The Top 20 Most Successful Biopics at the Box Office

Biopics remain popular in the film industry, attracting large audiences and revenue. While debates persist about their originality compared to fictional scripts, many viewers find comfort and motivation in real-life stories. Even those about controversial figures provide insight into history and turn it into educational experiences. Over the years, some biopics have notably excelled more than others.

Oppenheimer (2023)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Universal Pictures – © Universal Pictures.

Worldwide Earning – $957,471,200

Christopher Nolan’s 2023 film, “Oppenheimer,” based on “American Prometheus,” stands out as one of the year’s top movies. It portrays J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life and role in creating the atomic bomb. Cillian Murphy’s performance and Nolan’s direction contribute to its success, despite competition with “Barbenheimmer.” The biopic sets records, offering insight into a pivotal historical figure.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Photo Credit: Alex Bailey – © TM & © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Worldwide Earnings – $910,809,311

Bohemian Rhapsody, directed by Bryan Singer, delves into the life of Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, portrayed by Rami Malek. The film captivates audiences with the band’s journey from inception to their legendary Live Aid performance. Malek’s stellar portrayal earned him an Academy Award. With $910 million in earnings, it’s no surprise that fans flocked to theaters for this iconic biopic.

American Sniper (2014)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture – © 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., WV Films IV LLC and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC-U.S., Canada, Bahamas & Bermuda (c)

Worldwide Earnings – $547,659,020

American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, follows his journey from skilled marksman to U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. sniper. The film delves into the harsh realities of war and its lasting impact on Kyle. Directed by Clint Eastwood, it’s hailed as one of the finest war films, tackling masculinity and mental health themes. With a gripping narrative, it ranked 13th in global box office earnings 2014, grossing over $547 million.

The King’s Speech (2010)

Image Credit: IMDB © 2010 The Weinstein Company

Worldwide Earnings – $484,068,861

The King’s Speech, an Academy Award-winning biopic, portrays King George VI’s unexpected rise to the British throne in 1936 and his struggle with a stammer. Colin Firth’s outstanding performance elevates the film, earning him a Best Actor award. It’s a deeply touching story of courage and triumph over adversity, highlighting the rewards of conquering fears and embracing responsibility.

The Greatest Showman (2017)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise – © TM & © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Worldwide Earnings – $438,550,306

The Greatest Showman portrays P.T. Barnum’s journey in creating the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Critics panned it, but audiences loved its colorful, fantastical world and outstanding singing. With a stunning production and Hugh Jackman’s charismatic performance, the movie grossed $438 million worldwide. Jackman’s stage background shines, making it one of the century’s most captivating musicals.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Photo credit: Mary Cybulski – © 2013 Paramount Pictures

Worldwide Earnings – $406,878,233

In “The Wolf of Wall Street,” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring DiCaprio, Jordan Belfort’s rise and fall as a Wall Street stockbroker unfolds. The 2013 film delves into the corrupt world of finance, showcasing greed and moral decay. Despite its controversial content, it captivates audiences with its visual allure and social commentary, even garnering bans in some countries. Margot Robbie delivers a notable debut performance.

Catch Me if You Can (2002)

Image credit: IMDB © 2002 – Dreamworks LLC

Worldwide Earnings – $352,114,312

Catch Me if You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Spielberg, follows Frank Abagnale Jr.’s remarkable journey as a skilled con artist. FBI agent Carl Hanratty, played by Tom Hanks, becomes obsessed with catching him. The film, exploring themes of loneliness, truth, and identity, stays faithful to its source material and offers an entertaining and lucrative cinematic experience, earning $352 million worldwide.

Schindler’s List (1993)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Universal Pictures – © 1993

Worldwide Earnings – $322,161,245

Schindler’s List achieved remarkable box office success despite several challenges. Shot entirely in black and white, it deterred some viewers. Its lengthy runtime limited screenings and tested audience endurance. Nevertheless, the 1993 biopic, hailed as one of the greatest films ever with a 9.0 IMDb rating, overcame these obstacles, demonstrating its enduring impact and appeal.

Green Book (2018)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Photo credit: Patti Perret – © 2018 Universal Studios.

Worldwide Earnings – $321,752,656

Green Book features Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in a buddy comedy about a working-class bouncer driving a black pianist on a 1960s American tour. While praised for its performances and chemistry, the film faces criticism for its portrayal of racial dynamics, accused of perpetuating the white savior stereotype. Despite the controversy, it won multiple Academy Awards and remains a topic of debate in film circles.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Image Credit: IMDB © 2001 – Imagine Entertainment

Worldwide Earnings – $316,791,257

A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe, portrays the true story of mathematician John Nash. The film, directed by Ron Howard, sheds light on mental health and garnered $316 million worldwide. With four Academy Awards, it’s a moving tribute to Nash’s struggles and triumphs, resonating with fans of Good Will Hunting. The well-acted biopic captivates with its poignant portrayal of real-life challenges.

