Movies about Famous Women Writers – TOP 16 Films

“Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-groomed, and unaggressive” said Leslie McIntyre. Cinema immortalizes the characters of famous female writers in a variety of ways, but the focus is usually on how they managed to pursue writing despite the limitations of their gender. In the past, of course, these obstacles were far more numerous due to the low social position of women, but to this day the cultural roles of womanhood, especially those related to motherhood, although not exclusively, can interfere with an artistic vocation to some extent. Here is a selection of films about women writers whose biographies inspire more than just their loyal readers.

Movies about women writers

1. “Out of Africa”, 1985

Movies about female writers - Out of Africa

This is one of the most beautiful movies about a woman writer. Usually, Sidney Pollack’s Oscar-winning picture “Out of Africa” is seen primarily as a legendary screen romance with starring roles for Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, but at the same time it is the story of how Karen Blixen discovered her creative identity. Based on her 1937 autobiographical novel, the film tells the story of the writer’s stay in Kenya, where she ran a coffee plantation. The woman’s meeting with Denys Finch-Hutton completely changes her approach to life and herself. The symbolic scene when the man offers Karen a beautiful pen as a gift is a foreshadowing of her future literary path.

Great cinematography, screenplay, actors and music – all this makes “Out of Africa” go down in cinema history as an all-time melodrama. At the same time, it is a profound analysis of female identity and sensitivity. A story of metamorphosis and coming of age, which in our ranking of films about female writers occupies the undisputed first position.

2. “The Hours”, 2002

Movies about women writers - The Hours

Another production on our list of films about female writers. “The Hours,” directed by Stephen Daldry, is a story woven from elements of Virginia Woolf’s biography and writing about one of literature’s most prominent figures. The plot axis around which the action of the film revolves is the novel “Mrs. Dolloway”, both as a text created by the talented author and the story of its protagonist – the woman who gives the party and the recipient of the book. In this way, the picture takes place simultaneously on three levels of the film world and tells the story of three women or three literary constructs: the author, the heroine and the model reader. All the characters were created by outstanding actresses Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.

A brilliantly characterized Nicole Kidman captures on screen the complex and insanely fascinating character of the English writer, who remains an impenetrable mystery until the end, revealing herself only in the richness of her own prose. What’s more, it’s thoroughly feminine writing – in elaborate metaphor and linguistic innovation describing the condition of the sex as always Other. In turn, Virginia Woolf’s sensitivity and emotional suffering find a tragic finale that, along with her timeless and heart-touching words, stay with the viewer long after the screening is over.

3. “Iris” (2001)

Films about female writers - Iris

Among films about great women writers, this is a unique position – because “Iris” shows not so much the successive stages of a brilliant creative career, but its poignant and very human finale. Iris Murdoch – because this is the story about this character – is shown here in her struggle with incurable and progressive Alzheimer’s disease. A great mind famous for its complex philosophical concepts as in the novels “The Unicorn” or “The Bell” must face its slow disintegration and passing. And this confrontation is all the more acute because in the numerous flashbacks from Iris Murdoch’s life, we admire her as breaking all stereotypes and schemes, a beautiful, courageous woman. Her disarming sincerity and extremely deep insights make it possible to love or hate her, but it is impossible to see her as an average and ordinary person. Iris’s charm, however, passes, but its destructive effect is successfully resisted by the love of her husband, John Bayley (Jim Broadbent), who fights for his beloved to the end.

It is impossible not to mention the wonderful performances of the actresses who played the role of the English writer. Kate Winslet brilliantly portrayed the full of vitality and joyful energy of a budding author greedily wanting to live and write. She is a passionate woman, openly disregarding the preconceived roles assigned to her – both in her relationships with men and in the accepted patterns of behavior or language. Judi Dench, in turn, created a credible embodiment of the mature Iris – captivating her listeners and students with dazzling thoughts about love, destiny and human vocation.

4. “An Angel at My Table”, 1990

Films about Women Writers - An Angel at My Table

This is one of the most moving films about female writers – “An Angel at My Table.” The almost unbelievable, yet true story of Janet Frame, New Zealand’s most famous prose author, forces us to think a lot not only about writing, but also about social forms of oppression. We follow the fate of the heroine from her early childhood to the moment when she became an important recognizable figure of New Zealand culture. An overly intelligent and sensitive girl faces more than one family tragedy in her life, which intensifies her confusion and social isolation. As a young girl, she is sent to a psychiatric hospital, where she faces callous torture instead of help, and is saved from a tragic lobotomy procedure by the publication of a book that wins a literary contest.

