#Movies & TV
These Movies About Making Movies Are So Majorly Meta
by Jennifer Lafferty
Sometimes what happens behind the scenes on a motion picture set is just as fascinating as the movie itself, which is probably why there are so many films that center on filmmaking. From feel-good musicals like Singin’ in the Rain to intense biographical dramas such The Aviator, here are 20 of the all-time greatest movies about movies.
Frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese teamed up on this Oscar-winning biopic about the billionaire film producer/businessman Howard Hughes, which documents, among other things, the challenges of filming the iconic 1930 drama Hell’s Angels.
This popular 1950 thriller, starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson, centers on an ambitious young screenwriter working on a film for an eccentric former silent-screen actress whose career was destroyed by the advent of talking pictures.
Alan Alda delivers one of his most endearing big screen performances as a history professor trying to save the film adaptation of his book about the American Revolution in this 1986 romantic dramedy, co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Bob Hoskins.
The Scarlett O’Hara War
Several movies could be made about Gone With the Wind, but this 1980 drama focuses on producer David O. Selznick’s massive talent search for his Scarlett, when virtual unknown, Vivien Leigh beats out major stars for the role.
My Week with Marilyn
This 2011 drama documents the tense relationship between Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), while filming The Prince and the Showgirl, from the perspective of a production assistant (Eddie Redmayne), who becomes close to the actress. (See: 15 Celebrities Who Have Played Their Idols On Screen)
Singin’ in the Rain
The transition from silent pictures to sound may have been exciting for moviegoers but this classic 1952 rom com musical starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds shows how challenging the era was for actors and filmmakers.
An ambitious film producer gets more than he bargained for during a location shoot on a tropical island when a giant gorilla appears and falls for the leading lady in 1933’s King Kong, remade by Peter Jackson in 2005.
Johnny Depp portrays famous B-movie director Ed Wood, responsible for cult classics like Plan 9 from Outer Space, in this offbeat 1994 biopic which chronicles Wood’s struggle for real success, and co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker.
Like a lot of recent biopics, this 2012 film starring Anthony Hopkins captures a brief but eventful time in the protagonist’s life. Set during the filming of Psycho, the drama recreates a transformative phase for Alfred Hitchcock, personally and professionally.
The Bad and the Beautiful
One of many movie industry films featuring a villainous producer, 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful stars Kirk Douglas as a scheming filmmaker who ruthlessly uses people, including actress Georgia (Lana Turner) on his way to the top.
A novelty when it debuted in 2012, French silent film The Artist tells the story of two entertainers during the emergence of talkies. The romantic dramedy earned five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin.
Gods and Monsters
Ian McKellen plays troubled director James Whale in this 1998 biopic, which partly takes place during the filming of his movie Bride of Frankenstein. This adaptation of the book Father of Frankenstein co-stars Lynn Redgrave and Brendan Fraser.
For Your Consideration
Show business parodies have always been popular, including this 2006 farce from acclaimed writer/director Christopher Guest. The film, starring Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, concerns a very bad movie, which becomes a contender for several Oscar nominations.
Woody Allen’s 1980 dramedy Stardust Memories centers on filmmaker Sandy Bates (Allen), attending a retrospective of his work, who must come to terms with his life, loves and the public’s preference for his slapstick comedies over his serious movies.
The Legend of Lylah Clare
This haunting 1968 drama stars Kim Novak as Elsa Brinkmann, cast to portray iconic actress Lylah Clare. Complications ensue when the late star’s ex-husband, who’s directing the biopic, falls in love with Elsa, while trying to transform her into Lylah.
While the main focus of this 1984 Hollywood story, starring Drew Barrymore, Ryan O’Neal and Shelley Long, is on an extremely dysfunctional family, much of the dramedy revolves around movie productions, from masterpieces to hideous failures.
Another movie depicting the fascinating life of Alfred Hitchcock is 2012’s The Girl, chronicling the turbulent relationship between Hitch (Toby Jones) and Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) during filming of The Birds and Marnie, and his alleged obsession with the actress.
It seems that mobsters have always had a preoccupation with showbiz and vice versa. The 1995 movie Get Shorty stars John Travolta as a gangster who delves into filmmaking, discovering many similarities between Hollywood and organized crime.
A dark film industry satire, Robert Altman’s acclaimed 1992 film The Player revolves around studio exec Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins), driven to corrupt actions to stay on top, while enduring death threats from a disgruntled screenwriter.
In a story of fiction becoming reality, the popular 2008 comedy Tropic Thunder stars Robert Downey Jr., Ben Stiller and Jack Black, and follows a group of actors filming a war movie, who are forced to be real life soldiers.