18 biopics to watch on Netflix right now

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Get On Up, The Iron Lady, Extremely Wicked
Chadwick Boseman, Meryl Streep, and Zac Efron have all starred in biopics. Universal Pictures/20th Century Fox/Pathé Distribution/Netflix
  • Biographical movies exploring the lives of real people are always popular films.

  • Actors are often given awards for these roles while audiences learn more about historical figures.

  • Insider lists the 18 best biopics to watch on Netflix listed in chronological order by release year.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

'Bonnie and Clyde' (1967)

Bonnie and Clyde movie
Arthur Penn directed "Bonnie and Clyde." Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway took on the title roles in this movie, which focus on American criminals, Bonnie and Clyde, infamous bank robbers during the Great Depression.

Both landed Oscar nominations for their portrayals. In fact, the movie earned five acting nominations in total (winning supporting actress for Estelle Parsons), plus nods for best director and best picture, too.

'The Pianist' (2002)

The Pianist
'The Pianist' was directed by Roman Polanski. Focus Features/StudioCanal

Controversial director Roman Polanski won best director for this movie that is based on the autobiography of Holocaust survivor Władysław Szpilman.

The movie also won best actor for its young star Adrien Brody, too, for his critically acclaimed performance as Szpilman.

'Milk' (2008)

Milk Sean Penn
"Milk" was directed by Gus Van Sant. Focus Features

Gus Van Sant's "Milk" tells the story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk, the first-ever openly gay person to be elected to public office in California.

Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing Milk, while a stellar supporting cast includes James Franco, Josh Brolin, and Diego Luna.

The movie was written by Dustin Lance Black, who also won an Oscar for his work.

'Ip Man' (2008)

Ip Man
Wilson Yip directed "Ip Man." Mandarin Films

"Ip Man" and its three sequels are the ultimate compendium of the life and times of Ip Man, the grandmaster of Wing Chun and the teacher of Bruce Lee.

The stunning cinematography and choreography help to bring a unique visual style to these biographical films.

Good news, too. "Ip Man" two, three, and four are all also on Netflix, so you can watch the entire saga.

'The Social Network' (2010)

the social network eduardo and mark
David Fincher directed "The Social Network." Columbia Pictures

Aaron Sorkin's masterful screenplay served as the basis for this film, which explores how Mark Zuckerberg created what would later be known as Facebook.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg, while Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Rooney Mara chip in with outstanding supporting performances, too. The movie competed for multiple Oscars, but ultimately only won for Sorkin's script despite David Fincher being a hot contender for best director.

'My Week With Marylin' (2011)

my week with marilyn the weinstein company
Simon Curtis directed "My Week With Marylin." The Weinstein Company

There have been many biographical films and TV shows that have explored the life of Marilyn Monroe, but none match up to Michelle Williams' performance as the iconic actress.

This movie cleverly focuses on one week in 1956, when Monroe was shooting the 1957 film "The Prince and the Showgirl" with Laurence Olivier (played in this film by Kenneth Branagh).

While shooting the film in London, Monroe is escorted around the town by a young, hopeful filmmaker (Eddie Redmayne).

'The Iron Lady' (2011)

Meryl Streep The Iron Lady
Phyllida Lloyd directed "The Iron Lady." 20th Century Fox/Pathé Distribution

Meryl Streep won her third Oscar for this biopic, winning best actress for playing Margaret Thatcher.

While the movie itself received luke-warm reviews, this is worth a watch for Streep's powerhouse performance alone as we are shown Thatcher's life from a young politician to her days as Prime Minister to the years when her health began to decline.

'Get on Up' (2011)

get on up
Tate Taylor directed "Get on Up." Universal Pictures

The late, great Chadwick Boseman starred in multiple biopics, but his performance as James Brown in "Get on Up" is one of his very best.

This biopic tells the complete story of Brown's life as he rose from poverty to become one of the most iconic musicians of all time.

'Fruitvale Station' (2013)

Fruitvale station
Ryan Coogler directed "Fruitvale Station." The Weinstein Company

Michael B. Jordan made a name for himself with this heartbreaking and tragic movie following the story of Oscar Grant III.

