Your definitive guide to 2019’s best biopics and real-life movies

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Love a true story on screen? These are the movies you need to add to your must-watch list in 2019, starting with the entrants from the Tribeca Film Festival. 

Based on a true story.

For many movie-going audiences, seeing those words on the big screen is enough to send a pleasure down their spine. Biopics and films based on real-life events are insanely popular, going on to win 16 of the most recent Best Picture awards at the Oscars. Of the five nominees in Best Actor at the 2019 Academy Awards, four were performance from a biopic. The exception to the rule was Bradley Cooper’s blistering performance as Jackson Maine in A Star Is Born, but the winner, famously, was Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Audiences and critics alike can’t get enough of biopics, and we don’t blame them. There’s something thrilling about watching a true story, featuring familiar faces, on the silver screen. It’s more exciting and intimate than reading about them in a history book – in a biopic, it feels like you’re really getting under the skin of the person whose life story you are watching unfold.

So what 2019 biopics should you put on your radar this year as part of your list of feminist films to see in the cinema? Here are Stylist’s picks for real-life movies to suit all tastes.

American Woman

Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, American Woman is a dramatised reimagining of the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst, played by Alias Grace’s Sarah Gadon. But the movie is less about Hearst, daughter of a media mogul, and more about Jenny Shimada (Hong Chau), a 25-year-old drafted to care for Hearst and the kidnappers as they go on the run from the authorities. The movie is based on real events but with a ficionalised twist, and is directed by Semi Chellas – writer and producer of Mad Men and The Romanoffs – in her feature directing debut. 

When is American Woman released? American Woman will be released in the US and the UK later this year. 

Charlie Says 

Get ready to be bombarded with Charles Manson movies in 2019. This year marks half a century since Manson’s followers executed brutal murders at his behest, and the fascination with the crimes shows no sign of abating. 

Later in 2019 Quentin Tarantino’s loosely-based Charles Manson biopic Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood will be released, but critics are more excited about Charlie Says, starring The Crown’s Matt Smith as the cult leader. Directed by Mary Harron, it premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, and puts the focus squarely on Manson’s followers rather than the man himself.     

When is Charlie Says released? Charlie Says will be released in the US on 10 May and in the UK later in 2019. 

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

The true crime obsession continues with Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, the controversial biopic of American serial killer Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) told from the perspective of Liz (Lily Collins), the woman who turned him into the authorities… and stayed by his side throughout. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival this month, the movie will be released on 3 May on Netflix.  

When is Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile released? Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile will be released on Netflix on 3 May. 

Vita & Virginia

Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki star as writers Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf in this lush film about the literary icons’ lesbian relationship. The film, which originally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, dives deep into Woolf’s life as she pens her masterpiece Orlando and falls in and out of love with Sackville-West. Fun fact: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s sister Isobel wrote the score for the film.

When is Vita & Virginia released? Vita & Virginia is released on 16 May in the UK and later in the year in the US. 

Rocketman

Few movies are as eagerly anticipated as Rocketman, the no-holds-barred Elton John biopic starring Taron Egerton as Reginald Dwight himself. Egerton, who was hand-picked by John to star in the film, is said to be a warts-and-all tale of the singer’s epic rise in the music industry. Richard Madden and Jamie Bell co-star as manager John Reid and best friend Bernie Taupin respectively, while Celine Schoenmaker will play Renate Blauel, the woman to whom John was married for a brief period. (You can read the true story of their heartbreaking marriage here.) 

When is Rocketman released? Rocketman will be released in the UK on 24 May and in the US on 31 May. 

The Best of Enemies 

After winning an Oscar as a racist cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Sam Rockwell is doubling down, taking on the most racist role of all: Klu Klux Klan leader CP Ellis. This unbelievable true story follows the unlikely relationship between Ellis and Ann Atwater (Taraji P Henson), a civil rights activist with whom Ellis is asked to co-chair a committee about ending segregation in North Carolina. If you liked The Help and Hidden Figures, this one is for you.

When is The Best Of Enemies released? The Best of Enemies is screening in the US now and in the UK later this year. 

Official Secrets

Political thrillers don’t come more thrilling than this. Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode and Ralph Fiennes, this is the story of a British whistleblower who leaked information to the media about an illegal espionage operation involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

When is Official Secrets released? Official Secrets will be released in the US on 23 August and in the UK later this year. 

