44 (Because I Like Palindromic Numbers?) Films On/About Writers and Writing
I compiled this list in no particular order and with the aid of "Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide" and IMDb.com as references. It is by no means, of course, a comprehensive list...
1. IL POSTINO (Michael Radford, 1994) -- an Italian postman develops a love for poetry while delivering mail to the famous Chilean poet Pablo Naruda, starring Philippe Noiret.
2. QUILLS (Philip Kaufman, 2000) -- about the imprisonment to an insane asylum of the infamous 18th-century French writer The Marquis de Sade, played by Geoffrey Rush.
3. SYLVIA (Christine Jeffs, 2003) -- profile of poet Sylvia Plath, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, and her relationship with fellow poet Ted Hughes.
4. BARTON FINK (Joel Coen, 1991) -- black comedy about a self-important NY playwright, played by John Turturro, who goes to 1940s Hollywood to write a screenplay and discovers it's a living hell.
5. WONDER BOYS (Curtis Hanson, 2000) -- about the bond between a writer/professor and his gifted student, starring Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire; adapted from the Michael Chabon novel.
6. HENRY FOOL (Hal Hartley, 1998) -- about the relationship between a garbageman and the free spirit who encourages him to begin writing poetry.
7. NAKED LUNCH (David Cronenberg, 1991) -- a graphic filming of the William S. Burroughs novel, weaving together elements of the author's life with fictional material.
8. MRS. PARKER AND THE VICIOUS CIRCLE (Alan Rudolph, 1994) -- profile of Dorothy Parker, fabled writer and member of the Algonquin Round Table in the 1920s, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Campbell Scott.
9. BELOVED INFIDEL (Henry King, 1959) -- about the romance of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hollywood Columnist Sheilah Graham, starring Gregory Peck and Deborah Kerr.
10. DECONSTRUCTING HARRY (Woody Allen, 1997) -- a writer uses his life as fodder for work, much to the dismay of his family and friends, starring Woody Allen and a large ensemble cast.
11. THE BASKETBALL DIARIES (Scott Kalvert, 1995) -- profile of 1960s poet-musician Jim Carroll, played by Leonardo Dicaprio (notably, in a role originally intended for River Phoenix)
12. BIG BAD LOVE (Arliss Howard, 2001) -- tale of Vietnam vet/struggling writer Leon Barlow (played by director Howard); based on Mississippi author Larry Brown's stories.
13. BEFORE NIGHT FALLS (Julian Schnabel, 2000) -- story of Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990), starring Javier Bardem.
14. BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (Woody Allen, 1994) -- story of a 1920s playwright who quickly "sells out" when he's offered a chance to direct his latest work on Broadway with a gangster's moll in the lead role; starring John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Chazz Palminteri, and an ensemble of others.
15. CELESTE (Percy Adlon, 1981) -- from Celeste's memoirs about her relationship with prolific French writer Marcel Proust.
16. DEAD POETS SOCIETY (Peter Weir, 1989) -- about a charismatic English teacher at a New England prep school for boys who inspires his students to revive a secret, student poets society; starring Robin Williams.17. TOTAL ECLIPSE (Agnieszka Holland,1995) -- about 19th century French poets Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. 18. HENRY AND JUNE (Philip Jaufman, 1990) -- adaptation of the Anais Nin diaries, named for Henry and June Miller (Incidentally, controversy over this film caused the MPAA to implement what is today's NC-17 rating.)
19. WILDE (Brian Gilbert, 1998) -- profile of writer Oscar Wilde, starring Jude Law.
20. SHADOWLANDS (Richard Attenborough, 1993) -- tale of British writer C.S. Lewis, starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.21. ADAPTATION (Spike Jonze, 2002) -- story of a lovelorn screenwriter who turns to his less talented twin brother for help when his efforts to adapt a non-fiction book go nowhere; inspired by a Susan Orlean novel; Nicolas Cage stars as both brothers.
22. MOULIN ROUGE! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) -- tale of a penniless poet's love for a beautiful courtesan whom a jealous duke covets, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor; nominated for numerous Academy Awards including Best Picture.
