Elton John to Tolkien: Eight biopic films that are on our radar for 2019

Here are the famous faces and historical figures getting the Hollywood treatment this year

Taron Egerton as Elton John in 'Rocketman'. YouTube / Paramount Pictures
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When it comes to finding inspiration for the silver screen, the pages of history - both ancient and modern - have proved fruitful time and time again, and 2019 looks no different, with directors and screenwriters looking to figures from the worlds of music, dance and racing, among others, for subject matter.

While recent months have brought us a celebration of Queen front-man Freddie Mercury by way of Bohemian Rhapsody, and a tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg via On The Basis Of Sex, audiences will soon see many more names and stories immortalised in movie theatres.

We round up the biopics to add to your must-watch lists for the year ahead.


He's "still standing" after an epic five-decade career, and now the life of British singer-songwriter Elton John is getting the Hollywood treatment. The Your Song crooner is the subject of this musical drama, set to be released in May, with Welsh actor Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) playing the bespectacled piano man. Jamie Bell, Richard Madden and Bryce Dallas Howard also star in the film, which is directed by Dexter Fletcher, the man that replaced the disgraced Bryan Singer for the last few weeks of shooting Bohemian Rhapsody. Expect outlandish costumes, toe-tapping tunes and a look at the early years of a singer who now has more than 30 albums to his name.


More than 80 years since his breakout debut The Hobbit, writer JRR Tolkien has become the story himself in this drama, due to be released in May. In a film directed by Dome Karukoski, About a Boy and Skins star Nicholas Hoult takes on the titular role, with Lily Collins playing his childhood sweetheart and later wife. Tolkien looks set to explore the author and professor's earlier years, from his school-forged friendships to his time in combat in the First World War, the latter of which is said to have inspired many elements of his famed trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

'A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood'

25th Screen Actors Guild Awards - Show - Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 27, 2019 - Actor Tom Hanks presents a lifetime achievement award. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Tom Hanks at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 27, 2019. Reuters

Tom Hanks takes on the role of popular TV personality Fred Rogers in this film, directed by The Diary of a Teenage Girl's Marielle Heller. Rogers, who died in 2001, was behind long-running, child-friendly series Mister Rogers' Neighbourhood, which aimed to educate and entertain young viewers in its 30-minute episodes. In this biopic, slated for release in November, Matthew Rhys (The Americans) plays a cynical journalist tasked with writing a profile on the small-screen favourite, and finds himself won over by Rogers's kindness, empathy and good humour during subsequent interviews.

Here's a look at a 2018 documentary about Fred Rogers: 

'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile''

This crime thriller focused on the story of American serial killer Ted Bundy debuted at last month's Sundance Film Festival, where Zac Efron scored rave reviews for his unsettling portrayal of the infamous murderer. Directed by Joe Berlinger, who is also behind Netflix's docuseries Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, the film is told from the perspective of Bundy's girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer. While the film itself has divided critics, all have agreed Efron's charismatic performance is well worth a watch, with his depiction of the killer "remarkably accomplished [and] fiercely committed", according to The Guardian. While we don't know when it will hit cinemas exactly, the film is already lined up for a UAE release via Front Row Films.


She rescued approximately 70 enslaved workers in 19th century America, and Harriet Tubman's incredible, inspirational story is set to be captured on film more than 100 years after her death. The activist and abolitionist escaped from slavery in the 1840s, and went on to help many find freedom as a "conductor" of the Underground Railroad, later working as a nurse, a spy and an ardent supporter for women's suffrage. This biopic by actress and director Kasi Lemmons, which is slated for release towards the end of 2019, stars Cynthia Erivo (Widows) as Tubman, with Janelle Monae, Joe Alwyn and Leslie Odom Jr among the cast.

'Honey Boy'

Actor Shia LaBeouf poses at the premiere of "Honey Boy" during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)
Shia LaBeouf poses at the premiere of 'Honey Boy' during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. AP

This drama, which premiered at last month's Sundance Film Festival, explores the childhood of American actor Shia LaBeouf and is written by ... Shia LaBeouf. So it may not have the most reliable narrator at its core, but Honey Boy was described as a "vulnerable, honest (or at least honest-seeming) act of therapy" by Variety after its debut. With LaBeouf taking on the role of his own abusive father and Noah Jupe playing his child-actor son, the result has been labelled a sensitive and sincere portrait of a troubled family, penned by the Transformers star during his time in rehab.

'Ford v. Ferrari'

BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 11: (EDITR NOTE: This image has been shoot in black and white) Christian Bale poses at the "Vice" (Vice - Der zweite Mann) premiere during the 69th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Berlinale Palace on February 11, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Christian Bale poses at the 'Vice' premiere during the 69th Berlinale International Film Festival on February 11, 2019. Getty Images

This action drama is expected to rev up the box office when it lands in June, depicting the true story of the battle between Ford and Ferrari to win prestigious car race Le Mans in 1966. Matt Damon and Christian Bale play automotive designer and entrepreneur Carroll Shelby and his British driver Ken Miles respectively, with Caitriona Balfe (Outlander) and Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) also among the cast. The leading duo were sent to the French race that year with a mission to create a new car worthy of defeating the reigning champion Ferrari (say hello to the birth of the GT40), tasked with the difficult challenge by Henry Ford II himself.

'The White Crow'

For his third feature-film directorship, Ralph Fiennes brings the origin story of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev to cinemas, with this biopic scheduled to hit screens in April after debuting at 2018's Telluride Film Festival. With dancer Oleg Ivenko in the lead role, this drama follows Nureyev from his humble beginnings in Soviet Russia through to his successful career as a principal. The ballet star famously defected from the Soviet Union in the '60s, refusing to return to Russia and instead seeking asylum in Paris during a tour with the Mariinsky Ballet. Nureyev was the first artist to do so during the Cold War, and went on to to dance with The Royal Ballet in London and serve as director of the Paris Opera Ballet.