Sometimes, a good way to understand movies is to simply watch movies. The best way though, is to watch movies about movies. It’s joyous when a film can be show the audience a portrait of the filmmaking process, or an insight into the industry – and some of the greatest films are about films. It’s a fascinating subject to explore, and one that ironically translates very well into cinema.
Documentaries are a great way to give the audience an informative and insightful journey behind the camera, but equally wonderful is fiction – where the world of cinema can be artistically expressed. There’s so many aspects of the of film as a medium that cinema can explore. An art form, a creative process, a very important part of life and culture. Here are some of the best movies that are about movies.
20. Film Geek
Film Geek is an underrated, made-for-nothing gem, and its often hilarious and on-the-nose depiction of cinephilia is affectionate and entertaining. After being fired from his job at a DVD rental store, Scotty struggles to find work, at the same time balancing his infatuation with cinema and for a woman who shares his love for David Cronenberg.
Film Geek is clearly not made for a large budget, but it’s worth checking out for anyone who loves movies, as you’ll definitely find the titular character quite relatable.
19. Tropic Thunder
Tropic Thunder is a quite hysterical satire of the film industry, as well as a successful and often intelligent spoof of big-budget war epics. Every iconic war film is made fun of here, and the dedicated, hilarious performance of Robert Downey Jr. alone is worth the price of admission.
Tropic Thunder always accomplishes what it’s going for, and there’s enough big laughs and clever comments about movie-making for it to deserve a spot on this list.
18. Broken Embraces
Pedro Almódovar’s Broken Embraces is one of the director’s most ambitious and complex films, and one of the best parts of it is that it is told as a flashback of a blind filmmaker that loves movies more than anything.
Broken Embraces is a perfect example of Almódovar’s colorful direction and beautiful framing, and thanks to wonderful performances from Penélope Cruz and LluÍs Homar, it ranks among his most emotionally complex and rich films. Broken Embraces depicts on-set drama as well as the directorial experience with flair, and its noirish undertones are vibrant.
17. The Blair Witch Project
This 1999 horror sensation that essentially began the found-footage craze realistically presented the “footage” from a group of college students who journeyed into supposedly haunted woods to film a documentary about an urban legend involving a witch.
It’s all fiction of course, but the way it’s done is so effective and scary that the film works wonders with its lack of production value, intentionally amateur camera work and some damn convincing work from its stars. It’s very frightening on a horror level, but it’s also quite interesting to watch as the characters go about making the documentary – as they start to become suspicious of whether or not their subject is really just a myth.
16. Barton Fink
Barton Fink is pure Coens brothers; it’s drenched in black comedy, sated with potent commentary and featuring a fascinating narrative. John Turturro gives a magnificent performance as a successful screenwriter who has been hired to write a wrestling picture, and ends up suffering from major writer’s block, which in turn results in psychological horror setting in.
An acutely realized and genre bending masterpiece, Barton Fink is a works a Hollywood satire and a dark portrait of terror – one that will continue to be analyzed and thought of as it matures with age.
15. This Film Is Not Yet Rated
Kirby Dick’s funny and enraging documentary about the MPAA rating system is a must-see film for any cinephile, and an entertaining, thoroughly insightful look at one of the more stupid and unfortunate points of the filmmaking process. We learn about how the MPPA has forced and continues to force artists to censor their work by slapping NC-17 or R ratings on their films.
These ratings are often not profitable for studios, and the filmmakers often have to cut their movies to bump up the rating. Filled with enlightening interviews with lots of familiar faces and renewed directors, This Film Is Not Yet Rated is one of the best and most compelling and interesting documentaries about the filmmaking industry.