9 Best Documentaries for Writers to Watch in 2022

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Smriti Razdan
Smriti Razdan
Smriti started her journey by attaining a degree in computer applications. She loves to indulge in reading undiscovered stories only to draw profound explanations about life and its existence. She welcomes you aboard on her expedition of finding herself. Smriti writes her content with a smile on her face hoping to transcend it to her readers.

What’s the world of a writer’s like? We never ponder upon such questions because we don’t exactly understand the influence of writers in this world. One has the power to carve something in the human brain that will live along the generations to come. If you want to see the world from the perspective of writers, then you should definitely watch these documentaries for writers.  

If you are even remotely interested in writing (or even if you are not), you can learn a lot about the world by listening to the life experiences of some of the greatest writers. As the writers on whom documentaries are made, they have done exceptionally well in their literary field, you can learn how they moved people just by their words.  

Quickly go over all the documentaries for writers and comment below your personal favorites from this list.

9 Best Documentaries for Writers to Watch and Learn From Them

No matter how difficult your life is right now, some of these writers have seen the worst of the world and still had hoped to make this world a better place. What drives this force? What makes them different from us? Stay tuned and we will unravel all of the best documentaries for writers. 

1. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)

Why is it on the list of Documentaries for Writers?

What’s life from the eyes of a writer? Know all about the literary career of Toni Morrison as she narrated her story. No better place than to start by her. She examines the powerful themes in her literary works. This documentary for writers features big names like Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Russel Banks, and Angela Davis. 

Toni Morrison was born and raised in Ohio. She graduated from Howard University in 1953 and wrote numerous literature pieces. She received Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1987.

But it wasn’t until 1993 that she received Nobel Prize in Literature for her phenomenal work. Beloved was made into a film in 1998. Most of her works address the consequences of racism in the United States.

IMDb Rating: 7.4
Released on: 21 June 2019 (USA)
Duration: 2h 
Stars: Toni Morrison, Hilton Als, Oprah Winfrey
Directed by: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

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2. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (2016)

Why is it on the list of Documentaries for Writers?

Maya Angelou was a dancer, actor, poet, essayist, screenwriter, memoirist, a teacher, in short, she was a Rennaisance woman. God! That sounds sexy! Maya Angelou over the time of her life has written seven autobiographies, three books on essays, and many others on poetry and this documentary covers all of it very beautifully.

Maya Angelou’s life story is truly inspiring. Before recognizing herself as a poet or a writer, she worked as a sex worker, nightclub performer and did other jobs like that. But fast forward to a few years of struggle and hard work she became everything she could and even more.

In 1982, Maya Angelou was named the first Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. She publicly discussed her personal life with the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. From being a nameless girl she became the spokesperson for the Black people, especially women.

Among many challenges that she faced, one of the most highlighted ones is the attempted ban on her books from the US libraries. But still, after so many years, she and her books are equally celebrated among the readers of the world. Indeed one of the best documentaries for writers.

IMDb Rating: 7.9
Released on: 14 October 2016
Duration: 1h 54min
Stars: Cicely Tyson, Guy Johnson, Diahann Carroll
Directed by:  Bob Hercules, Rita Coburn Whack

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3. Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth (2013)

Why is it on the list of Documentaries for Writers?

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth is the story of an extraordinary woman who was brought up on the fields in Georgia and after growing up she became one of the key writers of the twentieth century.

Alice Walker became the first black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Color Purple. In her life, she had seen violent racism and poverty. The movie offers an insight into her life from her birth to her becoming human rights activist. If The Color Purple made you cry, you better sit with a box of tissues for this one.

It was for The Color Purple that she won the National Book Award. It was Alice Walker who was coined the term Womanist in 1983 which means ‘A black feminist or feminist of color’. She met Martin Luther King Jr. in her college days, it also influenced her progressive thinking.

All of us should take inspiration from such a woman in this modern world where the meaning of words like feminist and woman empowerment are taken in a negative impact.

IMDb Rating: 7.3
Released on: September 2014(USA)
Duration: 1h 24min
Stars: Robert L. Allen,  Angela Davis, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg
Directed by: Pratibha Parmar

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4. Dreams with Sharp Teeth (2008)

Why is it on the list of Documentaries for Writers?

In 1981, Erik Nelson the 24-year-old producer took footage of his friend Harlan Ellison writing on his typewriter and clubbed them altogether. Took interviews of Ellison’s family and friends and presented this entertaining documentary for writers. 

Harlan Ellison was an American writer known for his outspoken and combative work on fiction. In his lifetime, Ellison has published over 1700 short stories and comic book scripts. He came to NYC in his youth to be a writer in science fiction and worked hard for it.