The movie, which also stars fellow future MCU star Brie Larson, follows Oscar on the last day of 2008, which detailed how he was killed at the hands of police.

'Philomena' (2013)

Philomena
Stephan Frears directed "Philomena." Pathé Distribution/20th Century Fox

Steve Coogan traded in his comedy chops for more drama with this movie, which he also wrote (with Jeff Pope).

Coogan plays a journalist who agrees to take on the story of an elderly Irish woman's (Judi Dench) search for her long-lost son, who was taken away from her by nuns when she was forced to live in a convent.

Dench earned an Oscar nomination for her funny and moving performance.

'The Theory of Everything' (2014)

eddie redmayne theory of everything
James Marsh directed "The Theory of Everything." Liam Daniel / Universal Pictures

This movie explores the lives of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his now ex-wife Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones), from their times as university students to Hawking's diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and onwards.

Jones earned an Oscar nomination for her role while Redmayne won the Oscar for best actor.

'Legend' (2015)

tom hardy legend
Brian Helgeland directed "Legend." Universal Pictures

Another case of an actor's performance outshining their own film. In "Legend," Tom Hardy takes on the dual role of Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie, as the film follows the rise and fall of the infamous gangsters.

Hardy is unrecognizable in both roles and this film is worth watching for him alone.

'Trumbo' (2015)

Trumbo TIFF
Jay Roach directed "Trumbo." TIFF

Bryan Cranston earned his first and (so far) only Oscar nomination for his portrayal of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, the man who wrote "Spartacus," "Roman Holiday" and "The Brave One."

This biopic follows Trumbo's early success in the industry to his eventual blacklisting in Hollywood for being a member of the USA's communist party and his career thereafter.

'Steve Jobs' (2015)

Steve Jobs Fassbender
Danny Boyle directed "Steve Jobs." Universal Studios

Another killer script from Aaron Sorkin served as the basis for this quietly-thrilling look at Steve Jobs, the late creative who built Apple.

The movie cleverly focuses on three separate product launches in different years, showing the sort of person Jobs was at work and at home.

Despite a troubled production history, which saw a change of actors and directors more than once, the movie soars with Michael Fassbender in the lead role of Jobs. He and Kate Winslet were both nominated for Oscars.

'The Founder' (2016)

The Founder Michael Keaton
John Lee Hancock directed "The Founder." The Weinstein Company

This is the story of how one of the largest and most recognizable brands in the world was made: McDonald's.

Michael Keaton stars as the shady, ruthless, and ambitious businessman Ray Kroc, who stole the McDonald brothers' fast food business out from under them.

'The Two Popes' (2019)

The Two Popes movie
Fernando Meirelles directed "The Two Popes." Netflix

While a movie about two Popes chatting for two hours might not sound thrilling, it actually is.

Written by "The Theory of Everything" scribe Anthony McCarten, Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins star as the future Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI, respectively.

The two men engage in conversational battles of wit, principles, and conflicting opinions as Pope Benedict's time as the head of the Catholic Church comes to an end.

'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile' (2019)

zac efron ted bundy extremely wicked
Joe Berlinger directed "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile." Brian Douglas/Netflix

In Zac Efron's darkest ever role, the "High School Musical" alum plays serial killer Ted Bundy.

Told from the point of view of his longtime girlfriend Liz (Lily Collins), who refused to believe the truth about Bundy, we learn of the horrific nature of one of America's most infamous killers.

'Mank' (2020)

Mank Gary Oldman
"Mank" was directed by David Fincher. Netflix

Nominated for 10 Oscars and winning two, David Fincher's expertly-crafted movie explores the life of Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and how he wrote "Citizen Kane."

Oldman earned an Oscar nomination for playing Mankiewicz, while Amanda Seyfried landed her first-ever Oscar nod for her supporting performance as actress Marion Davies.

Fincher presents this story in the format of a 1940s movie itself, complete with reel-change cigarette burns, which indicate when a film reel needs to be changed.

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