True Story Movies about Writers

Here are some picks of biopic flicks about writers from literary elites to satirists. These films are mostly dramas based on memoirs or the history surrounding their most well-known writing piece.

Can you ever forgive me? (2018)

A biographical story about a middle-aged, past prime writer sending fraudulent true stories to publishers for exposure and money. This film is a drama about Lee Israel became infamous in the literary world for the fraud committed. The film is very cut and dry with great performances from Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.

Capote (2005)

The true crime story of writer Truman Capote writing the exposé of killers that inspired his best-selling non-fiction novel In Cold Blood. The film is about his investigative trip to the Kansas farm to document the tragedy for The New Yorker with his writing confidant and childhood friend, Nelle Harper Lee. Great performances from the leads, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Fear and Loathing Las Vegas (1998)

A weekend drug binge of writer Hunter S. Thompson and “lawyer” friend during the summer of a race car race in Las Vegas for Rolling Stone into a psychedelic trip of excess and debauchery as described by the narrator, Thompson under his alter ego, Raoul Duke. The direction of the film is not only trippy but fitting for the real source material of the once Rolling Stone article from the end of the 1960s and about the end of the free love 1960s counterculture movement. In combination with great performances, it’s known as a modern-day classic.

Quills (2000)

A semi-true account of Marquis de Sade’s stay in a Victorian mental institution for his novels like Justine deemed indecent due to the indecency laws in 19th century Britain. The film has an interesting grey-toned set design. The film is not scary or too weird but a commentary on Victorian censorship and the sadistic behaviour of the Marquis.

Sylvia (2003)

The biographical film poet about the troubled romance and marriage between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes in the 1950s. The film deals with infidelity, mental illness and suicide. Most reviews in the early 2000s state that the film was melodramatic that’s not as deep, but it might be a great film based on today’s eyes.

The Hours (2002)

A trio of tales about mental illness, grief, loss and death from the perspectives of a woman watching her dying middle-aged brother from AIDS, their childhood and his favourite writer Virginia Woolf. The film is very loaded with sad moments and characters. It’s a film with great performances, but it can be too depressing to sit down and watch.

Barfly (1987)

An alcoholic playwright documented accounts of his drunken escapades through dark and dirty bars in Los Angeles. This film is based on the play of the same name by poet/author Charles Bukowski. The film uses an alter ego, Henry Chinaski. The semi-autobiographical story deals with alcoholism and poverty. The writer had mixed reactions with Mickey Rourke’s performance, but the performance is possibly the most watchable aspect of the film.

Before Night Falls (2000)

Based on the memoirs of Reinaldo Arenas living in Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba and persecution. The author is depicted as a vocal critic and gay during the Cuban dissident movement and then imprisoned for his political activism in Havana. He plots and escapes to America in 1980. It stars Javier Bardem and a feature scene with Johnny Depp.

American Splendor (2003)

Curmudgeon illustrator, Harvey Pekar, tells his life story about his unusual success and frequent trips to the Late Night Show with David Letterman. The film has more cursing and crassness than expected, but it has many conversations of the main character taking to his illustrated self. Harvey Pekar’s social commentary and storytelling abilities changed how people viewed the graphic novel as a medium. The film reenactments of past comic strip topics fill the film. It’s an interesting film but reading the comic strips is more interesting.

My Left Foot (1989)

The film’s full title is My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown. An 18th-century poet with cerebral palsy writes about Ireland and his life based on his 1954 memoir. It’s called My Left Foot because it was the only part of his body he can control. This drama is not only one of Daniel Day Lewis’s best performances but one of the most emotional films of the 1980s. Also, reading about how the lead actor prepared for the role shows his commitment to the craft and his method acting techniques.

Adaptation (2002)

A tale about Charlie Kaufmann’s angst and anxieties when screenwriting an adaptation of The Orchid Thief. He has a brother who couch surfs in his house and wants to pick up screenplay writing while Kaufmann is dealing with writer’s block. The performances from Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper were nominated for Oscars. The film is one of the best films from the 2000s.

Angela’s Ashes (1999)

Memoirs of life in Limerick, Ireland  told through the perspective of Angela’s child, Frankie. The film depicts alcoholism, poverty, hunger, multiple deaths, homelessness and the Great Depression. The film is depressing but engaging. Due to the movie’s popularity, it made the memoirs briefly popular again.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

A semi-biographical film about the psychologist professor, William M. Marston and his psychologist-attorney wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, inviting their research assistant, Olive Byrne, into their marriage during  1930s America for a polygamous relationship. The film depicts the creation of the lie detector (the polygraph), the creation of Wonder Woman inspired by his female relationships and the censorship board of the comic strip sexual content. The film has an interesting story but a mediocre execution.

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