35 Movies About Writers and The Writing Life

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I don’t believe a solid, healthy writing practice is dependent on “inspiration.” It’s about commitment and dedication and being willing to put fingers to keyboard to pen to paper even when we don’t feel like it. Even when it’s hard or not our best.

That said, though, I AM inspired by much in life. Movies inspire me. Especially movies about writers and the writing life. If nothing else, they remind me that I’m not alone in the world with my magical, weird writer’s mind (which I wouldn’t trade for anything) and the importance of the truth telling we do.

Below are 35 movies (listed from oldest to newest) about the lives of writers.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

A screenwriter develops a dangerous relationship with a faded film star determined to make a triumphant return.

Director
Billy Wilder
Writers
Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M. Marshman Jr.
Cast
William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Jack Webb, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton


All the President’s Men (1976)

“The Washington Post” reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Director
Alan J. Pakula
Writers
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (book)
William Goldman (screenplay)
Cast
Cast Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, Meredith Baxter, Ned Beatty


My Brilliant Career (1979)

A young woman in rural, late-19th-century Australia aspires to become a writer, but her ambitions are impeded first by her social circumstance and later by a budding romance.

Director
Gillian Armstrong
Writers
Miles Franklin (novel)
Eleanor Witcombe (screenplay)
Cast
Judy Davis, Sam Neill, Wendy Hughes, Robert Grubb, Max Cullen, Aileen Britton, Peter Whitford, Patricia Kennedy, Alan Hopgood, Julia Blake


The Shining (1980)

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father, who’s working on a novel, into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.

Director
Stanley Kubrick
Writers
Stephen King (novel)
Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson (screenplay)
Cast
Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone


An Angel at My Table (1990)

Janet Frame was a brilliant child who, as a teen, was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. Explore Janet’s discovery of the world and her life in Europe as her books are published to acclaim.

Director
Jane Campion
Writers
Janet Frame (books)
Laura Jones (screenplay)
Cast
Kerry Fox, Alexia Keogh, Karen Fergusson, Iris Churn, Jessie Mune, Kevin J. Wilson,
Francesca Collins


Henry and June (1990)

In 1931 Paris, Anais Nin meets Henry Miller and his wife June. Intrigued by them both, she begins expanding her sexual horizons with her husband Hugo as well as with Henry and others. 

Director
Phillip Kaufman
Writers
Anais Nin (book)
Phillip Kaufman and Rose Kaufman (screenplay)
Cast
Fred Ward, Uma Thurman, Maria de Medeiros, Richard E. Grant, Kevin Spacey,
Jean-Philippe Ecoffey


After a famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels, he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.

Director
Rob Reiner
Writers
Stephen King (novel)
William Goldman (screenplay)
Cast
James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall


Barton Fink (1991)

A renowned New York playwright is enticed to California to write for the movies and discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood.

Directors
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Writers
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast
John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub,
Jon Polito, Steve Buscemi


The Player (1992)

A Hollywood studio executive is being sent death threats by a writer whose script he rejected, but which one?

Director
Robert Altman
Writer
Michael Tolkin (novel and screenplay)
Cast
Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Gallagher, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Stockwell, Sydney Pollack, Lyle Lovett


The Pillow Book (1996)

A woman with a body writing fetish seeks to find a combined lover and calligrapher.

Director
Peter Greenaway
Writers
Sei Shonagon (book)
Peter Greenaway (screenplay)
Cast
Vivian Wu, Ewan McGregor, Yoshi Oida, Ken Ogata, Hideko Yoshida


With a Friend Like Harry (2000)

Harry knew Michel in high school; they meet again by accident, Harry inserts himself in Michel’s life… and things take a sinister turn.

Director
Dominik Moll
Writers
Gilles Marchand, Dominik Moll
Cast
Laurent Luca, Sergi López, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin, Liliane Rovère, Dominique Rozan, Michel Fau


Wonder Boys (2000)

An English Professor tries to deal with his wife leaving him, the arrival of his editor who has been waiting for his book for seven years, and the various problems that his friends and associates involve him in.

Director
Curtis Hanson
Writers
Michael Chabon (novel)
Steve Kloves (screenplay)
Cast
Michael Douglas, Tobey McGuire, Frances McDormand, Robert Downey Jr., Katie Holmes,
Rip Torn


Adaptation (2002)

A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt ‘The Orchid Thief’ for the screen.

Director
Spike Jonze
Writers
Susan Orlean (book)
Charlie Kaufman (screenplay)
Cast
Nicolas Cage, Tilda Swinton, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Susan Orlean


American Splendor (2003)

An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.

Directors
Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Writers
Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner (comic book series)
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (screenplay)
Cast
Harvey Pekar, Paul Giamatti, Shari Springer Berman, James Urbaniak, Daniel Tay

Swimming Pool (2003)


A British mystery author visits her publisher’s home in the South of France, where her interaction with his unusual daughter sets off some touchy dynamics.

