Being a bookworm, if I have a few hours to sit still and consume content, I’m more likely to pick up a book than pick something on Netflix. That said, I don’t mind firing up the popcorn maker and snuggling up for a movie night when it’s a film that piques my particular interest. Here are fifteen movies about books, authors, and bookstores – the best ones to watch with the bookworms in your life.

15 Movies About Books, Authors, and Bookstores - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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Notting Hill (1999)

Notting Hill (1999) movie poster

Notting Hill is one of the most laughably unrealistic movies about bookstores, but its nostalgic pull is strong. It’s practically a period piece at this point, set in a time when a niche travel bookstore could do enough trade to afford London rents, when famous actresses could walk the streets without their location being tracked on social media, and before dorks like Hugh Grant got radicalised on Reddit threads. At 124 minutes’ running time, it’s the perfect switch-your-brain-off film.

You’ve Got Mail (1998)

You've Got Mail (1998) movie poster

So, imagine you’re a boutique bookstore owner, having inherited the bookstore from your late mother. Can you imagine any conceivable situation where you’d fall in love with Jeff Bezos? That’s basically the conceit of You’ve Got Mail. It’s another throwback film, to a time when strangers on the internet weren’t racist trolls, but the threats to bookstores and booksellers’ livelihoods have only become more ominous since. Still, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are delightful, with fantastic chemistry – but if they don’t do it for you, there’s always Brinkley, the Golden Retriever.

Funny Face (1957)

Funny Face (1957) - movie poster

Booksellers are an introverted lot, so Funny Face is almost a horror film for that audience, rather than the lighthearted musical comedy it’s intended to be. Audrey Hepburn plays a shy bookshop assistant, slash amateur philosopher, whose store is overtaken by a fashion magazine shoot for The Aesthetic. It just so happens that she catches the eye of the photographer, who promises her a trip to Paris (where she hopes to “attend the famous Professor Émile Flostre’s philosophy lectures about empathicalism”) on the condition that she models for him. He basically negs her into it, but she falls in love with him anyway.

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) - movie poster

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society is one of the movies about books and authors that almost wasn’t. The project went through a number of challenges, not the least of which was securing Kate Winslet for the lead only to have her later drop out during delays, and the difficulties of executing the ‘artistic vision’ of shooting the film on the island of Guernsey itself. Still, the filmmakers persisted, and it’s worth it: a heartwarming historical romance about a book club formed under Nazi occupation, and a community coming together to help each other survive.

The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

The Jane Austen Book Club (2007) - movie poster

The plots and characters of Jane Austen are truly timeless, and contemporary movies like The Jane Austen Book Club prove it. It’s not a strict adaptation of Austen’s work (rather, of Karen Joy Fowler’s book of the same name), but a film about a book club that reads their way through her oeuvre. Each member of the book club finds Austen-esque conflicts playing out in their own lives, with marriage plots and matchmaking and betrayal galore. Emily Blunt really shines in this one, as the bookish high school French teacher whose tight grip on her life gradually unravels.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Stranger Than Fiction (2006) - movie poster

Movies about books and authors are a bit outside of Will Ferrell’s wheelhouse, but don’t let that put you off. In this one, he plays alongside Emma Thompson, and they make for a surprisingly delightful duo. Stranger Than Fiction is a clever and funny-at-times-sad-at-times film about a man who discovers he’s actually the protagonist in a novel. The thing is, there’s also a mortal-peril aspect to it, as the author plans to kill off her character – only now he’s truly alive, and trying to convince her not to end his story. It’s weird, sure, but it’s perfectly executed.

Book Club (2018)

Book Club (2018) - movie poster

If you love a story about a book (or a book club) that changes lives, you need to watch Book Club. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen star as four friends who read a racy bestseller (50 Shades Of Grey, naturally) and start to view their personal relationships in a new light. Honestly, even if the bookish aspects of this film don’t appeal, it’s worth watching to see four women over the age of 60 share time in the spotlight, being every bit as sexy and fun and adventurous as their younger counterparts.

