There have been a lot of movies made about writers and the writing process. Writers are a very unique bunch and often create their work and live in eccentric ways. The life of a writer can be an interesting one to portray on the big screen, but it is not necessarily an easy task to do well. Here are ten of the best movies about writing.
This film, adapted from a Stephen King novel, stars James Caan as a writer being tormented by a deranged fan, portrayed by Kathy Bates. Caan plays an author who crashes his car and is rescued by a woman, who brings him back to her house to care for him. But since this is based on a horror novel, things turn nightmarish very quickly and the writer finds himself in the fight of his life, as his captor demands he change the ending to one of his books.
In this musical love story, Ewan McGregor plays a writer living during the Belle Epoque era in Paris. His character is put in charge of creating a play in the famous cancan hall that is being bankrolled by an evil duke and starring the gorgeous dancer, Satine (Nicole Kidman). The play soon begins to mirror the off-stage romance of the writer and dancer.
This film stars Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, a grumpy writer, creator of the American Splendor comic book series. Viewers get to see Pekar at home with his wife, with his friends, getting divorced, and of course, writing. It’s an interesting look at the life of not just a writer, but an oddly fascinating individual going about his daily grind.
“Based on the Stephen King novel, this film follows a writer, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, who accepts a job as a caretaker at an isolated hotel, and brings his family along. Things take a gruesome turn when his writer’s block turns to insanity and then culminates in a murderous rampage,” writes Marianne Mosley, film blogger at WriteMyX and BritStudent. Jack’s career as a writer is the background of the film but takes center stage when his wife examines his progress and finds he has written “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over for hundreds of pages.
In this film, an aging and reclusive writer (Sean Connery) mentors a talented athlete and writer, Jamal Wallace, portrayed by Rob Brown. It’s a cheesy, but beloved film about mentorship and writing. There are very few films that actually have a scene about sitting down and writing, but this film has perhaps the most memorable writing scene ever. It’s become a meme in the past few years. The scene features Connery cheering on his prodigy at the typewriter with the phrase “Punch the keys for God’s sake! Yes! You’re the man now, dawg!”
If you’re a fan of Sylvia Plath then you will want to check this biopic out, as there are very few about her. Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Plath, the tragic poet, and Daniel Craig is featured as Ted Hughes. This film sets the perfect mood and features some incredible scenery, both add a lot to the production. It’s not exactly the feel-good film of the year, but then again if you’re a Sylvia Plath fan, that’s probably not what you’re looking for anyway.
Shakespeare in Love
Of course, this list could never be complete without a mention of the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. Shakespeare in Love is a film that is hated by some for its lack of historical accuracy, but it still remains a popular film for many fans of writing. “In this film we see a fictional romance between Shakespeare and Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) that inspires the play Romeo and Juliet. Overall, it’s a good movie that provides the lesson that often the best inspiration for your writing will come from the events in your life,” recommends Cary Wolf, writer at 1Day2Write.
This David Cronenberg film, based on the novel by William S. Burroughs, is a look into the hallucinations and experiences of the famous author. Burroughs wrote under the influence of drugs not for the sake of creativity, but because he felt as if he were going to war and sneaking behind the lines of his own sanity. This must have been an incredibly challenging movie to make because it is based on a series of fantasies, hallucinations, and loosely connected sequences.
This is the film that got Bryan Cranston his first Oscar nomination, for his portrayal of the screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The film takes place during the 1940s when many people in Hollywood, including Trumbo, are facing accusations of being communist sympathizers and being blacklisted. Trumbo refuses to bow to the pressure and under fake names writes some of the most well received films of the time, including Roman Holiday. Trumbo can serve as an inspiration to many writers who feel as if they are having a difficult time bringing their projects to completion.
Adaptation tells the interwoven stories of three authors at once. Nicolas Cage plays Charlie Kaufman who is having a difficult time adapting a book into a screenplay. He asks for help from his brother Donald, who has followed Charlie’s example and also become a screenwriter. The two brothers decide that the best solution to their problem is to speak with the book’s author (Meryl Streep) and try and find out what is really behind her work.
Writing can be a great topic for a movie, if it is done right. A talented director can take a writer’s life and process and turn it into a compelling narrative that people will enjoy watching. Writers make great subjects for films because of the demanding nature of their work. It’s not easy to sit down and write a masterpiece. People struggle for weeks, months, or even years with writer’s block, or battling to have their work published. The life of a writer can be difficult and even tragic, but it can also make a great film.
Joel Syder reviews movies for Origin Writings and Academic Brits. He loves to write articles about things he is passionate about for Australia 2 Write and also enjoys teaching people about great films.