Weekend Roundtable: Movies About Making Movies

Actors and directors are, predictably, vain creatures. So often, they enjoy nothing more than to celebrate themselves and what they do. This week’s ‘Entourage’ is just the latest movie about the business of making movies. For today’s Roundtable, here are some of our other favorites.

Mike Attebery

Like all of us on this site, I grew up LOVING movies. Throughout middle and high school, I used to make low-budget movies with my friends, and nothing influenced us more than the shoot first, ask questions later style of slapdash filmmaking depicted in ‘Ed Wood‘. The scene where Wood and his cohorts are shooting on the streets without a permit happened to us in a Connecticut shopping mall. The moment in which they steal an octopus prop for a night shoot inspired the very ill-advised theft of a ‘Crimson Tide’ theater display, which was cut short when a good Samaritan jumped on the hood of our getaway car. (To this day, there’s a string of 1995 film releases that I’ve never seen after the sub-heist got my moviegoing rights revoked.) The pure love of movies on display in Tim Burton’s best film is irresistible, especially for anyone who has ever been in in love with the romance of movies in general, and filmmaking specifically.

Shannon Nutt

Perhaps it’s their egos, but the people in Hollywood have made a lot of movies about their own industry. Instead of picking one of those titles, I decided to go with my favorite movie that deals with that other industry in Hollywood. That’s right, the world of adult films. No recent movie in memory tackled that seedy world in a more stylish manner than Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Boogie Nights‘, starring Mark Wahlberg as the extremely… ahem… equipped Dirk Diggler, a fictionalized version of the famous porn star John Holmes. The movie, which is much more engaging and emotional than a film about the porn industry has any right to be, is peppered with wonderful supporting performances, not the least of which include Burt Reynolds in one of his best roles ever as an aging porn director and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a young boom mic operator who has a crush on Dirk. If you’ve never seen ‘Boogie Nights’ because of its premise, you’re missing out on one of the best films of the 1990s.

Brian Hoss

“Are we going to do Stonehenge tomorrow?” Now I realize that in these Roundtables I’m nearly always going on about something to do with the ’80s, but 1984’s ‘This Is Spinal Tap‘ easily fits the bill as a favorite movie about making movies (as well as a number of genre and category specific favorites). The narrative structure, which is of course faux documentary, is really more effective at being episodic with the band members and surrounding individuals, capturing the hilariously sardonic portrait of musical acts spanning some 30 plus years. (Really, I think it’s still applicable for bands that became big in the ’80s and ’90s.) It’s the kind of movie that if stumbled upon, it’s extremely difficult not to just watch it from whatever point.

With combusting drummers, malfunctioning stage props, explicit album art, and inwardly focused, out-of-touch, endlessly BSing bands and band members, the movie is so art-imitating-life that it’s nearly unbelievable, yet viewers always get a sense that the hook of making a documentary where the subjects happen to be imploding feels right on the edge of farce.

M. Enois Duarte

When it comes to movies about movies, I have two long-time favorites that are often ignored, unknown or simply forgotten. Of course, I still love many of the mainstream productions and the classics, but I really admire the way ‘Living in Oblivion‘ and ‘Hollywood Shuffle‘ probe into the challenges of making movies and the Hollywood system.

The first film by Tom DiCillo is a celebration of independent filmmaking, the absolute insanity and chaos of capturing that one perfect, emotional scene. It’s an awesome comedy about the madness that takes place behind the scenes of a micro-budget production.

The second film is a more disconcerting look at movies from Robert Townsend, but it’s every bit as hilarious. Using comedy as a means to expose a real problem in Hollywood at the time, Townsend tackles the issue of African American actors often hired for stereotypical roles. Interestingly, he uses a sketch comedy formula to touch on the various ways in which this tends to happen, while at the same time making audiences laugh at the absurdity of it all.

These are two great films about filmmaking I hope more viewers will watch and give them the love they deserve.

Luke Hickman

I can’t think of many movies that have instantly mesmerized me quite like ‘The Artist‘. Although it portrays a real time in history through a style that’s fitting to the time in which it’s set, the film feels like a fantasy. For me, there’s magic behind it. Jean Dujardin’s silent performance delivers the perfect emotion needed to make viewers connect with his despair during the Hollywood change from silent films to talkies. Through a completely different style of acting, co-star Berenice Bejo perfectly complements Dujardin, making it a very well-rounded film in terms of performance. Every other technical aspect of ‘The Artist’ functions harmoniously to make it a flawless film – from the music and story to the black & white photography and the single line of dialogue.

Josh Zyber

After the box office disappointment of their ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ movie, the British filmmaking team known as “Hammer & Tongs” (Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith) regrouped with a smaller-scale, much more personal project. ‘Son of Rambow‘ is a coming-of-age story about a sheltered young boy from an overprotective religious family whose mind is blown wide open when a bad influence from school exposes him to a pirated video copy of ‘First Blood’, which changes his life. He becomes completely obsessed with the movie and desperately needs to see more. Because this story takes place before Sylvester Stallone actually filmed a sequel, the boy decides to make his own, starring himself as the son of the hero whose name he can’t even spell, using a clunky video camera and a whole lot of ingenuity. ‘Son of Rambow’ is a touching, heartfelt and consistently hilarious movie about the joy and passion that film can inspire in us.

I’d also like to toss out some honorable mentions to ‘The Player‘, ‘Adaptation‘, ‘Mulholland Drive‘, Fellini’s ‘‘ and Truffaut’s ‘Day for Night‘.

