These are all American biography movies from the 1990's. Probably my favorite decade for the amount of biography movies that came out. "Les Miserables" and "Crucible" are a couple honorable mentions from the 1990's not originally released in the US.
Biography movies regularly teach me about the greater importance of life. The characters are real followed by a tale of an inspiring hero. Every one of these movies taught me something about my own life. The subject of war, the art of music, the hidden crimes. People every now and then should watch a biography movie.
Welcome to my top 21 biography movies from the 90's, in order by year of release, fun facts included. Enjoy!
Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy. (146 mins.)
“ Director Martin Scorsese has done some powerful movies throughout his career. "Goodfellas" was probably the first movie I saw at the age of 7, depicting the world of real life gangsters. I watched this before watching "The Godfather" trilogy. The trio of actors Ray Liotta(Something Wild), Robert De Niro(Cape Fear), and Joe Pesci(JFK); has made this one of my only favorite trios of gangsters in film. The actors have gone on to make a lot of my favorite movies over the course of four decades.
FUN FACT: Ray Liotta's mother died of cancer during filming. Liotta says that he used his anger over losing his mother for certain scenes, the pistol-whipping scene in particular. ” - Gentleman_Caller
The story of the famous and influential 1960s rock band and its lead singer and composer, Jim Morrison, from his days as a UCLA film student in Los Angeles, to his untimely death in Paris, France at age 27 in 1971. (140 mins.)
“ Director Oliver Stone has been known for biography pictures. "JFK" down below, as well as "World trade Center" from the 2000's. The Rock&Roll band 'The Doors' was long before my time. But I've watched so many movies use their music even today, that everyone should know something about the music band. They've made music history to following musicians of future generations. Their story must be seen.
FUN FACT: The surviving members of "The Doors" claim that Val Kilmer did such a good job playing Jim Morrison and singing as Jim Morrison that they could not distinguish his voice from the real Morrison's. ” - Gentleman_Caller
A New Orleans DA discovers there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story. (189 mins.)
“ Originally what had drawn my attention to this movie was the cast of actors. After I watched this movie it became the plot line that grabbed me more. I was aware of the presidents assassination at an early age but not the full story of the conspiracy to murder him. There's been a couple movies and documentaries that re-enact that moment in history. This movie is a great start as any to learn more about the death of one of our greatest presidents. "Nixon"(Anthony Hopkins), another great president biography from the early 90's.
FUN FACT: Many actors waived their usual fees to appear in the film. ” - Gentleman_Caller
A Mexican-American Mafia kingpin is released from prison, falls in love for the first time, and grows introspective about his gangster lifestyle. (125 mins.)
“ Edward James Olmos acts and directs in the movie, "American Me". One of those prison movies that messed me up. Not in a way of being disgusted to watch. But it's kind of truth. The way of life for many of the latino Mexicans living amongst the Los Angeles crime. The movie reminds me much of the early 90s movie "Blood In, Blood Out". Honest and sad.
FUN FACT: According to 60 Minutes, three people who acted as consultants on this film were later murdered because of the depiction of a homosexual rape scene that reportedly deeply offended the Mexican Mafia's machismo. ” - Gentleman_Caller
A film about the troubled and controversial life of the master comedy filmmaker Charles Chaplin
. (143 mins.)
“ Robert Downey Jr. had been one of my favorite teen sensations from the 1980's. This was his first big break to separate himself from that early image, to the mainstream of A-List actors. Nominated for his first Academy Award in the movie "Chaplin". Up and down in the middle of his career, Downey returned to the spotlight again to receive another Oscar nomination for "Tropic Thunder". Continuing to remain one of the most watched comedian actors today.
FUN FACT: Robert Downey Jr. recorded the song "Smile," which can be heard on the soundtrack from the movie. However, it was not used in the film. ” - Gentleman_Caller
The story of the notorious American labor union figure, Jimmy Hoffa. (140 mins.)
“ Directed by Danny DeVito, probably some of his best work in all of his comedic career. And in my opinion, Jack Nicholson deserved some kind of nomination for his portrayal as union leader Jimmy Hoffa. It was a gripping performance of the Teamsters organization. And a very interesting ending to what might've happened to one of the most popular disappearances in US history.
FUN FACT: Director Tim Burton has a role as one of the corpses in the Teamsters' funeral scene. ” - Gentleman_Caller
Biographical epic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster, to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam. (202 mins.)
“ Probably Spike Lee's best movie to date. Muslim Martyr Malcolm X is beautiful depicted by the young Denzel Washington in one of his earliest roles of his career. "Malcolm X" is an important story about the tentions in America on racism during the 60's. In following years Denzel went on to star in the biography movie, "The Hurricane". Also a fan of "The Hurricane" I was not a fan of the numerous changes made from the true story.
FUN FACT: Spike Lee urged kids to cut school to see his movie, believing that "X" provides just as much (or more) education. ” - Gentleman_Caller
This Boy's Life
The story about the relationship between a rebellious 50s teenager and his abusive father, based on the memoirs of writer and literature professor Tobias Wolff. (115 mins.)
