5 Biopics to Watch if You Enjoyed ‘Elvis’

This past weekend Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated “Elvis” hit theaters. Luhrmann is most notably known for his reinvention and unique filmmaking skills with hits like “Romeo & Juliet” (1996), “Moulin Rouge” (2001) and “The Great Gatsby” (2013). Now, he tackles the iconic story of Elvis Presley, played by the outstanding Austin Butler, and his manager Colonel Tom Parker, portrayed by Tom Hanks, in a new and extraordinary way. In recent years, studios have made celebrity biopics as a strategy to rake in a good profit while many actors have gone on to reach critical acclaim in their biographical roles. It seems that many musician biopics follow a strict formula since their rise in popularity. If anyone would bring some originality and uniqueness to the subgenre, it would be Luhrmann. If you were drawn in by “Elvis,” here are five films that also break out of the mold or are must-watches within the category.  

1. “Rocketman” (2019)

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

The film that best sits next to “Elvis” in terms of uniqueness, entertainment and overall wonderful performances is Dexter Fletcher’s Elton John biopic, “Rocketman.” This film takes the usual straightforward and mundane genre flick and adds fantastical elements to it, making the film more interesting and showcasing the extraordinary person Elton John (Taron Egerton) is. This film gives a refreshing and creative take on the usual biopic formula with Egerton as Elton stealing the show in the pivotal scenes. 

“Rocketman” is available to rent on Apple TV or Amazon Prime. 

2. “Selena” (1997)

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Much like “Elvis” and “Rocketman,” one of the primary reasons “Selena” stands out is due to Jennifer Lopez’s performance in the titular role of the beloved pop singer. The film spends time with Selena and her family so the audience cannot help but fall in love with her and where she came from. It is charming and intimate, making the tragedy of what happens to her that much more heartbreaking. The film showcases the Mexican-American experience in a truly moving way, providing representation and a cinematic celebration of one of the culture’s icons. 

“Selena” is currently streaming on HBOmax.  

3. “I’m Not There” (2007)

Courtesy of the Weinstein Company.

Some might not even consider Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There” as a biopic, but it is interesting enough that it should be included. The story is an anthology, following different characters in varying spaces and times that all represent Bob Dylan at separate stages of his career.  The cast is remarkable, featuring a younger Dylan played by Christain Bale, a 60’s rendition by Heath Ledger, the most iconic performance being Cate Blanchett as a height of celebrity Dylan, and many more. The film rotates through its stories at a steady pace and it never does what you would expect it to do or go where you would expect it to go. This film experiments with the genre in a very different, but equally as compelling way as “Elvis.”  

“I’m Not There” is streaming on Tubi or Vudu.

4. “What’s Love Got to Do with It” (1993)

Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.

This biopic captures the life and career of pop star Tina Turner through Angela Bassett’s show-stopping performance. While it is heavy to watch at times and follows the more standard approach to the biopic, the performances make it worthwhile. Turner’s abusive husband Ike is portrayed by Laurence Fishburne who also gives a standout performance. The acting from both leads is emotionally rich and transformative. 

“What’s Love Got to Do with It” is streaming on The Roku Channel and Amazon Prime.

5. “Amadeus” (1984)

Courtesy of Orion Pictures.

While both “Amadeus” and “Elvis” may clock in just shy of a three-hour run time, this should not deter you from watching. “Amadeus” provides other similarities and uniqueness that make it worth the watch. While this film can be slower at times, it subverts expectations with the character of Mozart (Tom Hulce) who is full of crude jokes, a frequent high-pitched piercing laugh, but surprising depth. The story follows the life of Mozart’s rival Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) as he recounts the relationship between the two. The director, Milos Forman, most known for the film adaptation of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, transforms the original source material of Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play under the same name into a big-screen classic.    

“Amadeus” is available to rent on Apple TV or YouTube.

By Brooke Stevenson

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