I keep posting little video clips in my blog posts, and when I posted the one from As Good As It Gets a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me to finally write a post that I’ve been noodling over for years: my top ten favorite movies about writers.
Before I get to the good stuff, a disclaimer: I am a terrible movie critic. If I am entertained, it’s a good movie. Period. That’s as sophisticated as I can get. I don’t watch many artsy, deep films. I just like to be entertained.
So here you are–my countdown of the ten best movies about writers:
Number Ten: Get Shorty
This isn’t exactly a movie people think about in the category of writing movies, but there is a lot of discussion about writers and writing. And this scene… “You just hire someone to put in the commas.” Yes. That’s all I do. Put in the commas.
I love this movie. I will watch it any time I can. I can quote a disturbing amount of it. The only reason I rank it as #10 in my writing movies is because it’s not, strictly speaking, a movie about writing or writers.
Number Nine: Shakespeare In Love
I have not seen this movie in several years, but I remember enjoying the wit, the portrayal of writer’s block, and the way that Viola became Shakespeare’s Muse. And also, this amazing scene:
Could Judi Dench just please be in everything forever?
Number Eight: Becoming Jane
I am a long-time fan of all things Jane Austen related, so for that reason alone, this movie belongs on my list. But also, James McAvoy. I feel like in some ways, McAvoy’s character is Muse to Hathaway’s Jane Austen, so in that sense, it’s a bit like Shakespeare In Love. But ultimately, I think it’s a story about Jane accepting who and what she is–a writer. That’s a hard journey sometimes. I speak from experience.
Number Seven: The Lives of Others
In some sense, I feel guilty putting this one so far down on this list. It is, after all, the great cautionary movie about government abuse set against the real-life backdrop of East Germany. But as with Get Shorty, it’s not a movie about writing, exactly. The reason I have it on this list is because of what it says about the power of art and creators as influencers. The government (or anyone) would not monitor and silence creators if it did not believe that creators can change hearts and minds.
Number Six: As Good As It Gets
This movie is genuinely wonderful from beginning to end. It speaks to so much about the work of writing and of being in relationship with other people. I love all of the characters in this movie–their humanity, their flaws, their strengths. And Jack Nicholson is a national treasure.
This clip is a bit offensive, but bear in mind that Jack Nicholson’s character changes a lot between this scene and the end of the movie. Also, his reaction to being interrupted when he’s “in the zone” may hit a little close to home.
Number Five: Little Women (1994)
I adore this movie. I liked the recent remake, but I absolutely adore the 1994 version. And I love the book. I love everything about the story. I relate so much to Jo, and the moment when she discovers that Amy has burned her manuscript… I feel that deeply in my soul. The fact that things are automatically saved in the cloud these days is a tremendous relief.
Number Four: Misery
This movie says a lot about obsessive fandoms. In a way, looking back, it was kind of predictive of the way some fandoms now demand certain things from creators. I think Neil Gaiman said it best when he referred to people who were demanding a new release from George R. R. Martin: “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.” He does say in that post that fans don’t have “too much” input, but I think his point is that input and entitlement are not the same thing. We are not entitled to anything from any creator. That gives me peace.
But also, when my husband says he’s my “number one fan,” it creeps me out just a bit.
Number Three: Throw Momma From the Train
This is a movie of comic genius. Somehow it captures the angst of writing along with the weirdly persistent hope that someone, somewhere will read your work and like it. Danny DeVito is somehow detached and fully invested at the same time. Billy Crystal is so obsessed with his ex-wife that he can’t write, and in this weird place he becomes something of a hapless tagalong for DeVito’s plans. Somehow, it manages to be funny all the way through.
Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve been in critique groups that look a lot like the writing class in this movie.
Number Two: Julie and Julia
This movie is so oddly uplifting, even though Julie isn’t always very likeable. Julia Child had such a huge personality and such a beautiful outlook on life, and Meryl Streep’s performance is delightful. And Stanley Tucci… I just love him. Does anyone, anywhere NOT like Stanley Tucci?
This scene explaining the business of publishing is so revealing, too.
Number One: Stranger Than Fiction
I love this movie. I love it so much. I love Emma Thompson, I love Will Farrell, I love Maggie Gyllenhall, I love Queen Latifah, I even love Dustin Hoffman. I don’t know how it’s possible to make me relate to every single character, but it does.
The entire movie from beginning to end is brilliant, but this scene where author and character meet for the first time almost makes me tear up every time. I don’t know why. Maybe just the thought of the role we have as writers? There’s an aspect of “playing God” that is sometimes uncomfortable.
Also, if Connor Mac Niall showed up at my door one day, I would faint dead away.
So there you go–the answer to the question no one was asking: “What are Amy’s ten favorite movies about writers and writing?” I hope you enjoyed this little walk through my weirdly eclectic taste in movies.
And now I may need to go rewatch a couple of these…
What’s your favorite writing movie or movie about writers or movie that has a writer in it? Share it in the comments!