Incredibly honest and touching the deepest feelings of the viewer, the story of Janet Frame was directed by Jane Campion, later the author of such films as “The Piano” and “Portrait of a Lady.” Here the director clearly outlined a very characteristic female perspective of her work, while at the same time delving into the world of people struggling with mental problems with finesse. The mature writer was played by Kerry Fox, whose role came off as extremely believable, oscillating between shyness and a brilliant and interesting nature.

5. “Shadowlands”, 1993

Best Movies about female writers - Shadowlands

This is a movie about a pair of writers: C. S. Lewis, author of the famous “The Chronicles of Narnia,” and poet Joy Gresham. An American woman during her stay in Britain visits the famous writer, from which a close relationship is slowly born. However, it is only when it turns out that Joy is struggling with a fatal disease that Lewis decides on a real and responsible relationship. “Shadowlands” by Richard Attenborough is a sophisticated melodrama set in British culture and customs. A beautiful love story about affection overcoming all limitations is at the same time an interesting story of the meeting of two creative personalities who draw from each other.

Both Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger have created wonderful screen creations, thoroughly human characters placed in life’s trying situations. They brought out dignity and love in their characters, which, even more than their writing, deserve to be remembered and admired.

6. “Sylvia” (2003)

Best movies about women writers - Sylvia

Another extremely moving picture on our list of films about female writers. “Sylvia,” directed by Christine Jeffs, tells the tragic story of British poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963 by poisoning herself with gas. The young mother of two tiny children, struggling with severe depression after being abandoned by her husband, Ted Huhes, was unable to cope with her problems and decided to take the most tragic step. Before she died, she still prepared breakfast for her children and secured the ventilation in their room so that nothing would happen to them. It is impossible to view the story of this extremely talented and yet so cruelly treated by life writer indifferently. Sylvia Plath’s story seeps into the viewer’s soul, arouses rebellion against injustice and extraordinary sadness.

The confrontation of the unequal status of the writer and the woman writer is also evident here. The fate of the latter is determined more by gender than by literary aspirations. Being a wife and mother with all its consequences significantly limits her opportunities for creative development. Trapped with her two tiny children between the kitchen and the children’s cribs, she quickly ceases to be seen by her husband, a wildly popular poet, as an attractive and worthwhile partner. The film extremely evocatively captures the deteriorating mental state of the heroine, which can be felt almost tangibly. A splendid performance by Gwyneth Paltrow and an equally interesting role by Daniel Craig increase the qualities of the picture.

7. “Emily” (2022)

Best films about female writers - Emily

Interesting film by Frances O’Connor about the writer Emily Brontë, author of the famous “Wuthering Heights“. A young and sensitive girl grows up amidst the picturesque English countryside. Closed in on herself, shying away from the company of strangers and rather ill-suited to society, Emily begins to plunge more and more into the world of her own imagination. The wilderness, as well as personal experiences of entering adulthood, exert a strong influence on the woman, who decides to take up writing. Brontë’s prose is also influenced by her relationships with her siblings: especially her brother Branwell and sisters Charlotte and Anne. All of the literarily gifted four alternately compete with and support each other.

The film “Emily” suggests that there would be no “Wuthering Heights” if not for the great love story of its author. The object of Emily’s affections was to be a young pastor and also her teacher, William Weightman. Both actors playing leading roles: Emma Mackey and Oliver Jackson-Cohen make a beautiful screen couple. Emily herself is the embodiment of a romantic heroine weaving in a long dress with loose hair over the vast hills and moors, in whom we recognize the features of Catherine from the famous novel.

8. “Miss Austen Regrets,” 2008

Best films about women writers - Miss Austen Regrets

This is perhaps one of the best movies about the great British writer Jane Austen. Made by English director Gwyneth Hughes, the picture focuses on the last years of the life of the famous author of “Sense and Sensibility.” Thus, we see Jane Austen as a mature woman who sums up her choices, often with bitter irony and a hint of sadness. Struggling with a difficult financial situation and ailing, the woman ponders the most important dilemma of her life: whether she did the right thing by choosing writing over marital stability. Reconciling the two roles in her time was an extremely difficult undertaking. In her beloved niece Fanny, Jane sees her former passions and revisits memories of years ago.

Olivia Williams convincingly embodies the great writer, accentuating her thoughtful independence, aloofness, and ironic sense of humor that make her unique among the women of her era. Jane, often harsh in her opinions, biting and hellishly clever, remains true to her choices to the end. She appears as a person who, contrary to the biographical myths superimposed on her character, consciously created not only her novels, but also her life – acting within the framework of what the realities of the times and social standing allowed her to do.

