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Top 10 British Biopics America Ruined

VO: Richard Bush
Written by Sean Harris Our film-making friends across the pond have got a lot to answer for. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 British biopics that America ruined! For this list, we’ve created a cringey countdown of American-made, god awful biopics centred on the stories of famous British people. However, as all of today’s entries must have at least part-US involvement behind the scenes, we haven’t included the likes of 2013’s “Diana”, for which the blame lies elsewhere. Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 British Biopics that America Ruined


Our film-making friends across the pond have got a lot to answer for. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 British biopics that America ruined!

For this list, we’ve created a cringey countdown of American-made, god awful biopics centred on the stories of famous British people. However, as all of today’s entries must have at least part-US involvement behind the scenes, we haven’t included the likes of 2013’s “Diana”, for which the blame lies elsewhere.

#10: “Braveheart” (1995)

We open with the winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director – so, critically speaking, “Braveheart” has its backers. However, Mel Gibson’s take on the legendary Scot, William Wallace, also stands as a prime example of a biopic littered with inaccuracies. From names to dates, locations, key relationships and even outfits, almost every scene negates the need to honour actual historical events. The movie presents an epic tale, it’s just that half of it is hyperbolic hogwash.

#9: “Miss Potter” (2006)

Released in 2006, 140 years after Beatrix was born, “Miss Potter” certainly delivers a pretty, period tale – but that’s about all it offers. Promising to portray the children’s author Beatrix Potter for a new generation, and boasting a stellar cast including Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor, it promptly dismantled the writer’s various accomplishments into a fairly forgettable 90 minutes. In real life, Potter was an author, illustrator, biologist, mycologist, self-publisher and a conservationist; in this film, she idly chit-chats to make-believe animals. It sells its subject short, just a bit.

#8: “Domino” (2005)

A film which set out to tackle the life story of Domino Harvey, a one-time British model turned American bounty hunter and alleged drug dealer, this multi-national co-production might’ve been one of the most original biopics ever made. But, it really wasn’t. Despite director Tony Scott spending years interviewing Harvey and involving her in production (before she died from a drug overdose), the final studio cut was convoluted and quite forgettable. Keira Knightley’s lead performance was an unexpected highlight though, in a role far-removed from her usual style.

#7: “Hitchcock” (2012)

While Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are their typically top-notch selves for this next film, the rest of the movie offers little to get excited about. Focussing on Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, the film charts the director’s role in making “Psycho”, but was criticised as a rose-tinted account of the man and his methods. Though some reviews tipped “Hitchcock” to win big at the 85th Oscars, it ultimately scored just a single nomination – reflecting how quickly, and quietly, it fell from our radars.

#6: “Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story” (2001)

The sometimes-sketchy sub-genre of music biopics has given us some standout movies in the past, but this isn’t one of those. A TV film directed by Robert Mandel and produced by VH1, “Hysteria” tracks the rise of Sheffield heavy metal outfit, Def Leppard. But what might’ve been a rip-roaring insight into the band’s back-story became an underwhelming and overdramatised flop. A disappointment for fans thanks to various inaccuracies, and far from engaging for new audiences, it failed on all fronts.

#5: “John and Yoko: A Love Story” (1985)

Tracking the relationship between John Lennon and Yoko Ono from 1966 to Lennon’s death in 1980, we reach another biopic which fails to deliver despite a wealth of potential. In fairness, the film does live up to its title, diluting its subjects into a high-profile romance. But, with a running time close to two and a half hours, this ‘love story’ left lots of us pretty bored. Still, the film’s worth a watch if only to catch Peter Capaldi as George Harrison, and for the briefest of cameos from a young Mike Myers.

#4: “The Audrey Hepburn Story” (2000)

Audrey Hepburn is widely remembered for her definitive style, and as one of Hollywood’s brightest talents during the ‘50s and ‘60s. But, the actor’s intense and traumatic upbringing in Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands offers a background story quite unlike anybody else’s. And yet, this movie manages to mangle the facts through a flimsy, straight-to-TV set-up, with Jennifer Love Hewitt taking a dual-role as a producer and leading actress. Turning chic to cheap in a matter of moments, it’s a tacky tribute to an undisputed icon.

#3: “Devotion” (1946)

While the Brontë sisters are responsible for some of Britain’s best-loved and most widely-acclaimed literary works, their cultural impact appeared to completely bypass the makers of this film. “Devotion” hit screens in 1946, and was immediately lambasted, particularly for its portrayal of Emily and Charlotte. The plot pitches both writers into an almost entirely fabricated love triangle, trivialising their story into a lacklustre, insipid period romance. A Warner Bros. film which angered critics then, general opinion has in no way softened with time.

#2: “William & Kate: The Movie” (2011)

Released days before Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal wedding in 2011, today’s runner-up proved a ratings success around the world – which should only increase the embarrassment that everyone involved in making it should feel. Cashing in on the Kate and Wills clamour, cable TV’s Lifetime served up a quintessential run-through of brainless British stereotypes, but still saw fit to use a predominantly US cast. Even the staunchest of stiff upper lips couldn’t cope with this – it’s just too painful.

#1: “Liz & Dick” (2012)

From actual royalty to acting royalty, and another laughable Lifetime production. Today’s top spot goes to a now-infamous portrayal of the turbulent relationship between British-born Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor, and celebrated Welsh actor Richard Burton. With Lindsay Lohan taking a title role, “Liz & Dick” was always at risk of some scathing reviews, but ultimately it outstripped even the most pessimistic of predictions. Turning one of the twentieth century’s most engrossing love stories into the shabbiest of soap operas, it’ll have you wincing from start to finish.
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