My favorite movies are mostly about writers. I love them the way I love memoirs by writers and interviews with writers. Now that we’re all stuck at home with time to write, we can look for inspiration and binge watch films at the same time.
Here’s my list of TOP TEN MOVIES ABOUT WRITERS. It’s my list, based on my own personal preferences, organized by neurosis, in no particular order. But I stand by it.
1. WEIRDEST EXISTENTIAL EXPLORATION OF WRITING:
BARTON FINK, 1991
Written and directed by the Coen Brothers
A Coen Brothers classic and one of my all-time fave movies ever. One long writer’s hallucination.
—John Turturro as Barton Fink in Barton Fink
2. MOST DELICIOUS MOVEABLE FEAST OF WRITERS:
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, 2011
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Worth it for Corey Stoll’s performance of Ernest Hemingway alone.
—Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris
3. ULTIMATE “WHY I GREW UP TO BE WRITER” INSPIRATION:
LITTLE WOMEN, 2019
Directed by Greta Gerwig, screenplay by Greta Gerwig, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
Any of the many film adaptations of the novel that made me (and most every other female writer I know) want to be Jo will do, but this latest one is especially wonderful. Greta Gerwig was robbed. I’m just saying.
—Saoirse Ronan as Jo March in Little Women
4. SOUNDEST “WHY YOU NEED AN EDITOR” ARGUMENT:
Directed by Michael Grandage, screenplay by John Logan, based on A. Scott Berg’s Max Perkins: Editor of Genius
Colin Firth stars as Max Perkins, who edited Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, among others. Enough said.
“Imagine you’re a reader. You’re wandering through a bookstore and lots of books, and you see a book titled Trimalchio in West Egg and you see one titled The Great Gatsby. Which are you going to pick up?”
—Colin Firth as Max Perkins in Genius
5. BEST WORST WRITER’S NIGHTMARE:
Directed by Rob Reiner, screenplay by William Goldman, based on the novel by Stephen King
Leave it to King, Goldman, and Reiner to pair James Caan and Kathy Bates in the ultimate showdown between jaded novelist and deranged reader.
—Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery
6. MOST URGENT “I NEED PEACE AND QUIET ” PLEA:
CROSS CREEK, 1983
Directed by Martin Ritt, screenplay by Dalene Young, based on Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ memoir
In this moving and meaningful film, we watch Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings evolve from wannabe writer to the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Yearling. A beautifully rendered reminder to write about what matters.
—Mary Steenburgen as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in Cross Creek
7. GREATEST CHARACTER OUT OF CONTROL GLITCH:
STRANGER THAN FICTION, 2006
Directed by Marc Forster, screenplay by Zach Helm
Killing off your main character is harder than it looks when that character takes his life into his own hands. (Especially when the author is played by Emma Thompson and the character is played by Will Ferrell.) We’ve all been there.
—Will Ferrell as Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction
8. MOST MARVELOUS META ADAPTATION:
Directed by Spike Jonez, screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, book by Susan Orlean
When screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is hired to adapt bestselling book The Orchid Thief into a film, he gets stuck—and writes Adaptation instead. I first saw this in an art house in Dedham, Massachusetts, and laughed twice as hard as anyone else in the audience. It’s an elaborate insider writer’s joke. And if you’ve ever taken Robert McKee’s Story seminar….
“Sir, what if the writer is attempting to create a story where nothing much happens? Where people don’t change, they don’t have any epiphanies, they struggle and are frustrated and nothing is resolved. More a reflection of the real world.”
—Nicolas Cage as Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation
9. WRITER’S BLOCK FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY:
THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS, 2017
Directed by Bharat Nalluri, screenplay by Susan Coyne, based on Les Standiford’s book The Man Who Invented Christmas, inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
How Dickens conquered writer’s block at the lowest point in his career to write A Christmas Carol—and went on to self-publish it to great success. Now that’s a happy ending.
—Christopher Plummer as Scrooge in The Man Who Invented Christmas
10. HOW TO WRITE 10K A DAY, RUN FARM & FAMILY, AND SEDUCE CHOPIN: IMPROMPTU, 1991
Directed by James Lapine, screenplay by Sarah Kernochan
The Writer’s Life, as lived to its very fullest by Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, also known as George Sand. Best. Romp. Ever. Ooh la la.
—Judy Davis as George Sand in Impromptu
What are your favorite movies about writers? Join us on Facebook and we’ll talk about it.