The Blind Side (2009)

Image Credit: IMDB © 2009 Alcon Entertainment, LLC.

Worldwide Earnings – $309,231,694

Though not as renowned as Spielberg or Scorsese, Director John Lee Hancock excels in crafting feel-good family dramas. His standout work, The Blind Side, depicts Michael Oher’s journey from a tough upbringing to NFL success. Despite its simple approach and modest budget, the film earned over $300 million, impressing Warner Bros.

The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Zade Rosenthal – © 2006 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

Worldwide Earnings – $307,127,625

Based on Chris Gardner’s memoir, “The Pursuit of Happyness” follows a salesman enduring homelessness to support his son. Starring Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden, the film earned positive reviews. Though overlooked by the Oscars, it received Golden Globe nominations for Smith and Seal’s song. With $307.1 million in earnings against a $55 million budget, the movie’s popularity and themes resonated strongly with audiences.

Dangal (2016)

Image Credit: IMDB

Worldwide Earnings – $303,723,636

“Dangal,” a Hindi sports film, gained little attention in the US, grossing only $12.3 million. However, it found immense success globally, raking in $303.7 million. The story revolves around an ex-wrestler who hopes to train his son but ends up coaching his determined daughters into wrestling champions. The movie resonated in India and China, highlighting the power of determination and family support.

Elvis (2022)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Ruby Bell

Worldwide Earnings – $288,670,284

“Elvis,” directed by Baz Luhrmann, gave a glossy touch to Elvis Presley’s rise, with Austin Butler winning a Golden Globe for his portrayal. Tom Hanks stirred debate as Col. Tom Parker, showcasing Luhrmann’s unique approach. Though Butler didn’t win an Oscar, the film earned eight nominations, including Best Picture. With a $288.6 million gross on an $85 million budget, it ranks among the top musical biopics and Luhrmann’s second highest-grossing film after “The Great Gatsby.”

Lincoln (2012)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Film Frame – © 2012 – DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC.

Worldwide Earnings – $275,293,450

Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis teamed up for a biopic about Abraham Lincoln’s final months, focusing on his efforts to end slavery. Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal, and the movie received 12 nominations. The movie won two Oscars and earned $275.2 million on a $65 million budget, ranking among the top-grossing biopics.

Sully (2016)

Image Credit: IMDB © 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Worldwide Earnings – $243,870,033

Clint Eastwood directed “Sully,” based on Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s autobiography. Tom Hanks portrayed Sully, who safely landed a plane in the Hudson River after bird strikes damaged its engines. Despite being hailed a hero, the NTSB questioned his actions. Sully had to defend himself, facing controversy for harshly portraying the NTSB. Nonetheless, the film earned $240.7 million on a $60 million budget.

Hidden Figures (2016)

Image Credit: IMDB Photo by Photo Credit: Hopper Stone/Hopper Stone, SMPSP – © TM & © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Worldwide Earnings – $235,956,898

“Hidden Figures” portrays three African-American female mathematicians’ pivotal roles in NASA’s success during the Space Race era. Their contributions were huge but they received little recognition due to racial and gender biases. The film features talented actors like Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer. While it didn’t win any of its three Oscar nominations, it grossed $235.9 million on a $25 million budget.

The Imitation Game (2014)

Image Credit: IMDB © 2014 – The Weinstein Company

Worldwide Earnings – $233,555,708

In “The Imitation Game,” Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Alan Turing, a cryptanalyst who decoded German messages in WWII. Based on Andrew Hodges’ biography, the film also stars Keira Knightley. Turing recounts his war experiences to investigators after a break-in. The movie earned $233 million on a $14 million budget, with eight nominations, including Best Picture.

The Terminal (2004)

Image Credit: IMDB © 2004 Dreamworks LLC.

Worldwide Earnings – $219,100,084

Starring Tom Hanks, it portrayed the true story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived in a French airport for 18 years. Spielberg relocated the tale to JFK Airport in New York, renaming the character Viktor Navorski. The film collected positive reviews and earned $219.1 million on a $60 million budget.

Public Enemies (2009)

Image Credit: IMDB © :2009 Universal Studios

Worldwide Earnings – $214,104,620

Michael Mann directed Public Enemies, a crime biopic about bank robber John Dillinger pursued by FBI agent Melvin Purvis. Based on a nonfiction book, it starred Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. While focusing on Dillinger, some details weren’t historically accurate, leading to mixed reviews. Nevertheless, it earned $214.1 million on a $100 million budget, marking a solid box office success.

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