9. “Mary Shelley” (2017)

biographical movies inspired by lives of women writers - Mary Shelley

Another item on our list of biographical movies about famous women writers. “Mary Schelley,” directed by Emma Jensen, tells the story of the life of the author of “Frankenstein.” Born at the end of the 18th century into the family of the famous feminist and writer Mary Wollstonecraft, as well as the philosopher William Godwin, the future artist absorbs the atmosphere of intellectual independence from childhood. Even as a teenager, she tries to write, but is unable to find her authentic creative voice. Difficult experiences arising from her relationship with the charming but immature and irresponsible poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and especially the death of her daughter, cause her to pour out all her pain and tragic experiences on paper in Mary, translating them into a story of an unhappy being rejected by everyone.

The film interestingly portrays the English artistic bohemia of the Romantic era, in which the legendary Lord George Byron (played by Tom Sturridge), famous for his eccentricity, leads the way. “Mary Schelley” with lead performances by Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth, however, primarily draws the plight of a woman writer who constantly has to contend with prejudices against her own gender, but also her limitations due to her biological nature.

10. “Colette” (2018)

biographical films inspired by lives of female writers - Colette

This film is watched with genuine interest. “Colette”, after all, is not only the story of the author of the famous “Claudine” – a series of French moral and psychological novels – but also a colorful picture of the Parisian artistic bohemia of the early 20th century. The world decorated in spacious apartments furnished with antiques, scandalous theatrical performances, lively parties, automobile rides and, of course, numerous romances that fueled the artistic senses – all this we will see in “Colette”. We will also learn the extremely fascinating story of a somewhat shy girl from the provinces, who, marrying a well-known bon-vivant much older than herself, enters a colorful, but at the same time contradictory artistic milieu.

Playing the role of Colette, Keira Knightley showed in the film the profound transformation of her character, who goes through a long journey from a naive girl to an independent and confident woman with the courage to take her own path. Above all, it is a story about female and artistic maturation, about the struggle for one’s boundaries and autonomy, and about the right to live an interesting life full of various experiences and adventures.

11. “My Brilliant Career”, 1979

Movies about a woman writing a book - My Brilliant Carees

This is a classic among films about female writers. “My Brilliant Career,” based on Miles Franklin’s 1901 autobiographical novel, tells the story of the Australian author’s youthful life. In the film she goes by the name of Sybilla Melvynn, and her character is played by Judy Davis. A rebellious girl from a poor family has no intention of conforming to the plans her parents have set for her. She wants neither to get married nor to get a practical profession. Her dream is to write. So Sybil’s mother, who comes from a wealthy family with traditions, decides to send her daughter to her grandmother, so that there she can acquire some social savvy and manners. Soon the girl wins the heart of the best party in the neighborhood, a certain Harry Beecham (Sam Neill), but, although she reciprocates his feelings, she faces a life dilemma. Sybil knows that her duties as a wife and mother will effectively hinder her from pursuing what she loves most – literature.

“My Brilliant Career” deals with the theme of female emancipation, the pursuit of dreams and how an artist is born. The main character is an open-minded person who is able to pose surprising questions to herself and the world, and it is this amazement at seemingly obvious things and the social order that becomes her starting point for writing.

12. “A Quiet Passion,” 2016

Inspiring Biopics of Women Writers you need to watch - A Quiet Passion

A meticulous and realized with attention to detail film biography of Emily Dickinson, the greatest American poet, whose work proved to be a breakthrough in world literature. We observe, as it were, the spiritual development of the artist from her early youth until her death at the age of 56. Extremely modest, very connected to her family, persistently writing poems and poems for most of her life, Dickinson reveals herself here through her relationships with those closest to her, but also her original and insightful work. We see her close relationship with her sister Vinnie (played by Jennifer Ehle, known from the TV series “Pride and Prejudice”), her relationship with her parents, her brother and his wife. The poet’s friend Vryling Buffam (Catherine Bailey) also appears.

Despite her modesty, Emily clearly emphasizes her individuality, both through dress and behavior. After her father’s death, she dresses exclusively in white and receives practically no one in person, talking to guests through the ajar door of her room located on the first floor. On a daily basis, however, she leads a seemingly simple, quiet life. In the film we can hear many excerpts from Dickinson’s poetry, which centers around metaphysical experiences: love, death and the relationship with God. The writer is played by Cynthia Nixon.

13. “Miss Potter” (2006)

Films about women authors - Miss Potter

A warm and semi-fairy story of Beatrix Potter, author of children’s stories about the adventures of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix is a spinster from a wealthy and aristocratic home, but she is not fascinated by the continuation of family traditions and does not see herself as a wife – an ornament to her well-born husband. Her dream is to publish children’s books, which for years she has been secretly creating locked in her room and illustrating them herself. One day Beatrix gets the courage and decides to present her work to one of the publishers. It turns out that her ideas arouse interest, and she gets the chance to publish her first fairy tale. What’s more, the young woman develops an increasingly close relationship with her publisher, Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor), much to the displeasure of her wealthy parents.

