It’s widely believed that Hollywood likes to make movies that celebrate how awesome Hollywood is: how wonderful movie magic is, and how those who see movies should have bright eyes when they see them. The Oscars often celebrate movies about making movies, like Best Picture winners The artist Or argon. There is no artistic medium as sufficient as cinema. However, what if there were a few movies that acknowledged just how messed up Hollywood really is?
There are a few select movies that help pave the way for the world of Hollywood meat grinders and all of its hypocrisy, though some of them are a little looser in how they directly approach the industry. The lure of fame and money can corrupt even the most well-meaning performers, so being vigilant about what’s really going on in this craft we call show business can be a valuable asset. Here’s a list of movies that do just that — anti-Hollywood movies, if you will.
8 star cards
David Cronenberg’s late work is a very interesting mix of meditations on violence and a recent return to the contemplation of body horror, but his 2014 film Maps to the stars is a very atypical mix for the Canadian director. Maps to the stars is a Hollywood satire that focuses on the plight of a broken child star and actress who pursue the fame they once had and attempt to cannibalize the fame of those around them. The film’s commentary, which comes from an industry veteran and de facto outsider, feels particularly sharp and unconventional. Cronenberg may be known for his gross horror movies, but his anti-Hollywood satire is some of the best.
Related: Best Movies About True Hollywood Scandals
7 sunset boulevard
Billy Wilder’s dark industrial comedy hits straight at the heart of Hollywood and did so in 1950. In Twilight BoulevardA screenwriter develops a dangerous and tangled relationship with a faded movie star determined to regain his former glory. For a film released on the heels of the studio system and in the midst of the Hayes code, it’s a surprisingly cynical take on how Hollywood chews up young stars and spits them out indiscriminately – with addiction and debt looming for to start up. It’s an incredibly dark film, but one that really holds Hollywood accountable by exploring the struggles of its dark sitcom characters.
6 The Player
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Robert Altman’s seminal Hollywood satire The player is among the most direct and fastest on this list. When a failing studio executive receives death threats from a writer whose script he turned down, he must ask himself pressing questions, such as which writer is it? There are so many he’s rejected that he can’t even remember a specific example, and therein lies the satirical power of this. The player. Altman has always been a pro at capturing humanity, but he’s somehow even better at capturing the lack of humanity in the characters in this film. Exhausted and blighted by the fame and luxury of being at the highest level in Hollywood, everyone is taken to task as Altman laughs off his propensity for excess.
5 The Wicked And The Beautiful
The image of Vincente Minelli The bad and the beautiful Maybe not on your radar, but in this context it should be safe. The film follows the rise and fall of a tough and ambitious Hollywood producer (Kirk Douglas) seen through the eyes of various people he has messed up throughout his career, including a writer, movie star and a director. He’s a selfish, driven man who ruthlessly exploits anyone on his way to becoming one of Hollywood’s most important movers, leaving him alone at the top by the end of the film. The bad and the beautiful is mostly told in flashbacks, which at some point take on a certain deliberately tongue-in-cheek tone that exaggerates the already excellent material.
4 Barton’s finch
20th century fox
Directed and written by the Coen Brothers, Barton Fink is a Hollywood satire on the allure of fame and the price of playing with big dogs. When a top New York playwright is offered a job writing movies in Hollywood, he jumps at the chance. What he discovers, however, is that the working process within the system is very different and more difficult than he had anticipated. The film really emphasizes the constant threat of artistic bankruptcy in the face of success and fame that is a common theme in most of the films shown here. Barton Fink is another look at how Hollywood can really screw up someone with big intentions and a lot of talent, but it ultimately doesn’t matter.
Related: Best Documentaries About Hollywood Icons
A much more basic commentary on what it’s like to work in the industry, Adjustment is Charlie Kaufman’s dissertation on the difficulty of writing a film (especially one that adapts a popular novel). Kaufman based the film Adjustment on her efforts to adapt Susan Orlean’s book the orchid thief, a process that freed him from writer’s block. His film contains material adapted from the book, fictionalized material from Kaufman’s own life, and ideas resulting in completely made-up and unrelated material. It’s a movie so constantly aware of itself and what it means in the grand scheme of its industry that it’s hard not to tell where Kaufman is going with his writing.
2 Mulholland Drive
Originally conceived as a television pilot by director and screenwriter David Lynch, Mulholland Drive is a film that centers on an aspiring actress (Naomi Watts) who befriends an amnesiac woman (Laura Harring) and the increasingly strange things that go on around her. Functionally, the film is a commentary on how Hollywood chews up and spits out attractive young women, though it contains vignettes and cutaways that highlight other Hollywood misdeeds. Lynch’s film also deals heavily with themes and concepts of identity, alternate realities, dreams, and surreal imagery. It’s one of the hardest poison darts ever aimed at the heart of Hollywood, though Lynch insists it’s a venom-coated Valentine.
1 good night and good luck
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George Clooney’s directing is a very different kind of anti-Hollywood film. Good night and good luck focuses on a peripheral Hollywood story (per The Guardian): that of the Anti-Communist Commission in the 1950s and how US Senator Joseph McCarthy launched the campaign to root out all Communist sympathizers in Hollywood. CBS journalist Edward Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly decide to take a stand and challenge McCarthy by denouncing him for the alarmism he leads in public. Although not Hollywood focused, it does highlight a part of Hollywood history that has had a direct impact on its functionality and the type of art allowed to be created. McCarthy’s actions shaped the media so drastically and ingrained that it’s hard to appreciate how much he changed in the process.
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