If you’re a professional writer yourself or just a college student training to be one, you can translate your love of the craft into a night of entertainment with these great movies based on writers. You’ll find intriguing real life stories, movies that show the sometimes frustrating nature of writing, and a great collection of movies about the trials and tribulations of fictional writers themselves.
These films deal with both the good and the bad that comes with writing.
- My Brilliant Career: Through this film, you’ll see the writer Sybylla battling between her own desire for independence and society’s expectations for her future.
- The Front: This film will take you back to the McCarthy Era when writers were blacklisted for their real or imagined connections with the communist party. In it, Woody Allen plays a man who agrees to be the front for a group of writers still trying to work.
- Adaptation: This film explores two difficulties of writing–having too much creative freedom and working on a project without much passion–with an insight and vulnerability that make it one of the best on-screen depictions of writing out there.
- Wonder Boys: This film focuses on professor and writer Grady Tripp who can’t seem to get past his writer’s block to make anything of note, and progresses as his life, career and writing spin wildly out of control.
- Barton Fink: John Turturro gives an amazing performance as the screenwriter Barton Fink, who faces writer’s block as he attempts to write the script for a wrestling picture and descends into a world of chaos as he begins connecting with the other residents of the hotel.
- Sunset Boulevard: In this noir film, a struggling screenwriter agrees to write a comeback script for an actress in the twilight of her career. When he falls for another screenwriter, jealousy, wrath and even murder come into play.
- Misery: This film strikes fear into the heart of every serial novelist out there, with Kathy Bates playing a crazed fan unhappy that her favorite writer has decided to kill off her beloved character.
- In a Lonely Place: Get a noir vibe in this film about the trials and defeats that sometimes come along with being a writer, with Humphrey Bogart’s down-on-his-luck Dixon Steele as the leading man.
- Shakespeare In Love: This film won an Oscar for best picture for its sad depiction of writing success in the face of lost love and sacrifice.
- Sideways: While wine is the main focus of this film, one of its main characters is a man frustrated and unable to get his seemingly very good novel published–something many writers can relate to.
- Finding Forrester: This film explores the sometimes tumultuous relationship that develops between a teen writing prodigy and a reclusive author played by Sean Connery.
- I Capture the Castle: In this movie you’ll find not only love, desperation and the decay of a once great family, but also the frustration that comes with not being able to match the success garnered by a first novel.
Writers Being Bad
A movie wouldn’t be half as interesting if the story didn’t have a little drama, and these films have it in spades, with writer characters often behaving very badly.
- The Shining: This film combines the talents of Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King to bring to life the madness and personal creative hell of writer Jack Torrance.
- The Squid and the Whale: With writing being such a competitive field, it’s natural that writers would feel jealous, even a little, about other writers’ success. This film documents a family in crisis, where these sometimes petty jealousies take place between a husband and soon-to-be ex-wife.
- Through a Glass Darkly: This Ingmar Bergman classic documents 24 hours in the life of a family taking a holiday on the island. The daughter has recently returned from spending time in a mental institution, and her estranged father sees inspiration for a novel in her condition, though perhaps not to the benefit of her health.
- Deconstructing Harry: Check out this Woody Allen classic to see a depiction of a novelist who’s hopelessly self-centered and childish, hurting those around him as he finds himself with writer’s block.
Based on Real Writers
Check out these movies to learn about the lives behind some great works of literature.
- Factotum: In this movie, Matt Dillon plays the alter ego of famous writer Charles Bukowski
- Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle: This film may be in black and white, but it was shot in 1994. In it, Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Dorothy Parker, reminiscing about her work and the illustrious Algonquin Round Table.
- An Angel at My Table: This 1990 film documents the life of New Zealand author Janet Frame, often filled with poverty, madness and despair even as she creates beautiful writing.
- Capote: This depiction of writer Truman Capote garnered actor Philip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar for his performance and will have viewers both fascinated and repelled by the lengths Capote goes to to ensure he gets the story he wants.
- The Hours: Detailing the lives of three very different women, one of whom is famed writer Virginia Woolf, in an Oscar winning performance by Nicole Kidman, this film crosses over time and geography to tell its tale.
- Naked Lunch: The novel on which this film was based is largely the product of the drug-induced hallucinations of writer William S. Burroughs, and the film is a wild ride through bug-filled cities and the bizarre world of the exterminator, paranoid and drug addict at the film’s center.
- Permanent Midnight: In this film you’ll get an insight into the life of TV writer Jerry Stahl (as played by Ben Stiller in the film) as he spirals downward into drug use and self-destruction at the height of his writing success.
- Quills: Learn more about the banned books and suppression faced by the notoriously scandalous writer (even by today’s standards) the Marquis de Sade.
- Miss Potter: While today we regard Beatrix Potter’s cute animal tales with admiration as children’s classics, in her time she had to struggle against family, prejudices and unwilling publishers to find success, as you can see in this film.