The 10 Best Biographical Movies of 2018

5. BlacKkKlansman

Finally Spike Lee in his form, though “ChiRaq” was an underrated and interesting film that deserved more recognition. It’s finally a movie that is made of the ingredients you think of when you hear “A Spike Lee joint.” Lee is never a subtle guy, though admittedly the first half of the film is definitely far from being heavy-handed and features some great humour and wit. However, Lee is known for his anger, the man who made “Do the Right Thing.”

The film is pretty superbly paced, the acting is all-around great, and it’ll certainly help in turning John David Washington into a future star. Lee mixes history with little hints of today’s political events. He doesn’t do it in a subtle way, but Lee is one of those directors that can pull it off. The editing is great, the score is wonderful, and the ending is also strong, heartbreaking in fact.

 One could accuse it of being manipulative, but no, it isn’t. Somehow it feels like a perfect way to end the film. As Martin Scorsese would say, “It transcends the medium, what he did there in the last 10 minutes. It’s cinema and it’s beautiful.” Another thing that shouldn’t be forgotten is the cinematography, which also helps balancing the tone.


4. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Mortensen and Ali make a great pairing in “Green Book,” but you’re not gonna find a better duo than Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant in 2018. In the early 1990s, when the moderately successful Lee Israel’s career was at a standstill, she became a literary forger, composing and selling hundreds of letters that she said had been written by famous authors. She was arrested and she wrote them all in the memoir “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, now adapted to film by such skill.

The film is full of heart; you get to empathize with the characters and it’s such an important thing for a film like this. These guys are not your typical movie criminals, and their portrayals are honest. Nicole Holofcener is a master screenplay writer, but still these two characters – Lee and her partner Jack, a flamboyant drug dealer – could come up as rather unsympathetic or unlikable people on script, but director Marielle Heller directs our actors in the most right way possible to make them fully realized, three-dimensional characters.

That’s why even if McCarthy’s Lee acts completely anti-social and even in unacceptable ways, you still do not mind her. In fact, you’re intrigued by her. It’s something many crime films are accused of doing, that they make their criminals into heroes. The film doesn’t turn them into any kind of heroes, but it makes you understand them and that’s what makes it such a distinctive and impressive movie.

It’s a very interesting story, absolutely compelling with just the right amount of touch of wit and melancholia. But no matter how much it gets dramatic and/or comedic, it always remains intriguing. It’s a great New York film for the lovers of the city and its people and its history; it’s a great friendship film that has a dynamite duo and it’s a great crime film that is based on a true story.


3. At Eternity’s Gate

At Eternity’s Gate

Painter-turned-director Julian Schnabel only makes biopics, and with an exception of “Miral,” he never had any failures. Not only they were acclaimed films, but Schnabel always knows how to bring about unique biopic stories and he always focuses on the character; their inner life, thoughts, problems, and psychology. He also gets strong performances out of his lead actors in such films as “Basquiat” or “Before Night Falls.” He does the same again in the wonderful “At Eternity’s Gate.”

it doesn’t focus on Van Gogh the myth, but rather Van Gogh the man. The camera is peaceful when he paints, because it shows him finding some peace. But the camera becomes more shaky, more distracting when we witness his personal life – to feel his torture, how much he’s ignored, almost humiliated by his peers and by the public and how much he wanted to connect.

The movie was shot in places where he actually painted some of his famous works in his last days in France, so his admirers will recognize the places. It’s not a fast-paced film, but those moments without dialogue are almost meditative while the other moments can be hard-hitting.

Those who may not get involved in the painting and creativity sequences can get tired of the film, and its ending is somewhat controversial, but Willem Dafoe’s extraordinarily terrific performance will win them over. There’s a bit of Jesus from “The Last Temptation of Christ” in Dafoe’s Van Gogh. He totally becomes Van Gogh in early sequences.

And while there’s a notable age difference, it’s not visible at all as Dafoe looks good for his age and Vincent obviously didn’t look good at the time for everything he had been going through. The scenes where Dafoe’s Vincent talks to a doctor, a priest, and his brother are particular highlights.


2. A Prayer Before Dawn

Based on “A Prayer Before Dawn: My Nightmare in Thailand’s Prisons,” here comes the most brutal, dark, and hard-to-watch biopic of the year. Joe Cole plays a British boxer from Liverpool who got involved in drugs and burglary, who tried to restart his life in Thailand as a boxer and stuntman, but was arrested there in 2005 for gun offences and sentenced to three years in this authentically terrifying place.

What makes this film so strong and effective is that it makes you feel what our main character goes through – all this hell, the place where violence is everywhere. If you are weak, you will not be here for long. The atmosphere of suffocation and contrition is felt almost on one’s own skin thanks to the masterful direction and the rest of the technical details.

If you can’t speak the Thai language, the film’s claustrophobic tone grows even more as the movie doesn’t give us any subtitles, which is for the best, as we feel the character’s alienation and how he feels like a stranger to the environment.

When the fight scenes come up, they are also impressive but not exactly in some kind of an aesthetically choreographed way. It starts off as a “Midnight Express,” then it turns into some kind of a survival boxing film, but the key word that still remains is “survival.” If you love your biopics to give you lots of information about the character’s life, then it’s not a film for you.

The film doesn’t focus on the storyline or character development; it’s a film of its atmosphere and it makes you feel the atmosphere, more than many films do these days. Its portrayal of Thai prisons around that time could be accurate or not, but one thing is for sure: the film is pure cinema and that’s why it feels real.


1. The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most unique directors of our time. He’s the most famous face of the Greek weird wave and has now established his own unique filmmaking style. After making the internationally-acclaimed “Dogtooth,” he soon switched to English-language features like “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” “The Favourite” is a film he didn’t write or co-write, but his filmmaking style has become so distinctive that it’s impossible to not recognize it.

Set in the early 18th century, the story examines the relationship between two cousins vying to be court favourites of Queen Anne. Much of the film avoids real facts and some of the events are dubious, according to historians. So, “The Favourite” is mostly a biopic only in a sense that it uses real life characters to tell its story while also benefiting from some real-life events that may or may not have happened, but that’s not the point.

The point is “The Favourite” is brilliant and amazing in every way. It’s about power and vengeance, and Lanthimos carefully explores its themes with wonderful aesthetics, amazing costumes, and breathtaking production design. Lanthimos doesn’t mind if the costumes and design are fitting for the era; overall it’s his film and his world and we just have to enjoy what he has to offer.

“The Favourite” also features three strong performances from its leads – Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, and former two earned well-deserved awards for their performances.

In recent years, creating more complex female characters had always been in discussion in Hollywood, and “The Favourite” has three amazing female characters that are just fascinating to watch, because all elements are there: great writing, great direction, and strong acting performances. It’s steeped so deeply in socio-political subtext, and packed with witty dialogue and memorable scenes. As usual with Lanthimos’ films, you’ll laugh, but in the end, something will make you feel uncomfortable about it. All in all, “The Favourite” is a pure cinematic experience and one of the best films in recent years.