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The Truth is Stranger Than Fiction: Our Favorite Films About Authors

Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

the end of the tourLast week The End of The Tour, about David Foster Wallace, was released to mostly great reviews. It’s based on the book David Lipsky wrote about the five days he spent with DFW. Also released – and I’m SO excited about this one – was the trailer for Trumbo, about writer Dalton Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston. Exciting stuff!

That got us here at Book Riot thinking about some of our other favorite author bio pics. There’s Shakespeare in Love, though while it’s wonderful, it’s really loosely based on the playwright. And Becoming Jane, about the early life of Jane Austen.

Here are a few more of our favorite films about authors. Many of them are sad, so I’ve given them a ’tissues needed’ rating. Tell us about your favorite author biopics in the comments! And have you seen The End of the Tour? Tell us what you thought of that!


total eclipseTotal Eclipse (1995)

About: Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud

Starring: David Thewlis and Leonardo DiCaprio

Tissues needed: Two.

About the tumultuous relationship between the two 19th century French poets, based on their letters and poems.


american splendorAmerican Splendor (2003)

About: Harvey Pekar

Starring: Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis

Tissues needed: Maybe one.

Based on Pekar’s autobiographical comics about his life as an illustrator, comic writer and music critic. He was also a great Letterman guest.


CarringtonCarrington (1995)

About: Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington

Starring: Jonathan Pryce and Emma Thompson

Tissues needed: Three.

About the relationship between Bloomsbury group writer Lytton Strachey and the painter Dora Carrington. (The story is taken from the biography of Strachey by Michael Holroyd, but “Carrington” rolls off the tongue easier than “Strachey”.)


iris filmIris (2001)

About: Iris Murdoch

Starring: Judi Densch and Kate Winslet

Tissues needed: Four.

A look at Murdoch’s relationship with writer John Bayley. Winslet plays Murdoch as a young woman; Densch portrays her later in their life together, when Murdoch was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.


Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)

About: Dorothy Parker

Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh

Tissues needed: Maybe one.

A look at the fabulously witty Dorothy Parker and the various members of the Algonquin Round Table. Jaws author Peter Benchley, grandson of A.R.T. member Robert Benchley, makes a cameo appearance.


Sylvia (2003)

About: Sylvia Plath

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig

Tissues needed: Three.

A look at the doomed romance between Sylvia Plath and poet Ted Hughes. Wait, was that a spoiler?


The Last Station (2009)

About: Leo Tolstoy

Starring: Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren

Tissues needed: Two.

About the battle between Tolstoy’s wife Sofya and Vladimir Chertkov for Tolstoy’s legacy and the copyright of Tolstoy’s works during the last year of his life.



Miss Potter (2006)

About: Beatrix Potter

Starring: Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor

Tissues needed: One.

A biographical look at Potter, creator of such characters as Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, with both live action and animated scenes.


finding neverlandFinding Neverland (2004)

About: J. M. Barrie

Starring: Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet

Tissues needed: Four.

Loosely based on Barrie’s relationship with a family who inspired him to write that little book you may have heard of called Peter Pan.


shadowlandShadowlands (1993)

About: C. S. Lewis

Starring: Anthony Hopkins and Deborah Winger

Tissues needed: Four. Maybe five. Man, it’s sad when Anthony Hopkins cries.

About the complicated romance between writer and Narnia creator Lewis and the poet Joy Davidman.


the whole wide worldThe Whole Wide World (1996)

About: Robert E. Howard

Starring: Renée Zellweger and Vincent D’Onofrio

Tissues needed: Three.

Based on the relationship between Conan the Barbarian creator and pulp writer Howard and schoolteacher Novalyne Price Ellis.