To celebrate Awards Circuit’s 9-year anniversary, the site will be dropping a new Top 9 piece every hour, on the hour! Each one will take on a different list – from movies, to television, to the Oscars and more. Thanks to all the readers for their continued engagement in our community over the years. We look forward to engaging for another 9!
Writers love to write about how hard it is to be a writer. That’s why there are so many writer characters in movies and television. There are biopics about Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway, and historical fiction like “Shakespeare in Love.” There are films about the writing process, like “Finding Forrester.” There are dramedies about writers who make things manifest, such as “Stranger Than Fiction.” Some are conventional stories of novelists or journalists. Others are tales of poets and songwriters. But each shares that spark of madness that all writers know. And that many know a little too well.
And so, to celebrate nine years of Awards Circuit, and all our writers past and present, here are the Top 9 films about writers.
9. “Misery,” 1990
The tale of a writer and his No. 1 fan. It was quite the unexpected follow-up for director Rob Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman after “The Princess Bride.” But it scored a well-deserved Academy Award for Kathy Bates. This movie is creepy and intense, but in a way that is just pure fun – at least for those that enjoy stories of stalking, kidnapping and trying to escape. The book goes more in depth into Paul Sheldon’s mindset through his ordeal, but James Caan does a good job opposite Bates’ Annie Wilkes. While there will be discussion of writer wish fulfillment down below, this is the ultimate writer’s nightmare.
8. “Capote,” 2005
Truman Capote’s true crime book, “In Cold Blood,” was a hit when it was published in 1967. That led to a film of the same name, which was nominated for four Academy Awards. This iteration, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, tells the story of how Truman Capote researched “In Cold Blood,” and the toll it took on his personal life and relationships. “Capote” was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Hoffman also won Best Actor for his transformative performance.
7. “The Shining,” 1980
Through his long career, one of Jack Nicholson‘s most iconic performances is that of Jack Torrance, a writer who is hired as the winter caretaker at a hotel in the adaptation of the Stephen King novel. Nicholson was perfectly cast as the writer who descends into madness as the hotel’s demons slowly take over. On the surface, it is a ghost story about a writer and his family in a creepy hotel. But digging deeper, it touches on many of the issues that face some of the most notorious writers, from alcoholism to pure insanity.
6. “Young Adult,” 2011
Academy Award winner Diablo Cody penned the script for this film about a bitter ghostwriter who returns to her home town in a misguided attempt to win back her high school boyfriend. Charlize Theron plays Mavis, a recent divorcee fueled by alcohol and disdain for everything around her. She is the girl who once seemed to have it all, but winds up alone and mad at the world. What makes Theron’s performance so noteworthy is she fully commits to Mavis’ bitterness. She is also surrounded by talented supporting actors, including Patton Oswalt in a standout performance as the former classmate who tries in vain to be her voice of reason. This is an underrated film that was appreciated by many critics, but not embraced by audiences.
5. “Ruby Sparks,” 2012
From the directing team behind “Little Miss Sunshine” is this quirky romantic film about a lonely writer who creates his dream girl by actually conjuring her from his imagination. The screenplay was written by Zoe Kazan, who also plays the dream girl, Ruby. She stars opposite real-life boyfriend Paul Dano. The film is funny and sweet and explores the full range of emotions involved in any romantic relationship. Where other similar stories rely on camp and silliness, “Ruby Sparks” takes a deeper approach. Some criticize the tidy, happy ending, but it is an ending that feels earned.
4. “Moulin Rouge!” 2001
This is a film with very little middle ground. Most either love it or hate it. Baz Luhrmann‘s strange style suits the bohemian feel. While Ewan McGregor‘s penniless writer is the heart of the story, it truly comes to life through all of the actors surrounding him. The story-within-a-story has been used many times in film, but it works so well here through the acting and great song and dance numbers. “Moulin Rouge!” was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning for Costume Design and Production Design. But ultimately, this is a story of a writer and the woman he loves overcoming all obstacles. Come what may.
3. “Spotlight,” 2015
Investigative journalism often leads to good storytelling. Such is the case for “Spotlight,” the 2015 Academy Award winner for Best Picture. This is the true story of the Boston Globe investigative team that uncovered the child molestation scandal within the Boston Archdiocese of the Catholic Church. That investigation led to many others across the country. This film shows the difficulties the team faced in bringing the story to light. There were professional challenges, as well as personal crises of faith. It wasn’t an easy story to tell, but it was necessary. And translating it into a compelling film was a challenge that the filmmakers handled with grace.
2. “Midnight in Paris,” 2011
Another quirky film that delves into wish fulfillment, this Woody Allen movie is a love letter to Paris, and to the great creatives of the past. Owen Wilson‘s goofy personality is well-suited to his screenwriter who finds himself transported to the 1920s every night at midnight. What makes this film stand out so well is not just Wilson’s Gil and his ready acceptance of these strange circumstances, but the pure joy of imagining what it might have been like to hang out with the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and so many others we can only enjoy through the prism of history.
1. “Almost Famous,” 2000
There is so much to love about Cameron Crowe‘s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film. “Almost Famous” was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning for Best Original Screenplay. It is the ultimate fantasy of a young writer: to be hired by a major publication and given the chance to travel with an up-and-coming band. This film works because it shows the reality of touring bands in the ’70s, the good and the bad, but does it in a way that doesn’t destroy the fantasy. The acting is flawless; the writing is great. This is one of those films that gets better with each viewing.