Director
Francois Ozon
Writers
Francois Ozon, Emmanuele Bernheim, Sionann O’Neill
Cast
Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance, Jean-Marie Lamour, Marc Fayolle,
Mireille Mosse


Secret Window (2004)

A successful writer in the midst of a painful divorce is stalked at his remote lake house by a would-be scribe who accuses him of plagiarism.

Director
David Koepp
Writers
Stephen King (novel)
David Koepp (screenplay
Cast
Johnny Depp, John Turturo, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles S. Dutton


Sideways (2004)

Struggling writer and wine enthusiast Miles takes his engaged friend, Jack, on a trip to wine country for a last single-guy bonding experience. 

Director
Alexander Payne
Writers
Rex Pickett (novel)
Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (screenplay)
Cast
Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh


Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (2005)

All but abandoned by her family in a London retirement hotel, an elderly woman strikes up a curious friendship with a young writer.

Director
Dan Ireland
Writers
Elizabeth Taylor (novel)
Ruth Sacks Caplin (screenplay)
Martin Donovan and Dan Ireland (additional dialogue)
Cast
Joan Plowright, Rupert Friend, Zoe Tapper, Robert Lang, Marcia Warren, Anna Massey, Georgina Hale, Millicent Martin


Capote (2005)

In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.

Director
Bennett Miller
Writers
Gerald Clarke (book)
Dan Futterman (screenplay)
Cast
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Allie Mickelson, Kelci Stephenson, Craig Archibald, Bronwen Coleman, Kate Shindle, David Wilson Barns, Michael J. Burg


The Dying Gaul (2005)

A grief-stricken screenwriter unknowingly enters a three-way relationship with a woman and her film executive husband – to chilling results.

Director
Craig Lucas
Writer
Craig Lucas
Cast
Peter Sarsgaard, Patricia Clarkson, Campbell Scott


The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Follows two young boys dealing with their parents’ divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s, one of whom has a declining writing career.

Director
Noah Baumbach
Writer
Noah Baumbach
Cast
Owen Kline, Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, William Baldwin, David Benger,
Anna Paquin


Trumbo (2005)

In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood’s top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.

Director
Jay Roach
Writers
Bruce Cook (book)
John McNamara (screenplay)
Cast
Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Maldonado, John Getz, Laura Flannery, Helen Mirren, David James Elliott, Toby Nichols, Madison Wolfe


Reprise (2006)

Two competitive friends, fueled by literary aspirations and youthful exuberance, endure the pangs of love, depression and burgeoning careers.

Director
Joachim Trier
Writer
Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Cast
Anders Danielsen Lie, Espen Klouman Hoiner, Viktoria Winge, Odd-Magnus Williamson, Pal Stokka, Christian Rubeck


Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

I.R.S. auditor Harold Crick suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear: narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death.

Director
Marc Forster
Writer
Zach Helm
Cast
Will Farrell, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah,
Kristen Chenowith


Atonement (2007)

Thirteen-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit.

Director
Joe Wright
Writers
Ian McEwan (novel)
Christopher Hampton (screenplay)
Cast
Kiera Knightly, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn, Harriet Walter


Ruby Sparks (2012)

A novelist struggling with writer’s block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.

Directors
Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer
Zoe Kazan
Cast
Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Asasif Mandivi, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould


Stuck in Love (2012)

An acclaimed writer, his ex-wife, and their teenaged children come to terms with the complexities of love in all its forms over the course of one tumultuous year.

Director
Josh Boone
Writers
Josh Boone, Rick Bitzelberger
Cast
Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff, Kristen Bell, Logan Lerman, Liana Liberato, Michael Goodwin, Stephen King (voice)


Adult World (2013)

A naive college graduate, Amy, who believes she’s destined to be a great poet, begrudgingly accepts a job in a shop while she pursues a mentorship with reclusive writer Rat Billings.

Director
Scott Coffey
Writer
Andy Cochran
Cast
Emma Roberts, Summer Shelton, Chris Riggi, Shannon Woodward, Catherine Lloyd Burns,
Reed Birney, Manu Gargi, Cloris Leachman


Nightcrawler (2014)

When Louis Bloom, a con man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

Director
Dan Gilroy
Writer
Dan Gilroy
Cast
Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton, Michael Papajohn, Marco Rodriguez, Kent Shocknek, Pat Harvey, Sharon Tay, Rick Garcia


Spotlight (2015)

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Director
Tom McCarthy
Writers
Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
Cast
Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci


Let Them All Talk (2020)

A famous author goes on a cruise trip with her friends and nephew in an effort to find fun and happiness while she comes to terms with her troubled past.

Director
Stephen Soderbergh
Writer
Deborah Eisenberg
Cast
Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, Candace Bergan, Gemma Chan, Lucas Hedges


Shirley (2020)

A famous horror writer finds inspiration for her next book after she and her husband take in a young couple.

Director
Josephine Decker
Writer
Susan Scarf Merrell (novel)
Sarah Gubbins (screenplay)
Cast
Elisabeth Moss, Odessa Young, Michael Stuhlbarg, Logan Lerman, Victoria Pedretti, Robert Wuhl


If I’ve missed one you know and love, please leave the title in the comments below, and I’ll add it to the list!

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Happy viewing!