The Best Movies for Storytelling

I’m low key in love with movies. Okay, not low key. I really love movies. And I’m as crazy eclectic with my movie love as I am with music. (Remember, I’m the weirdo that has Eminem, Sugarland and Elton John on my tablet, right along with Cher and Panic! At The Disco.)

It goes further than that, though. As I say over and over, my whole life is about good stories. I write them, read them, watch them and listen to them. But, part of PBW is that I also love to share them. I’ve also been watching a lot of top ten videos with my kids. So, with that spirit in mind, here are ten movies every writer can learn from. It’s surprising to me that most people haven’t heard of a lot of these. If you haven’t seen any of them, and you’re looking for something to do this weekend, here you go. And if you’re so inclined, please share with us your favorite movies in the comments below.

Saving Mr. Banks

This is probably the most popular and newest of the movies on this list. It’s the story of how the Disney movie, Mary Poppins, was made. A highly dramatized version, mind you.

At it’s core, though, it’s the story of a young woman with a sad childhood who becomes a writer. Then, she has to watch her story turn into a movie with dancing penguins. (According to the movie, she hated that.) This also makes her come to terms with her past.

Maybe don’t watch this with your smaller kids, but my older daughter loved it.

The Incredibles

I really love Pixar in general. It’s widely understood that Pixar is a creative powerhouse. And The Incredibles is a great example. Being a huge comic book fan girl, I jumped on that movie to start with, but if you’ve never read a comic book or seen any super hero movie, you’ll still love this. Even if you don’t have kids, watch it.

It’s all about super heroes that are being sued, so that they need to be placed in a relocation program. That is, until a super jealous genius decides to look up his childhood hero.

Star ship Troopers

This movie is amazing, and it’s based on the book by the same name. It’s a dark, dystopian future story about a future where people are only considered citizens if they serve in the military. Which is a little worse than it would be right now, because Earth is at war with a scary bug alien race. It’s also got Neil Patrick Harris as a psychic with a pet ferret.

Children of The Damned

The original black and white, not the remake. Based on the book, The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, this is probably one of the coolest Science Fiction story ever. Everyone in a small town suddenly falls asleep. When they come to, every woman who can be pregnant is. The children who come from this weird rapey situation are all blond with blue eyes. (I don’t think this is a Nazi reference at all, do you?) The kids all have weird manipulation powers. Very dark, and very emotional. Imagine knowing that this child you carried is actually evil, and probably not human. (I know my kids have those days, but still.)

Shaun of The Dead

Is it a little low brow? Yeah, kind of but watch me care. Shaun of The Dead is a zombie movie, but it’s a comedy. It’s about a man named Shaun who is kind of a loser. He’s got a crappy job, two asshole flatmates and his girlfriend is getting ready to leave him. Oh, and some shitty pens that leak red on his shirt. Then zombies start attacking people, and it actually takes people awhile to realize that there are zombies around. The thing I like about this movie the most is that the government acted like I would expect the government to act. They didn’t suck!

House on Haunted Hill

Again, I’m talking about the black and white original, not the remake. Now, before we go to far, the special effects are terrible! At one point there’s a skeleton walking around with fishing line holding him up. You can see it.

Despite this, the acting is super awesome. Vincent Price, my goodness I love that man, played his snooty and rich character to perfection. Of course, being an old school horror movie, only the bad wife and her lover die. Even so, it’s a creepy movie. I’m a little biased, though, because the darling husband and I went on our first date at a local movie house. They played some old black and white horror movies during one awesome summer.

Looper

I want to be careful talking about this movie, because despite the awesome stars who were in it (Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Jeff Daniels) a lot of people haven’t even heard of it. And the ending is killer.

Basically, the story is based in a world that has two big differences from ours. Time travel is real, and illegal, and telepathy is real. Mobsters send people back in time to be assassinated. Eventually, the people who are in the past who are assassinating for the mob will kill themselves, thereby closing their own loop. This is the story of one man who is trying really hard to close his own loop, but his future self is just too damn fast.

Jakob The Liar

This movie is why I’m in love with Leiv Shcriber. He’s in it with Robin Williams, who plays the main character, Jakob, who lives in a Jewish Ghetto in Germany during WWII. I guess I don’t have to tell you what sort of life that is. He accidentally finds out a bit of news about the war, and spreads it around. When people start wondering how he found this out, he makes the mistake of telling his friend Mischa, (Mr. Schriber) that he has a radio. This all gets even more dangerous when a little girl, who snuck into the ghetto to save herself from going to a concentration camp. It’s a Robin Williams movie, so I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that you’ll choke on your own spit from laughing, then cry your eyes out at the end.

Dogma

This might not be the movie for you if you’re easily offended. But it is a very deep movie, if you can get past the sex jokes. Some of my favorite religious quotes come from this movie, such as, “Catholics don’t celebrate their faith, they mourn it!” Love that.

It’s a story about a woman who works at an abortion clinic who finds herself responsible for saving the world when two fallen angels are trying to get back into Heaven. What they don’t know is that if they get back into Heaven, all of Heaven, Earth and Hell will cease to exist. Again, not one to watch with the little ones. But a good one if you feel like getting some good ideas. Also, a great example of getting a religious message across without being an ass.

Pleasantville

This is, and has been, my favorite movie ever. It’s the story of a boy who’s parents are divorced. He’s a big old nerd who is totally obsessed with his favorite show, Pleasantville. His sister, a rather slutty girl and not the smartest, has a date on the same night as a marathon of his favorite show. They end up in the show, a creepy black and white world that rather resembles Stepford. But as Bud and Sue, the two main characters, start teaching people about ‘the real world’ things start turning color.

I don’t have any way to explain the beauty of this show. If you, like me, wish you’d been born in the fifties so you could have been involved in that cultural explosion, you’ll love this. Imagine a little micro society evolution, decades of sex and rock and roll shoved into a tiny town all in a few days.

I’m sure I didn’t mention all of the amazing movies that writers can learn from. If you know one I missed, please share it with us below.

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