Learning about the lives of famous authors can be a great inspiration for aspiring writers, as well as a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
Sometimes, when you need a little writing motivation, finding movies about writers can help you think more clearly about your writing career. Or, you might simply be curious about the lives of some of your favorite wordsmiths.
Moves About Writers
Here are some of the most interesting movies about writers that you can add to your must-see list:
This film, starring Nicholas Cage, follows the struggle of Charlie Kaufman, a real-life screenwriter, as he adapts a nonfiction book entitled The Orchid Thief into a movie.
Kaufman wrote the story himself, so we get an insider glimpse into his insecurities, depression, and even his bouts with writer’s block.
Exploring the tension between the pressures that writers face to sell out, and the call of artistic integrity, Kaufman gives us a film that successfully simulates the nitty-gritty of the sometimes crazy process of writing.
This screen adaptation of legendary writer Stephen King’s novel follows romance writer Paul Sheldon, who has a terrible car accident that leaves him paralyzed.
Nurse Annie Wilkes rescues him, and Sheldon is pleased to learn she’s a fan—but his relief is short-lived as the sadistic nurse ends up taking Sheldon captive and torturing him until he rewrite parts of his novels according to her whims.
A wide range of gory punishments shows us the depravity of the human soul and shows us the writer’s struggle to please a lunatic obsessed fan holding a knife to his throat.
The Ghost Writer
In this intense thriller, the British Prime Minister approaches the protagonist, played by Ewan McGregor, for help finishing his memoir.
As The Ghost digs into the archives to learn more of the Prime Minister’s history, he discovers numerous secrets, including clues from an accident that killed the previous ghostwriter after he found links between the CIA and the Prime Minister.
The Ghost now faces the challenge of revealing the truth at the possible cost of his life.
Shakespeare in Love
This film about William Shakespeare follows his journey through writing his most famous play, the romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The movie effectively shows the complexities of the writing process while also shedding light on the intricacies of theater.
Audiences get a glimpse into the Bard’s own encounters with writer’s block, as well as the passionate flow that comes when he finds inspiration.
While the story takes the creative freedom of introducing a fictional Lady Viola, who becomes Shakespeare’s inspiration for finally finishing his play, the movie does portray many of the people who were in Shakespeare’s real-life experience.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Instead of exploring success in writing, Can You Ever Forgive Me? explores the complexities of failing.
Lee Israel is a biographer whose account of Estee Lauder flopped, and her financial struggles led her to alcoholism and finally, to forging letters as though they were written by famous personalities.
Writers can easily relate to this film especially in terms of working passionately on something that no one else seems interested in.
This comedy-drama based on Michael Chabon’s book follows Professor Grady Tripp, who teaches a creative writing class while stuck with writer’s block on his own novel.
He also struggles with his love life: his third wife has just left him, and he is now having an affair with the university chancellor, whose husband leads the English Department in Professor Tripp’s school.
Supporting characters are two of the good writers in his class, James Leer, played by Tobey Maquire, and Hannah Green, played by Katie Holmes.
The film celebrates writers and the ability to create stories based on the people they observe. Viewers also get a humorous look into the professional and academic jealousy that are rampant in the writing world.
Midnight in Paris
Successful screenwriter Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson, is unhappy in his struggle to pen his first novel.
Gil goes on vacation in Paris with his fiancée, where he finds a way to travel back to the 1920s and meet his literary heroes, including Fitzgerald and Hemingway ( a dream of many lit nerds!).
The movie shows us that no matter how much we may glorify times gone by, there’s no moment like the present to live life, seize the moment, and follow our dreams—in Gil’s case, that means writing his novel.
William Holden plays Joe Gillis, a struggling screenwriter who unwittingly meets former silent-film star Norma Desmond. She lures him, as her script adviser, into her demented imaginary world of rising back to stardom.
The plot thickens as the mentally troubled woman manipulates Joe into moving into her mansion, and he discovers that she is in love with him. Showing how far gone Norma’s mind is, the movie wraps up with a tragic conclusion made for Hollywood.
I Remember Mama
Barbara Bel Geddes plays aspiring writer Katrin Hanson in this 1948 film. The story follows her childhood as the daughter of Norwegian immigrants struggling to make ends meet.
Irene Dunne plays the wise mother, Marta, who pushes her daughter to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer.
Katrin’s struggle with receiving rejection slip after rejection slip tempts her to give up on writing. But she learns the crucial lesson of writing about the things she knows instead of telling lofty tales.
Inner-city teenager Jamal Wallace is a gifted boy who befriends a loner writer named William Forrester. The older man ends up mentoring Wallace and teaching him how to write.
The movie emphasizes a writer’s need to be mentored in order to grow. Through the unique relationship between this boy and his recluse teacher, we also learn the value of sharing our work and knowledge to benefit others.
15-year-old aspiring rock journalist William Miller receives the dream assignment of every writer in the 1970s: to go on tour with a new rock band and write their story for Rolling Stone magazine.
But his experiences show him that fame and fortune aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Director Cameron Crowe’s own teenage years of reporting for Rolling Stone added to the authenticity of this film.
Viewers will enjoy watching William’s determination to get published in the top magazine, not letting his age or lack of experience limit him.
The Lost Weekend
This 1945 film follows the life of Don Birnam, a formerly successful writer who now struggles with alcoholism, in addition to a debilitating case of writer’s block that fuels his self-doubt.
The film studies the effects of alcohol on struggling writers, as it essentially cripples them, while proving that the best antidote to writer’s block is writing more.
Stranger Than Fiction
Though not a movie directly about a writer, the story follows IRS auditor Harold Crick who suddenly hears a voice-over narrating the events of his life—leading him to find out that he is actually a character in a fictional book.
The film effectively portrays how characters in novels can evolve as though they have a say in their lives, encouraging novelists to be open to a final draft that looks totally different from what they planned.
This 1988 comedy features Chevy Chase as a sports writer in New York who quits his day job to write his novel.
The film effectively portrays the numerous distractions and writer’s block episodes he encounters, as well as his wife’s negative feedback of his work.
As you follow his struggle with writing, you will find that, even if you don’t impact the world as you imagined, it’s all right to continue doing the things you excel at.
This 2012 film features Barbara Sukowa as the main character, Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish philosopher who travels to Israel to feature the Nazi Adolf Eichmann’s trial for war crimes in the New Yorker.
The movie revolves a lot around Arendt sitting and thinking as she writes. The cinematography succeeds at making the thinking process interestingly dynamic, showing the seasonal bursts of ideas, the less exciting gathering and organizing process, and even the debilitating procrastination that many writers face.
This glimpse into the thinking that goes into writing may encourage you in times when the writing seems slow.
Films for Writers
Sometimes there’s nothing more refreshing than a reminder that you’re not alone as you face the trials and triumphs of being a writer.
Spend a night in with one of these 15 great films for some extra inspiration to keep following your dreams.
Do you have a favorite movie about writers? Share it with us in the comments below!