When you’re writing a novel, short story, or screenplay, there are a lot of aspects of movie-making that you need to know and understand. Studying film-making or literature will help you develop the skills you need to be a good writer; understanding the craft of screenwriting will help you understand what makes for a good story. Below, we’ve compiled a short list of the movies that are good to study for creative writing. We haven’t included TV shows in this list because they’re often lacking in plot, characterization, and dialogue. The following are the movies you need to study to become a better creative writer.
If you’ve ever studied creative writing, you’ll probably know that a lot of the academic work focuses on the short story form. What you may not know is that although the short story evolved as a narrative device in literature, it was originally developed as a form of advertising and marketing. Sing is a 2010 documentary that delves into the stories behind some of the most famous pop songs of all time. Through interviews with the creators of the iconic pop songs, we learn that the short stories behind their songs were meant to encourage people to purchase their records. For example, the song “Teenager” by the Buzzcocks was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms and his usage of the word “teenerager.” Many of the songs featured in Sing are radio friendly, which means their narratives could easily be adapted for commercials, magazine articles, or even blog posts.
La La Land
La La Land is one of the most expensive films ever made, and for good reason. It’s an American musical that focuses on the complicated relationship between an aspiring actress and a successful film director. Despite being a box office flop in the United States, the film has found an audience in international markets, where it’s been screened in theaters large and small. The world is finally catching on to the genius of Damien Chazelle and this timeless classic that he wrote, directed, and scored himself.
Mullet is a 1998 American thriller film about a man who has an uncanny ability to foresee his murder. It’s a moody film that gets its dark sense of humor from the twist endings and elaborate murders that its protagonist, Will Colson (Matt Damon), witnesses. While researching for his book The Meaning of Laughter, screenwriter and actor Woody Allen developed an appreciation for this film and its subversive sense of humor. Allen even cited a line from Mullet as the inspiration for a joke he told in a 2006 lecture: “There’s this girl—she’s nice looking, but strange looking. She doesn’t wear lipstick. When she smiles, it’s like she has an extra tooth. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls, so she comes to my desk. She says, ‘Mr. Allen, I love your films, but it is extremely difficult for me to talk to you. I feel uncomfortable around men. Could you teach me how to dress and act like a woman?'”
Paparazzi is a 1998 film noir that explores the boundaries of truth and justice. It’s the story of a group of professional paparazzi known as The Pack, who track down and expose famous celebrities for the entertainment media. This group of aggressive reporters threatens the privacy of the famous people they stalk and ultimately exposes them for what they are, rather than the glamorous individuals they try to portray in their stories. The film also explores the darker side of celebrity, featuring interviews with some of the individuals The Pack hunts down. Director Darren Aronofsky drew from his personal experience as a photographer for The New York Times to create this unique view of the paparazzi.
A Life Lesson
A Life Lesson is a 1997 American drama about a young man named Joe, who takes a job as a janitor at a prestigious university to provide for his family. There, he meets a wealthy widow named Helen, who becomes his accomplice in the scheme to swindle her friends by convincing them that she can help them cheat on their taxes. A Life Lesson is a morality tale about how easy it is for a person to fall victim to financial fraud, especially if they’re doing it to provide for their family. The film stars Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, and it earned both actors Golden Globes for their performances.
Sideways is a 2005 American road movie that follows the journey of Miles Raymond, an Oxford University graduate who travels to California in search of inspiration for his next novel. While there, he meets Alice Fairmont, a budding photographer who agrees to tag along as he forages for locations and experiences to use in his book. As they journey across the Golden State on foot and by bus, they encounter a variety of interesting characters whose stories spark Miles’s interest in, and appreciation for, literature. The film won the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and was later turned into a Broadway musical by Peter Quilter.
The Shining is a 1980 American psychological horror film that’s considered to be one of the greatest works of art ever made. Based on Stephen King’s novella The Shining, it explores Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance, and his descent into madness after his family is murdered by a crazed driver. The Shining is one of the most expensive films ever made, and for good reason: It’s a must-see masterpiece. Jack Nicholson, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Shining, is one of the greatest movie characters of all time. His iconic portrayal of Jack Torrance will forever be associated with this brilliant piece of literature.
Fight Club is a 1999 American neo-noir thriller film that was directed by David Fincher. It’s arguably the best film adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s famous novella of the same name, which was first published in 1976. The novella follows a Fight Club member known only as “Clinch” as he descends into madness after being humiliated by women. Fight Club is an interesting blend of darkness and humor, marked by frequent improvised bouts of comedy. The line between fact and fiction is blurred in this interpretation, with many scenes and situations from the story being lifted directly from Bukowski’s novel and his own personal life. Although Fight Club wasn’t the most popular film at the time of its release, it has since found a large and loyal audience, and it’s considered to be one of, if not the greatest film adaptations of all time. The irony of adapting a self-help book into a film that examines the frailty of the human condition is not lost on us either.
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is a 2008 American vigilante thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan and written by David Ayer. The film is based on the DC Comics character Bane, who was originally introduced to comic books in 1969. Bane is a large, muscular bad guy with a face full of scars who uses his intelligence and planning to destroy Gotham and its most famous citizens. In the comics, Bane wears a mask that covers his whole face, but in the film, the mask only covers his eyes. Even then, with the help of some makeup trickery and creative costume design, the scars on Bane’s face are still visible. Like many of the other films on this list, The Dark Knight was a financial success and earned several awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for Tom Hardy and a BAFTA for Best Film. The Dark Knight has also been credited with kick-starting the now-popular “Dark Night” meme on social media platforms like Twitter. The Dark Knight paved the way for the character-driven, realistic thriller that would become a trend in Hollywood and the media in general, not just comics.
Black Orpheus is a 1960 American musical that was directed by Richard Brooks and stars Sidney Poitier. The film follows the story of the titular character, a black slave who leads a revolt against his Master, played by Louis Armstrong. Black Orpheus is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, and it earned Armstrong a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. What makes this film so special is not only the astonishing performance that Armstrong gives (he won the Academy Award for it), but also how Brooks and his team of writers and editors bring this story to life through their unique cinematic language. It is the single most important film in the history of black cinema.