Arts & Entertainment

The 8 Best Movies About...Making Movies

Things can only get meta
IMAGE Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures
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The Disaster Artist, James Franco's funny and poignant movie about the making of Tommy Wiseau's cult calamity The Room, isn't the first time Hollywood has looked to itself for inspiration.

When we say these are the "best" movies about moviemaking, by the way, we're stretching the definition of "good". No one would call An Alan Smithee Film good, exactly. Let's go with "notable" instead. Here are eight notable movies that allowed us a look behind the wizard's curtain...

Ed Wood
That a toweringly talented directorTim Burtonshould find pleasure in telling the story of an excruciatingly bad oneEdward D. Wood Jr.might normally feel a bit cruel, but there's more affection than scorn in this fizzy and funny biopic of the man dubbed the worst movie director of all time.

Wood (played here by a career-best Johnny Depp) was the hard-drinking, cross-dressing, tirelessly upbeat director of such notorious celluloid trainwrecks as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda, whose friendship with the ageing horror legend Bela Lugosi (an Oscar-winning turn by Martin Landau) forms the basis of what's possibly Burton's best, and most heartfelt film.

Bowfinger
Steve Martin's last great self-penned movie casts him as Bobby Bowfinger, a down-at-heel wannabe Hollywood player who sets about making his long-time dream project, a sci-fi thriller titled Chubby Rain. Ever resourceful, he plans to secretly film the world's biggest star, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) so as to get him into his movie, with the actor's low-achieving twin brother Jiff as his stand-in.

Resisting the temptation of having us laugh at these starry-eyed dreamers, Martin's film is instead a warm tribute to thinking big, however minuscule your talent. Because there's more imagination and heart, in one micro-budgeted minute of Chubby Rain than there is in a lorryload of hollow-souled summer blockbusters.

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn
The story behind An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burna movie about the making of a movieis so good it really ought to made into a movie (though it may have to come with meta overload warning).

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Need-to-know facts first: 'Alan Smithee' is the Director's Guild of America-approved pseudonym directors use when they want to distance themselves from a movie that they can convince the DGA was taken out of their hands.

Arthur Hiller's mockumentary was meant to be a satire about the making of a calamitous studio movieexcept that Hiller clashed with Disney so much that he walked off the project, resulting in the film ironically being released with a 'Directed by Alan Smithee' credit on it.

You couldn't make it up...

Shadow of the Vampire
Actor Max Schreck's performance as the titular vampire in FW Murnau's copyright-dodging Dracula ripoff Nosferatu is considered one of the most frightening horror performances of all-time. But what if it wasn't acting? What if Max Schreck was so convincing as the sinister Count Orlock because he was, in fact, a vampire?

That's the premise of this cheekily fictionalized account of the filming of Murnau's expressionist classic, which stars Willem Dafoe as the enigmatic actor-cum-bloodsucker and John Malkovich as the movie's visionary director.

Tropic Thunder
The seeds of this Ben Stiller-penned action-comedy were sown over 20 years before, when the actor, then a relatively green twentysomething, was working on Steven Spielberg's 1987 war drama Empire of the Sun. On that movie, some of Stiller's colleagues had been placed into boot camps when training for their military roles, emerging at the end walking and talking like they were now bona fide soldiers.

In Tropic Thunder then, a group of prima donna thesps, in Vietnam filming a war epic, are dropped into the middle of a real-life conflict with opium farmers. Stiller's film pokes fun at the pretensions of over-precious actors as much as it does the lunacies of the Hollywood filmmaking machine.

Hitchcock
Based on Stephen Rebello's non-fiction book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, this Anthony Hopkins-starring biopic tells the story of the behind-the-scenes dramas of the movie master's 1960 gamechanger. But what makes for a riveting read (the movie was considered a massive gamble for Hitch when he optioned it in 1959) is sadly translated into a less-than-gripping drama.

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Despite writer John J McLaughlin's embellishments (we see Hitch being visited by an imaginary Ed Gein, the real-life inspiration for Psycho's Norman Bates), it's a leaden and lifeless account of a movie that deserves a far more colorful tribute.

Singin' in the Rain
Set in the Hollywood of 1927, Stanley Donen's vivacious musical is a film in love with life and the luminous joys of cinema. Gene Kelly headlines as a silver-screen star who nabs a starring role in a silent epic titled The Duelling Cavalier.

But when The Jazz Singer opens, ushering in a new era of talkies, the studio baulks and refashions the movie into a musical called The Dancing Cavalier. Still one of the funniest and most jubilant movies about moviemaking, Singin' in the Rain was only a modest hit when it was released in 1952, but is now considered a teflon-coated masterpiece.

Saving Mr. Banks
There's always the danger, in discovering the ugly realities behind the making of a beloved classic, that some of the magic will slip away. Mary Poppins is one of those movies that's the epitome of sunny-hearted escapism, so much so that it's hard to think that anyone involved in its making was sniffy about it, let alone the character's creator PL Travers (played here by a pitch-perfect Emma Thompson).

But, as Mary says, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and this telling of the tale is as sweet as Mary Poppins itself (both movies were made by Disney, so what did you expect?). So, rest assured, the magic's safe from harm.

From: Digital Spy

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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