25 best biopics ever

Lives less ordinary are often immortalised in film. Some are triumphant, some tragic. These are the best

La Vie En Rose (2007)

Marion Cotillard does her turn as “Little Sparrow” Edith Piaf in this story of the street singer turned French national treasure. The plot zips back and forth but if you can keep up, you’ll quickly be drawn into the stories of the murdered club owner who discovers her, Piaf’s love affair with Marcel Cerdan and the death of her only child. It gets emotional.

Goodfellas (1990)

Martin Scorsese's classic crime saga follows Ray Liotta's Henry Hill as he works his way up the gangster hierarchy, lured into a life of crime by the perks of being a 'made man'. It's packed with classic scenes, from the one-take Steadicam Copacabana shot to the frenetic jump cuts of the drug-paranoia sequence. And of course there's Joe Pesci's career-best performance as the psychotic Tommy "funny how?" DeVito.

More after the break...

Chaplin (1992)

Before his recent rebirth as Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr's career-best performance was undoubtedly his Oscar-nominated turn as Charlie Chaplin. Richard Attenborough's film sprawls a little, but Downey Jr's portrayal of Chaplin – from impoverished music-hall turn to the iconic Little Fellow – is riveting.

Patton (1970)

George C Scott's vainglorious General Patton is one of cinema's great warriors, bestriding the battlefield like a colossus. But director Franklin J Schaffner's film goes beneath the surface – his Patton self-consciously crafts a stage persona as a flamboyant war leader, while simultaneously buying into his own propaganda. "General, the men don't always know when you're acting or not," says one officer. "They don't need to know," Patton replies. "Only I need to know."

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

If you get the chance to see David Lean's 1962 epic on the big screen, do it. Television – yes, even your Philips 21:9 monster – doesn't do justice to its sweeping landscapes and visual spectacle, all shot on 70mm film. And that's before we even get to the performances – Peter O'Toole as the unconventional hero, given the opportunity to act out on a grand stage, and Alec Guinness and Omar Sharif in justifiably famous supporting turns.

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