Iconic pop trailblazer Madonna is co-writing and directing an upcoming biopic on her life and music career, Universal Pictures confirmed in a statement on Tuesday. Joining the Queen of Pop on this endeavor is famed writer Diablo Cody, whose most notable works include films such as Juno and Jennifer’s Body.
This announcement has been met with ardent enthusiasm in the realms of music and film alike, and it has spurred a lively dialogue on which actors should play the lead role. Some popular contenders in this discussion include younger pop icons such as Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, and Hollywood favorites Margot Robbie and Florence Pugh.
The possibilities and potential for this biopic are virtually endless, and if there’s one significant artist that deserves an Oscar-worthy biopic, it’s Madonna. Still, music biopics can be rather hit-or-miss, and the best example of a biographical film that painfully misses the mark is Nina, a 2016 movie that did such an abysmal job of capturing Nina Simone’s life and essence that the actress that played her, Zoe Saldana, apologized to Simone’s family for it.
If your morbid curiosity is tempting you to see this complete abomination of a movie, it’s available on Hulu for some reason. If you have a Hulu subscription, however, we would strongly recommend that you watch the following biopics, which do way more justice for their subjects.
Nico, 1988 (2017)
The urge to ensile Nico’s legacy to her work with the Velvet Underground is understandable, as The Velvet Underground & Nico is unarguably one of the greatest achievements in the history of pop culture, but there’s a lot more to the late German singer and model than that one snapshot in time.
What the 2017 film Nico, 1988 gets right is that it eschews the tradition of documenting a subject during their salad days. In fact, this film takes place in 1986, exactly two decades after the glory days of Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
As Rolling Stone put it in a rave review, “[Director Susanna] Nicchiarelli spares us nothing but still gives her dignity on the way out.”
Critics and film enthusiasts lauded Rocketman as one of the best films of 2019, and the accolades only continued to pour in as it won a series of Golden Globes and Academy Awards. The praise is understandable, too, when you consider its intricate choreography and lead actor Taron Egerton’s uncanny ability to channel the showmanship, musical chops and razzle-dazzle of Elton John.
It’s also admirable that the film portrays John in a flawed, vulnerable light in candidly documenting his life of excess and substance abuse. On the other hand, these personal battles were the sole embodiment of the hero’s journey, and the protagonist’s struggle to come to grips with his fame and how it penetrates every facet of his life makes for a rather cliched character arc.
Lords of Chaos (2018)
We recently touched upon Norwegian black metal band Mayhem and the batshit insanity that transpired before the release of their debut album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. People that who recounted the story about vocalist Dead’s suicide and guitarist Euronymous’s murder by former bassist Varg Vikernes have frequently asked themselves the age-old question, “Why hasn’t someone made a movie about this yet?!”
Well, luckily, famed director Jonas Akerlund (a frequent Madonna collaborator) took on this overdue undertaking and did so with great authority, considering he was a founding member of Swedish black metal pioneers Bathory.
Playing a manipulative, clout-driven Euronymous was none other than Macaulay Culkin’s little brother, Rory Culkin, and playing the mentally troubled Dead was Jack Kilmer (who, yes, is Val Kilmer’s son). Sky Ferreira also stars in this movie as the de facto muse/groupie of the Norwegian black metal scene, and as such, she incidentally takes part in quite a few sex scenes.
This movie starts with a disclaimer in which it essentially admits to taking dramatic license, but even that hasn’t stopped black metal purists from taking issue with it. Vikernes himself hates the movie, but he’s a white supremacist, so Akerlund should take that as a badge of honor.
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Notorious received mixed reviews from critics primarily for its cliched narrative arc, but if that flaw won’t stop you from enjoying Rocketman, it shouldn’t deter the experience of watching the 2009 Notorious B.I.G. biographical drama.
This movie captures Biggie’s beginnings as a crack dealer and his gradual, meteoric ascension in the world of hip-hop. Along the way, we are given an honest and granular view of his personal life, whether it be through his ongoing feud with 2Pac, the incremental dissolution of his relationship with Lil Kim and Faith Evans or his mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer.
Love & Mercy (2014)
Beach Boys cofounder Brian Wilson has had a well-documented struggle with mental illness. In a particularly dark era that spanned over a decade, he was under the mercilessly tyrannical control of psychotherapist Eugene Landy, whose treatment of Wilson was so unethical that the state of California revoked his license for it.
The nonlinear Love & Mercy meanders between this horrifying chapter of Wilson’s life and his meticulous process of recording the band's magnum opus, 1966’s Pet Sounds. Paul Dano plays the 1960s Brian Wilson, while John Cusack plays the 1980s Brian Wilson. Playing Landy so menacingly that it actually scared the real Brian Wilson at the film premiere is Paul Giamatti, and playing Wilson’s love interest and eventual savior is Elizabeth Banks.