Sometimes, you feel so busy and overwhelmed that the thought of taking a night off to put your feed up and watch a movie with some popcorn makes you break out in a cold sweat. Crazy, right? But I’ve been there!
Shouldn’t I be typing, working, creating? Although it might feel like a very active imagination and the inability to switch off could serve any creative, the truth is that some downtime is always going to be necessary.
Did you know that by relaxing and being mentally stimulated by a movie can increase your blood flow, sending more oxygen to your brain? This aids memory, emotional intelligence, focus and (best of all!) creativity.
While everyone has preferences for their work pattern, studies have shown that we work best in 90 minute cycles. That includes taking a break. Ignoring the need for this breather is most likely to be counter-productive, with you ending up a frazzled mess.
So if you need to escape and feel inspired at the same time, check out this list of movies that will inspire you to return to your project with a new sense of purpose.
(In alphabetical order).
A semi-autobiographical tale of a hard-drinking, drug-taking, workaholic director/choreographer as he simultaneously puts together his next Broadway show, while editing his latest movie. Joe Gideon is a man burning the candle at both ends and if he’s going to work himself to death, he’s determined to leave something memorable behind.
American Movie follows a low-budget horror filmmaker in small-town Wisconsin. Mark Borchardt and his group of charismatic and creative misfits provide a rousing case study in making the most of the resources you have, putting your heart and soul into your work, and overcoming all obstacles to ship your dream project.
Gretta is a singer-songwriter who has been working with her boyfriend. But when he finds stardom overnight, it becomes painfully evident that the two have different values. One evening, Gretta is singing some of her material at an open mic night, when Dan spots her. An old hand in the game, Dan is a music producer, and the duo begin a journey together toward creative fulfilment.
Birdman is a fantastic movie that takes us into the world of a washed up actor trying to regain glory with a theatrical production of a Raymond Carver play. The movie expertly conveys the feeling of controlled chaos.
The film was shot to look like one long take, and the overall effect is as unique as it is enveloping. When coupled with the film's strong script and performances, as well as its plot line about the act of creativity and the struggle of the creative, it's a great watch when you need inspiration. This is a work of art, examining the process of trying to create a work of art, without being achingly pretentious.
This straight-up comedy tells the story of Bobby Bowfinger, a struggling Hollywood filmmaker taking his last shot at success. He gathers a crew of misfits and together they embark on making the low budget science fiction movie, Chubby Rain. In over his head, Bowfinger needs a star for the film to be successful, so he decides to do it without even telling the star.
Despite their serious lack of funding, experience and skill, Bowfinger and his crew find clever and inventive ways to overcome their numerous obstacles, never giving up, now matter how bizarre the situation is. The movie is funny, yet still very inspirational.
Easy A is a new take on an old story, reminding you that there are always new ways to create. Seemingly on a whim of being bored with her friend, Olive effectively starts the first rumour about herself. She then lends the rumour to a friend, and the whole situation snowballs. At first, Olive leans into this, but things take a turn to remind her that she is still living in the real world. Olive then must decide whether to let the story she has created stand, or to rewrite it herself.
Ed Wood is based on a book about a real person, who is widely considered the worst movie director of all-time. Wood is joyfully oblivious of his shortcomings as a filmmaker, and his real strength is his unwavering optimism. No matter how bad things get, Ed Wood finds the bright side. When a producer tells Ed his latest film is the worst he ever saw, Ed smiles and says, “My next movie will be better!” How can you not root for someone like that?
The titular Frances Ha plays an aspiring dancer who lacks any natural talent but continues to pursue her career with a great deal of enthusiasm. She searches for a meaningful existence through a period of great change in her life. She teaches us to follow our dreams, even if they sometimes seem unlikely.
Based on the book by Erin Gruwall, this movie shines a light on the importance of the journal as a teaching method and therapeutic instrument. Erin is a teacher in a school that suffers after an integration program doesn’t go as planned. The new students, some of whom are illiterate or come from violent backgrounds, struggle to fit in and soon, the whole academic enterprise begins to unravel… until Erin decides to use her creativity and change up the teaching tactics.
A favourite among fans of Christopher Nolan, Inception is a film about sparking ideas. Cobb is a corporate dream thief, who is given the task of creating a thought in the mind of a CEO. He teaches his team about the power of imagination, even while he is a victim of it himself.
If it doesn't inspire you creatively, it will at least get you thinking about ideas and the creative process.
If you're in a creative slump, it's normal to wish that you could be a kid again, and get back that big imagination you once had. Inside Out will definitely help nudge you in that direction, and it might make you think about the creative conflicts with you as well. Riley is uprooted from her old life, and the story of how she deals with her emotions is touching.
Stunningly rendered in oil-painted rotoscope animation, this Oscar-nominated love letter to Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh is dreamy. Referencing 130 of his paintings, it took seven years to painstakingly put together this remarkable tribute. The story is of the postmaster’s son and his attempt to deliver van Gogh’s final missive to his beloved brother Theo. At its heart is the question: what drives a man to live and die through the brush?