“ This is one of those childhood movies that I think anyone who had a disgruntled father could relate to. Leonardo DiCaprio(Titanic) at an early age was captivating already to watch. His portrayal of real life Tobias Wolff is a sad and amazing story to grow up with. "Robert De Niro"(Goodfellas) represents all that is wrong with the mental abuse some parents may leave us with. A beautiful film that any fan of either actor should watch.
FUN FACT: Leonardo DiCaprio grew a few inches while shooting the film and he had to slouch in several scenes to look smaller next to Robert De Niro. ” - Gentleman_Caller
In Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis. (195 mins.)
“ Director Steven Spielberg is one of my top three directors of all-time. I can't count how many times I've watched "Jaws", The "Indiana Jones" trilogy, "Jurassic Park", and "Saving Private Ryan". Directing the biography movie "Empire of the Sun" and currently working on the biography movie "Lincoln". "Schindler's List" is one of the best World War II movies that captures the life of Jews during Nazi Germany.
FUN FACT: Steven Spielberg's first R-rated film, is the most expensive black & white film ever made to date. The previous record was held for over 30 years by another film about World War II, The Longest Day. ” - Gentleman_Caller
What's Love Got to Do with It
The story of singer Tina Turner's rise to stardom and how she gained the courage to break free from abusive husband, Ike Turner. (118 mins.)
“ "What's Love Got To Do With It" is a true story about husband and wife musicians Tina and Ike Turner. Their abusive relationship became the life-long struggle of Tina Turner during her famous music career, and the success of overcoming it. Angela Bassett(Boyz n the Hood) and Laurence Fishburne(Boyz n the Hood) are full of chemistry between songs and fights. This may be one of the saddest love stories you'll see in music history.
FUN FACT: Laurence Fishburne turned down the role of Ike Turner five times. When he learned that Angela Bassett had won the role of Tina Turner, he changed his mind. ” - Gentleman_Caller
An ambitious but troubled movie director tries his best to fulfill his dream, despite his lack of support. (127 mins.)
“ After the success of director Tim Burton with "Batman", "Batman Returns" and his love story "Edward Scissorhands." Burton took on the biography of bad director Ed Wood. It's hilarious to see how bad a director could be in early movie cinema. Perfectly portrayed by the performance of Johnny Depp. It's comedic, it's black & white, it's the story of Ed Wood. This just might be the best movie directed by Tim Burton.
FUN FACT: One day Kathy Wood, the wife of Edward D. Wood Jr., visited the set and asked to meet Johnny Depp. That day they were filming a scene where Wood would look really messed up, which made Burton nervous for what Kathy would think of the movie. When Depp exited his trailer she said, "That's my Eddie." ” - Gentleman_Caller
The Basketball Diaries
A teenager finds his dreams of becoming a basketball star threatened after he free falls into the harrowing world of drug addiction. (102 mins.)
“ Leonardo DiCaprio(Romeo + Juliet) was continuing to make a name for himself. Starring as Jim Carroll, who had risen and quickly fell to being addicted to drugs with his close friend Mark Wahlberg(Fear). There's some graphic scenes between the sexual abuse Carroll suffered involving teachers and strangers on the streets. A real life lesson of what to watch out for when you're young, talented, struggling to escape the addictions you fall into. A great movie that more kids of this generation need to see. Watch "Permanent Midnight" for another serious drug related biography starring Ben Stiller.
FUN FACT: After being nominated for an Oscar for Running on Empty, MTV asked River Phoenix what he wanted to do next. He responded by pulling out a beat up paperback of "The Basketball Diaries" and stated "I want to play Jim Carroll." Leonardo DiCaprio won the role and was a fan of Phoenix's. ” - Gentleman_Caller
When his secret bride is executed for assaulting an English soldier who tried to rape her, William Wallace begins a revolt against King Edward I of England. (178 mins.)
“ "Braveheart" is a great action biography about the war of Scotland to overturn the English Rule. Mel Gibson isn't just one of my favorite directors, but also action stars of the time. This movie may not be 100% accurate as far as biographies go, but it doesn't change the fact that this is one of the best movies ever made. It's a wonderful direction of love and freedom. Deserving all 5 Academy Awards that it had won.
FUN FACT: The only way Gibson could get the film made was if he agreed with Paramount studios that he would star in the film as well. ” - Gentleman_Caller
Greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two mobster best friends and a trophy wife over a gambling empire. (178 mins.)
“ Directed by Martin Scorsese, "Casino" is a classic tale of the gangsters that first ran the money in the city of Las Vegas. Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci team-up yet again to bring us moving and strong performances. Sharon Stone(Basic Instinct) joins the cast as the weakness and heart of the story gone wrong. This movie didn't win any Oscars, but it sure taught me a lesson or two about watching my money when I hit the casinos. Watch the Oscar nominated movie "Bugsy"(Warren Beatty) for another Las Vegas 90's biography.
