he runs away. David finds him on the streets and takes him back to rehab. A journey of rehab and relapse follows and how the father-son duo navigates their relationship through these trials. The film ends with the message that the real-life Nic has been sober for eight years now.
The film received positive critical reviews, with Chalamet getting nominated for various awards.
Other critically acclaimed movies based on memoirs that you can watch are The Wolf Of Wall Street, Seven Years In Tibet, 127 Hours, The Theory Of Everything, and Wild.
Edited by Prakriti Arora