If we look into the personal accounts of Harley Ellison, which is shown in the documentary, he married five times in his life. All his marriages ended up after a few years except the last one. The writer described himself as a Jewish atheist.

IMDb Rating: 7.7
Released on:  4 June 2008 (USA)
Duration: 1h 36min 
Stars: Harlan Ellison, Robin Williams, Neil Gaiman 
Directed by: Erik Nelson

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5. William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010)

Why is it on the list of Documentaries for Writers?

The documentary on the life of the popular writer of Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs. Did you know he struggled with addiction and control systems throughout his life? The writer was compelled to deal with the tragedy of killing his wife. He crossed the dangerous boundaries of queer, hence influencing many artists in the generation to come.

William Burroughs’ life story will surely amaze you. He was also a magician besides being a writer. About his addiction and killing his wife, all of it is true. The writer has admitted it himself. Talking about the criminal records of Burroughs he was also convicted of manslaughter.

Even after doing so much killing in his life (literally), IDK why but he is still considered a legend among the literature folks. I guess it is because of his work in the Naked Lunch and The Nova Trilogy that really kept him alive in the minds of readers.

IMDb Rating: 7.2
Released on: 12 December 2010 (Chile)

Duration: 1h 27min 
Stars: Fred Aldrich, Laurie Anderson, Amiri Baraka 
Directed by:  Yony Leyser

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6. And Everything Is Going Fine (2010)

Why is it on the list of Documentaries for Writers?

Spalding Gray was an ingenious monologist whose life work is filled with humor and wise content. Most importantly he wrote everything with authenticity. In this documentary, you see Spalding Gray’s life disclosed in his own words with interviews of his friends.

Spalding Gray saw depression and the dark side of life from a young age. He was in his 20s when his mother committed suicide. His books ‘Impossible Vacation’ and ‘Sex and Death to the Age 14’ are mainly based on his early adulthood.

IMDb Rating: 7.1
Released on: January 2010 (USA)
Duration: 1h 29min 
Stars:  Spalding Gray, Forrest Gray, Kathie Russo
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

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7. Life Itself (2014)

Why is it on the list of Documentaries for Writers?

Life Itself is the biography of Roger Ebert. The film has footage of Roger in his final months. It interviews his friends, family and colleagues. It is a great documentary not just for writers but for all of us because of the way it is made. The background reads of his writings enhance the character of Ebert.

Roger Ebert was most popular for his profession as a film critic as he did the job with brutal honesty from 1967 to 2013, until his death. He was the first film critic ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He worked on writing critical reviews on movies on Sun-Times.

He published more than 20 books and collected dozens of reviews. His style of writing made him different from other writers and his movie is also different from other documentaries for writers without a doubt.

IMDb Rating: 7.8
Released on:4 July 2014 (USA)
Duration:   2h 1min 
Stars:  Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Gene Siskel 
Directed by: Steve James

8. Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017)

Why is it on the list of Documentaries for Writers?

A documentary released on Netflix in 2017 on Didion was loved by the viewers. You will be seeing the remarkable journey of the literary career of a prominent writer. The documentary is made by her nephew Griffin Dunne, so you will also get to see some stories on the personal struggles of Didion as well.

Joan Didion started her career by winning an essay contest sponsored by Vogue Magazine in the 1960s. Since then she received the perk of having an audience, which helped a lot in her literary career. In 2005, she won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Her work that amazes me the most is The Year of Magical Thinking, as it is a narrative in response to her husband’s death and the serious illness of her daughter. This was Joan’s first nonfiction work written at the age of seventy. Her movie is one of the best documentaries for writers.

IMDb Rating: 7.5
Released on: 27 October 2017 (USA)
Duration: 1h 34min
Stars:  Hilton Als, Tom Brokaw, Dick Cheney 
Directed by: Griffin Dunne

9. Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (2008)

Why is it on the list of Documentaries for Writers?

A documentary that examines the life and work of an American writer who was also the creator of Cthulhu Mythos, H.P. Lovecraft. The documentary was awarded the Best Documentary at 2008 Comic-Con International. Let’s uncover the story of Mr. Lovecraft.

As dramatic as this name can be, Howard Philips Lovecraft was the writer of weird and horror fiction. He has also written some works on his interpretation of humanity during the interwar period.

IMDb Rating: 7.2
Released on: 24 July 2008 (USA) 
Duration:  1h 30min 
Stars:  Robin Atkin Downes, Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub 
Directed by: Frank H. Woodward

Wrapping Up

That was all about this article on Best Documentaries for Writers. Hope you like it. If you do then comment down below and let us know what you think about it. Share it article with your fellow friends who are writers. Stay Home! Stay Safe!


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