Five Movies all Writers Should Watch

Okay . . . so five movies everyone should watch! At least in my humble opinion.

But really. Don’t good movies give us a feel for great characterization, awesome sub plots and just drop dead dialogue? As writers, we pay attention to everything. Everything has a story in it, from the small, little gesture made by a stranger, to the way airport crowds move with herd mentality. So we pay attention. And when I watch a great movie, I always think, “Wow, there are layers and layers of elements here and how would I ever get that much intensity into my own stories and writing?

So, without further ado, here is my list (in no particular order) and the reasons why I chose it.

First up is The Green Mile with Tom Hanks (who is also on my top list of male actors) along with a tremendous cast. The Green Mile is one of Stephen King’s inventions and is so rich with lessons in life that you won’t even know where to start. Good vs. Evil, life’s difficult choices, and a few incredible miracles along the way. I’ve read many of Stephen King’s books but I have to confess, this was not one of them.
From a writing perspective, I think this is one of my favorites because of the growth in character. They are already so rich and deep and layered. But, as the story unfolds, they all change and grow. I think it’s nothing short of brilliant.

Next up is Crash with Matt Dillon, Terrance Howard, Brendon Frazer, Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock. I could go on. Here’s a movie that just defies everything I can fit into my brain about interconnected plot lines. I doubt I could ever manage to get so many connections into one incredible story. Again, the cast is phenomenal. The interwoven stories need to be watched a couple of times to really see all their layers. Crash makes me think of the “six degrees of separation,” how each of us is connected to another in only six steps or fewer. This movie brings that to light as lives intertwine in unthinkable ways.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you’ve only seen it once, watch it again. I guarantee there’s something you missed the first time.

Of course I have to include As Good As It Gets. But I’ve already talked about it at length here so I’ll just let you go there if you’d like:

Then there’s Steel Magnolias with Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Olivia Dukakis, Tom Skerritt, Dolly Parton, Shirley Maclaine, to name a few. Okay so yeah . . . it’s your ultimate Chick Flick. But c’mon! The characterization is incredible! All the little oddities about each and every one of them. We, as writers need to be able to create those quirks in our own characters. Not to mention building that great tension between certain personalities: Ouiser and Drum, Ouiser and Clairee. Well, I suppose it was Ouiser and everyone really! The bonds between the women become such an integral part of the plot that sometimes I think they under-emphasize the male roles. Other than that, the movie is phenomenal.

Finally, finally . . . and only because I want to limit this to five, is The Shawshank Redemption with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (also on my list of favorite actors!) There has to be more than one reason why I chose this movie but right now I can only think of one. It’s just such a darned good story! And that should be the premise of all our writing, right? I mean, if the story’s not there, then all we’re doing is putting words on paper. The story has to grab you and make you love (or hate) its characters. It must make you sympathize with their plight and want to walk their journey with them. And that’s what I found in The Shawshank Redemption. Here’s a guy, quiet, smart . . . really, really smart, claims to be innocent of the crime he’s serving two life sentences for. You want to believe him; you want to see what he’s going to do about it. And over time, if your as patient as he is, you do. It’s a story of hope and endurance, of friendship and redemption, and of life’s hard choices. Even in the face of crippling limitations.

You might be thinking how all my movies are somewhat old and, gosh . . . don’t I like anything new? Well, yes, I do. But these five have stood the test of time in my book. They’re the ones I’ve come back to over and over. Cried and laughed again and again. They’re the ones I think of as really great movies, movies whose building blocks I should think about when writing my own stories.

But maybe I’m missing some. Do you have a few you’d like me to add to my five? Or maybe you’r own five. I love a good movie. So . . . if there are any you think I should check out, let me know!

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6 Responses to Five Movies all Writers Should Watch

  1. Beth says:

    Five Great Movies!
    It’s a little more light-hearted, but I watched Back to the Future after Darcy’s workshop and this movie had everything a good movie or book is supposed to have. I enjoyed watching it all over again!

    • Linda says:

      Yeah.. my list is sorta glum, isn’t it. And you’re right, Darcy’s movie was Pirates of the Caribean, upbeat and fun. And had all the elements of a good story. Like Back to the Future!

  2. Vicki says:

    Great blog topic!

    A movie I think writers should see is The Usual Suspects to learn how to plot a clever, complicated story.
    For dialogue, my all-time favorite movie, Casablanca. Every word is perfect.

    • Linda says:

      Should I be embarrassed to admit that I’ve never seen Casablanca? (holds head in shame). I will now though! And The Usual Suspects looks good! Good cast. I’m starting a new list here!

      And my sister reminded me of The Upside of Anger. Another really great movie for characterization and climactic ending.

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