5 recent movies all writers should watch Take a break from the books and grab some popcorn.

As a writer, you should focus on reading books.

Right, I get it. Reading well helps you to become a better writer. But sometimes we need to change up the medium. And what better way to recharge from the page than with a great movie.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching films, having worked in the entertainment industry for a few years and simply being a fan of the screen. But not every movie leaves you thinking, wondering, motivated to go out and create your own art. It takes a special film to do that.

Now, there are plenty of film adaptations of great books—To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great GatsbyThe Shawshank Redemption, to name a few—but that’s not what I was looking for with this list. That could be an entirely separate list altogether. No, these are movies, all fairly recent, that left me thinking, simply, “I need to sit down at my computer and write.”

Honorable Mentions:

Movies that were close, but didn’t quite crack the Top 5 include The Ghost Writer, Papa Hemingway in Cuba and Stranger Than Fiction. All worthy films about writing. Now, let’s get to the list.

5. Spotlight

(available on Netflix)

I know it’s about journalists and not novelists, but writing is writing. There’s a reason this film won Best Picture—it’s powerful and shows the vital importance of investigating a story and telling it accurately.

4. Genius

(available on HBO)

This biopic explores the life of Thomas Wolfe and his relationship with famed Scribner editor Maxwell Perkins. It takes you back into the 1920’s and 30’s publishing world of New York, and it makes you appreciative of the value a good editor brings to the table.

Photo from Facebook.


3. The Words

(available on Amazon Prime)

A story inside a story inside a story. This is just a plain good writing movie. When the world rejects your work, what are you willing to do to make your dreams a reality?

2. Midnight in Paris

(available on Netflix)

This 2011 film feels like a classic from the get-go. Owen Wilson is a screenwriter who is trying to make the leap into the world of literature with a new novel. While on vacation in Paris, he meanders the streets late at night and in a strange twist of magic, he ends up alongside literary icons such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein.

1. Salinger

(available on Netflix)

To put it simply, no film has inspired me more to be a writer. First of all, J.D. Salinger as a man is an incredibly interesting story. The trauma he faced in his younger years, his perseverance in the literary world, and then the instant phenomenon with The Catcher in the Rye—and then to virtually disappear.

Salinger is unlike the other movies on this short list. It is not fiction and it’s not a biopic. This is a two-hour documentary that makes you think how unbelievably brilliant—and a little nuts—you have to be to write something like Catcher. But it leaves you understanding that, aside from the fame and the book signings and the royalty checks, the most important aspect of being a writer is staying true to the work.


  1. Thanks for the list, Ed. Like a few other responses, I didn’t know about the Salinger one. I could watch To Kill a Mockingbird weekly and still not tire of how well the screenwriter captured the characters in the book.


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