“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.”
A landslide, indeed. Blame the advent of 24-hour cable news, the popularity of reality TV or social media, which allows anyone to invent their own version of their life for public consumption on a daily basis. But biopics have over-run awards season of late while fictional features are becoming a rarity at this time of year, save for the constant stream of comic-book adventures.
Consider that in 1939, often referred to as the greatest year for movies in Hollywood history, all 10 Best Picture candidates – including the winner, “Gone With the Wind” – were based on fictional premises. In fact, only two biopics –“The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn and “Young Mr. Lincoln” with Henry Fonda — settled for nominations in other categories but collected no wins that year.
That was then. This is now. According to the combined Best Picture predictions made by Experts, Editors and Users on Gold Derby, there are six biopics likely to land on the Oscar ballot: “Roma,” which stretches the definition of a fact-based film, is informed by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘70s childhood in Mexico City; “Green Book” is an early ‘60s road-trip comedy about a real-life odd-couple, namely black musician Don Shirley and Tony Lip, the Italian bouncer he hires as his driver; “The Favourite” digs into the back-stabbing goings-on in the 18th-century court of Great Britain’s Queen Anne; “BlacKkKlansman” centers on Ron Stallworth, a black cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan with help from a white colleague; “Vice” often humorously dissects the impact that power-hungry Vice President Dick Cheney had on our political landscape; and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is about rock legends Queen and its frontman Freddie Mercury.
There is a thick second layer of possibilities as well, including “First Man,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “Boy Erased,” “Beautiful Boy,” “Mary Queen of Scots,” “The Mule,” “The Old Man and the Gun,” “On the Basis of Sex.,” “Colette,” “A Private War,” “The Front Runner,” “At Eternity’s Gate” and “Stan & Ollie.”
Of course, one of the biggest drawbacks with any biographical account is that it tends to be put through the truth meter wringer and called out for twisted facts and inaccuracies. But when a superior entry in the genre hits the right spot, critics will usually cut it some slack.
Given this current outbreak of true-story fever, what better time to rank Oscar’s 18 Best Picture biographical winners, from worst to best? A few don’t fully conform to the format of conveying a single person’s life story but, instead, focus on a historical event involving real-life figures. Our gallery includes “12 years a Slave,” “Amadeus,” “Schindler’s List,” “Lawrence of Arabia” and more.
Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.