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The Best Documentaries About Writers 

Ranker Film
Updated June 14, 2019 389 votes 135 voters 28.5k views 64 items

List Rules Documentary films about authors, journalists, novelists, poets, playwrights, and any other types of writers

There are many documentaries out there today that look at writers throughout history, specifically with a focus on their personal lives, struggles, inspirations, and motivations in the artistic arena. This list of the best documentaries about writers will shed light on the life and craft of many different writers and authors.

The films featured on this list have been ranked by the community as the best documentaries that feature the stories of writers, their personal lives, struggles, and accomplishments. These films address the historical aspects of what shaped their lives in the early years, the successes and failures of their careers, what influenced their personal stories, awards they received, and how they made an impact on society through their works.

 What are the best documentaries about writers? This list has them all, including: Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, Charles Dickens’s England, Dreams With Sharp Teeth, Finding Farley, An Impression with John Steinbeck: Writer, In the Wake of the Flood, and Breakfast with Hunter. Vote up for your favorite writer documentary or add one you love that isn't already on the list.
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list ordered by
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looksharp added

Released: 2013

Directed by: Shane Salerno

Salinger is a 2013 documentary film about the writer J. D. Salinger, written and directed by Shane Salerno.
2
Life Itself is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentaries About Writers

Released: 2014

Directed by: Steve James

Life Itself is a 2014 American biographical documentary film about film critic Roger Ebert, directed by Steve James and produced by Zak Piper, Steve James and Garrett Basch. The film is based on ...more
3
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The Charles Bukowski Tapes

Released: 1987

Directed by: Barbet Schroeder

The Charles Bukowski Tapes are a collection of short interviews with the American writer/poet Charles Bukowski, filmed and assembled by Barbet Schroeder and first published in 1987 in the USA. ...more
4
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Gore Vidal: The Man Who Said No

Released: 1984

Directed by: Gary Conklin

Gore Vidal: The Man Who Said No is a documentary film directed, produced, and edited by Gary Conklin. The film follows famed American writer and political gadfly Gore Vidal in his quixotic ...more
5
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Released: 2008

Directed by: Alex Gibney

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is a 2008 documentary film directed by Alex Gibney. It details Hunter S. Thompson's landmark writings on music and politics. Friends and family ...more

More Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson 

#53 of 354 The Greatest Documentaries of All Time #4 of 41 Every Alex Gibney Documentary, Ranked #12 of 32 The Greatest Works of Hunter S. Thompson

6
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Released: 2007

Directed by: Peter Askin

Trumbo is a 2007 American documentary film directed by Peter Askin, produced by Will Battersby, Tory Tunnell, and Alan Klingenstein, and written by Christopher Trumbo. It is based on the letters ...more
7
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William S. Burroughs: A Man Within Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, William S. Burroughs

Released: 2010

Directed by: Yony Leyser

"As director John Waters puts it in Yony Leyser’s long-awaited documentary, William S. Burroughs became famous “for all the things you were supposed to hide: He was gay; he was a junkie; he ...more
8
The Art of Catching Lobs... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentaries About Writers
The Art of Catching Lobsters

Released: 2005

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dancolliergay added Cooper & Hemingway: The True Gen Sam Waterston, Len Cariou, Elmore Leonard

Released: October 13, 2013

Directed by: John Mulholland

Explores author Ernest Hemingway's 20-year friendship with actor Gary Cooper.

10
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Released: 2003

Directed by: Wayne Ewing

Breakfast with Hunter (2003) is a documentary about the everyday life of gonzo-journalist Hunter S. Thompson by Wayne Ewing.The film includes a variety of well-known figures involved with ...more
11
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Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry

Released: 1976

Directed by: Donald Brittain

Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry is a 1976 Canadian documentary film about writer Malcolm Lowry. Written and directed by Donald Brittain and John Kramer, it was ...more
12
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Released: 2010

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

And Everything Is Going Fine is a 2010 documentary film directed by Steven Soderbergh about the life of the late monologuist Spalding Gray. It premiered at the 2010 Slamdance Film Festival and ...more
13
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Dave Burian added Born Into This
14
102 Years in the Heart o... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Documentaries About Writers
102 Years in the Heart of Europe: a Portrait of Ernst Jünger

Released: 1998

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Robert Downey Jr., Lou Reed, Ellen Burstyn

Released: 2006

Directed by: Michael W. Dean, Kenneth Shiffrin

Hubert Selby Jr: It/ll Be Better Tomorrow is a 2005 documentary film about writer Hubert Selby, Jr.. The film's title It/ll Be Better Tomorrow is taken from Selby's novel, The Demon, the slash ...more
16
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The Dialogues With Solzhenitsyn

Released: 1998

Directed by: Alexander Sokurov

The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn is a Russian television documentary by Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The documentary shot in Solzhenitsyn’s home shows his ...more
17
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Robin Williams, Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison

Released: 2008

Directed by: Erik Nelson

Dreams with Sharp Teeth is a 2008 biographical documentary film about writer Harlan Ellison. It is composed of original and archive footage of Ellison and talking head segments from colleagues ...more
18
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The Political Dr. Seuss

Released: 2004

Directed by: Ron Lamothe

The Political Dr. Seuss is a 2004 documentary film written by Ron Lamothe, Eric Martin and Lois Vossen, and directed by Ron Lamothe.
19
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Rudyard Kipling: A Remembrance Tale

Released: 2006

Directed by: Harry Hook

Rudyard Kipling: A Remembrance Tale was a 1-hour 2006 BBC documentary on the life of Rudyard Kipling, particularly as relating to his loss of his son during the First World War. It was presented ...more
20
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Amos Oz: The Nature of Dreams

Released: 2009

Amos Oz: The Nature of Dreams is an Israeli documentary film, written, directed and produced by Yonathan and Masha Zur. It is a portrait of Israeli author Amos Oz, author of the memoir A Tale of ...more
21
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Greatest Journeys: England: The Journeys of Charles Dickens

Released: 2004

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Released: 2012

Directed by: Brad Bernstein

Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story is a 2012 documentary film written and directed by Brad Bernstein.
23
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Released: 1972

Directed by: James Ivory

Adventures of a Brown Man in Search of Civilization is a 54-minute color documentary based on the life and thoughts of Nirad C. Chaudhuri. It was made in 1972 and was directed by James Ivory. In ...more
24
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Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey

Released: 1996

Directed by: Al Pacino

Looking for Richard is a 1996 documentary, drama film directed by Al Pacino.
25
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Released: 2010

Directed by: Miguel Gonçalves Mendes

José and Pilar is a Portuguese documentary directed by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes following the last years of the Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, chiefly through his ...more