Biopics have become a perennial part of the Hollywood machine, every bit as integral in their own way as the summer blockbuster. Every awards season there are at least a handful of films built to mine maximum emotion from real-life stories of tragedy and triumph, achievement and failure. At their worst, they’re less about a onetime human being than about the myths built around them after the fact, but at their best they offer insight into who somebody was when they were living out the events we learned about in history classes.
So, with this in mind, and with the Alan Turing profile The Imitation Game hitting wider release today, we’ve pulled together an assortment of 20 of our staff’s favorite biopics, films that offer insights of one kind or another into the history that preceded us, or in a few cases, that we remember seeing on the news. Feel free to add your own, and let’s take a brief trip through the cinematic version of real human history.