Should Hollywood Stop Making Biopics?

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Feb 15, 2024

Biopics have cemented their place in Hollywood, turning the spotlight onto historical figures, celebrities, and influencers, allowing us to walk through history from the comfort of our cinema seats.

But with the increasing number of biopics hitting the screens, a question arises: Are we stuck in a loop of rehashed narratives? While these stories provide a bridge to the past, their surge has sparked discussions about their impact on the diversity of cinematic storytelling and whether this trend should continue or be re-evaluated.

Oscar's Love Affair with Biopics

It’s become an Oscar season expectation: the nomination list blooming with biopics. This pattern has ignited debates around storytelling diversity in cinema and the Academy’s preferences. Does this focus on biopics limit the recognition of other genres that also deserve the spotlight?

A display case is seen full of Oscar statues in Hollywood, California

Source: Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

While biopics often showcase powerful performances and compelling narratives, their prevalence at the Oscars raises questions about the range of stories being celebrated and whether the awards truly reflect the breadth of cinematic artistry.

The Formulaic Approach

Many biopics follow a familiar trajectory: the rise, fall, and redemption of their subjects. This narrative formula, while successful, can sometimes restrict deeper exploration into the character’s complexities and the nuances of their experiences.

Bohemiam Rhapsody poster with Freddie Mercury singing

Source: 20th Century Fox

Critics argue that this approach, although commercially viable, often sacrifices innovation at the altar of tradition (via MovieWeb). The challenge for filmmakers is to break free from this mold and deliver stories that offer fresh perspectives on well-trodden paths, ensuring biopics contribute meaningfully to the art of cinema rather than merely conforming to a tried-and-tested recipe.

Elvis: A Case Study

“Elvis,” directed by Baz Luhrmann, exemplifies the modern biopic’s blend of spectacle and narrative. Austin Butler’s portrayal of Elvis Presley has been lauded for its authenticity and depth, capturing the essence of the legendary performer.

Austin Butler as Elvis holding guitar

Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

However, the film’s rapid pace and emphasis on Presley’s onstage achievements over a deep dive into his personal struggles have led to mixed critiques. This highlights a recurring dilemma in biopics — finding the balance between celebrating a subject’s public persona and exploring their private complexities and struggles.

The Educational Value of Biopics

Despite their critics, biopics serve an invaluable educational purpose. They shine a light on historical events and figures, often bringing obscure stories to mainstream attention. Through dramatization, these films provide a lens into the cultural and social dynamics of various eras, making history accessible and engaging for a broad audience.

Denzel Washington as Malcolm X

Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

The challenge lies in balancing entertainment with educational value, ensuring that these cinematic journeys into the past resonate with viewers and inspire further exploration of history.

Artistic Liberties and Ethical Considerations

Biopics walk a tightrope between historical accuracy and creative interpretation. Filmmakers face the task of weaving engaging narratives while respecting the truth of their subjects’ lives.

Black Camera Recorder shows playback of a film session

Source: Donald Tong/Pexels

This balancing act raises ethical questions about representation and the impact of artistic liberties on public perception of historical figures. The debate centers on how to tell these stories responsibly, ensuring they honor the truth while still captivating audiences.


Diverse Stories, Diverse Storytelling

The call for Hollywood to diversify its storytelling extends beyond the critique of biopics, including the idea of “superhero fatigue,” per Variety. Embracing original scripts and exploring new genres could inject fresh vitality into cinema, offering audiences a wider array of narratives that reflect the complexity of the human experience.

White Marvel Studios logo on a red background

Source: The Walt Disney Company/Wikimedia Commons

While biopics have their place, the industry’s future may lie in its ability to evolve, championing stories that break molds and challenge conventions, thereby enriching the cinematic landscape with more varied films.


Public Perception and Reception

Audience reactions to biopics can vary significantly, reflecting the subjective nature of film. While some biopics are celebrated for their insight and artistry, others face criticism for their portrayal of historical figures or events.

A family is pictured as they eat popcorn inside a movie theatre

Source: Freepik

This variance highlights the complexity of biographical storytelling and the challenge filmmakers face in crafting narratives that resonate with viewers, honor their subjects, and stand the test of critical scrutiny.


The Impact on Legacy

Biopics wield the power to shape the legacy of their subjects, for better or worse. Through cinematic portrayal, often iconic individuals from the past are further immortalized, their stories etched into the collective memory of society.

Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in Back to Black biopic

Source: StudioCanal/YouTube

This influence carries a weighty responsibility, as filmmakers’ choices can significantly affect how historical figures are remembered in modern society. The challenge is to craft these narratives with care, ensuring they reflect the multifaceted nature of their subjects’ lives and contributions.


Beyond the Biopic: Alternative Approaches

In seeking alternatives to traditional biopics, filmmakers are turning to documentaries, series, and fictional works inspired by true events (via These formats offer varied perspectives and creative liberties, allowing for a deeper exploration of real-life stories without the constraints of the biopic genre.

A film production team pictured as they work through a scene

Source: Freepik

By expanding the narrative scope, these alternatives can provide richer, more nuanced insights into historical events and figures, offering audiences a more diverse and engaging cinematic experience.


The Future of Biopics in Hollywood

The debate around biopics is not about their demise but their evolution. The future of this genre may see a shift toward storytelling that embraces complexity, innovation, and diversity.

A production team is pictured as they shoot a scene for a TV series

Source: Freepik

By reimagining how historical narratives are brought to the screen, filmmakers can ensure biopics not only entertain and educate but also enrich the broader landscape of cinema.


The Balancing Act

The future of biopics hinges on finding a balance. While it’s unlikely — and perhaps undesirable — for biopics to disappear from the cinematic landscape, there is a growing recognition of the need to approach these stories with a mix of reverence and creativity.

A young man and woman pictured holding a production sign and an old film reel

Source: Freepik

By focusing on quality over quantity and striving for diversity in storytelling, filmmakers can honor the lives of remarkable individuals while ensuring the genre remains a vibrant and valuable part of cinema.