/Answers: Our Favorite Biopics of All Time

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women Review

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. Tying in with the release of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (which tells the story of how William Marston, Elizabeth Marston, and Olivia Byrne created Wonder Woman), this week’s edition asks “What is your favorite biopic, or movie about the life of a real person?”

Man on the Moon Documentary

Ethan Anderton: Man on the Moon

Andy Kaufman was one of the most unique talents in the history of comedy, so it only makes sense that the biopic telling his life story follows suit. Infused with the spirit of Kaufman’s meta comedic approach, the film not only acknowledges the audience, but pranks them throughout, especially those who aren’t familiar with Andy Kaufman’s antics in the 1970s and the early 1980s. It’s a rare biopic where there are intriguing and hilarious twists, but they’re not just for the sake of pulling the rug out from under the audience. Instead, these surprising turns create a sense of uncertainty that many felt about Andy Kaufman, making us unsure of the true identity of this brilliant mind. Who was the real Andy Kaufman?

Jim Carrey delivers a career-defining performance, one that will soon be chronicled in a documentary about the actor’s choice to stay in character throughout the film’s production, even when the cameras weren’t rolling (you can find out more in our review of the doc from TIFF). The performance Carrey gives feels fueled by his own off-screen antics. At the height of his carer, Carrey was a total goofball, but as we’ve learned in recent years, as the actor gets more existential about life, we may not truly know the real Jim Carrey, much in the same way we never knew the real Andy Kaufman. That’s a huge part of what makes his portrayal in this film so brilliant.

Director Milos Forman creates such a convincing portrait of Andy Kaufman that it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it better. Using the real life celebrities who became embroiled in Kaufman’s controversial comedy, as well as plenty of comedians in tiny supporting roles (keep an eye out for Patton Oswalt), this film is a comedy nerd’s dream, and it’s a damn good biopic to boot.

Vanessa Bogart: The Imitation Game

The origins of the MI6, a long held military intelligence secret, the end of WWII, and the beginning of the computer, Imitation Game is not just my favorite biopic, it is one of my favorite movies. Period.

A story that desperately needed telling, the life and work of Alan Turing is as fascinating as it is unbelievably tragic. However, The Imitation Game is no ordinary biographical film. While exploring Turing’s life through parallels of his childhood in flashbacks and his top secret military task of cracking the Nazi Enigma machine, The Imitation Game manages to also be one of the best war movies I have ever seen. Much like Reservoir Dogs is a heist movie without a heist, Imitation Game shows the side of war that is usually never seen. It is an eye-opening exploration of the pen and paper side of battle.

Deeply misunderstood, Alan Turing is not the most likable of people, but Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role so beautifully that you can understand the array of emotions going on inside of Turing even when he is unable to convey them verbally. The three interweaving timelines of the film lead to the heartbreaking end. Just as we realize what an integral part Alan Turing played in winning the war against Nazi Germany, the narrative reminds us how deeply askew our moral compass can be, for this war hero, and the father computers, met his end tragically to suicide after being arrested for indecency. Being a homosexual was illegal and Imitation Game serves as a reminder of the cost of that kind of ignorance.

I can only dream about how advanced this computer would be had Alan Turing been able to continue his work for decades. The Imitation Game is a biopic with many faces and I look forward to watching it for years to come, not just because of its historical relevance or the fact that it is a brilliant film, but to honor the tragic enigma at its center.

Ben Pearson: The Social Network

Let’s face it: biopics can often be formulaic and frankly, a bit tiresome. But I doubt anyone would ever use those words to describe David Fincher’s 2010 masterwork, The Social Network. Chronicling the invention and rise of Facebook through the eyes of key players like Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Sean Parker, and the Winklevoss twins, the film sounds, on paper, like a monumentally dumb concept. A movie about Facebook? Really? It earns the highest ranking possible on the Lord & Miller Scale of “Movies That Sound Like A Terrible Idea.”

But thankfully, Fincher’s famously (and obsessively) precise direction married perfectly with a stellar script by master wordsmith Aaron Sorkin and resulted in a mesmerizing, kinetic drama that’s downright Shakespearean. Whether or not the film is entirely accurate ceases to matter when you’re watching something this purely entertaining, and terrific performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and more elevate what could have been a made-for-TV retelling of events into something operatic and captivating. I’m not bothered by the fact that it’s not a comprehensive look into Zuckerberg’s life, or that it may have mischaracterized some of the actions and motivations of the players involved. This movie has the goods, and this ranks pretty high up there in terms of rewatchability for me, which isn’t something that can be said about a lot of biopics.

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