My Top Five Biopic Frock Flicks

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So many frock flicks are biographies, of course, and we can debate endlessly how accurate they are in telling the life stories of their subjects. I think my favorite biopics are a balance of that accuracy with entertainment value — because any person’s life is going to be too complicated to make a perfectly accurate film or TV series. Edits must be made! Another thing I look for, being Frock Flicks, is good and interesting costumes, and in particular, I want to see a progression over time if the movie / show covers a significant era. I don’t expect the actors to look exactly like the subject, but I’d love if the costumes recreate key looks that the subject is known for.

With all that said, here are my top five biopic frock flicks. Click on the titles for my full reviews!

 

Lillie (1978)

Lillie (1978)

I wasn’t interested in Lillie Langtry until I randomly started watching this series — then I was totally engaged!

Lillie (1978)

13 hours covering her life from 1869 to 1929 with excellent costumes spanning the whole era — highly recommended!

 

Frida (2002)

Frida (2002)

Salma Hayek embodies the soul of artist Frida Kahlo in this exquisite film.

Frida (2002)

A number of Kahlo’s paintings come to life beautifully, giving the work a touch of magical realism.

 

Wilde (1997)

Wilde (1997)

Stephen Fry’s ultimate role. He is Oscar Wilde.

Wilde (1997)

Beautiful, tragic, poetic, everything!

 

Gentleman Jack (2019)

Gentleman Jack (2019)

Show-runner Sally Wainwright used the extensive diaries of Anne Lister to create this amazing series & brought out all the humor, romance, pathos, & drama to the story.

Sophie Rundle, Gentleman Jack (2019)

Suranne Jones & Sophie Rundle are wonderful in this, & the 1830s costumes by Tom Pye are delightful.

 

Elizabeth R (1971)

Elizabeth R (1971)

OF COURSE. I’ve said it a million times, but watching this series as a kid sparked my interest in history, historical costume, & the 16th century.

Elizabeth R (1971)

It is the be-all & end-all, my alpha & omega, my forever one true frock flick!

 

 

What frock flick biopics do you like?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

26 Responses

  1. Rhonda

    Carrington is one that I love and Emma Thompson’s portrayal just draws you in

    Reply
    • Susan Pola Staples

      I love all of the ones you listed, but would add Edward the King, The First Churchills, Anne of A Thousand Days, Marshall, The Six Wives of Henry VIII especially KOA and Anne Boleyn episodes, The Winslow Boy and The King’s Speech.

      Reply
      • Northcountry gal

        The First Churchills was a defining moment for me as a young teen. I’d love to see it covered here. 40 years of late Stuart costumes and some pretty impressive wigs (and some Whigs too!)

        Reply
          • Northcountry gal

            What a performance as Princess and later Queen Anne! I could never watch The Favourite as it just seemed to regard all these people as objects of fun. I have read so many of their letters – I can’t stand watching them being “sent up”.

            Reply
  2. Gray

    ‘La storia vera della signora dalle camelie‘ (The Lady of the Camellias) 1981.

    I watched it on line in Italian with small French subtitles (or was it in French with small Italian subtitles… I forget) with gigantic Spanish subtitles that took up half the screen superimposed over them. Ugh! But I wanted to see the fantastic Piero Tosi costumes. It’s supposedly the real story and I could tell what was happening even tho’ it was in 3 languages I don’t understand. Incredibly sad… but I liked the film even in the bizarre form I saw it in.

    Reply
  3. Lily Lotus Rose

    Two TNT mini-series hooked me on to frock flicks as a young person (perhaps teen?): A Season of Giants (about Michelangelo and his cohort) and Young Catherine (about Catherine the Great). Much like what you mentioned with Elizabeth R, these costume dramas got me interested in the people they depicted, their respective eras, and frock flicks. I loved Get on Up (the James Brown biopic) and The Doors both of which have time frames that extend beyond FF’s purview. Coco Before Chanel was also very, very good. There are probably more, but those are the only ones I can think of right now. Of the five you listed here, I thought Frida and Wilde were well done. I haven’t watched the others.

    Reply
  4. Orian Hutton

    A lovely choice. I am also rather fond of ‘Wives and Daughters’. I love the book, the series, the acting, the costumes the hair!

    Reply
  5. Damnitz

    “Wallenstein” (1978) should be on the list. The German series with the best costumes, fine actors although some details are wrong. But it’s German.
    “L’Allée du Roi” and “Molière” (1978) are great films too although the second is maybe not so good focussing on the costumes.
    The French deffinetly love to produce epic biopics.

    Reply
  6. Badger

    I suppose the costuming is good (not my era) but I liked The Electrical Life of Louis Wain because I love the artists work.

    Reply
  7. Julia R

    Wilde is heartbreakingly good. I completely agree with you too, Stephen Fry is Wilde. It’s been quite a while, but I remember thinking The Libertine was pretty good. I thought it did a good job to humanize John Wilmot outside of just being a bawdy poet.

    Reply

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