Learning to Write With Movies

Hello gentle reader,

As promised today I am mixing work and pleasure, in the sense that I’m going to talk about writing and handsome actors. See, I am a huge movie fan and I often go and see movies for the actor I happen to fancy. Sometimes the movie is great. Sometimes it is terrible and all I can do is stare at the awesomeness that is the main actor and forget about the movie itself. Whatever the case, I always learn something about writing. Thus let me share below a few nuggets of wisdom learned from various movies (in chronological order)… or you can just scroll down and stare at the pretty pictures.


Movie: Gladiator (2000)

Actor: Russell Crowe

What I learned about writing: Never underestimate the narrative power of the good old “Hero’s Journey”. If you put a new spin on it, there’s no reason why your hero shouldn’t get a call, meet a mentor, go through some trials, defeat the bad guy and finish his journey transformed.


Movie: Alexander (2004)

Actor: Jared Leto

What I learned about writing: Don’t be afraid to be a bit ambitious and to go for epicness. Some stories need it.

Tristan & Isolde

Movie: Tristan and Isolde (2006)

Actor: Henry Cavill

What I learned about writing: Do not make your villain/secondary character more interesting, more handsome, more complex than your hero. Because then, your reader will fancy him more than the hero. And that can be a problem.

Mr Brooks

Movie: Mr Brooks (2007)

Actor: Kevin Costner

What I learned about writing: it is perfectly acceptable to have a villain as your main character, as long as you show him in all his complexity.


Movie: Valhalla Rising (2009)

Actor: Mads Mikkelsen

What I learned about writing: having a disabled main character can make your story intriguing and more original. In this example, the hero is one-eyed and mute. Yet he is fascinating.


Movie: Centurion (2010)

Actor: Michael Fassbender

What I learned about writing: Michael Fassbender is awesome. Wait, that’s not a writing lesson. Here is the lesson: even if you have a large cast, make sure all the characters have their own “arc” and storyline. The more the reader feels he knows them, the more he is likely to care.


Movie: Anonymous (2011)

Actor: Jamie Campbell Bower

What I learned about writing: Done artfully, it can be very moving and narratively powerful to portray a character from his youth to his death and to span 80 years of history.

The Eagle

Movie: The Eagle (2011)

Actor: Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell

What I learned about writing: Nothing will make your reader care more about your main character than showing him with a best friend.

Have you learned any writing lessons from watching movies? If, yes, which ones? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

10 thoughts on “Learning to Write With Movies

  1. Ha, what a great post! Completley agree with Mads, I would see anything he is in because he’s so handsome

  2. Jessica Montgomery says:

    I LOVE Gladiator. One of my all time favorite movies 🙂 A movie I learned from was Legend directed by Ridley Scott (also a favorite). It really taught you that characters, no matter their apparent lack of strength, can overcome anything when they need too. Fun post!

  3. Kate Michael says:

    Totally love this post! *cleans up drool* Gladiator is my epic fave because, well, Russell of course. And the fighting. And Djimon isn’t bad either. I think movies have a great deal to teach us about how to write well-crafted stories–what works, what to avoid, how to improve our dialogue, build our worlds, and definitely how to give our characters depth. Thanks, Eve!

  4. Hey EM. This is brilliant. I love the point about Henry Cavill. Totally agree and its a great point.

  5. I must admit, I tried to focus on what you were saying but there were too many pretty pictures 😀

  6. Elisabeth says:

    This is a good way to start a new day !!! lol! and I realise that I miss a movie with Channing Tatum!

  7. Eye candy, epic movies, all tied up with writing tips. What more can we ask for. You go girl!

  8. Rachel O'Laughlin says:

    Errm, yet another huge Gladiator fan over here! I loved everything about this post, so I won’t even start. EVERYTHING. Ahhh!

  9. Michelle Roberts says:

    I learned that my movie list is sadly lacking these movies. The only one I’ve seen is The Eagle! Great tips!

  10. EM Castellan says:

    Thanks for all the nice feedback guys! I’m glad you all enjoyed the post, I had fun writing it 🙂

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