Today we’ll be talking about movies with plots that involve writers because I’ve been obsessed with writer-oriented movies for a while. As a culture writer, I’m always thinking of how artists, especially writers, are represented in media; whether it be the suburban kid moving to the big city to write the next Great American Novel, a documentary exposing the hardships of creative stardom, or a Beatnik adventure, here’s a list of movies that might get you inspired.
REPRISE (2006) | 3.8/5
A 2006 Norwegian film directed by Joachim Trier about two best friends/writers who send off their novels for publication. The film is kind of trippy in the way that it jumps perspective and uses memory or fantasy in scenes. It’s a bit dark, but if you’re looking for something dramatic, this is a good movie to check out.
MISERY (1990) | 4.5/5
This film is adapted from a Stephen King novel about a writer hoping to pivot his career away from a successful book series to write something more meaningful. His plans are foiled, however, when he gets into a car accident and is rescued by a huge fan of his series. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, just know that there’s a cringe-inducing scene that you might have to cover your eyes and ears for.
MEETING THE MAN: JAMES BALDWIN IN PARIS (1970) | 5/5
This is honestly one of my favorite pieces of media about a writer and my favorite James Baldwin documentary to date. British filmmakers travel to Paris to interview James Baldwin about his work, philosophies, and perspective on the significance of monuments. I initially went into this film expecting another romantic portrait of Baldwin, but instead what I got was one of the most jarring scenes in a documentary because of the tension as James Baldwin goes to bat against the filmmakers attempting to extract answers from them.
It’s documentaries like this that I am grateful for because they shine a light not only on the subject but the sometimes insidious nature of documenting “a subject”.
ON THE ROAD (2012) | 3/5
This film adaptation of Jack Keroauc’s infamous On The Road novel was very moving to me in college. Granted, if I saw it now, my perspective would be very different since I’m no longer an undergraduate wannabe Beatnik. The film focuses on the main characters of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty over a number of years as they road trip across the US, do lots of drugs, party, and sometimes write. The film clearly showcases the misogyny present throughout the book and has beautiful landscape shots of the characters as they hitchhike. And who doesn’t love Kristen Stewart dancing like Britney Spears in I’m a Slave 4 U?
COOLEY HIGH (1975) | 4/5
This 1975 film about two black friends, one of whom is a writer, came out in 1975 and is loosely based on the screenwriter, Eric Monte’s life as a high schooler in Chicago. The film follows them through a chaotic day of skipping class, gambling, and hitting on girls in their neighborhood. It’s a beautiful snapshot of black teen life in the 1970s. As an artist, I’ll always recommend this film because Eric Monte should have had much more acclaim and success in his later life.
MALCOLM X (1992) | 5/5
For a while, I avoided this 1992 movie, possibly because the internet gave me a biased opinion against Spike Lee, but when I eventually did see this movie, it left me sobbing by the end credits. Although I wish the first 30 minutes were condensed, the rest of the film is a beautiful, cinematic portrait of the political activist, speaker, and revolutionary, Malcolm X. For those that know his life and story, the last scenes of the film may be chilling because they depict his assassination in brutal clarity. Worth a watch.