The life of Nelson Mandela is undoubtedly one of the more fascinating of the entire 20th century – and, as such, it’s been celebrated and chronicled several times on screens big and small.
In this time of remembrance, let’s take a minute to run down some of these performances that have helped to represent the life of this great man.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM – This most recent bio-pic, released right for the heart of Oscar season, is one of the best ones. Idris Elba is a towering, charismatic presence as the leader, bringing a dynamic element sometimes missing in other performances. Ably directed by Justin Chadwick and penned by esteemed English screenwriter William Nicholson (famed for Gladiator and Shadowlands), this is one of the better pictures of 2013.
WINNIE MANDELA – Probably one to avoid. Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson is wasted in the title role here, hampered by a weak script and some flat direction. Terrence Howard – another Oscar nominee – plays Nelson here, with none of the flair you’d expect from an actor of his stature. It’s a big disappointment.
INVICTUS – Morgan Freeman got a well-deserved Oscar nomination for this worthy Clint Eastwood-directed drama, which follows Mandela’s attempt to unify the nation post-apartheid through the South African rugby team’s attempt at a World Cup title. Freeman is compelling in the title role, and Matt Damon is just as good as Francois Pienaar, the rugby’ team’s captain (he got an Oscar nomination, too).
MANDELA AND DE KLERK – It may be a little hard to find, but this 1997 made-for-TV flick is well worth seeking out. Sidney Poitier is excellent as Mandela, and the great Michael Caine co-stars as F.W. De Klerk – the last apartheid president of South Africa. It’s a wonderful film that dramatizes the relationship between the two leaders.
MANDELA – This HBO bio-pic from 1987 features two legendary actors in lead roles – Danny Glover as Nelson and Alfre Woodard as Winnie. It doesn’t have the scope of the more recent bio-pics, but it’s still a very, very worthy watch.