Not your typical romantic comedy, this film tells the story of an eccentric performance artist, Christine, and a shoe salesman, Richard. This film will really make you think about how we connect with one another. It’s a reflection on how messy modern life can be, but comes together with an ending that will inspire.
Gil is a struggling writer who’s about to embark on his first novel. During a trip to Paris with his fiancee Inez, he suddenly discovers he has the ability to step back in time and experience the city in the 1920s. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso and Gertrude Stein all make cameos in this lovely rom-com.
A young boy, Sam, and girl, Suzy, fall in love and decide to run away together. The small town that they live in is then turned on its head, searching for them. Can Sam’s scouting skills and Suzy’s resources allow them to stay ahead of their search party? Wes Anderson’s trademark storybook aesthetics captures his sparkling characterisation and microscopic attention to detail.
The story of two people who meet, fall in love, and make beautiful music together.
He is a Dublin street musician moonlighting as a vacuum repairman, she is an immigrant who plays piano and harmonizes beautifully. He shares with her his dream of bringing his music to London and she agrees to help him.
As their collaboration grows, their songs tell their story, and are written and performed by the two stars. Together they create something magical that will last forever, the sort of thing that only happens once.
One of the best-known works of Ingmar Bergman, and one of the most analysed films of all time. Alma, a nurse, looks after Elisabeth, a patient who appears well, but won’t speak. Alma does all the talking, to try and get through to Elisabeth. This movie is a tapestry of metaphors, raising fascinating questions about identity, duality, and how we relate to each other. It’s also widely recognised as one of the most visually stunning films of its time.
The Player is set in a modern Hollywood movie studio where no one reads scripts anymore. Griffin Mill is a movie studio executive being threatened by a disgruntled screenwriter – the problem is that there are a lot of disgruntled writers!
The film is packed with cameos, references and respect for movie history. There are spectacular tracking shots and clever visual tricks, along with Altman’s trademark overlapping dialogue. But there is also biting commentary on the status of Hollywood, and the endless pursuit for a hit film.
Artists are usually portrayed as struggling to create something special. In The Producers, writer/director Mel Brooks shows his genius by having main characters do the exact opposite – trying to create a massive flop of a Broadway show. The reasoning being that it will make more money than a hit.
The story shows us the creative process from the producer’s perspective: searching for the right material, working with the writer, hiring the director, and of course the casting call for your leading man. There is so much humour packed into the ‘show-within-the-movie’ that you will need a second viewing just to catch it all.
This movie is all about a person's capacity to create. Calvin, a writer who is struggling with writer’s block creates a character that he thinks will love him, and then manages to will her into existence. If nothing else, it should have you pondering what the world would be like if that really happened.
Scott Pilgrim dreams of a girl, and then she turns up on roller skates. He plays in a band, and is actually already dating a girl called Knives. In order to date the new girl, he must defeat each of her seven evil exes. It’s a great movie to watch to get your creative juices flow, as there a lots of great effects and Easter eggs that will remind you that there's more than one way to tell a story, and infinitely creative ways to do so.
This movie tells an imagined story of how mankind’s greatest writer lost his mojo and then got it back. It gives credence to the quote about every idea being bad a first: Shakespeare is struggling for inspiration to fuel his next play, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter. He finds his muse in the beguiling Viola De Lesseps and he makes some changes to his work.
The film is teeming with creative types: writers, actors, theatre owners, even producers, all working on their art. The film is funny and charming and clearly gave Academy voters a heavy dose of the warm fuzzies as the movie took home seven Oscars including Best Picture.
This movie is a classic for a reason. You don't even need to watch the entire movie to feel inspired, although I would recommend it! Just pick a musical number, sit down and feel the ideas flow through you. The ingenuity, technicolour optimism, and of course, the bit where he is singing in the rain, all fill you with joyful energy and the idea of possibilities.
This movie tells the story of Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern, and the last summer they spent together as children. It will give you a break from being an adult and remind you of all the things that were important as a kid. It’s a story of family, friendship, adventure and a dead body.
This is another great movie about what could happen if your characters become too real. Kay Eiffel is an author struggling to finish her latest novel. On the other side of town, Harold Crick leads a boring life as an IRS tax professional. One day, Harold begins hearing a voice in his head, narrating everything he does with eerie accuracy, while odd things start happening. With the help of a literary professor, Harold sets out to find the person who is narrating his life. An interesting plot that gives new meaning to the concept of killing your darlings.
No film in the history of cinema has ever presented a more accurate depiction of the dynamic inside a rock band than This is Spinal Tap. The movie follows an aging British heavy metal band as they embark on a tour across America.
There is so much creative activity happening in the film, it’s dizzying. They spoof documentaries, music videos, early television broadcasts, concert performances, and songwriting. But the real strength here is that the actors are all actual musicians in addition to being gifted comedic actors. It’s all pitch perfect.