By Charlie David Page
3rd May 2020

So you're stuck at home with nothing to do. What better opportunity to catch up on some must-see streaming entertainment? SWITCH is launching an article series called Lockdown and Catch Up - we're sharing our secret streaming favourites from different genres, with the entire team offering suggestions of films to keep you entertained!

Everyone has their own story to tell - but some of them have been made into movies! From music legends to criminals to sporting stars, the SWITCH team have chosen their top biopics streaming right now - so dive in and discover something new about these extraordinary characters!


I was lucky enough to watch Elton John live earlier this year (when social gatherings were still a thing) and it was breathtaking to see his genius at work. I'm never too far away from listening to his music on repeat, and what better way to celebrate his music than to witness his life in action in Dexter Fletcher's ('Eddie the Eagle') musical biopic, 'Rocketman'. Starring Taron Egerton ('Robin Hood') as Elton, 'Rocketman' is not a perfect film, falling into the repeated traps of musical biopics slightly too often, but when it works, it really sings. Fletcher tries to make a fantasy musical and for the most part he succeeds, however, it proves a challenge when trying to show elements of his rise to fame. Elton's life, unfortunately, contains tragic elements of drug addiction and alcohol abuse, but by re-using his - or rather his writing partner Bernie Taupin's - already poetic lyrics and giving them new meaning, it makes the singing feel embedded and part of the story. Egerton does all the singing himself, and whilst purposefully not sounding like Elton, the guy has some serious pipes. The costume design is stunning and the fantasy spectacle of it all is glorious, so for any fans of Elton, this is a must-see celebration. It's fun, creative, colourful, and electric - but fair warning, you won't get his songs out of your head.
"You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge." It's extremely rare that a biopic on any musician is done correctly (no matter how successful certain ones were at the box office); to capture an entire legacy into a neat two-hour film is incredibly tough. For me, 'Straight Outta Compton' is one of the only films that pulls this off. NWA is a rap group from Compton, and when their debut album 'Straight Outta Compton' releases onto the scene in 1988, it not only changes rap music but how music can be used to send a message - most noteworthy with their song 'Fuck Tha Police'. The movie excels at telling Ice Cube (played by his own son), Dr Dre, MC Ren, DJ Yella, and most importantly Eazy-E's story outside of their music. It really shows who they were as people and their relationships in and out of the group. The late 80s and early 90s was a time when police brutally towards African Americans was at an all-time high, and the HIV/AIDS crisis was breaking out. 'Straight Outta Compton' succeeds in a way many fail because it's so grounded in its reality - it's not just a look back at NWA's fantastic music, it's a time capsule of America in the 90s and echoes, sadly, the situation that still plagues a lot of the country today. Even if you aren't a rap fan, 'Straight Outta Compton' is a movie everyone should see once in their lives cause "Yo Dre, they got something to say."
It's often too easy for biopics to be to enamoured of their subject and lose any sense of objectivity. No human being is without flaws, and often it's the balance between great deeds and questionable actions that makes someone fascinating. David Lean knew this with his dramatisation of the life of T.E. Lawrence, a controversial figure in the First World War and the unification of the Arab kingdoms. 'Lawrence of Arabia' embraces the romanticism of its protagonist, but underneath is a current of madness, repression and rage. Oh, and it also happens to be one of the greatest films ever made. We're talking a god-tier, immaculate, jaw-dropping, mind-blowing masterpiece, a sweeping epic that has never been bettered, with Peter O'Toole delivering one of the great screen performances as the complex Lawrence. I would count it as one of the top three films of all time. The only downside is that, unless you have a giant television at home, being in isolation means you can't see it on the big screen.
One of the biggest talking points upon the release of Martin Scorsese's newest epic was its just-as-epic, three-and-a-half hour runtime. Now that we've been ordered to stay home, what better time to sink your teeth into the Pennsylvanian crime underworld, run in part by real-life mobsters Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro, 'Joker'), Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci, 'Goodfellas') and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino, 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'). Scorsese uses this true crime story to offer a mediation on life, family, death and legacy, a swan song for one of the most influential and talented directors of his time.
