Who does not love a biopic? Using the life of a real person — sometimes famous, sometimes less so — to illustrate grand sweeps of history and culture or illuminate underseen moments, this popular genre is built for obsessive watching (not to mention Oscar nods). Part of the thrill of a biopic is that feeling of getting inside another life for a few hours, of seeing the world through another set of eyes. Sure, they're not documentary-level accurate at times, but biopics are great entertainment and can open us up to whole new areas to explore further.
Enjoy a walk in someone else's shoes on your next movie night with these 17 fascinating films from every decade from the 1970s to now.
Best actor Oscar-winner George C. Scott led the pack of seven wins — including best picture — for this rousing World War II drama. He slays and speechifies as the famed, controversial, cigar-chomping iconoclast Gen. George C. Patton, with Karl Malden in strong support as Gen. Omar N. Bradley.
RELATED: Isn't it hard to believe that Patton was made 50 years ago? Check out 11 more memorable films all notching a half century in 2020, here: You Won't Believe the Movies That Are Turning 50 in 2020
Norma Rae (1979)
Sally Field, 73, won the Oscar for playing the titular spunky North Carolina factory worker who stood up on the shop table and rallied her mill colleagues to unionize in this inspiring, well-acted and fact-based entertainment.
Where to watch: Hulu
Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)
Sissy Spacek, 70, sings her heart out as Loretta Lynn, 88, the “Queen of Country Music” — and nails an Oscar-winning performance. The biopic follows her rags to riches story from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, to the spotlight of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. Tommy Lee Jones, 73, plays her husband, manager and father of their six children.
RELATED: Did Loretta Lynn put you in a country music mood? Check out our latest playlist of new country singers, ready to stream right from your favorite device, here: Try AARP's New Country Music Playlist
In a bit of casting that would be considered insensitive in the current climate, English actor Sir Ben Kingsley, 76, portrays the Indian lawyer and activist whose nonviolent movement helped to end British rule on the subcontinent. Helmed by the late Richard Attenborough, the epic drama scored eight Oscars, including Kingsley's best actor, Attenborough's best director, and best picture.
The Last Emperor (1987)
Legendary director Bernardo Bertolucci crafts an epic tale of China's final emperor, Pu Yi, played as an adult by John Lone, 67, alongside fellow cast members Joan Chen, 59, and the late Peter O'Toole. It won a mammoth nine Oscars in 1988, including best picture and best director.