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Film Genres: Biographical films

This guide highlights library resources for some of the more popular film genres.

A quick definition for biographical films

A film that tells the story of the life of a real person, often a monarch, political leader, or artist. Thomas Edison's Execution of Mary Queen of Scots (US, 1895) prefigures the genre but perhaps the earliest biopic is Jeanne d'Arc/Joan of Arc (Georges Méliès, France, 1900). Biopics were popular with audiences in Europe in the early 20th century, including Queen Elizabeth (Henri Desfontaine and Louis Mercanto, France, 1912), Danton (Dimitri Buchowetski, Germany, 1920), Anne Boleyn (Ernst Lubitsch, Germany, 1920), Napoleon (Abel Gance, France, 1927), and The Private Life of Henry VIII (Alexander Korda, Britain, 1933). ...

Kuhn, A. and Westwell, G. (2012). "Biopic." In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2016

Finding library resources for biographical films

The Jones Media Center has a collection of biographies for viewing. To find them, you can do a subject search for "biographical films." To find books about biographical films, look at the subject headings that contain "history and criticism." These books will discuss historical films in general or those produced in different countries. To find film resources on a specific person, you can do a subject search and add "drama" with your other search terms.

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book titles

Finding articles & journals

Articles and other writings about movies can be found in many publications. We don't have any periodicals that look exclusively at biographies in our collections. You can use Film & Television Literature Index to find articles. You can also search in America, History & Life or Historical Abstracts depending on which historical figure you want to research.

Selected list of biographical films

For more biographies, click here.