• (L - R) 'Tracks', 'The Iron Lady', 'Tudawali', 'At Eternity's Gate' (SBS)Source: SBS
From famous names to humble adventurers, music legends to artistic mavericks, here is just a taste of what's on offer in the Biopics collection on SBS World Movies and SBS On Demand.
By
SBS Movies

20 Jul 2020 - 1:51 PM  UPDATED 29 Jan 2021 - 3:39 PM

Tune in to SBS World Movies from Monday 25 January for a week of Biopic films at 9:30pm as part of our Summer of Discovery. 

Cry Freedom

M
United Kingdom, 1987
Genre: Drama
Language: English
Director: Sir Richard Attenborough
Starring: Kevin Kline, Denzel Washington
What's it about?
The unforgettable friendship of two unforgettable men. The tension and terror that is apartheid-era South Africa is powerfully portrayed in director Richard Attenborough's sweeping story of activist Stephen Biko (Denzel Washington), head of the "Black Consciousness" movement and a liberal white newspaper editor who risks his own life to bring Biko's message to the world.

After learning of apartheid's true horrors through Biko's eyes, editor Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) discovers that his friend has been silenced by the police. Determined not to let Biko's message go unheard, Woods undertakes a perilous quest to escape South Africa and bring Biko's tale of courage to the world. The riveting true story offers a stirring account of man at his most evil and most heroic.

Cry Freedom airs on SBS World Movies Monday 25 January at 9:30pm. It will not be available at SBS On Demand.

 

Tudawali

M
Australia, 1988
Genre: Biography
Language: English
Director: Steve Jodrell
Starring: Ernie Dingo, Peter Fisher
What's it about?
Ernie Dingo delivers an outstanding portrayal of Robert Tudawali, the first Aboriginal film star, whose co-starring role in Jedda is iconic in Australian cinema. The film traces the life of Tudawali from the moment he was selected to play the lead in Jedda, his career as a boxer when he was unable to find more film roles, right through to his premature death at around age 40 from severe burns. It also portrays the stark contrast between Tudawali's home outside Darwin, and his life in Sydney where he did most of his filming for movies and TV series. 

This powerful and important story also stars Charles "Bud" Tingwell and serves as a vital document of Australian film history and Aboriginal culture.

Tudawali airs on SBS World Movies Tuesday 26 January at 9:30pm. It is available at SBS On Demand until 25 February.

 

White Boy Rick

MA15+
USA, 2018
Genre: Crime, Drama
Language: English
Director: Yann Demange
Starring: Richie Merritt, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bel Powley
What's it about?
Richie Merritt and Matthew McConaughey star in this crime drama based on a true story, helmed by five-time BAFTA-nominated director Yann Demange ('71). Set in 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic, White Boy Rick recaps the true-life story of Richard Wershe Jr. who became one of the youngest undercover FBI informants at the age of 14 before his links with criminals led to his becoming a major dealer until he was arrested at age 17 and sentenced to life in prison.

White Boy Rick airs on SBS World Movies Wednesday 27 January at 9:55pm. It will be available at SBS On Demand from after it goes to air until 10 February.

 

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

MA15+
USA, 2017
Genre: Drama, Romance
Language: English
Director: Angela Robinson
Starring: Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Connie Britton, J.J. Feild, Chris Conroy
What's it about?
This film tells the story of what inspired Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) to create the iconic Wonder Woman character in the 1940s. While Marston’s feminist superhero was criticised by censors for her ‘sexual perversity’, he was keeping a secret that could have destroyed him. Marston’s muses for Wonder Woman were his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), two empowered women who defied convention: working with Marston on human behaviour research while building a hidden life with him that rivalled the greatest of superhero disguises.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women airs on SBS World Movies Thursday 28 January at 9:30pm. It will not be available at SBS On Demand.

 

Molly's Game

M
USA, China, Canada, 2017
Genre: Crime, Drama
Language: English
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O'Dowd
What's it about?
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) was a beautiful young Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defence lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who learned that there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led us to believe. This is the directorial debut of Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network).

Molly's Game airs on SBS World Movies Friday 29 January at 9:35pm. It will be available at SBS On Demand after broadcast.

 

 

Plus stream more Biopics at SBS On Demand

 

The Iron Lady

M
United Kingdom, 2011
Genre: Drama, History, Biography
Language: English
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Starring: Meryl Streep, Anthony Head, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Olivia Colman, Harry Lloyd
What's it about?
One of the 20th century’s most famous, controversial and influential women, Margaret Thatcher broke the glass ceiling to be the United Kingdom's first female Prime Minister. The film explores her life and career through a series of flashbacks, as Thatcher deals with the death of her husband and experiences the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. While the film does not seem to touch on her fear of being "swamped by an alien culture", her views on apartheid in South Africa or any of her more controversial policies, it does boast a powerhouse performance from Meryl Streep, who went on to win the Academy Award for her performance.

