Enough of the biopics

Hollywood should stop making biographical films


Biographical films (biopics) are movies that dramatize the life of a particular person, typically a public or historical figure. These movies are often referred to as “Oscar-bait,” which means that biopics often represent the majority of the nominees for Oscar categories. From 2014-2020, about 40% of the “Big Five” Oscar award (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay) nominees consisted of biopics according to the Pima Post. In 2022 alone, more than 15 biographical films and TVshows have premiered. The biopic is a core and classic genre in American cinema, but as time goes on, it hasn’t aged well. Biopics such as “Blonde” and “Elvis” sparked heavy controversy for being exploitative and disrespectful to the subject’s life, and these movies are just two examples of how biopics go wrong.

Biopics often turn real people into two-dimensional beings. Movies, although often beautiful in their own way, don’t capture the many dimensions of life. Biopics aren’t documentaries and thus don’t present every fact of the subject’s life. However, this absence of total truth often portrays the public figure’s character in a way that isn’t true to who they really were. Biopics are meant to entertain and to make money, so it’s understandable to limit content to the most interesting. The issue that lies in the story isn’t just a story, it’s someone’s life. Directors of biopics have the responsibility to portray someone’s life in not only the most economically logical way, but in a way that sheds light on someone’s real character. However, biopics tend to be watered-down by whoever is holding the rights to the story. Good biopics have to contain a nuanced analysis of the characters, but recent films have lacked the ability to portray real lives accurately.

Another issue lies in the fact that oftentimes biopics are primarily fiction, but are presented and claim to be true stories. Biopics are often littered with rumors, false scenarios and elaborate false events. Although biopics never claim to be documentaries, audiences often assume they are, if those audiences even see it in movie theaters. According to Statista, only about 8% of Americans often go to the movie theaters. In a post-pandemic world, Hollywood is grappling with capturing the attention of their audience and competing against a growing streaming empire. This has resulted in more dramatized, romanticized and fictionalized movies based on “true stories.” The actual action of making movies more fantastical by itself isn’t an issue, it is when it’s someone’s life directors are turning into fiction that issues arise.

The rise of the biopic is simply a symptom of an overarching issue in modern cinema. New, innovative movies are often not given the financial support they need in order to be seen by a larger audience. Therefore, the most talked about movies are composed of biopics, remakes, sequels, or movies based on books. This decline in Hollywood originality lies in a fear of failure. Biopics offer no space for interpretation and are often directors “writing what they know best.” 

The state of modern cinema has been a heavily debated topic, with many feeling that the film reel of the golden age of film has ended and a series of unoriginal stories have taken its place. Biopics are often problematic, romanticized and predictable films. Not every biopic is terrible, but the genre as a whole has been oversaturated and extorted for commercial success for too long. So, the next time you find yourself looking for a new movie to watch, look instead at directors who are pushing the boundaries or movies that tell untold tales. Oh, and for the love of movies, please stop watching biopics.