1. Frida / 2002 / Julie Taymor
Art, politics, and romance are on equally full display in this visually flooring biopic about Frida Kahlo. Featuring an irresistible and career-defining performance from Salma Hayek and an equally superb Alfred Molina in the role of Diego Rivera, the film celebrates both Kahlo’s freewheeling sexuality and courageous persistence in the face of debilitating injury.
2. Girl with a Pearl Earring / 2004 / Peter Webber
This visually stunning piece is a speculative account of the life of Griet, a 16-year-old girl who appears in Johannes Vermeer’s painting of the same title. Set in 17th century Holland, Griet is employed by Vermeer as a housemaid to care for his six children, his jealous pregnant wife and his uncommunicative mother-in-law.
3. Edward Munch / 1976 / Peter Watkins
This intimate docudrama reveals the life of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (Geir Westby), the Expressionist best known for his iconic painting “The Scream.”
Like the work of the artist whose life and times it evokes, Peter Watkins’s 1974 film Edvard Munch comes off as a thing of frayed nerves, passionate resentments, and stray sexual frustrations, made on what feels like the edge of delirium and out of what seems like a desperate need to confess or exhume. The movie has 100% rating by rotten tomatoes.
4. Lust for Life / 1956 / Vincente Minnelli, George Cukor
Lust for Life is the quintessential Hollywood biopic about the quintessential tortured artist. Kirk Douglas plays Vincent Van Gogh, who leaves his Dutch homeland for Paris to live with his brother Theo, played by James Donald.
5. Midnight in Paris / 2011 / Woody Allen
This Woody Allen comedy set in Paris about a family that goes there because of business, and two young people who are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences there that change their lives. It’s about a young man’s great love for a city, Paris, and the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better.