Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    "This simple formula rarely fails. Pick a deceased (or soon to be deceased) musician, artist or mathematician, make sure they're the sort of person the New York media could conceivably refer to as brilliant, insert a big name actor (or Gary Busey) to play the role; watch movie critics and audiences far and wide go apeshit."
    Adam Brown of, on the subject of Oscar Bait.

    Based on a True Story, but longer. The Biopic is... well a picture (or motion picture, rather) that tells a person's biography. It takes a real person's life and tries to create drama from the things that the person experienced, to a varying degree of success.

    The difference between a Biopic and Based On a True Story is that the Biopic takes place under a much longer time-span, years as opposed to, say, a summer (Finding Neverland). The famous person must also be the story's protagonist.

    Due to the unending way we tend to live our life, the Biopic tends to, much like the 19th century novel, end with either the protagonist's Death, him getting married/ Finding God / Growing Up (after which he gets boring), his Downfall (after which he gets boring unless there's a Comeback) or his Greatest Triumph (which may be or follow the Comeback, but after which there is not much more to say).

    Lately there have been a lot of biopics about famous musicians, mainly due to the fact that the (unavoidable?) drug/alcohol-abuse is a simple way to create drama and that all the recording sessions/concerts are an easy foil to let the soundtrack shine. Another popular sub-genre, based-on-truth movies about athletes, can count as these, and are a good source of Manly Tears. Walk Hard savagely mocks the musical biopic subgenre.

    This genre's been around for decades, and it's changed and adapted with time. While some films might heavily whitewash their subjects and their times if the intent is to show them in a positive light, it's now more common to explore the many facets, good and bad, of a protagonist's personality. This change is probably most noticeable when the subject is a historical figure - a politician and/or a military leader, for example. With performers it's particularly popular to chronicle those whose offscreen/stage behavior sharply contrasted to their work; i.e., comedians who couldn't find laughter in real life. Other films tell of those who didn't necessarily live great lives, but wonderfully unique ones - it's not a coincidence that the same screenwriting duo wrote Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon.

    This genre is extremely subjective with both its makers and its viewers and largely depends on the point of view both parties bring to the table. If the filmmaker is more interested in the sad times, a viewer who loves the subject and knows what's left out might find the film too negative and their hero turned into a Jerkass. A filmmaker who wants to focus on the good times can upset a viewer who feels the protagonist is being unduly glorified.

    A rich source of Oscar Bait. Essentially the movie form of the Biography. Compare Roman à Clef. Expect many to exhibit Mononymous Biopic Titles.

    When one of this is made from the perspective of someone other than the subject, it's called a Sidelong Glance Biopic.

    Examples of Biopic include:

    Tropes that are frequently used in this genre include

    • Artistic License: Big time.
    • Composite Character: Multiple real people might be collapsed to one in particular if they essentially serve the same purpose in the subject's life. Andy Kaufman's late-in-life girlfriend Lynne Margulies is an example in Man on the Moon (where she's played by Courtney Love); she both represents the real Lynne and other women in his life, and enters the story much earlier than in reality.
    • Did Not Do the Research / They Just Didn't Care: Quite often, sadly.
    • Historical Hero Upgrade / Historical Villain Upgrade: Likely to happen when conflict with another person/group is key to the story.
    • Montages: With the sheer amount of time covered, transitions from one period to the next are often handled this way.
    • Nothing but Hits: Common to the genre as a whole, but most pronounced in films about musicians.
    • Oscar Bait
    • Politically-Correct History: A side effect of the Historical Hero Upgrade in particular, but pops up in nearly all of them to varying degrees.
    • Post Modernism: Because story structure in this genre is so predictable, some more recent films invoke this to freshen things up. Commonly, the filmmakers try to frame the story in the style of the performer's work. For example, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers has a film-within-a-film structure: Peter (Geoffrey Rush) is making the film and "actually" playing everyone in it. Man on the Moon admits its use of Artistic License in the opening sequence and builds a Credits Gag from it.
      • Film-in-a-film/character as himself is also used in Beyond The Sea, to justify Kevin Spacey's tiny bit of Dawson Casting - the subject, singer Bobby Darin died at a relatively early age.
    • Tear Jerker
    • They Changed It, Now It Sucks: Viewers more knowledgeable than others about the subject matter are often aggravated by any changes made to the story, particularly reordering events and/or dropping them. Since different people have different ideas about what is important, this is extremely subjective. Also, it doesn't just apply to viewers—the subject and/or their friends/family might have issues with what is and isn't included.
    • Time Skip: Another common way to handle the passage of time.
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