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Why Are There So Many Celebrity Biopics?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Elvis, Priscilla, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Queen. All of these icons have had their lives adapted to the silver screen in recent years. This begs the question of why are people so infatuated with watching the lives of public figures get turned into movies?

Celebrity biopics aren’t a new concept as they’ve been consistently produced for decades. Biopics based on singers, actors, pop culture icons and notable public figures rake in millions of dollars during their box office openings. The fascination fueling these films comes from the movie-goers, whom production studios know will spend money to see iconic celebrities reimagined.

Since the 1990s, “celebrity” has taken on a new power after paparazzi became an inevitable factor of fame, expediting the public’s access to artists. Their highs and lows were exploited for profit in the media without the artist’s consent, which allows people to create one-way relationships to these celebrities. Britney Spears is a well-known example of the effects of “celebrity” on a person, especially when the pressures of paparazzi and public media are involved. People become intrigued and want to see more highs and lows depicted on screen. Celebrities act as an aspiring level of beauty, fame and success that “regular” people want to achieve. They hope to partake in the intimate moments of “untouchable” celebrities’ lives.

The heart of filmmaking is in its storytelling. Translating a real person’s life to screen can be tricky and comes with the heat of public opinion. Films should pay homage to and respect the artist they are portraying, while nailing the perception with an accuracy that appeals to audiences. This balance comes with high expectations from fans and critics. The 2022 release of Elvis sparked both excitement and criticism (but what movie doesn’t). The high production film follows Elvis Presley’s rise to fame alongside his controlling manager Colonel Tom Parker. The film’s success came from its story – the life of the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” – and the accurate portrayal of Elvis as played by Austin Butler. An original song by Doja Cat and a revamped version of Elvis’ greatest hits were also included in the release. While the public response to the film was overall positive, there was some backlash about the film neglecting to show Elvis’ dark side behind the spotlight. In 2023, Sofia Coppola adapted Priscilla Presley’s memoir into a film called Priscilla, where the life of Elvis’ other half would get her story told and show the faults that Elvis had.

AUSTIN BUTLER as Elvis in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “ELVIS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The multitude of biopics being released invites commentary over the lack of original film content. Not all biopics are based on singers and actors, many have been about political figures, inventors, scientists and lesser-known people who made an impact on the world we live in. Inventing Anna is a limited Netflix series about a con-artist named Anna Delvey, who in turn received lots of public attention from the success of the show. Her image was otherwise solely remembered as a white-collar criminal before the “pop culture figure” tag was added onto her. 

The excitement of watching a film about a famous person you grew up with or admire helps the industry continue to bring these stories to life.

Popular biopic releases to watch:

  • Back To Black (2024)
  • Priscilla (2023)
  • Maestro (2023) 
  • Elvis (2022)
  • Blonde (2022) 
  • Pam & Tommy (2022) 
  • Spencer (2021) 
  • Judy (2019) 
  • Rocketman (2019) 
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) 
  • I, Tonya (2017)
  • Jackie (2016) 

And a few new biopics are in development…

  • Daisy Edgar-Jones as Carole King (Beautiful)
  • Timothée Chalamet as Bob Dylan (A Complete Unknown)
  • Zendaya as Ronnie Spector (Be My Baby)
  • Selena Gomez as Linda Ronstadt
  • Jafaar Jackson as Michael Jackson
  • Jonah Hill as Jerry Garcia
Gianna Aceto is a student at the University of Central Florida majoring in Integrative General Studies with focuses on Entertainment Management and Visual Arts. Her interests include photography, entertainment and writing. The topics she is most passionate about covering are mental health, entertainment and lifestyle.