THE three BEST . . . THE three worst . . .
Helen Mirren in The Queen
Directed by Stephen Frears and written by Peter Morgan, The Queen (2006) was a stylish drama based around the royal paralysis that followed Princess Diana's death in 1997. But Helen Mirren's portrayal of Queen Elizabeth was really extraordinary, right down to her determined walk, cut-glass vowels and phlegmatic approach to her public role.
Bruno Ganz in Downfall
To English-speaking audiences, Swiss actor Bruno Ganz was best known for playing an angel in Wings of Desire. But he did an even more convincing job of playing the devil in Oliver Hirschbiegel's powerful 2004 drama Downfall. The film was set in Hitler's bunker in 1945, and Ganz was by turns charming and terrifying as the cornered and increasingly deranged despot.
Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose
Marion Cotillard won an Oscar and became a Hollywood star overnight thanks to her electrifying portrayal of Edith Piaf in Olivier Dahan's stylish 2007 biopic. Edith was the brave but sickly Parisian street kid whose unique singing style charmed first a nation and then the world, and Cotillard caught perfectly the combination of fragility and fortitude that made Piaf such a special star.
THE three worst . . .
Tom Hulce in Amadeus
Milos Forman's Amadeus may have won eight Oscars at the 1985 Academy Awards, but it was more panto than serious period drama, and at this remove Tom Hulce's Mozart sets the teeth on edge. In fairness, Hulce was encouraged by Peter Shaffer's ridiculous script, but his portrayal of the great Austrian composer as a hysterical and debauched vulgarian was a bit over the top.
Jennifer Love Hewitt in The Audrey Hepburn Story
Whoever told horror star and sometime pop singer Jennifer Love Hewitt that it would be a good idea to play the sylph-like Audrey Hepburn in this dodgy TV biopic was doing neither of them any favours. She was dreadful and irredeemably wooden as the Dutch ballerina in this film that charted Hepburn's somewhat unlikely rise to fame as world-class actress.
Hilary Swank in Amelia
Amelia Earhart was a complex, driven and fascinating woman, but you'd never know it by watching this dire and badly written 2009 biopic. Hilary Swank is all at sea as the legendary American aviatrix, all bland smiles and determined looks, and you don't believe her as a transatlantic flying pioneer for one single second.