Great Movies About Writers and Writing

A few years ago I went looking for a movie list to both inspire and instruct me about writing and being a writer. There are such lists, but there are no good lists. Over the last couple of years I've made my own list. And, it's good.

These ten are perfectly on point, grade A awesomeness. There are a dozen others that almost made the list, but didn't.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Charles Dickens wrote 'A Christmas Carol' in six weeks to release it for Christmas, because he was broke, even though he was famous. Also, no one would publish his weird ghost story, so he self-published it. That was 1843. I'm not a huge Dickens fan, but this little book is genius, and I liked seeing the story behind it. Dickens talked about how his characters were more real to him than real people. It's hard to show that kind of creative writing process in pictures or film, and they do it superbly in this show. 

Mary Shelley

Both of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley's parents were famous writers. And, her husband was a famous writer. Mary herself was a prodigy. She wrote 'Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus' when she was nineteen-years-old, because of a game about telling a scary story with Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori. It does not seem like a story written by a teenage girl. And I'm not talking about it being scary. It's much deeper than that. The story has wisdom in it. Plus, from a technical side the story is well done. It uses an epistolary frame story, meaning that it opens with letters and then tells a story inside of a story. The movie really shows why such a young woman could write something so dark, so technical, and so full of wisdom about the human existence.


'Zorba the Greek' is a great book. I didn't know much else about Nikos Kazantzakis before watching this movie. He lived quite the interesting life. This movie is in Greek, but it's worth it. Plus, I like the way the Greek language sounds. I was talking to my mother and my three-year-old niece about this movie, and on the first try my niece perfectly said the name Kazantzakis. She said it like she knew him, it was hilarious. The story of him overcoming so many obstacles over a long writing career is worth knowing.

Bright Star

John Keats is one of my two favorite poets, the other being Ovid. Keats is one of the most famous poets in the English language, and he died when he was twenty-five-years-old. That's amazing! I hadn't even started writing when I was twenty-five. The movie revolves around a love story. It's both heartwarming, and heartbreaking. A feel-good tragedy of sorts. I've watched it several times.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

From World War One to Winnie-the-Pooh. The playwright A. A. Milne wasn't the same after the war and couldn't go back to writing what he used to. So, he worked on kid's books for his son. And, they became quite popular. Winnie-the-Pooh is illegal in China because he looks like Emperor Xi, but it's popular the rest of the world over. This movie digs into the difficult and important subject of trying to redeem the suffering of life through art.


J. R. R. Tolkien also fought in WW1. This movie is largely about Tolkien before the war. He was a linguistic genius, but more interesting than that is watching this take on his group of friends in school. Later in his life he formed the writing group The Inklings at Oxford University with C. S. Lewis and others. It's amazing to think that he had two such unique groups over his life. I've been a part of writing and public speaking groups and it's been wonderful, but his were different. This movie shows that dynamic well.

Rebel in the Rye

The same actor that plays Tolkien also plays J. D. Salinger. Nicholas Hoult must like portraying great writers. Salinger was an odd guy, as artists and geniuses tend to be. 'The Catcher in the Rye' is still immensely popular. After Salinger wrote it he became more and more of a recluse. It seems that the motivation to write this book helped him survive World War Two, and helped him recover after the war. This movie is gritty and it really dives into the struggle of actually writing, of doubting yourself, and of learning the necessary skills.

Miss Potter

Most of the writers on this list were poor, Beatrix Potter was not. She mostly had to struggle against social issues to get her stories about Peter Rabbit in print. Now it's one of the best-selling book series in history. The movie shows a type of defiance, as every single one of these movies does, but it's different because it's an upper-class type of defiance; where fear of failure is not so much a fear of not being able to afford things as it is a fear of ostracism and disapproval. Something we all have to deal with. It was an enjoyable show.

The Whole Wide World

Robert E. Howard invented the sword and sorcery genre of fantasy fiction with Conan the Barbarian. And he did it in just a short time, because he killed himself when he was thirty-years-old. The movie does very well at bringing us into that feeling of craziness. It's a wild movie that is well worth watching, but maybe don't watch it if you're feeling depressed. In that case, check out my article 'An Interesting Note on Suicide from Viktor Frankl' instead:

To Walk Invisible

The three Bronte sisters are considered some of the best novelists in the English language. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are all interesting. How did three sisters end up being so good at writing and so famous for it in the 1800s? I've read about them building a shared fantasy world when they were kids, and playing by writing stories in it along with their brother. I never really knew much about him, and the show reveals why that is. The movie takes you back and gives you the historical feel of the situation, which I liked. And it's interesting to see a situation where so much talent was developed in a single family.

You'll notice that I didn't number the movies. I've tried to several times, but they're all just so darn good. And to a certain extent it depends on how you feel at the time. The first four are my favorites though.

There are some interesting patterns here. Seven of the movies focus on British writers. Two are Americans. Four of them are about the 1800s. Two are about WW1 and one is about WW2. Seven or eight of the writers start poor. And I'm sure there are many other points waiting to be noticed.

These movies are both inspiring and instructive. They show the struggle that occurs both outside in the world, and inside of the mind and soul, and how they influence and reflect each other. The stories that the writers write are impactful, and so are the stories of their lives.



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