Dogwoof's favourite 'biopic' documentary films

Our documentary The Punk Singer, which tells the story of Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, is in cinemas and on iTunes now.  To celebrate, the Dogwoof team have compiled our favourite biopic documentaries that we think are worth taking a look at.  

The Punk Singer is a film about Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, who rose to national attention as the reluctant but never shy voice of the riot grrrl movement. She became one of the most famously outspoken feminist icons, a cultural lightning rod. Her critics wished she would just shut-up, and her fans hoped she never would. So in 2005, when Hanna stopped shouting, many wondered why. Through 20 years of archival footage and intimate interviews with Hanna, The Punk Singer takes viewers on a fascinating tour of contemporary music and offers a never-before-seen view into the life of this fearless leader.

What are your favourite biopic docs? Here are ours...

When We Were Kings (1996)

In 1974 Don King organized the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" - a fight between boxing champion George Foreman and underdog Muhammad Ali - by offering each man $5 million to participate.  When they both agreed, King turned to Mobutu Sese Suko, the dictator of Zaire where the fight would take place, for financial backing. In this film, director Leon Gast conbimes the excitement of a sports drama with the intimacy of a biography. 

The Unknown Known (2013)

One of Dogwoof's own films, The Unknown Known is Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris' mesmerizing portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, the larger-than-life figure who served as George W. Bush’s secretary of defense and as the principal architect of the Iraq War. Rather than conducting a conventional interview, Morris has Rumsfeld perform and explain his “snowflakes” — the enormous archive of memos he wrote across almost fifty years in Congress, the White House, in business, and twice at the Pentagon. The memos provide a window into history — not as it actually happened, but as Rumsfeld wants us to see it.

Man on Wire (2008)

On August 7th, 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire illegally rigged between the New York World Trade Center’s twin towers. After dancing for nearly an hour on the wire, he was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation, and brought to jail before he was finally released. This extraordinary documentary incorporates Petit’s personal footage to show how he overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to achieve the artistic crime of the century.

Grizzly Man (2005)

Grizzly Man tells the story of Timothy Treadwell, who was especially fond of tracking – and living with – Grizzly Bears. He spent thirteen summers of his life in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Over that time, Treadwell got to know many of the Grizzlies, their habits, and their tendencies.  He believed, incorrectly as it turned out, that the bears had grown to trust him. This impressive documentary from Werner Herzog covers Treadwell’s thirteen year odyssey which ended tragically in 2003.

The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)

The Kid Stays in the Picture tells the story of Robert Evans, chief of production at Paramount Pictures from 1966 - 1974, during which time the studio created some of its most legendary films, including The Godfatherm Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, and Harold and Maude.  Evans, who came from a failed acting background and had no producing experience when he came to the role, fell on hard times in the early 80s.  This film, which shares its name with Evans' autobiography, tells the story of the various rises and falls that shaped his life. 

Tyson (2008)

Tyson is indie director James Toback's intimate and moving no-holds-barred portrait of a humbled Mike Tyson, told in the words of the former heavyweight champion. In the film, Mike Tyson examines his own life in and out of the ring with a candor, eloquence, and vulnerability that is by turns poignant, funny, and never less than brutally honest. Through a deft mixture of original interviews and archinval footage and photographs, a surprisingly complex, fully rounded human being emerges. 

Senna (2010)

Senna’s remarkable story, charting his physical and spiritual achievements on the track and off, his quest for perfection and the mythical status he has since attained, is the subject of SENNA, a documentary feature that spans the racing legend’s years as an F1 driver. Far more than a film for F1 fans, SENNA unfolds a remarkable story in a remarkable manner, eschewing many standard documentary techniques in favor of a more cinematic approach that makes full use of astounding footage, much of which is drawn from F1 archives and previously unseen.

Supermensch (2013)

Another Dogwoof doc, Mike Myers directorial debut documents the astounding career of Hollywood insider, the loveable Shep Gordon, who fell into music management by chance after moving to LA straight out of college, and befriending Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Shep managed rock stars such as Pink Floyd, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass and Alice Cooper, and later went on to manage chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, ushering in the era of celebrity chefs on television. Stuffed with fantastic archive footage the film traces Shep’s transformation from the 1970’s hedonist to today’s practicing Buddhist yearning for a family of his own.

The Last Impresario

And also coming soon from Dogwoof is a portrait of Michael White, the enfant terrible of London’s theatre-land in the 70’s, the man responsible for introducing Yoko Ono, Merce Cunningham and Pina Bausch to the international audiences. He challenged censorship with his hit erotic revue Oh! Calcutta!, struck gold with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and A Chorus Line and produced Monty Python and the Holy Grail, My Dinner with Andre, and John Waters’ Polyester. Fifty of his closest friends (including Yoko Ono, Kate Moss, Anna Wintour, John Waters and John Cleese) introduce us to one of life’s true originals.