I love stories about writers, writing, and books. I love movies about the same. So here’s a list of some of my very favorite movies about writers, writing, and reading. Most are movies I watch over and over again. Some I’ve only just seen for the first time recently.
I’ve left off some with great concepts but poor execution (I’m betraying my fantasy-obsessed childhood self, but I have to put The Neverending Story in this category because it is SO very cheesy when you watch it again as an adult) and I’m sure I’ve left off some good ones because I haven’t seen them (so please add them in the comments if you are so moved so I can put them in my Netflix queue). Also, I very much doubt I’m covering any new ground here, but for what it’s worth, and in no particular order…
[WARNING: These trailers give away a lot of fun surprises in the movies (Why do they DO that?) so if you just want to experience these movies without the little spoilers, please refrain from clicking and just go find them on Amazon Prime or Netflix.]
I know that you either love Nicholas Cage or hate him, and that will color your decision to watch or not watch this movie, but who doesn’t love Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper? No one. What I love about this movie: I love when writers enter their own story; I love the commentary on genre, on being true to one’s own style and method of writing, and on the tired old cliches that we love nonetheless; I love Nicholas Cage. There. I said it.
Stranger Than Fiction
Proof positive that Will Ferrell can act (ergo, the question is raised, Why doesn’t he do this more often?) and that he can be believably romantic. Also Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman are fantastic. What I love about this movie: Again, I love the mixing of worlds between writers and their characters; I love slightly illogical and slightly surreal stories that couldn’t really happen but the creators offer absolutely no explanation as to why it’s happening because it doesn’t really matter in the long run; I love how morbid and off-kilter Emma Thompson’s character is.
Midnight in Paris
Dare I admit that this is the first Woody Allen film I’ve actually seen? I’ve heard so much poo-pooing of his movies over the years that I haven’t sought them out. But this is a wonderful, magical film about writers, artists, and other creative types; about the seductive power of nostalgia; and about taking the right chances. What I love about this movie: Owen Wilson; the huge supporting cast of fantastic little surprises; the costuming and lighting; the unique storyline (which doesn’t come through in the trailer, but I’m not going to spoil it for you).
This film enchanted me even before I knew I loved Virginia Woolf’s writing. The same story told through three different women in three different cities in three different eras–one writing the story, one reading the story, one living the story. What I love about this movie: Fabulous performances (how could they not be with that cast?); the examination of the power of story; the feeling that the words we write have life and meaning far along down the road.
Julie & Julia
Another film starring Meryl Streep? Yes. It seems the woman loves literary films as much as I do. But isn’t this movie about cooking? Yes, but also writing–a cookbook, letters, a blog. Writing your passion onto the page in the form of recipes. Writing about your life to your closest friend. Writing about your crazy experiment to perfect strangers. But always writing (and eating). This movie will make you hungry and inspire you to get Julia’s cookbook (the chapter on eggs alone can change your culinary life–seriously) and buy some really good knives.
84 Charing Cross Road
Oh, how far we’ve come in the world of movie trailers. This little bit gives you almost nothing of the tender quality of this film. Anthony Hopkins is a London bookseller and Anne Bancroft is a New York City bibliophile who can’t get the rare books she wants in NYC. These two characters begin a correspondence after WWII and get to know each other over a couple decades through letters and books. I loved seeing the economic and social differences between post-war Britain (with its deprivation and rations and ruins) and America (with its prosperity and expansion and optimism). A great film about the power of books.
Under the Tuscan Sun
She’s a writer whose marriage is over. At the behest of her concerned friends she takes a trip that will change her life and her writing. Based on a memoir (which I haven’t read), this movie is wonderfully brought to life through Diane Lane’s acting and narrating. The thought of spontaneously starting over in life (especially in a foreign country) is the impetus for many a literary character’s actions and holds such a romantic fascination for us, doesn’t it? Plus, it’s a movie about a house, an old house, and bringing that house back to life. What’s not to love?
Oh, I know I’ve missed some great ones, along with ones I haven’t had a chance to watch yet. And I haven’t included TV shows, but if I did I would put Mad Men in there.
What are your go-to literary movies?