It is said that truth is stranger than fiction, which is why cinema owes a lot of its greatest accomplishments to reality. Biographical films are a special breed among movies based in true events, because they try to portray the evolution of real life characters through the most important events of their lives.
It’s a daunting task for the screenwriter, sometimes hard-pressed to fit decades of life into roughly 100-120 pages. That is probably why biopics often become monumental projects that bring the audience to a fast paced journey across a bunch of dissimilar environments.
But they are often the stories of those who shaped the world- for better or worse. And well written biopics seem to generally succeed in fulfilling the demands of reviewers and audiences alike. They are a challenge for the performer as well, compelled to carry most of the narrative weight through the whole shooting process. However, those efforts are often rewarded with wide recognition, and the Academy seems to have a certain weakness for biographical dramas.
A lot of moviegoers feel an inherent curiosity about watching the tale of a notorious figure in the big screen, and the list of famous –or infamous- individuals whose life has been adapted into a film keeps growing.
Here are some of the most acclaimed biopic film scripts of all time:
(1962) Lawrence of Arabia
(1967) Bonnie and Clyde
(1972) Lady Sings the Blues
(1980) Raging Bull
(1980) The Elephant Man
(1987) The Last Emperor
(1992) Malcolm X
(1994) Ed Wood
(2001) A Beautiful Mind
(2002) Catch me if you Can
(2005) Walk the Line
(2010) The Social Network
(2014) The Theory of Everything
Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD, Bipolar Disorder and depression are among the many psychological disorders that have gained notoriety in films over the past few decades. The concept of a warped mind that sees the world in a much different way from the mainstream is something that intrigues people from all walks of life. Individualism is shown in its true dark form and for a few moments, an audience is able to comprehend what it’s like to see through a “crazy” person’s mind.
Many of the best psychological disorder films were written by people who actually had the disorder. This adds realism and definition to the characters and makes it likeable by many audiences. However, some disorders (such as schizophrenia) can be so debilitating that it’s difficult to find a person who can write a story representing their experience.
So in these cases, writers are given a challenge to try to experience something they know nothing about using only clinical definitions and second-hand accounts from doctors or family members. But when an interesting perspective is found, it opens a path that allows many people to experience a different state of mind as well.
Below is a list of some of the best film scripts based on a person with a mental disorder. From these scripts, a writer will be able to see how disorders are characterized by people with experience and those without. By taking note of the methods used in writing these scripts, a person will be better prepared to show the perspective of someone or something that they had never experienced in their lives; yet do so in a way that is believable.
For those who have suffered with a disorder, these scripts show how to use scenes and dialogue to help people understand what it feels like to live with that disorder.
- (2003) Identity Script
- (2002) May Script [Transcript]
- (2001) Donnie Darko Script
- (2001) A Beautiful Mind Script [Transcript]
- (1999) Fight Club Script
- (1999) Girl, Interrupted Script [Transcript]
- (1997) As Good As It Gets Script
- (1993) What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Script [Transcript]
- (1988) Rain Man Script [Transcript]