I would rather read than watch a movie; but my wife, the lovely Robin, is a lover of movies. So I’ve seen more than a few. I lean toward comedy and away from fantasy. And far away from horror. And I especially enjoy an occasional movie about a writer or the writing life. So, since I know that some readers of this blog have nothing else to do with their time, I’d like to offer a Top Ten List of my favorite “writer” movies.
10. The Shining
I know I said I lean far away from horror; but I had to include this adaptation of the Stephen King novel because, well, it’s a cautionary tale, right? Writing (and isolation) really can drive you crazy.
9. Funny Farm
It’s not about writing, per se, but it includes some funny bits in which Chevy Chase portrays what it’s like to be a writer.
8. Dead Poets Society
A brilliant film about an English teacher who inspires a love of poetry in his students. The film earned Robin Williams a best actor nomination, but he lost to Daniel Day Lewis (My Left Foot).
Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep star in this film, in which Cage’s character struggles to adapt a novel for the screen. It could make you feel less alone … or swear off writing forever.
6. Midnight in Paris
I’m not a Woody Allen fan, but I am an Owen Wilson fan. This fantasy in which Owen’s frustrated-writer character meets literary (and other) giants of Paris’s past was a lot of fun.
5. The Help
Emma Stone plays aspiring journalist/”Skeeter/”Phelan in this film based on a bestselling book. She’s the writer in the story, but Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer steal the show.
4. Stranger Than Fiction
I’m not a Will Ferrell fan, but this movie in which he is (somehow) a character in a novel being written by Emma Thompson is delightful.
3. Finding Neverland
A best-picture winner about J. M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. Have a tissue handy.
2. All Is True
Kenneth Branagh wrote this fictional account of William Shakespeare’s “retirement” in Stratford-on-Avon. A warning to any writer.
1. Shakespeare in Love
Yes, I’m a Shakespeare nut. Want to make something of it? This Oscar winner imagines a romance that inspired some of the Bard’s greatest work.
Yes, I know, I could’ve mentioned Misery (but I haven’t seen it). Or Finding Forrester, which I loved. But that’s my top ten, and I’m sticking with it. But I’m also looking forward to comments that offer different opinions and new ideas.
Scratch a writer and you’ll find
depths you’ve never seen before,
but I have not artistic mind;
I’m simple as a 2×4.
I juggle cats in blur of hair
(well, one, but fury makes her three),
and her razor claws she’ll bare
to make Venetian blind of me.
Sure, I write a lot of poems,
but as you see, it’s just for fun,
not equal to the worthy tomes
of authors who profoundly run
to where the angels feel to tread,
and use big words that hurt my head.
I really liked Freedom Writers. It’s completely inspirational!
You really need to watch Misery. Then be afraid, be very afraid.
What a fun post!
To your list I add:
Julie & Julia (blogger)
Christmas in Connecticut (journalist)
Becoming Jane (Jane Austen)
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
As Good as It Gets (playwriter)
Great list! Have you seen Saving Mr. Banks? It’s excellent! And I don’t watch too many scary movies, but Misery was worth it!
Miss Potter (about Beatrix Potter) is my favorite! Renee Witherspoon is terrific in the leading role.
I almost put added that to my list, but wasn’t certain those who have not seen it, would get it. One of the most charming movies of all time. Must rewatch.
Field of Dreams!
I had nightmares about The Shining! Maybe I shouldn’t have watched it in our creaky old house in the dark after my parents went out. Hmm. That may have had something to do with it.
Have you seen The Man Who Invented Christmas? As someone who loves writing Christmas stories, this tale of Charles Dickens’ struggle as he wrote A Christmas Carol is right up my alley. I highly recommend it as a “writer” movie, Bob!
Here’s the trailer if you’re interested:
Why have I never seen this! THANK YOU!
Of you love Miss Potter, you’ll love this one about Dickens, too. I should have listed it as well! When the characters tease him, wave to him from out the window, and stand proudly around the finished copy, it’s so fun!
Have you watched The Man Who Invented Christmas? We love that one. It’s now part of our annual holiday movie-a-thon in December.
You need to watch Misery. I’ve seen it a few times especially because my husband loves it so much. There’s one part (spoiler alert), when the guy gets hobbled and I have to plug my ears and close my eyes. We want people to love what we write, but not THAT much. 🙂
Yes, Julie and Julia is great as well as Christmas in Connecticut. I’ve noticed recently that being a writer I notice anything to do with writing in films or TV shows (e.g. The Waltons).
Lisa Larsen Hill
Love this list. Thanks for sharing!
I would add:
Finding Forester with Sean Connery (What’s not to love?)
My Left Foot with Daniel Day Lewis
Agatha and the Truth of the Murder
Of these, I’ve only seen Dead Poets Society (loved it) and Finding Neverland. I can echo others’ recommendation of Saving Mr. Banks and The Man Who Invented Christmas. My favorite is This Beautiful Fantastic. A quirky OCD girl writes her first book while battling an older neighbor over the state of her yard. It’s funny and touching.
Something’s Gotta Give with Diane Keaton, writing her novel turned screenplay! Fav!!!
Meryl Streep in Julia & Julia (??)
Echoing the others who champion The Man Who Invited Christmas. Dickens’ character chase him around and shout at him. My family (not writers) think I’m nuts when we watch that and I empathize.
I like the romcom Alex and Emma with Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson.
