Biography movies have always been a popular choice. The ability to capture the extraordinary lives of world leaders, revolutionaries, and ordinary people that have overcome insurmountable feats makes biopics a favorite for some movie lovers.
Of the many streaming platforms available, Netflix offers a variety of biopics to watch during your free time.
Whether it’s inspirational stories of world leaders, stories of overcoming challenges, or stories of notable criminals that shook the world around them, here are some of the best biopics on Netflix.
1. Heaven Knows What (2014)
- IMDb Rating: 6.8/10
- Starring: Arielle Holmes, Caleb Landry Jones, Buddy Duress, Necro, Eleonore Hendricks, Yuri Pleskun
The psychological drama is based on an unpublished memoir, Mad Love in New York City. It follows the story of Arielle Holmes, a homeless heroin addict living on the streets of New York.
Heaven Knows What captures the harrowing tale of drug addiction in a manner void of merely cinematic mimicry. Harley not only has to deal with her heroin addiction but is also plagued with love for a fellow homeless addict and has a hard choice to make when they fall out due to her infidelity.
Throughout the movie, the consistent theme of a rocky relationship with her boyfriend, Ilya, remains, and for all his flaws, her love for him remains.
The movie is an excellent biopic to watch as it brings addiction to a whole level and captures Holmes’ struggle perfectly.
2. Spotlight (2015)
- IMDb Rating: 8.1/10
- Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Gene Amoroso, Jamey Sheridan, Billy Krudup, Maureen Keiller, Richard Jenkins, Paul Guilfoyle, Neal Huff, Len Cariou, Michael Countryman
The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team is the oldest investigative journalism unit still in operation, and they investigate a series of cases involving sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
What starts as a minor investigation expands when they discover more widespread abuse and cover-up of this abuse by the Catholic Diocese.
Suddenly, it becomes a pressing need to expose the story and prevent more misuse, and even a temporary shift in attention by the September 11 attack will not deter them.
The team members have to push through heartbreaking discoveries as they make more discoveries while battling the effects it has on their personal lives.
While Spotlight has made it to the list of the best biopics on Netflix, the movie’s plot was original and loosely based on real cases by the Spotlight team.
3. First They Killed My Father (2017)
- IMDb Rating: 7.1/10
- Starring: Sreymoch Sareum, Kompheak Phoeung, Socheata Sveng, Dara Heng, Kimhak Mun, Run Malina, Sreyneang Oun, Tep Rindaro, Horm Chhora, Dy Sonita, Loung Ung, Tharoth Sam
This Cambodian-American biopic is based on the life of Loung Ung, a human rights activist, and a memoir she wrote that goes by the same name. It tells the heartbreaking tale of war, child labor, and loss.
When the Vietnam war spilled over into neighboring Cambodia, a new and brutal regime took over the country. From then on, Ung’s life, and that of her family and other citizens’ is overturned as they struggle to stay alive despite the harshest living conditions in labor camps.
Ung is recruited as a child soldier and has to deal with losing family members while fighting for the cause of her oppressors.
4. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
- IMDb Rating: 7.9/19
- Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Denis O’Hare, Steven Zahn, Michael O’Neill, Dallas Roberts, Griffin Dunne, Kevin Rankin, Bradford Cox, Scott Takeda, Adam Dunn
The film is based on Ron Woodroof, an AIDS patient diagnosed in the 80s when treatment options were still being researched and tested.
During the period when much stigma still surrounds the disease, Woodroof gets ostracized by family and others around him and ends up in a hospital where he becomes a candidate for clinical trials for treatment.
While the effects are counterproductive, Woodroof finds a treatment option in Mexico and joins with a transgender woman to sell it to other AIDS patients.
This leads to the birth of the Dallas Buyers Club, but the ride isn’t a smooth one as they have to deal with interference by the FDA and other challenges that come up.
5. Milk (2008)
- IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
- Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco, Allison Pill, Victor Garber, Denis O’Hare, Joseph Cross, Stephen Spinella, Lucas Grabeel, Jeff Koon, Stephen Wilg, Kelvin Han Yee
This film tells the story of Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist and one of the first openly gay public officials elected in California.
The storyline makes for one of the best biopics on Netflix for users who are particular about gay rights and want to see a cinematic representation of the struggle.
Harvey Milk had to balance rocky relationships with his political activism while striving for a platform and opportunity for people like him to live freely in a time where homophobia reigned freely.
6. Get On Up (2014)
- IMDb Rating: 6.9/10
- Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Craig Robinson, Octavia Spencer, Lennie James, Fred Melamed, Jill Scott, Josh Hopkins, Brandon Smith, Tika Sumpter
This musical drama tells the story of James Brown, an iconic singer famous for funk music. From a childhood riddled with poverty and abuse to eventual stardom, Brown’s novel makes for one of the best biopics on Netflix for lovers of soul music.