FUN FACT: The "F" word is said 422 times, including in the narration - 2.4 times per minute on average. The film also holds the Guinness world record for the most swearing in a film. ” - Gentleman_Caller
(1995 TV Movie)
Based on the true story of a Russian serial killer who, over many years, claimed over 50 victims, mostly under the age of 17... (105 mins.)
“ I surprisingly caught this movie late night on HBO in the mid to late 90's. I was shocked to see that it had a few of my favorite actors, such as Stephen Rea(Interview with a Vampire), Donald Sutherland(Outbreak), Jeffrey DeMunn(Shawshank Redemption), and Max von Sydow(The Exorcist). I had never heard of the serial killer 'The Butcher of Rostov(Citizen X) in Russia. Claiming 52 lives, the viewpoint of investigators becomes a twisting mystery that makes for an excellent HBO made TV movie.
FUN FACT: Actor Donald Sutherland(Invasion of the Body Snatchers) won both a Golden Globe and Emmy award for best supporting actor in a special/motion picture made for TV. Actor Jeffrey DeMunn(The Walking Dead) was out beat for his Emmy nomination in "Citizen X" by co-star Donald Sutherland. ” - Gentleman_Caller
An FBI undercover agent infiltrates the mob and finds himself identifying more with the mafia life, at the expense of his regular one. (127 mins.)
“ The story of undercover FBI agent Donnie Brasco. It took me some years to finally be able to sit down and watch this movie, getting the full experience. You can watch a lot of movies with undercover agents going deep in with the mafia or mob. This movie for me has a leg up amongst those with it's casting of Johnny Depp(Nick of Time), Al Pacino(Heat), and Michael Madsen(Reservoir Dogs). If you love crime dramas I'd certainly give this movie a try.
FUN FACT: Johnny Depp met with the actual Joseph D. Pistone a number of times to gain knowledge and expertise for the role. He also took gun firing lessons from the FBI. ” - Gentleman_Caller
The People vs. Larry Flynt
A partially idealized film of the controversial pornography publisher and how he became a defender of free speech for all people. (129 mins.)
“ Sex is a part of life no matter how you break it down. Hustler founder Larry Flynt, is a man who became rich off of it, by saying what he believed in. Woody Harrelson and Courtney Love weren't my favorite actors at the time, but they became an immediate click that I wanted to watch. The hardships beginning to end of this movie say one thing, fight for what you believe in. The movie "Private Parts" is another similar biopic about radio-rebel Howard Stern.
FUN FACT: Larry Flynt and his brother Jimmy Flynt are played by real-life brothers Woody Harrelson and Brett Harrelson. ” - Gentleman_Caller
The true story of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart topping albums on the Latin music charts. (127 mins.)
“ Sadly I didn't watch the movie or listen to the music of Selena until after her untimely murder. After watching the movie I became an instant fan of her work. I think within a month I even owned her music cd. Jennifer Lopez did a wonderful portrayal of the latin star, starring in a dozen more movies to follow as well as a music career. The rise and fall of some people is so inspiring, that sometimes it's a success no matter how it all ends.
FUN FACT: To prepare for her role, Jennifer Lopez lived with Selena's family. ” - Gentleman_Caller
Based on writer Susanna Kaysen's account of her 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. (127 mins.)
“ The true story of Susanna Kaysen and her 18 month stay in a mental hospital. This all star cast is more than enough reasons to watch this movie, including Winona Ryder(Edward Scissorhands), Angelina Jolie(Gia) and Brittany Murphy(Freeway). Director James Mangold went on later to direct another amazing biopic called "Walk The Line." If you're a fan of any of these actors and movies, watch "Girl, Interrupted."
FUN FACT: Winona Ryder can't bring herself to watch her hit film "Girl, Interrupted" again. Ryder is haunted by Brittany Murphy's chilling onscreen suicide in the movie. ” - Gentleman_Caller
A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a "60 Minutes" expose on Big Tobacco. (157 mins.)
“ This riveting story is one of the reasons as to why the 90's is one of the best decades for movies. Director Michael Mann went on to direct such biopics as "Ali"(Will Smith), and "Public Enemies"(Johnny Depp). Russell Crowe and Al Pacino give some of the best performances of their careers. Nominated for 7 Oscars, "The Insider" is one of the best biography movies to date.
FUN FACT: Russell Crowe and Al Pacino both dropped out of high school. ” - Gentleman_Caller
“ Jim Carrey has made several movies about losers who wanted to just one day be famous. Comedian Andy Kaufman very much was the same way in his career. I had never seen Andy Kaufman on his early days of "Saturday Night Live". But the performance given by Jim Carrey proved him to be a character actor.
FUN FACT: Jim Carrey is the first actor to reach 20 million dollar salary mark (for The Cable Guy in 1996. The first actress to do so was Julia Roberts, four years later, who was paid the same amount for her role in the biopic "Erin Brockovich" in 2000. ” - Gentleman_Caller