Serendipity (2001)

Serendipity (2001) - movie poster

Serendipity is a film for the hopeless romantics – and a book plays a starring role! After a (you guessed it) serendipitous meeting in a department store, two people decide to let fate decide whether they should fall in love. Jonathan (John Cusack) writes his name and number on a $5 note, and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) writes her name and number in the front of her copy of Love In The Time Of Cholera. She sells the book to a used book store, the $5 note enters circulation, and destiny is put to the test.

Adaptation (2002)

Adaptation (2002) - movie poster

Let’s get meta! Adaptation is a movie about a screenwriter who is struggling to write the script for a movie (and I say he ‘counts’ as an author for this list). The book in question is Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, the book that real-life screenwriter of this film Charlie Kaufman was actually trying to adapt when he had the idea to write this script instead. Yes, it sounds silly, but it’s actually a really gripping film to watch, and with Meryl Streep playing Orlean, it’s got some heavyweight chops. I can’t imagine how Orlean felt the first time she watched it, though…

Freedom Writers (2007)

Freedom Writers (2007) - movie poster

Not all movies about authors are about the professional writer, tapping away at their typewriter with a cigarette and a whiskey in easy reach. Freedom Writers, for instance, is about a group of young disadvantaged people finally finding their voice on the page, thanks to the dedication and persistence of one naive and earnest teacher. Of course, you have to set aside some qualms about the white saviour narrative (with Hillary Swank playing the white teacher of a group of students who are predominantly Black or Hispanic), but it’s still a heartwarming movie to watch. Best of all, it’s based on a true story.

Saving Mr Banks (2013)

Saving Mr Banks (2013) - movie poster

Surely, most of us have at least some fond memories of watching Mary Poppins when we were kids, if not reading the original book by P.L. Travers. It’s true, Saving Mr Banks might tarnish some of those memories, but it might also give us new appreciation for the overlooked ‘villain’ characters of the story. The story follows Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) as he doggedly pursues Travers for the rights to turn her book into a film, after promising his daughters he would bring Mary Poppins to the silver screen. He soon discovers that there’s a lot more to the story of the whimsical nanny than meets the eye.

The Book Thief (2013)

The Book Thief (2013) - movie poster

Anyone who read Markus Zusak’s best-seller The Book Thief must have known that filmmakers would come calling for the rights – it’s a story that feels made for the screen. And so they did, making The Book Thief, a film of the same name. A young girl, set adrift in Nazi Germany, compulsively steals books despite the fact that she doesn’t know how to read or write. Gradually, her foster father (played by Geoffrey Rush) teaches her to make sense of letters and words, and their lessons become a wonderful escape from the horrors that ravage their community.

The Ghost Writer (2010)

The Ghost Writer (2010) - movie poster

Alright, you need to know straight up that The Ghost Writer is a Roman Polanski film, so if you’re boycotting his work (which is a laudable stand to take) you’re going to have to give this one a miss. Still, it’s an interesting one to include on this list as it interrogates a role not often explored in movies about books and authors: that of the ghost writer (as the title would suggest). The Ghost (who remains nameless) is hired to write the autobiography of a former British PM, and in so doing he discovers a terrible secret. Unfortunately, the nature of his work requires him to ask questions, and soon his interest will see his life under threat.

Misery (1990)

Misery (1990) - movie poster

Kathy Bates has done lots of great work in her career – earning her Emmy awards, Golden Globes, and lots of critical acclaim – but for most of us, she’s indelibly etched in our memories as the terrifying villain of Misery, the movie based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. She’s the ultimate terrifying fangirl, kidnapping her favourite author and holding him hostage until he writes a fitting ending to her favourite book series. This is one of the movies about books that you can’t watch with the lights off, and will probably have you jumping at every sound for hours after the credits roll.

As Good As It Gets (1997)

As Good As It Gets (1997) - movie poster

Not all authors are lovely bookish types. Some of them, like Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good As It Gets, are misanthropic arseholes. It’s almost hard to imagine, in the beginning, that someone so thoroughly unlikeable could write best-selling romance novels. And yet, this film is oddly touching and the author in question will inevitably endear himself to you as he learns to overcome his prejudices and welcome mess into his life. Warning: you’ll need a box of tissues if you’re a softie, and you’ll need to switch off your critical thinking skills if you know anything at all about OCD.