The recent rise in Hollywood biopics has connected present fans to past icons.


Movie theaters have made a return, and with them has come a rise in biopics depicting the lives of famous musicians, actors and actresses or iconic people of past generations. Biopics — an abbreviation of “biographical picture” — are films that dramatize the life of a public figure, past or present. For example, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which came out in 2018, was a Freddie Mercury biopic, which showed the rise of Queen, and the lives of the people involved. It was the first of many biopics to come out the past few years, and in 2022, Elvis and Blonde made their
posthumous debuts on the biopic scene.

Adam Barney and Roger Legg, members of the Columbus Film Critics Association, said they’ve seen biopics grow over the years.

“I think we are currently seeing an increase in biopics because of the huge financial success of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ which grossed over $900 million worldwide. I think the success of that film made this summer’s ‘Elvis’ a very easy greenlight for Warner Brothers,” Barney said.

The actors cast to portray these icons tend to be a popular topic of conversation — and controversy. Austin Butler, who played Elvis in the Baz Luhrmann biopic, isolated himself for two years and watched endless footage of his character to train himself how to talk, walk, sing, dance and act like Elvis.

“Some actors are method [actors] and dive completely into their character for a long stretch in an effort to represent them,” Barney said. “Some actors don’t like the preparation and want to experience the situation and have a more realistic ‘in the moment’ performance because they believe it is a more
authentic portrayal. Some work with families and study videos of the person so they effectively mimic the subject. Others want to be more distant so that they can portray the subject as we all know them from the public persona and not have their personal lives bleed into the portrayal.”

Film critics and fans of original icons can find fault in the processes that actors go through to mimic their character. But another camp claims that it takes bravery and courage to portray a famous figure, and demands accolades for that actor. The recent rise in biopics has also ignited a new love
for old icons, mostly by those in younger generations. People of younger ages are falling in love with stars from older generations, bringing back the cycle that older fans experienced when they were younger with icons such as Elvis, Queen and Marilyn Monroe.

Junior Kennedy Thompson, a fan of the Elvis biopic, said, “Even if all the facts about Elvis and his personal life in the movie weren’t true, I think I still got a lot of important info that I wish I had known sooner.” This has caused almost a reversal of generations, with the younger generations repeating the same cycle of adoration and obsession that older fans had when they were younger.

“As the younger generations are now seeing biopics on Elvis, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, etc., I would expect future generations will be seeing biopics on Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Jay Z, etc.,” Barney said. Moving forward, there are many more biopics to grace
viewers’ screens in the coming years, and with that will come more and more young fans of the same icons that older generations worshipped.

“I think a good biopic will give you a better appreciation of the film’s subject. If you just wanted an understanding of the key events of the subject’s life, a documentary is obviously the better way to go, but a biopic can give us a new or different appreciation by focusing its lens on a specific facet
of their lives,” Barney said.