Look, even the most devout and voracious reader has to come up for air sometimes to prevent our eyes from crossing. And when we do, surely we must dip a toe into the waters of other hobbies. What’s nice, though, is how many of those hobbies can still sneakily support our bibliohabits. Film-watching, of course, is a no-brainer. With many of our most beloved stories adapted for the silver screen, it’s another avenue to spend time with our favourite literary characters.
And even in the case of original films that weren’t books first, many still explore literary events, people and stories in pleasing ways, which is a boon to a booklover.
With that in mind, here are 10 Essential Movies for Book Lovers, as compiled by Decider.com:
This moving drama about British author Iris Murdoch features three incredible performances from Judi Dench (as Murdoch in her elderly years), Kate Winslet (as the young Murdoch), and Jim Broadbent (as her husband, John Bayley). All three were nominated for Oscars for their work (Broadbent won Best Supporting Actor) in this tragic story about one of the greatest British writers, her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, and the love she shared with her husband throughout their turbulent years together.
2. Wonder Boys
Curtis Hanson’s comedy, which stars Michael Douglas as one-time literary great who’s now a beleaguered creative writing professor, follows a wacky cast of characters (Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey, Jr., Katie Holmes, and Frances McDormand round out the cast) over the course of one nutty weekend centered around a literary festival. It’s a great adaptation of Michael Chabon’s celebrated novel, Wonder Boys — even if an entire character was cut from the script.
Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role as celebrated writer Truman Capote. Bennett Miller’s stark drama follows Capote as he travels to Kansas in order to write about the two men who are suspected of murdering a family as they slept. With his friend Harper Lee (played by Oscar nominee Catherine Keener) in tow, Capote gets uncomfortably close to the subjects in order to judge for himself whether or not they are guilty. The film serves as an intriguing biopic of the events that took place while Capote wrote his game-changing true-crime book, In Cold Blood.
4. Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
Robert Altman produced this indie directed by his protégé Alan Rudolph, which stars Jennifer Jason Lee as the writer Dorothy Parker, one of the more celebrated writers who met daily at the Algonquin Hotel and were known collectively as the Algonquin Round Table. The film boasts a cast of characters that includes writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, George S. Hart, and Edna Ferber, and also features a star-studded cast that includes Matthew Broderick, Martha Plimpton, Lili Taylor, Jon Favreau, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
5. Midnight in Paris
Like Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, Midnight in Paris features an impressive roster of real-life writers and artists that will spark joy in any former English major. But Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning romantic comedy also has a fantasy bent to it, in which a modern-day writer (played by Owen Wilson) escapes into the glitzy social circles of 1920s Paris every night at midnight, where he rubs shoulders with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and T. S. Eliot.
6. Miss Potter
Perhaps your literary tastes skew a bit… younger? Well, this charming biographical film about Beatrix Potter (played by Renee Zellweger) may bring delight to your heart, especially as it includes animated sequences of her famous stories and characters, particularly Peter Rabbit.
If your tastes run darker, then how about this drama that follows the notorious Marquis de Sade (played by Geoffrey Rush), his final years at the French asylum at Charenton, and his efforts to publish his saucy tales through the black market despite Napoleon’s orders than his books be banned. Joaquin Phoenix, Kate Winslet, and Michael Caine co-star in this Oscar-nominated adaptation of Doug Wright’s controversial play.
8. The Hours
Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for her portrayal of the great Virginia Woolf in this ensemble drama that shows how three women — Woolf, a 1950s housewife (played by Julianne Moore), and a modern-day version of Clarissa Dalloway (Meryl Streep) — across time are connected to Woolf’s tour de force, Mrs. Dalloway.
9. Ruby Sparks
Zoe Kazan wrote and stars in this fanciful satire about an anxious and introverted young writer (played by Paul Dano) who struggles to replicate his early success with a new novel. After drafting up the image of a young woman named Ruby Sparks, he’s startled to learn that the woman he created with his mind has come to life. Soon he discovers how to get over his writer’s block: by controlling the woman of his dreams.
10. Dead Poets’ Society
This much-beloved, modern classic stars Robin Williams as John Keating, a new English teacher at the prestigious (albeit fictional) Welton Academy, who shakes up the lives of his students (a motley crew including young Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, and Robert Sean Leonard) and inspires them not just to read and enjoy poetry, but also achieve their best selves.