Raging Bull (1980)
To prepare for the role of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta, Robert De Niro trained with the real-life LaMotta until LaMotta thought that he was ready to box professionally. To play LaMotta in the later scenes, De Niro gained an astonishing 60 pounds. Not surprisingly, De Niro's performance won an Oscar, his second.
Tom Hulce portrayed Mozart as an idiot-savant in this Oscar-winning adaptation of Peter Schaffer's play.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
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With the help of a first-rate makeup team, Russell Crowe (37 years old at the time) convincingly portrayed mathematician John Nash from the ages of 19 to 66.
Schindler's List (1993)
Before establishing himself as an unlikely action star in Taken 2, Battleship, and The A-Team, Liam Neeson's repuation rested largely on his brilliant portrayel of Oscar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved the lives of 1,000 Jews during WW2, in this heartbreaking Speilberg-directed drama.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
At 6'3, Peter O'Toole may have been a bit too tall to play T.E. Lawrence, who stood at 5'5. The height issue notwithstanding, O'Toole gives a masterful performance in this gorgeous-looking David Lean epic.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's high-pitched, nasally voice is virtually indistinguishable from that of the real-life Truman Capote in this acclaimed biopic.
La Vie En Rose (2007)
For her portrayal of Edith Piaf in this French biopic, Marion Cottilard became one of the few actresses to win an Oscar for a performance in a foreign language film.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Julia Roberts won an Oscar for her portrayal of a real-life paralegal who was instrumental in winning a $333 million settlement, the largest in U.S. history at the time.
My Left Foot (1989)
Daniel Day-Lewis won his first Oscar for his performance as Christy Brown, an Irish writer with cerebal palsy who typed out his work using his only fully functional body part, his left foot.
Malcolm X (1992)
Until Flight, Denzel Washington's performance as the slain civil rights leader was arguably the best of his career.
The Elephant Man (1980)
Raging Bull wasn't the only great black and white biopic of 1980. David Lynch's haunting portrait of the the life of the severely deformed Joseph Merrick was almost as brilliant.
The Social Network (2010)
Jesse Eisenberg plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in one of the few biopics that doesn't take a 100% complimentary view of its subject.
The fact that Ben Kingsley starred in both Gandhi and Sexy Beast proves conclusively that he is the most versatile actor working today.
Sean Penn's vastly different performances in Mystic River and Milk also put him near the top of the Most Versatile Actors list.
Ed Wood (1994)
Unlike the work of its subject, Plan 9 From Outer Space auteur Edward D. Wood Jr., this biopic from Tim Burton received glowing reviews and was nominated for multiple Oscars.
The Aviator (2004)
This biopic of Howard Hughes was instrumental in helping Leonard DiCaprio complete the transition from Titanic hearthrob to respected Method Actor.
The Queen (2006)
Fun Fact: Helen Mirren is 11 years younger than the actress who plays her mother and 12 years older than the actor who plays her son.
Walk the Line (2005)
Before his awe-inspiring performance in The Master, Joaquin Phoenix gave an early display of his talent in this Johnny Cash biopic.