As I’m sure is glaringly obvious, I watch a lot of TV. But somehow, despite all the time I spend watching Netflix, it’s almost always TV episodes. I don’t make as much time for movies as I used to. And even when I used to watch move movies, it always seemed there were so many good ones I hadn’t seen for any number of reasons.
I want to do more screenwriting, and as with any form of writing, getting better at it means immersing yourself in that form and medium of storytelling. Or I’m just giving myself an excuse to start getting DVDs in the mail from Netflix again (the streaming movie selections are a bit limited) and spend more time watching movies. Either way, I would love some suggestions.
So give me your top five to ten movies (or more!) you think I should see. They can be your favorites, or great examples of a particular genre, or even movies you hate (as a writer, it can be good to familiarize yourself with the not-so-great examples too, and who knows, tastes differ. Or you can have no particular theme or reason at all. Just give me some suggestions, and some descriptions of why if you want, and I’ll start compiling an epic film educational queue.
I’m not saying much about what movies I already love (or hate) b/c I want to be open to all suggestions, but if you’re really curious, I have a faves list on my FB. But since I’m looking to branch out, I just don’t want to limit anything to similar titles or anything like that. Really, all suggestions welcome!
I’ll just list some of my favorite movies, since I don’t have a clue as to the level of screenwriting ability they exemplify.
The Matrix (pt. 1)
Cool Hand Luke
The Doll Maker
Awesome, that’s perfect. I’ve actually only seen one of the movies on your list and it was a long time ago, so I really appreciate the suggestions!
Just start writing! You mind find my las post somewhat relate to your current desires: https://juristinprogress.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/you-dont-need-to-be-a-genius-to-create-a-masterpiece/
Ha, it looks as if I missed some letters. How did that happen? Thank you for taking me up on the offer to read that post, by the way.
Hey A, your post was great :) I really enjoyed reading it. And I think you have a point with, “Just start writing.” I think it’s all too easy to get caught up in prep and not ever start anything. I think many writers, myself included, often fail to put the ass in the chair and write.
At the same time, I do think immersing yourself in the genre and medium you’re working in is really worthwhile. You can do a lot of learning that way. You get to know what works for you and what doesn’t. What feels overdone and tired, what gets done all the time that you’d like to vary or play against. I don’t think it can ever hurt to learn more and more in whatever field before or while contributing to it. You’d get yourself familiar with lab equipment and procedures and chemical reactions and all the past attempts and failures before attempting some big organic synthesis, for example. Sorry, my mind seems to always stray back to organic chemistry these days. But it’s true with just about anything. You’d learn all the rules and nuances of pitching before you started pitching for a baseball team. Of course in both of these examples, practice is key too.
I guess my point, if I have one, is that I think that learning the history and tradition of what you’re doing is important, but it’s important not to let it overtake the role of practicing, which in the case of writing does mean sitting down and writing.
And I still want movie suggestions :)
That’s good! You definitely make a good point. Reading screenplays is also good exercise. Just earlier I was reading the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s script for the American version.
Super 8 is a great film, in my opinion. It shows unique traits of great storytelling. Rear Window is a classic. Though so is Witness for the Prosecution. Lastly, Leon: the Professional. Not many knew that Portman had been acting since little!
Oooh great suggestions. I LOVE Witness for the Prosecution but haven’t seen any of the others. In fact, I saw WftP so long ago I’m not sure I remember who did it but that movie is great.
Yeah, I really like reading screenplays, though I must say I’ve read more TV scripts than movie screenplays (I had a class that assigned tons of TV pilot script readings). Styles vary so much in screenwriting, and I think for whatever reason, that always surprises me. It’s almost like you expect screenplays and script to be straightforward but they really have a lot of character. Good reminder to read more screenplays!
You probably know my favorite movie by now — Field of Dreams. I feel like you actually might’ve seen that one, but if you haven’t, it’s high time. I’ve seen it a million times and I still cry at the end.
And now that I think about it, it seems three of my other favorite movies also involve time travel in the 1980s:
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Back to the Future (all three)
The Terminator (and T2 — haven’t seen the last two, but I heard they’re not as good)
Also must-sees (just for your general cinema-going edification):
The Princess Bride
The Godfather (yeah, it’s long, but you realize how many things reference it)
Casablanca (there’s a reason it’s a “classic” — a zillion movie references come here)
Psycho, or anything else by Hitchcock
So far as actual writing — I’m dead serious here — Clueless is really an excellent film. A ton of stuff goes on, but the script is really TIGHT, they get from one scene to the next in a couple of lines.
Good Will Hunting (which I’m pretty sure you’ve seen) always amazed me for the writing, because it breaks about a half-dozen “rules” of screenwriting and somehow manages to work.
And I haven’t seen this one in a while, but I recall Ghost World being a very snappy written script. But also a good movie.
Oh, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — though I suggest you watch it twice, because it’s one of those films where you don’t really comprehend everything that’s going on until halfway through, and you’ll want to watch the beginning again when it’s over to see what you missed.
The Big Lebowski
Everything is Illuminated
Wrist Cutters: A love story
Silence of the Lambs
The Squid & The Whale
Stranger than Fiction
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Stardust (think Princess Bride)
(I have many of these if you want to borrow them)
Ah…. and When Harry Met Sally. Nora Ephron (RIP) had a rare talent of being able to write a rom-com with mass market appeal.
Right on, thanks for the suggestions.
Pennyfore – yes, I saw Field of Dreams when I was 13 or so. Actually, it was the first audio described movie I ever saw, at Camp Marcella. I could definitely see it again though. I LOVE Eternal Sunshine, and I agree, it’s definitely better the second (or third) time around. Actually saw it again this past year. So good. And I love Good Will Hunting. That would be a great script to read. And thanks for the tip about Clueless.
Scott, I’d love to borrow any/all of those if you don’t mind lending :)
Any time! I can meet you around campus with some if you want sometime next week.
That sounds awesome, thanks man! I work mon, tues & thurs so just text me one of those days. You rock!