Biopics to watch in 2013, plus the 10 best (and worst) of all time

Biopics to watch in 2013, plus the 10 best (and worst) of all time

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Naomi Watts as the iconic Princess Di in

The biographical film, or biopic, is a long-celebrated bastion of cinema that began with Napoléon in 1927 and continues to dominate movie screens to this day.

Last weekend, 42 (a Jackie Robinson biopic starring Harrison Ford and one-time Chicago actor Chadwick Boseman in the title role) premiered to commerical and critical acclaim, as films about real-life heroes often do.

Other big biopics expected for 2013 include:

Of course, movie buffs are already arguing about Saldana’s darkened skin in Nina and whether Kutcher will totally bomb as Steve Jobs after mixed reviews from Sundance.

Michael Douglas as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's HBO film

Studios depend on biopics to create a perfect storm of advance publicity, which may or may not translate to big wins at the box office and massive sweeps during awards season.

Actors often bank on these films not just to win Oscars, but to stretch their limits with challenging accents, method lifestyle changes and shocking physical transformations (remember when Robert DeNiro gained 60 pounds to play boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull?) Some fail miserably, while others are forever remembered and admired for their uncanny portrayals of real people.

Many biopics had the potential to be great films but fell short. The Doors could have been incredible, if not for Val Kilmer’s regrettably one-note portrayal of Jim Morrison. The 1982 epic Gandhi​ featured a fantastic performance by Ben Kingsley, but ran about two hours too long. More recent biopics like Ray, Capote, Ali and The Aviator also featured spot-on performances from their charismatic leads; but in retrospect, could have amounted to so much more.

In my opinion, these are the greats:

10. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

9. The Social Network (2010)

8. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

7. Goodfellas (1990)

6. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

5. The King’s Speech (2010)

4. Monster (2003)

3. Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

2. Schindler’s List (1993)

1. I’m Not There (2007)

Also: Patton (1970), Milk (2008), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

And now, the 10 worst (ranked from blandly underwhelming to downright atrocious):

10. The Iron Lady (2011)

9. Man on the Moon (1999)

8. Beyond the Sea (2004)

7. J. Edgar (2011)

6. Amelia (2009)

5. The Conqueror (1956)

4. Great Balls of Fire! (1989)

3. Patch Adams (1998)

2. Alexander (2004)

1. Liz & Dick (2012)

Which biopics do you love, and which ones do you wish had never seen the light of day? Leave a comment below, send me a tweet @leahkpickett or join the conversation on Facebook.