The plot follows a nonlinear pattern, alternating between varying timelines in Brown’s life to paint the picture of the man the public came to know and love.
But Brown’s story isn’t filled with just righteous acts; it shows him as a flawed individual that occasionally makes poor choices and brings hurt to the people around him.
7. Fruitvale Station ( 2013)
- IMDb Rating: 7.5/10
- Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Ahna O’Reilly, Octavia Spencer
Fruitvale Station tells the heartbreaking tale of Oscar Grant, an unfortunate victim of police brutality.
When Grant decides to take the train to San Francisco for the New year celebration, he doesn’t know it’ll be the start of a series of events that will lead to the loss of his life.
8. Straight Outta Compton (2015)
- IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
- Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Paul Giamatti, Marlon Yates, R. Marcos Taylor, Lakeith Stanfield, Alexander Shipp, Corey Reynolds, Tate Ellington, Sheldon Smith, Elena Goode, Keith Powers, Mark Sherman, LaDell Preston
This is one of the best biopics on Netflix for those who love rap music and want to see the evolution of ‘gangsta rap’ from the pioneers. It follows the story of the members of the N.W.A group in the 90s and the rise and fall of the group.
A drug dealer, a young rapper, and an aspiring DJ come together to form the N.W.A. Being young African American men, they have to struggle against interference by the police and a public that’s not used to the intensity of their rap style.
Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube are members of the N.W.A and the film shows their early days in the group, the challenges they face in the course of their career, and how they eventually go on to pursue a solo career.
9. The Founder (2016)
- IMDb Rating: 7.2/10
- Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, B. J. Novak, Patrick Wilson, Griff Furst, Wilbur Fitzgerald, Justin Randell, Kate Kneeland, Laura Den, Afemo Omilami
The Founder is based on the Story of Ray Kroc, the man known for founding and popularising the Mcdonald’s franchise.
Ray is a Milkshake salesman looking for more business opportunities when he hears of the McDonalds brothers and goes to see their thriving success, albeit small-scale fast food business.
With an eye for business, he can turn what was a small-scale business into the popular fast food known today.
The movie shows the story of Ray’s perseverance and ruthlessness in business and how he could take away the franchise from the original owners and grow it into something much bigger.
Despite little commercial success, it makes for an exciting retelling of the events that led up to the popularity of McDonald’s in America today. It is one of the best biopics on Netflix.
10. Legend (2015)
- IMDb Rating: 6.9/10
- Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Colin Morgan, Taron Egerton, David Thewlis, Duffy, Christopher Eccleston, Chazz Palminteri
Legend tells the story of the Kray twins, gangsters in London’s criminal underworld in the late 20th century. The biopic was adapted from the book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray twins.
This crime drama makes for one of the best biopics on Netflix for thriller lovers. The Kray twins steadily rise to the criminal ranks through their use of extortion and violence to control London’s criminal underworld.
The film goes on to portray Reg Kray’s troubled romantic relationship as well as Ron’s violent tendencies that are often much more trouble than its worth, and it is a good representation of the ills of a life of crime.
11. Catch Me if You Can (2002)
- IMDb Rating: 8.1/10
- Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye, Amy Adams, James Brolin, Nancy Lenehan, Candice Azzara, Malachi Throne, Alfred Dennis, Amy Acker, James Morrison.
This crime drama makes one of the best biopics on Netflix also for its light-hearted, humorous theme. It is based on an autobiography by Frank Abagnale, a conman who allegedly performed cons worth millions of dollars before the age of 19.
Abagnale runs away from home, and since he’s hard pressed for money, he turns to scams to survive. His relative success makes him more confident, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s impersonating professionals to earn millions of dollars.
Frank poses as a pilot and a doctor but has to be on the run from FBI agents who are on to him and are determined to catch this con man.
12. I, Tonya (2017)
- IMDb Rating: 7.5/10
- Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Caitlin Carver, Paul Hauser, Bobby Cannavale, Ricky Russet, Bojana Novakovic, Dan Triandiflou
The biopic follows the story of Tonya Harding, a figure skater, and portrays the events leading up to the attack on her rival in the 1994 Olympic games.
Tonya’s career as a figure skater starts during her childhood when her abusive mother forces it on her.
As her career progresses and she becomes a professional, Tonya deals with many challenges, such as an abusive husband, an unsupportive mother, and a string of poor decisions that ultimately lead to being banned from the one thing she knows how to do best – figure skating.
The biopic is loosely based on Tonya and her ex-husband’s narrative in a series of interviews.