March Madness of Movies: Best Biopics

Crystal Zhong/Staff

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The first round of the biopics bracket went mostly as expected. When lower seeds beat higher seeds, most of them felt warranted, such as the win of “Good Night, and Good Luck” over “American Splendor” and the defeat of “Walk the Line” by “Malcolm X.” But there was an evident trend of more popular films defeating lesser-known movies. “Moneyball” took down the 1967 classic “Bonnie and Clyde,” and the eight-time Academy Award-winning “Amadeus” beat the reflectively revered Western, the film with the never-ending title, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” “Selma,” starring the notoriously snubbed David Oyelowo and directed by the notoriously snubbed Ava DuVernay, defeated the seemingly forgotten 1987 film “The Last Emperor.”

And, in a rather expected turnout, the Leonardo Dicaprio-starring “Catch Me If You Can” won over the foreign awards powerhouse “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” That supremely infectious Steven Spielberg biopic, along with the affecting “Malcolm X,” rode its respective fun and power all the way to the final four, taking out Scorsese masterpieces “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas” (How?!) as well as all-time classic “Lawrence of Arabia.” Despite Scorsese movies missing out on the final four, four of the all-time great director’s films held spots in the competition, showcasing his skill in the genre. In addition, Bennett Miller’s entire feature filmography, consisting of “Capote,” “Moneyball” and “Foxcatcher,” made it into the competition.

The final four turned out to be a fascinating spread, seemingly representing the most lasting biopics — “Goodfellas” may not really feel like a biopic. Joining those two films were No. 1 seed “Schindler’s List,” a hallmark biopic about the man who saved more than 1,000 Jewish lives — Spielberg’s second film in the final four — and No. 2 seed “The Social Network,” a landmark, unconventional biopic taking a look at a not-so-sympathetic man who changed the modern world with Facebook. The stories across these four are various in both time and person, and they showcase how different, yet wholly affecting, the biopic genre can be.

Though every film in the final four is affecting, few films ever reach the level of power and gravitas that “Schindler’s List” holds. Without a doubt, it is in the upper echelon of Steven Spielberg’s many masterpieces, if not the defining film of his career. The film unflinchingly depicts the horrors of the Holocaust, but amid the complete disregard for human life, Spielberg lets deeply moving imagery shine through, such as the contrast between a little girl’s red coat in an otherwise black-and-white film. Additionally, Liam Neeson gives the performance of his career as Oskar Schindler, a role that earned him a Best Actor nomination in the 1993 Academy Awards. The great Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes and Caroline Goodall round out a cast that makes an already moving film so much more powerful.

Because “Schindler’s List” and the other great biopics on this bracket are true stories, we see the clearest reflections of ourselves — our pasts, our current realities and the futures we should aspire to.


March Madness of Movies brackets were voted on by the Arts & Entertainment staff.

Harrison Tunggal covers film. Contact him at [email protected]. Kyle Kizu is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Tweet him at @kyle_kizu.