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True Story: 30 Biopics That Oscar Voters Loved

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Great People Watching

Famous or obscure, people are interesting. And sometimes their life stories are better than anything Hollywood can dream up — even when they seem like something you could only find in a movie. Maybe that’s what’s behind the steady string of biopics the movie industry has been producing lately. And more are on the way, including films about Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Weird Al Yankovich, and even Madonna, who says she's writing the script for a film reportedly set to star "Ozark" actress Julia Garner. Here’s a look at some of the people-based pictures that have wowed Oscar voters.


Related: Actors Who Absolutely Nailed the Icons They Portrayed

Hidden Figures
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‘Hidden Figures’ (2016)

3 nominations

The little-known story of three Black female “computers” during the early days of NASA was nominated for three Academy Awards including best picture and best supporting actress (Octavia Spencer).


Related: 33 Cult Films We Can’t Stop Watching

Judy
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‘Judy’ (2019)

2 nominations, 1 win

In addition to rave reviews, Renée Zellweger earned a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of an aging July Garland in a film based on the play “End of the Rainbow.” It was the fourth nomination and second win for Zellweger.

The Blind Side
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‘The Blind Side’ (2009)

2 nominations, 1 win

Sandra Bullock won the best actress Oscar for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy — a force of nature whose family helped Michael Oher become an All-American football player and first-round NFL draft pick. The movie also was nominated for best picture.


Related: The Greatest Football Movies of All Time, According to Critics

Walk the Line
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‘Walk the Line’ (2005)

5 nominations, 1 win

Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for best actor for his role as country music legend Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon won a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter in this adaptation of Cash’s autobiography “Man in Black.”

Capote
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‘Capote’ (2005)

5 nominations, 1 win

Philip Seymour Hoffman won the best actor Oscar, immersing himself in the persona of Truman Capote as the famed author was researching his book “In Cold Blood.” The film also was nominated for best picture, best supporting actress (Catherine Keener as Harper Lee), and best director (Bennett Miller).

King Richard
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‘King Richard’ (2021)

6 nominations, 1 win

Will Smith’s performance as Richard Williams won him a best actor Oscar. (You probably already know the rest of that story.) The film was also nominated for best picture and best supporting actress (Aunjanue Ellis).

Darkest Hour
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‘Darkest Hour’ (2017)

6 nominations, 1 win

Gary Oldman won the best actor Oscar for his deft performance as Winston Churchill. The film was nominated for Academy Awards in five other categories, including best picture.

Goodfellas
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‘Goodfellas’ (1990)

6 nominations, 1 win

The mob masterpiece about gangster Henry Hill and his partners in crime scored Joe Pesci an Oscar for best supporting actor. It was also nominated for best picture, best actress (Lorraine Bracco), and best director (Martin Scorsese).


Related: 22 Controversial Oscar Wins — and Who Should Have Won Instead

Shine
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‘Shine’ (1996)

7 nominations, 1 win

Geoffrey Rush won the best actor Oscar for his brilliant performance as piano prodigy David Helfgott. The popular Australian film was nominated for best picture, best supporting actor (Armin Mueller-Stahl), and best director (Scott Hicks).

Coal Miner’s Daughter
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‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ (1980)

7 nominations, 1 win

While the film was nominated for seven Oscars — including best picture — only Sissy Spacek took home a statuette for her role in the story of country music superstar Loretta Lynn in this film based on Lynn’s autobiography.

Funny Girl
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‘Funny Girl’ (1968)

7 nominations, 1 win

Barbra Streisand tied with Katharine Hepburn for best actress for her portrayal of comedienne Fanny Brice — a former Ziegfeld girl who rose to stardom. The film was also nominated for best picture and Kay Medford was nominated for best supporting actress.


Related: The Most Romantic Movie the Year You Were Born

Vice
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‘Vice’ (2018)

8 nominations, 1 win

The story of Dick Cheney’s rise to power features Oscar nominations for Christian Bale (best actor), Amy Adams (best supporting actress), Sam Rockwell (best supporting actor), and director Adam McKay as well as a best picture nod.

The Imitation Game
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‘The Imitation Game’ (2014)

8 nominations, 1 win

The story of Alan Turing, who cracked the German Enigma code in World War II, scored nominations for best picture, best actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), supporting actress (Keira Knightley), and best director (Morten Tyldum). It won the Oscar for adapted screenplay (Graham Moore).

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
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‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ (2021)

2 nominations, 2 wins

Jessica Chastain won a best actress Oscar for her performance as Tammy Faye Bakker in a story that follows the rise and fall of the televangelist and her husband. The other Oscar? That went to Stephanie Ingram, Linda Dowds, and Justin Raleigh for their makeup and hairstyling work.


Related: 29 Small-Budget Films That Went on to Win Oscars

Milk
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‘Milk’ (2008)

8 nominations, 2 wins

Sean Penn won the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, a gay activist and California’s first openly gay elected official. The film was nominated for best picture, best supporting actor (Josh Brolin), best director (Gus Van Sant), and original score (Danny Elfman).