The Iron Lady Review

 

My Left Foot

M
Ireland, 1989
Language: English
Director: Jim Sheridan
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Fiona Shaw, Brenda Fricker
What’s it about?
Speaking of Oscars, Daniel Day-Lewis was awarded Best Actor for his turn as Irishman Christy Brown, who was born paralysed with a severe form of cerebral palsy. The only part of Brown’s body he could move were the toes of his left foot. While doctors at the time wrote him off as also being mentally disabled, his mother knew better, and taught him to read and write. Incredibly, he trained himself to use his foot to not only paint, but write, among his works, his autobiography, from which the film takes its title. Alongside the incomparably dedicated Day-Lewis is Brenda Fricker as his mother.  

  

Django

M
France, 2017
Language: French
Director: Etienne Comar
Starring: Reda Kateb, Cécile De France, Bea Palya
What’s it about?
Widely celebrated jazz guitarist and composer Jean Reinhardt, known as Django, was busy packing out Paris’s best venues with his group, Quintette du Hot Club de France during the Nazi occupation in 1943. Born in Belgium and raised in a Romany gypsy family, he revelled in his musical life. But while delighting the high-society crowds, his brethren were being murdered across Europe. When he’s pressured to tour Germany and entertain their troops and military leaders, he’s offered a way out. 

 

Miles Ahead

M
USA, 2016
Language: English
Director: Don Cheadle
Starring: Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi
What’s it about?
Staying in the jazz world, Miles Ahead sees Oscar nominee Don Cheadle in the lead role as renowned trumpeter, jazz legend Miles Davis. Making his directorial debut, Cheadle also co-wrote the script with Steven Baigelman and composed some of the music. Largely confined to his apartment and spending his days drinking, drugging and brooding, rather than working on a contracted recording, this is Davis in his later years. Enter dubious journalist Dave from the UK and the rocky road continues towards a comeback we’re hoping comes off. Cheadle shines in this passion project.

 

Tracks

M
Australia, 2014
Language: English
Director: John Curran
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Lily Pearl
What’s it about?
In 1977, 26-year-old Australian Robyn Davidson set out on an epic adventure. Davidson’s sense of restlessness and yearning to expand her horizons saw her through years of planning and learning skills to pull off the journey. Accompanied by her loyal dog Diggity and four camels, she trekked from Alice Springs to Uluru all the way to the Indian Ocean, covering no less than 2,700 kilometres of desert. Overcoming a great many obstacles, not least of which was being female, Davidson is portrayed stunningly by Mia Wasikowska. The spectacular landscape is also a character unto itself.

Tracks, a film that lets a woman thrive in the outback
The thoughtful adaptation of Robyn Davidson's memoir asks us to consider how well we know Australia.

 

A Dangerous Method

MA15+
UK, 2011
Language: English
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender
What’s it about?
When Russian woman Sabina Spielrein is taken to a Swiss mental hospital in 1904, she finds herself at the centre of the emergence of psychoanalysis. In his treatment of her, psychiatrist Carl Jung uses ‘the talking cure’ encouraged by his mentor Sigmund Freud. Once cured, Spielrein herself studies to be a psychoanalyst. This exploration of a fascinating time in history, from a scientific, cultural and gender standpoint among others, is brought into sharp relief by the three leads, as well as Frenchman Vincent Cassel who appears as Otto Gross.

A Dangerous Method: David Cronenberg interview
The eclectic and ever-surprising filmmaker discusses his Sigmund Freud/Carl Jung drama.
A Dangerous Method Review
Keira Knightley's electrifying performance carries cerebral psychodrama.

 

Nijinsky

M
USA, 1980
Language: English
Director: Herbert Ross
Starring: Alan Bates, George De La Pena, Leslie Browne
What’s it about?
Sergei Diaghilev, behind the creation of the world-famous Ballets Russes, and the extraordinarily talented young ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky had an affair from which it could be said the latter never recovered, both in his personal and working life. This biography focuses on the final year of the affair and the fallout of its rupture; the intensely emotional time is given the nurturing respect it deserves under director Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias, Footloose).  

 

The Dark Horse

M
New Zealand, 2014

Language: English
Director: James Napier Robertson
Starring: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston
What’s it about?
Maori speed-chess coach and player Genesis Potini, known as Gen, is a major talent, and yet has many health challenges to overcome. Finding purpose in teaching chess to children in his community, he sets their sights on a showing at the upcoming national tournament in Auckland. James Rolleston, who audiences will recognise as the star of Taika Waititi’s Boy, co-stars as promising young chess player Mana, who, away from the chess world, is being lured into membership of a local gang. This film’s title could describe the film itself; with performances like this, it should not be underestimated.