What are your favorite movies about movies? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. Chris B

    There’s a phenomenal documentary that came out in 2003 called Overnight. It’s the story of a guy named Troy Duffy. A Boston bartender turned screenwriter/director, who’s first script for a little movie called “The Boondock Saints” was snapped up quickly by Hollywood soon after it’s completion. You’d think that Duffy would be thrilled, gracious and thankful at his good fortune, but as the film clearly shows he would go on to destroy his career by being incredibly arrogant and abusive to those around him. It’s one of the most fascinating documentaries about Hollywood, filmmaking and an ego-maniac you’ll ever see. Check it out if you’ve never watched it…

    Shannon, totally agree on Boogie Nights, it’s Anderson’s best work IMO and should have won the Oscar. Speaking of John Holmes, have you ever seen the much-maligned Wonderland? Val Kilmer plays him in a film that details what happenned after his porn career had essentially fallen apart…it’s a fascinating story and a pretty good movie to boot.

    • Thanks Chris.

      For the record, we were all asked by Josh NOT to pick documentaries…so that’s why you don’t see any on this list. I think we can all agree there are some fantastic docs about the movie-making business.

      Thanks for the recommendation, though…I’ll have to check that one out.

  2. Junie

    Great picks! For me, Hearts of Darkness immediately jumps to mind. In classic movies – Singin’ In The Rain, Sunset Boulevard, The Bad and The Beautiful.

  3. ‘The Big Picture’with Kevin Bacon was the earliest movie I remember about a young filmmaker trying to get his movie made. A lot of funny moments in that one. I also enjoyed ‘What Just Happened’ with Deniro as a producer dealing with Prima Donna actors and crazy directors, Michael Wincott (love that guy, great character actor). Last but not least, ‘Return To Horror High’. I just re watched it a few months back on Netflix, and it’s pretty crappy, but also really fun. Early George Clooney in this one.

  4. Chris B

    Adaptation with Nic Cage is pretty
    brilliant. Charlie Kaufman is one of the most creative screenwriters of all time.

  5. In no particular order: Adaptation, Singin In The Rain, The Player, Living In Oblivion, Wag The Dog, Ed Wood, Boogie Nights, Swimming With Sharks, Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story, Baadasssss!, Blow Out.

  6. Dave

    I’ll second “Blow Out” and add a couple:
    Lars von Trier’s “The Five Obstructions”
    Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

  7. Clemery

    Like Luke, I was blown away by just how much I liked The Artist, but when it comes to movies about the movie industry, my faves are a little peculiar:
    – Burn, Baby, Burn: An Alan Smithee Film
    – The Last Shot
    – Rubber

  8. Bolo

    I like the way ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ captures that old Hollywood sudio system vibe. The way they treat cartoon characters like real actors was very clever and the film played it completely straight. They’re able to skewer Hollywood types in a different way.

  9. itjustWoRX

    Synecdoche, New York was a neat picture…although technically it’s based on making a stage production rather than a movie.

  10. William Henley

    I’ll second The Artist, Singing In The Rain and Who Framed Roger Rabbit

    Also want to add A Star Is Born into the mix.

  11. EM

    1960. An already celebrated English director shocks critics and audiences by not only delving into horror but delivering a new kind of horror film, a prototype of the slasher, wedding the violence of the blade with the voyeuristic, Freudian disturbances within a kindly, seemingly timid young man of the “boy next door” persuasion. It is a stunning coup de cinéma and a major turning point in the director’s career, with the film now widely regarded as a classic.

    This film is not Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. It is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. Unlike Psycho, Peeping Tom was not a commercial success, and it was so reviled at release that it shattered its director’s career, though its reputation has since been rehabilitated.

    Psycho has often been said to be about watching movies: it invites audiences to engage in the same voyeurism central to its antagonist’s crimes. Peeping Tom takes the metacinema angle even further: it is about both film watching and filmmaking, and in this it is quite explicit, casting its madman as a film-studio technician, who was raised under the cold gaze of cameras (like some prisoner of a reality show) and who murderously blurs filming and viewing by making his own snuff documentary (he informs one victim-to-be he’s “[p]hotographing you photographing me”, further blurring the lines).

    Peeping Tom is not just a horror film—it
    is the horror of film. (One policeman, when told an object turns out to be only a camera, responds, “Only?!!”) Of course, you can always try telling yourself it’s only a movie…

  12. C.C. 95

    The best, in my opinion, is THE MAKING OF …AND GOD SPOKE. If you haven’t seen it you must to get out of immediately! What Spinal Tap was to music, This is to the film industry. I have no idea why it’s so under the radar. It’s about two talentless hacks trying to mount a production of the Bible on film. They end up with no less than Lou Ferrigno & Andy Dick as Cain & Able, and Soupy Sales as Moses (who has to come down the mountain with the 10 Commandments AND a six pack of Coke for product placement money!!)
    If you have worked in the industry, you will know every little bit of insider humor that is so funny because it probably happened to you at some point- or you saw it happen.
    A seriously amazing comedy about filmmaking.
    And the denoument is just too perfect.

    • Josh Zyber

      I think I saw that one when it was originally just called ‘…And God Spoke’ without the ‘Making of’ part. Regardless, a very funny movie.

      Another good one from that time period was ‘In the Soup’, with Steve Buscemi as a pretentious indie filmmaker who gets tied up with a mobster who wants to be a producer. This one was overshadowed by Buscemi’s similar turn in ‘Living in Oblivion’ a couple years later.

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