Raging Bull
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‘Raging Bull’ (1980)

8 nominations, 2 wins

Robert De Niro won the best actor Oscar for his role as boxer Jake LaMotta. It also was nominated for best picture, best supporting actor (Joe Pesci), best supporting actress (Cathy Moriarty), and best director (Martin Scorsese).


Related: Actors Who Gained or Lost Insane Amounts of Weight

Mank
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‘Mank’ (2020)

10 nominations, 2 wins

Nominated for 10 Academy Awards including best picture, best actor (Gary Oldman), best director (David Fincher), and supporting actress (Amanda Seyfried), this story of popular screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz won Oscars for cinematography and production design.

Lincoln
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‘Lincoln’ (2012)

12 nominations, 2 wins

Daniel Day-Lewis won his third best-actor Oscar for his performance as the 16th president, seen as he struggled to end slavery. The film, based in part on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals,” also drew nominations for best picture, best supporting actor (Tommy Lee Jones), best supporting actress (Sally Field), best director (Steven Spielberg), and original score (John Williams).

Green Book
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‘Green Book’ (2018)

6 nominations, 3 wins

Bouncer Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) becomes the driver for Black classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on a concert tour through the South in this best picture winner. Ali won the Oscar for best supporting actor and Mortenssen was nominated for best actor. Director Peter Farrelly — in a departure from his earlier films — picked up two Oscars: as a producer of the film and as one of the writers.

Dallas Buyers Club
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‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (2013)

6 nominations, 3 wins

This story based on the life of electrician and sometimes rodeo rider Ron Woodruff earned Matthew McConaughey a best actor Oscar. Jared Leto also was honored with the best supporting actor Oscar for his breakout performance.

The Social Network
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‘The Social Network’ (2010)

8 nominations, 3 wins

Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant screenplay about Mark Zuckerberg’s role in the creation of Facebook won an Oscar. The film was nominated for best picture, best actor (Jesse Eisenberg), and best director (David Fincher).

‘12 Years a Slave’ (2013)
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‘12 Years a Slave’ (2013)

9 nominations, 3 wins

The riveting film based on the real-life story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was sold into slavery, won Oscars for best picture and best supporting actress (Lupita Nyong’o) as well as nominations for best actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), best supporting actor (Michael Fassbender), and best director (Steve McQueen). McQueen and Brad Pitt were among the film’s producers.

Bohemian Rhapsody
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‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (2018)

5 nominations, 4 wins

Rami Malek’s transformation into legendary Queen frontman Freddie Mercury won him the best actor Oscar. The film also was nominated for best picture.

A Beautiful Mind
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‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2001)

8 nominations, 4 wins

The story of brilliant but troubled mathematician and eventual Nobel Prize winner John Nash won four Oscars including best picture (Ron Howard and Brian Grazer), best supporting actress (Jennifer Connelly), and best director (Howard). Russell Crowe was a best actor nominee for his role as Nash.

The King’s Speech
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‘The King’s Speech’ (2010)

12 nominations, 4 wins

The story of King George VI and the speech therapist who helped him overcome his stammer won Oscars for best picture, best actor (Colin Firth), and best director (Tom Hooper). Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter were nominated in supporting roles.

‘Braveheart’ (1995)
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‘Braveheart’ (1995)

10 nominations, 5 wins

The bigger-than-life tale of Scottish warrior William Wallace won five Academy Awards including best picture and best director (Mel Gibson). Gibson actually won two Oscars — as director and as one of the film’s producers.

Patton
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‘Patton’ (1970)

10 nominations, 7 wins

It was a big night at the 43rd Academy Awards for the film that picked up Oscars for best picture, best director (Franklin J. Schaffner), best original screenplay (Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North), and best actor — which George C. Scott famously refused to accept for his role as controversial World War II icon Gen. George Patton.

Schindler’s List
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‘Schindler’s List’ (1993)

12 nominations, 7 wins

There’s no denying the power of this film based on Oskar Schindler’s efforts to save Jewish workers in World War II. It won seven Oscars including best picture and best director (Steven Spielberg). Liam Neeson (best actor) and Ralph Fiennes (supporting actor) also were nominated.

Amadeus
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‘Amadeus’ (1984)

11 nominations, 8 wins

The story of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — as told by his jealous rival Salieri — won eight Oscars including best picture, best actor (F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri), and best director (Milos Forman). Tom Hulce was nominated as best actor for his cheeky portrayal as Mozart.


Related: Every Best Picture Oscar Winner, Ranked by Critics

‘Gandhi’ (1982)
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‘Gandhi’ (1982)

11 nominations, 8 wins

Richard Attenborough’s biopic of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi scored him two Oscars — best picture (as the film’s producer) and best director. Ben Kingsley also won best actor for his role as the influential architect of nonviolent civil disobedience.