What's better than one biopic? Two biopics... in the one movie! What's better than Amy Adams? Amy Adams with Meryl (doesn't need a last name)! Now, if you like food, or eat food regularly, you'll love 'Julie & Julia' - two women, two journeys, similar yet worlds apart as they discover the transformative power of cooking... and not just to their waist lines. Ha! Meryl plays TV cooking icon Julia Child as she learns to cook as a means to occupy her time in Paris with her diplomat husband (the amazing Stanley Tucci) and then go on to write 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'. Meanwhile in 21st century New York, Julie Powell (Adams) decides to give her life purpose by cooking every single recipe in said book over the course of a year and blogging about it, turning her into an internet sensation. All that and it's written and directed by Nora Efron. You're welcome, universe.
Born into a respectable middle-class family, Michael Gordon Peterson, nicknamed "Charles Bronson", was arrested in 1974 at age 22 and sentenced to seven years in prison for armed robbery. Since then, he's spent all but four years of his life behind bars, both for crimes committed on the outside and for violence perpetrated on the inside - he's been referred to in the British press as the "most violent prisoner in Britain". Director Nicolas Winding Refn's film is 92 minutes of Bronson (played by Tom Hardy, 'Venom'), a bald, moustachioed slab of trapezoid muscle, raging like an ill-tempered silverback gorilla in desperate need of a banana fix. He needs little provocation to beat the living shit out of guards, fellow prisoners, bare-knuckle boxers, a fighting dog, random passersby, etc, etc. Hardy delivers an often-hilarious monologue (sometimes telling his tale in a vaudeville-style theatre with a live audience), explaining Petersen's quest for a bizarre kind of recognition and cementing Refn's film as a spiritual successor to Stanley Kubrick's ode to violence and the criminal justice system, 'A Clockwork Orange'.
In a stroke of genius, this is a John Lennon biopic that avoids the well-worn path of the Beatles' time in the spotlight, instead focusing on the musician's somewhat troublesome teenage days and schoolboy friendship with Paul McCartney, as well as his relationship with his estranged mother, and her influence on his music. For a British indie film, it has an impeccable cast led by a young Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff. With lashings of 50s music accompanied by a substantial helping of emotions and humour, it balances entertainment with a genuinely interesting glimpse into the youth of a soon-to-be global celebrity. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (before she went on to 'Fifty Shades of Grey'), it's miraculous that they were able to create a Lennon biopic without using a single Beatles song.
'Finding Neverland' is an odd choice for best biopic - but something about this film has resonated for me since I was young. Everybody in some way related to the tale of Peter Pan, which is why I think this film offers some comfort and joy in its portrayal of J. M. Barrie's own discovery of wanting to stay young forever. It's accurate in its depiction of our struggle to always crave adventure and boasts a charming cast with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet stepping into lead roles. It's unusual, periodic, and some would criticise it for its naive nature. But then again, those critics wouldn't realise the cleverness that comes with making a story about a man who wants to always be a boy, childlike. So, if you're up for a bit of a reminder for what it means to flex that imagination and youth, be reminded through 'Finding Neverland.'
'Eddie the Eagle' is a classic underdog tale of someone who never quite fit in, but never let his dreams die. There is something refreshing and entirely heartwarming about this film - maybe Taron Egerton's brilliant performance, maybe the 80s nostalgia that is so perfectly captured. Down to the last detail this film feels 80s, including its score that is composed of plenty of synthesisers - it doesn't detract or make things feel "too 80s" but compliments the performances and the heartfelt script and story perfectly.

It's a film to watch with the whole family and will have you laughing (and if you're me, definitely crying) by the end. I am always taken by a story where a whole country gets behind someone and they are beloved regardless of success. At the end of the day, shouldn't we all be?

What's your favourite film currently streaming? Share your top flicks with us on our Facebook and Twitter!

Feeling up for something a little different? Make sure you check out our other articles in the Lockdown and Catch Up series below...

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