Over the past decade, it has become more than obvious that the cinematic industry has a favorite genre: biopics. This broad subject includes the personal stories of important people, as well as the stories behind how something was created and the troubles that may have encountered along the way.
What is actually a biopic?
Biopic stands for “biographical motion picture” and it’s a movie or series that tells the story of a real person’s life and, for the sake of this article, the story behind the creation of something that revolutionized the world. They can cover a wide range of topics, and, most of the time, directors take artistic licenses to create a more engaging production.
And, although they are quite interesting, when more than half of the movies being released every year are biopics, it does get a bit boring. Last year alone, award-winning production companies premiered Elvis, Blonde, The Fabelmans, Argentina 1985, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, The Swimmers, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, Operation Mincemeat, and many MANY more real-life stories (yes, there are more).
There are plenty of real-life movies to choose from (about mostly everything really). In March 2023, Apple TV released Tetris, the story behind the famous game that most of us play as kids and even as adults. Last year, Netflix finished Playlist, which told us the story of Spotify in a very interesting and, sometimes, confusing way. In 2019, I, Tonya became a fans favorite retelling the story of American figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the assault on her rival Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. Moreover, this year, Elvis got shockingly good reviews and put Austin Butler on the map.
Why do we see so many biopics?
But what is it about this specific genre that attracts so many filmmakers around the world? And why is Hollywood so obsessed with it? Well, it’s actually unknown 🤷. Many say that “artists love to tell stories about other artists” or that “reality is stranger than fiction”, but when is enough enough? It has come to the point where Hollywood just seems lazy for not investing in its own ideas; they are just waiting for something (more or less) eye-catching to happen and make it into a big-budget movie.
The really interesting part is that even if a story is boring, production companies around the globe have the unique task of making them absolutely mindblowing. Not only by adding complex storylines, great visual effects and spectacular landscapes, but by also writing profound scripts that get the audience hooked… and that is no easy task. However, most of the time, writers manage to execute it perfectly.
And maybe that is the reason why Hollywood is so obsessed with biopics: Because they get the chance to transform something ordinary into something extraordinary. Take the movie Air (2023) as an example. In Ben Affleck’s latest movie, we see how Nike got rookie Michael Jordan to sign a deal with them, a deal that would revolutionize the world of sports and fashion until today. And for two hours you are rooting for a pair of sneakers to be made… A PAIR OF SNEAKERS! And even though the story is compelling, if it weren’t for the script and the performances, you wouldn’t have even dared to google how this deal came to life.
The job of a movie is to make us care about all the process, and most of the time, they succeed.
Why are they so frequent?
However, it is undeniable that we now see biopics being released more often. And about very recent events and about people who are very much still alive and active. It seems like Hollywood rushes to start the production process as soon as something slightly exciting happens. And maybe, just maybe, they should let some time pass for the story to settle and for the movie or series to actually work.
We can all agree that there is nothing better than watching a film that you knew nothing about for then to read on the credits “BASED ON A TRUE STORY” or “INSPIRED ON REAL EVENTS”. It makes you want to know more, to see how much the actors look like their characters, to fact-check on Wikipedia, and to see if the setting was accurate. But if you see a movie about something that happened just 2 years ago with no real insight, well you might as well re-read the news and forget about it.
Are they good or are they bad?
Don’t be fooled. Making a biopic is a risk. Producers put everything on the line. If it goes well, everyone loves it, theaters are packed and important prizes are on the horizon. But, if it’s terrible, not only does it go bad at the box-office, it also destroys the illusion of thousands of fans around the world. And now more than ever, social media is a place where people can be real harsh with their critics.
It’s true though that biopics are gaining ground in the awards’ sector. Movies like Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) and The Theory of Everything (2014) not only managed to win the hearts of thousands around the world, but also the possibility to get big awards home. In the past twelve years, six Best Actor Oscar winners portrayed a real-life person. Since 2011, three real-life movies have won Best Picture: The King’s Speech (2011), Argo (2013) and 12 Years a Slave (2014). And they were also box-office hits, grossing more than 847 thousand dollars combined.
What does the audience love about biopics?
Hollywood cannot just produce movies because they “love to tell stories about other artists”. It’s because of something more profound. It’s because they know that the audience will be able to relate to it. They give the audience hope.
Even if it’s just for a moment, the cinemagoers feel like that could happen to them too. It plants an idea. An idea that everything is possible. And we can all agree that there is nothing better than feeling a bit wholesome from time to time.
Sometimes, googling a story is not enough; sometimes you need to see it, feel it, immerse yourself into that world to fully understand what it took or how much someone worked to get what they want; sometimes you just have to go to the cinema to feel fulfilled and be able to tell your friends a new ordinary but extraordinary story of success.
What are your thoughts? Do you love biopics or do you prefer other genres? Tell us in the comments! We love hearing from you.