Judy

Is there a better power move than naming your film after only the first name of its subject? Because we’re here for it, especially when it comes to Judy, the much-anticipated film about Judy Garland starring Renee Zellweger in the title role. The movie isn’t a traditional biopic, and instead focuses on the year Garland spent in London in 1968 right before she died. Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli has expressed her disapproval of the film, but if anyone can pull of the pathos required to embody Garland on the big screen, it’s Zellweger.

When is Judy being released? Judy will be released in the US and the UK later this year. 

Ford vs Ferrari

Le Mans, in north west France, is famous for gorgeous Loire Valley chateaus, plentiful red wine and the thrilling 24-hour car race that brings France to a standstill. Back in 1966, American car company Ford was desperate to wrest the cup back from Italian rival Ferrari, and this is the story of the team who would go to any lengths to do so. A moment of silence for this movie’s epic cast, please: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Outlander’s Caitriona Balfe and Jon Bernthal.

When is Ford vs Ferrari released? Ford vs Ferrari will be released on 15 November in the US. 

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Few figures loom as large in the memory of American childhoods as Fred Rogers. The creator of children’s television show Mr Roger’s Neighborhood, the man is an icon of American television. Who better, then, to portray him in the first biopic made about him but Tom Hanks, the greatest living American movie star? Marielle Heller – the woman behind Can You Ever Forgive Me? – is directing, with Susan Kelechi Watkins and Matthew Rhys co-starring. BYO Kleenex for this one. 

When is A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood released? A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood will be released on 22 November in the US and 6 December in the UK. 

The Irishman

Jimmy Hoffa, an American union leader, was reported missing in 1975 at the age of 62, a disappearance that has always been sinister and mysterious. In Martin Scorsese’s much-anticipated new movie The Irishman, the director tells the story of Hoffa’s potential links to the mob, and how it could all have been his undoing.

A veritable who’s who of Scorsese favourites, from Robet de Niro, Al Pacino, Jesse Plemons, Bobby Canavale, Jack Huston star alongside Anna Paquin, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. This is Scorsese’s first film in partnership with Netflix, so take that, all those who think Netflix movies can’t win Oscars

When is The Irishman released? The Irishman will be released on Netflix later this year. 

The Report

After first premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, The Report tells the terrifying true story of CIA brutality involved in the interrogation program after the 9/11 attacks. Adam Driver is starring as Daniel Jones, who led the Senate investigation into the CIA, with Annette Bening starring as Dianne Feinstein, whose titular report detailed the abuse. The movie received rave reviews from screenings at the Sundance Film Festival, so expect this one to make a splash in the 2020 Oscars race. Because it’s about time that Annette Bening won the Oscar she deserved to win for American Beauty

When is The Report released? The Report will be released on Amazon Prime later this year. 

Misbehaviour 

The 1970 Miss World competition will go down in history as the year the first black woman was crowned victor, and this movie will tell the story of that groundbreaking competition. Starring Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessie Buckley, Suki Waterhouse and Leslie Manville, the film is slated for release later in 2019 or in early 2020.

When is Misbehaviour released? Misbehaviour will be released later in 2019. 

Untitled Roger Ailes Movie 

For American politics junkies, the forthcoming Roger Ailes movie is cause for celebration. The film will document the downfall of Fox News’ mogul in the aftermath of sexual misconduct allegations against him, and will feature a seriously star-studded cast taking on every major role.

The Crown’s John Lithgow will play Ailes, while – deep breath – Nicole Kidman will play Gretchen Carlson, the television journalist who sues Ailes in 2016. Megyn Kelly, the controversial Fox anchor who also made claims against Ailes, will be played by Charlize Theron. Allison Janney will play Ailes’ attorney Susan Estrich, while Connie Britton will play Beth Ailes, Roger’s wife. Rupert Murdoch will be played by Malcolm McDowell.

Margot Robbie is the only star not playing a real person. Her character, Kayla Pospisil, is a fictional Fox News producer who serves as the audience surrogate.

When is The Untitled Roger Ailes Movie released? The Untitled Roger Ailes Movie will be released in the US and the UK later this year. 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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