7 titles about the lives of the rich, remarkable and (in)famous
The lives of the rich and famous – and the infamous – will always be an endless source of entertainment for us mere mortals. We’re a celebrity-mad society, even now during the global pandemic, which has seen superstars revealing their true selves to the world, showing us they too have hopes and fears and insecurities and baby bods … even if they’re suffering all this in their mansions.
(Yes, Sam Smith – we’re looking at you. Thanks to the internet, this will haunt you forever, never mind that you’ve more recently released a new single and been partying in Soho.)
It’s not only the contemporary celebs that fascinate, but the real and inspiring stories of remarkable human beings who have done extraordinary things. Their feats and achievements are captured in riveting documentaries; still more tales of adventure and daring are told in movies that begin with “based on a true story” or words to that effect.
But for the purposes of this list, we’ve chose to focus on the true biopic genre – a portrayal of real people and their lives, played by actors.
Hansie Cronje was one of South Africa’s best-loved cricketers, captaining the national side in the 1990s, during those heady days when our country was emerging from apartheid and reclaiming our place on international playing fields – sport and otherwise.
He fell from grace with match-fixing scandals, and died tragically in a plane crash in 2002. If it wasn’t all true, it would still make for one heck of a screenplay.
A giant amongst women, and lifelong advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away on 18 September 2020. Born in 1933, she married and became a mother before beginning her law studies at Harvard, where she was one of only a handful of female students.
Knowing how women are still discriminated against even today, we can only imagine the tenacity that led her to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. If you’re looking for a role model for your daughters, here she is.
Self-Made: Inspired by the life of Madam CJ Walker (Netflix)
Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) and the titular Ma in the Blumhouse horror stars in the title role of this remarkable account of Madam CJ Walker, who was one of the first African-American female millionaires in the US of A.
Born on a cotton plantation where her parents were slaves, Sarah Breedlove went on to build an empire of hair and beauty products. Her later name is on account of her 1906 marriage to Charles Joseph Walker. Her products are still available today.
Says Variety of this 2015 film: “Director F Gary Gray turns the meteoric rise and fractious fall of rap supergroup NWA into a sprawling, exhilarating Los Angeles hip-hop epic.”
Fun fact: NWA member Ice Cube is played by his real-life son, O’Shea Jackson Junior. “What stands is an amazement, an electrifying piece of hip-hop history that speaks urgently to right now,” said Rolling Stone, and is just as relevant now as it ever was.
The Crown (Netflix)
There’s a good reason this series makes it onto so many different lists: it’s wonderful, lavish, and a joy to watch. For the newcomers, it’s the life story of Queen Elizabeth II from 1947, ongoing.
The monarch has thus far been played by Claire Foy and Olivia Colman, and we’re up to Season 3, which brought us to 1977; Season 4 is due in November 2020, and will introduce Princess Diana, so that’s a big deal. It’s worth noting that, while biopics (and in this case, series) are strongly rooted in facts, liberties are always taken.
The Social Network (Netflix)
This one makes the list because it’s perhaps even more topical now than when it was released in 2010, when most of us still thought Facebook was the best and had nary a concern about privacy and the sale of our personal data, and insidious advertising. I mean, who hasn’t literally thought about something and had it appear in the newsfeed moments later?
The film is the origin story of Mark Zuckerberg, who has become a modern-day villain, as we all rant and rave yet so few of us delete our accounts. Facebook is a drug, and kicking the habit is not easy.
As a companion piece, also watch Netflix’s The Social Dilemma. It will change the way you use the platform. Quite frankly, it’s terrifying.
On that note, the subject of this film, physicist Stephen Hawking, shared his thoughts about it on Facebook. See? Even he thought it was cool once upon a time.
Hawking was brilliant in his field, and Eddie Redmayne, who plays him in this film about his life, is a master in his. One of the cleverest humans to have lived, Hawking was quite the joker and appeared on The Big Bang Theory in 2012, as well as other TV shows.