Renée Zellweger is a perfect fit for the role of Miss Potter, smug, immersed in the world of her imagination, whose smile lights up the most gloomy interior, and whose childlike enthusiasm and charm captivate everyone around her. The actress is the film’s greatest asset, in which even the most dramatic events are softened by the faith in a better tomorrow and the comfort brought by the fairy-tale characters of Miss Potter’s books.

14. “My Salinger Year”, 2020

Movies about women authors - My Sallinger Year

“My Salinger Year” is a film based on the autobiographical novel by Joanna Smith Rakoff. A young humanities graduate who dreams of a career as a writer arrives in New York. She leaves behind her whole life so far: her boyfriend and her previous university, wanting to try her luck in the big metropolis. She soon finds a job at one of the most prestigious literary agencies, where she is expected to answer fan letters to J. D. Salinger. Joan’s task is to read the mail carefully, respond laconically according to a ready-made form, and then destroy the correspondence. Over time, however, the stories of fans of the author of “The Catcher in the Rye” draw her in so much that she decides to break the rules.

Joanna was played by Margaret Qualley, who later created a great performance in the TV series “Maid” The actress in the role of the budding writer performs quite well, one can say that she is the strongest asset of Philippe Falardeau’s production. Also interesting is the picture of the circular American literary world, whose superstitious old-fashionedness adds a kind of charm. In a way, the film deals with the complicated and mysterious motivations pushing people to write and then publish their work. Is a writer only the one whose works have a loyal audience, or also the one who writes only to a drawer? This is one of the fundamental questions of “My Salinger Year”.

15. “Vita & Virginia”, 2018

Top 16 movies about women writers - Vita and Virginia

This is certainly not the best film about Virginia Woolf, but it is worth noting, if only for the fact that it tells the story of a somewhat lesser-known episode in the British writer’s life – her affair with another literary woman, Vita Sackville-West, which inspired the writing of the famous “Orlando.” Virginia is a well-known figure of the literary artistic bohemia, while Vita leads the life of a bored wife of a rich aristocrat on a daily basis. Passionate, attractive and openly declaring feminist views, the woman quickly catches the attention of the famous author of “The Voyage Out.” A fiery and scandalous romance finds its way onto the lips of the entire London semi-literate community.

Elizabeth Debicki and Gemma Arterton, who played the leading roles in Chanya’y Button’s film, did not quite rise to the occasion. Many scenes seem unnatural and pretentious, fitting the shtick of a movie romance. Virginia herself also comes off as uninteresting and monotonous, and the over-intellectualized dialogues do not save the film from falling into banality more than once.

16. “Henry & June” 1990

Top 16 films about female writers Henry and June

This is one of the films about female writers, which depicts the process of maturation and inspiration to create through the prism of an erotic relationship. The main character of the picture, directed by Philip Kaufman, is Anaïs Nin, one of the icons of feminist prose, describing sexual sensations from the perspective of a woman. The writer’s bold approach to eroticism in literature has made her name loud and controversial. As daring as her prose was the intimate life of Anaïs, who, as a young married woman in Paris in the 1920s, began an affair with American writer Henry Miller. The two were a mutual inspiration, and their relationship, full of intricacies and rich sexual experiences, contributed to the famous novels based on these experiences. The object of both writers’ fascination was also Miller’s then-wife, the titular June, who was described from different perspectives by her husband and Anaïs Nin.

“Henry & June” is thus an autobiographical record of the writer’s emotional-erotic history, realized on the basis of her own novel. Anaïs Nin was played by Maria de Medeiros, Miller was played by Fred Ward, and his wife was played by Uma Thurman. Interestingly, the most fascinating character of the three turns out to be the latter, created as a fascinating femme fatale, straight out of black cinema. With heavily made-up lips, a cigarette and a gloomy gaze, Uma Thurman seduces the viewer from the first scene in which she appears. And for her it is certainly worth seeing this picture.

Films about female writers – summary

Films about female writers most often emphasize the fact that the choice of an artistic path is an act of courage and even a kind of rebellion against social expectations, especially in the case of a woman. Loyalty to a writing vocation comes at a price, and women who begin or aspire to be writers are seen as rebels who break unwritten rules, choosing a precarious lifestyle that is often treated with disdain. They do so, however, regardless of popularity or critical acclaim, because it is not success that determines their identity. Emily Dickinson published only ten of her 1,700 poems during her lifetime, and yet she was one of the most prominent American poets. She wrote about the fear of her own greatness, which constantly makes us belittle our own talents:

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies—

The Heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the Cubits warp
For fear to be a King—