The Dark Horse Review

 

The Happy Prince

MA15+
Italy, UK, Germany, Belgium, 2018
Genre: Drama
Language: English, French, Italian, Latin
Director: Rupert Everett
Starring: Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas
What's it about?
In 1895, Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett) was the most famous writer in London, and Bosie Douglas (Colin Morgan), son of the notorious Marquess of Queensberry, was his lover. Accused and convicted of gross indecency, he was imprisoned for two years and subjected to hard labour. Once free, he abandoned England to live in France, where he spent his last years, haunted by memories of the past, poverty and immense sadness. This is the untold story of the last days in the tragic times of Oscar Wilde, a person who observes his own failure with ironic distance and regards the difficulties that beset his life with detachment and humour.

'The Happy Prince' director Rupert Everett is Wilde about Oscar’s legacy

 

The Ideal Palace

PG
France, Belgium, 2019
Genre: History, Drama
Language: French
Director: Nils Tavernier
Starring: Jacques Gamblin, Laetitia Casta, Bernard Le Coq, Florence Thomassin, Natacha Lindinger
What's it about?
Based on the incredible true story of Joseph Ferdinand Cheval (Jacques Gamblin), this is the remarkable tale of a simple postman who spent 33 years crafting the magnificent ‘Ideal Palace’. Everyday Cheval travels along the river Drôme from village to village, enjoying the solitude of his rounds, daydreaming about a world full of wonder he can only imagine through postcards. After his wife, Philomena (Laetitia Casta) gives birth to their daughter Alice, Cheval decides to build Alice a palace fit for a princess. With only his bare hands, his love for his daughter and the dedication of his wife, he starts carefully collecting stones and begins building the historically classified monument, The Ideal Palace.

 

The King's Choice

M
Norway, 2016
Genre: Action, Drama, War
Language: Danish, Swedish, German
Director: Erik Poppe
Starring: Jesper Christensen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Karl Markovics, Tuva Novotny
What's it about?
On 9 April 1940 the German army invades Norway without having declared war. Confusion and chaos soon spread. With Hitler's blessing, fascist leader Quisling stands poised to become Norway's Minister-President. But the Norwegian royal family refuses to bend to the will of the Germans. King Haakon VII, who has left Oslo for the village of Nybergsund with his family, his government and countless politicians, proves to be a bastion of calm: should the Norwegian parliament decide to capitulate and bow to the demands from Berlin he will, he declares, abdicate without hesitation. Hitler answers this moral gauntlet with bomb attacks; the Norwegians however interpret the King's words as an appeal to resist. Jesper Christensen is King Haakon VII in this war drama. 

 

At Eternity's Gate

M
France, UK, 2018
Genre: Drama, Biography
Language: English, French
Director: Julian Schnabel
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac 
What's it about?
Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate is a journey inside the world and mind of a person who, despite scepticism, ridicule and illness, created some of the world’s most beloved and stunning works of art. This is not a forensic biography, but rather scenes based on letters by Vincent van Gogh (played by Academy Award® Nominee Willem Dafoe), common agreement about events in his life that present as facts, hearsay and moments that are just plain invented.

At Eternity's Gate airs on SBS World Movies Saturday 6 February at 10pm. It will be available at SBS On Demand after broadcast.

 

Browse the full collection of biopics now streaming at SBS On Demand

 

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
How to go to the movies in a pandemic
It’s been a year without cinema, but as the world finds a fresh equilibrium, movie theatres are finding ways to cope with life under COVID-19. Here's a guide to the safety measures being applied.
Arthouse film essentials now streaming at SBS On Demand
These films at SBS On Demand offer you something just a little bit different. Film festival favourites that can mystify, stun and take your breath away? It can only be arthouse cinema.
Antonio Banderas, Edgar Wright, Italy’s Prime Minister Pay Tribute to Film Composer Ennio Morricone
Dinner and a Movie: ‘Volver’ paired with Spanish omelette
Match a meal from SBS Food with a movie at SBS On Demand, for the perfect night in.
Kelly Reichardt is one of the best filmmakers working today
And the ‘Wendy and Lucy’ and ‘Certain Women’ director has the resume to prove it.
Dinner and a Movie: ‘Paterson’ and a cheese pie
Match a meal from SBS Food with a movie at SBS On Demand, for the perfect night in.
12 great Japanese films you should watch at SBS On Demand
With family dramas, comedy, manga adaptations, horror, both an Oscar winner and a Palme d'Or winner, the Japanese cinema collection at SBS On Demand has something for every cinephile.