23. ALEX & EMMA (Rob Reiner, 2003) -- story of a writer who must turn out a novel in thirty days or face the wrath of loan sharks, starring Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson.
24. DREAMCHILD (Gavin Millar, 1985) -- the woman for whom Lewis Carroll invented "Alice in Wonderland" visits America for the writer's centenary.
25. NORA (Pat Murphy, 2000) -- set in 1904 Dublin, about Nora Barnacle and her relationship with prolific writer James Joyce.
26. BARFLY (Barbet Schroeder, 1987) -- based on the autobiographical writings of Charles Bukowski, starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway.
27. TOM & VIV (Brian Gilbert, 1994) -- about the relationship between poet T.S. Eliot and his wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood, starring Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson.
28. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (John Madden, 1998) -- speculation about the love affair that inspired the writing of "Romeo and Juliet"; nominated and awarded numerous Oscars and starring Ralph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow.
29. THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (Dan Ireland, 1996) -- profiles pulp novelist Robert E. Howard and his relationship with aspiring novelist/schoolteacher Novalyne Price, starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Renee Zellweger.
30. GOTHIC (Ken Russell, 1986) -- depicts the night in Italy in 1816 when Mary Shelley and Dr. Polidori became inspired to pen their classic goth novels "Frankenstein" and "The Vampyre", respectively; this was also explored in the earlier film The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935), and later in Haunted Summer (Ivan Passer, 1988.)
31. ABSCENCE OF MALICE (Sydney Pollack, 1981) -- a reporter is duped into writing and running a story that discredits an innocent man, starring Paul Newman and Sally Field.
32. THE HOURS (Stephen Daldry, 2002) -- story of how Virginia Woolf's novel "Mrs. Dalloway" affected three generations of women, all of whom, in one way or another, had to deal with suicide in their lives; based on the novel by Michael Cunningham and starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, and Ed Harris; nominated for and awarded numerous Oscars.
33. THE ABSENT MINDED POET ( Herbert M. Dawley, 1923) -- a silent, animated short film about, well, an absent minded poet.
34. IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (John Carpenter, 1995) -- story of the search for a reclusive horror writer, derived from concepts created by H.P. Lovecraft and starring Sam Neill.
35. LA DOLCE VITA (Federico Fellini, 1960) -- story of a tabloid writer's crisis over the shallowness of his life's work in Rome, starring Marcello Mastroianni.
36. MISERY (Rob Reiner, 1990) -- story of a successful romance novelist who's nursed back to health following a car crash with a lunatic fan, starring Kathy Bates and James Caan; based on the Stephen King novel; later adapted for the stage in London.
37. THE PARALLAX VIEW
(Alan J. Pakula, 1974) -- story of a reporter who investigates the assasination of a senator, starring Warren Beatty.
38. MORVERN CALLAR (Lynne Ramsay, 2002) -- about a supermarket clerk who, following her boyfriend's suicide, passes off his unpublished novel as her own; starring Samantha Morton.
39. ROMAN HOLIDAY (William Wyler, 1953) -- about a princess who flees her palace in search of a "normal life" and has a romance with a writer/reporter, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck (Incidentally, this was Audrey's first break, and for which she received an Oscar.)
40. THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO (Henry King, 1952) -- about a renowned writer critically injured on an African safari, starring Gregory Peck and based on the Ernest Hemingway story.
41. THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed, 1949) -- Graham Greene's account of a pulp-writer's manhunt for Harry Lime (played by Orson Welles) in post-WWII Vienna.
42. ALMOST FAMOUS (Cameron Crowe, 2000) -- tale of a 15-year-old boy given the chance to write a story for "Rolling Stone Magazine" about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies them for their concert tour.
43. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (Frank Capra, 1934) -- about a writer/reporter and runaway heiress, played by Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, who fall in love on a bus trip; based on Samuel Hopkins Adams' story "Night Bus". More later...
44. THE PLAYER (Robert Altman, 1992) -- black comedy about a paranoid movie exec who begins receiving threats from a disgruntled screenwriter, starring Tim Robbins; notably, slathered with inside Hollywood jokes and references.