Shannon Taylor Vannatter
Echoing The Man Who Invented Christmas. Adding Letters to Juliet and Inkheart. The latter is based on a children’s book, but all writers should see it. Entertaining and it helped me bring characters to life.
I agree. Books are better than movies. One of my favorite movies about a writer is, “Her Alibi” starring Tom Selleck as a novelist with writer’s block. He often visits the court house to get ideas for his next book. When a young woman is arrested and brought to court, he lies to become her alibi and writes his book based on the events he experiences with this woman who is Russian and is hiding a secret.
This is an older movie and I would classify is as a comedy.
“The Magic of Belle Isle” is another good one starring Morgan Freeman.
I like Audrey Hepburn movies, so I’ll mention “Paris When It Sizzles,” about screenwriting, and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” about a developing love between two damaged characters–one a struggling novelist. It’s an adaption of Truman Capote’s novel, which leads me to the next movie.
The biographical movie, “Capote,” is about Truman Capote’s writing of “In Cold Blood,” a creative nonfiction account of the vicious murders of four Clutter family members. Capote conducted many interviews with the two killers and gained the trust of one, Perry Smith, with whom he began to empathize, because of Perry’s background. Capote initially helped stay their executions, in order to gain more details from Smith about the killing. He had the influence to continue staying their executions, but he couldn’t finish his book until the executions were done. The personal impact of his dilemma and ultimate actions are worth pondering.
I’ll add this link to IMDb’s website, which lists 100+ movies about writers, some of which have been mentioned in the post and comments: https://www.imdb.com/list/ls052672821/
I don’t see mentioned one of my long-time favourites – “84 Charing Cross Road”. It is an older film (1987) that stars Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft (as the writer, Helene Hanff). Hanff is a New York based writer who has a 20 year correspondence with Frank Doel (Hopkins) who manages the London bookshop, Marks & Co. Highly recommend this one! And thanks for all the other recommendations here…
Love Always, Santa is a favorite of mine! A widow’s daughter writes Santa Claus, asking for her mother to find love again. When a struggling writer receives the letter, he finds new inspiration and the beginnings of a romance. It is really fun!
Another one is called Trading Christmas by Debbie McComber. It is hilarious. Two brothers, one is a writer and they meet their intended during an apartment swap at Christmas. Comedy at its best.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Stranger Than Fiction is my favorite but I also enjoyed Genius.
Bob, I noticed two or three on your movie list were “I lean far away from” or “I’m not a fan.” Makes me wonder what qualities in a book might temp readers away from their favorite genre.
Not so much about a writer, but my favourite movie about a story teller is Tim Burton’s ‘Big Fish’. I love how it depicts the veil between fact and imagination (similar to ‘Finding Neverland’ but more fanciful) especially in the final scene. Gives a fresh take on the gimmick of “Based on a true story”.
Marilyn A Turk
Hi Bob, thanks for the list. I never thought of “The Help” as a writer movie, but it was a very good movie. I also loved The Man who Invented Christmas about Charles Dickens writing “A Christmas Carol.” It really captured the challenges of a writer’s life, IMHO. I, too, loved “Finding Forester.”
Try The Lost City with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. Such a great movie (well, I love Sandra Bullock!). The opening scenes made me laugh, and the ending is nice (won’t give it away for you).
I would have included my favorite — Finding Forrester with Sean Connery
For an enchanting writer movie, you simply must see Miss Potter, 2006, with Renee Zellweger. Oh my! My tender author-heart groaned with delight from start to finish! A quality film. Your wife will love it, too.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Some of my favorites are:
The Wedding Planner (I was one)
Apollo 13 (I grew up in the Cape Canaveral, Fl area and my dad was one of the early space program quality control engineers)
Downton Abbey, the New Era (Take tissues)
Runaway Bride (I should have followed her lead)
My three favorites on your list are:
The Shining – never looked at Jack Nicholson as a truly sane individual until The Bucket List….
Dead Poets Society – Robin Williams could have made millions as a motivational speaker.
The Help – such a great movie, although I steer clear of chocolate pie now….
“The Lord of the Rings” is one of my all-time favorites (all three of them) and Frodo does write a book at the end… And it’s just so good vs. evil.
Also, like “Dead Poets Society” too. “With Honors” is a real good one about a homeless person that tries to write, learn and take some college courses. And its a real tear jerker as well.
I guess there aren’t many movies out there about writers so I can’t think of any more. My husband spends most of the evening watching awful movies and I am, unfortunately, his captive audience. But someday, maybe, we can watch some I like…Hahaha!
The Man Who Invented Christmas is my all-time favorite writing movie. I go through much the same process when I write and often have to argue with my characters about how they will act. Most of my family and friends thought the movie was silly. I think it’s a movie that only a writer can appreciate.
Throw Momma From the Train (Billy Crystal) is an oldie about writing. Hilarious! Also: Becoming Jane, Miss Potter, and Freedom Writers.
I’m not a Will Ferrell fan, either, but I can’t imagine anyone else playing his part in Stranger Than Fiction. Such a good movie!
I’ve seen The Shining and Dead Poets’ Society, but will add some of yours to my movies-I-want-to-see-list, Bob. I love movies about writers.
I also enjoyed The Man Who Invented Christmas. Especially when Dickens laments, “My characters aren’t doing anything I want them to do!” Bahahaha!
Akeelah and the Bee isn’t about writing, but I found it fascinating to learn how people study for spelling bees. And it’s all about words, so … 😉