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Real Drama: Scripts You Should Read If You’re Writing a Biopic

By David Young · August 22, 2022

Real Drama: Scripts You Should Read If You're Writing a Biopic

Interested in writing a biopic? These scripts will show you how to do it right.

Writing a biopic can be a real challenge. Not only do you have to navigate the usual difficulties of screenwriting — from character building to story structure — but you also have to put in the extra effort of exhaustive research into your subject. You inevitably ask yourself,  “Am I doing my subject’s story justice?” “Am I qualified to tell their story?” “Am I doing this right?” “How do I even begin the process!?”

Well, a great place to start is by reading great biopic scripts about people who changed the world — for better or for worse. If you’re interested to see how real life becomes the stuff of cinema, read the following biopic scripts about some people you’ve heard about already.

Scripts from this Article

The Imitation Game

Alan Turing, whose name is now synonymous with a huge tenet of artificial intelligence research, began his famous work with MI-6 as a code breaker. His story is not a lighthearted one, though: his own genius doesn’t save him from judgment when his personal life becomes a point of contention for the country he served and helped to save.

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The undercover detective stories are always enticing and exciting, but this one is something else — namely because it’s true. Sometimes, life stories are stranger than fiction, like when a Black cop becomes a card-carrying member of the KKK in an effort to help bring it down.

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The story of Aileen Wournos is not a happy one. She ultimately earned the title of America’s first female serial killer, but the journey to that conviction is one that captures the minds of audiences everywhere. It shows some of her darkest hours — and some of her most vulnerable ones, making this a biographical film with a double-edged impact.

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I, Tonya

Here’s another screenplay that brought on Margot Robbie’s performance, this time taking on the role of an Olympian athlete whose own life journey is a little rocky. The dark humor that ties together the uncertainty of Tonya Harding’s controversy makes this a powerful story on screen or on the page.

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This film follows the political career of Dick Cheney as he starts to warp the world in his own worldview from the influential office of Vice-POTUS. The film’s powerful effect partially lies in its verisimilitude to capture the manner and personality of the elected official. 

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A Beautiful Mind

The story of John Nash’s work and his breakthroughs can only be told in tandem with the issues that he faced during that time. His grapple with mental illness is the dramatic concrete that binds together his numerous experiences as he strives toward a celebrated breakthrough in his field. 

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Hidden Figures

In the face of bias against women and people of color, there were those working behind the scenes to pave a different path, like the aerospace engineers and technologists of Hidden Figures. Their contributions and the struggles they faced as pioneers against such bias show the importance in the long run of their goal to launch someone into orbit.

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The Social Network

Learning of an underhanded businessman and how he clawed to the top of his controversial social platform has to be a huge undertaking. But, by exploring many sides of the story instead of just one, The Social Network gives rare insight into the dark side of one of the wealthiest public figures in recent history — and in doing so, tells a deliciously disheartening story.

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The Theory of Everything

Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds of the 20th and 21st centuries, faced much more than discovery at a young age. He faced the realization of a terrible, debilitating illness, yet he still triumphed over it many times over. Showcasing those triumphs — and the hills he has to get over — helps to reflect the real-life dramatism of Hawking’s lifetime.

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The Founder

Some stories are about the rise of one person and the fall of another. That’s the story of The Founder, where Ray Kroc’s eventual success in creating a fast food chain unlike any other in the world was built on the backs of two brothers who didn’t get their due. That difference, shown again and again in contrast to Ray’s humble beginnings, makes The Founder an arresting story.

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You can’t get enough of real life, even if you think you’re an escapist. That’s because life is drama. And, as Alfred Hitchcock once said in an interview with filmmaker François Truffaut, “What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out?” They’re one and the same. It’s clearer than ever when you watch these biopics that while these people are fascinating, it’s what they chose that made a difference. Everything else that happened to them happens to us, too.

If you’re looking to write a biopic, read these screenplays and get to figuring out the high drama that’s nestled within your own life story.

Scripts from this Article