Films about Hollywood


AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies

Documentary 1998 NR. In June 1998, the American Film Institute paid tribute to the art of film by announcing the top 100 movies of all time. The list was created from a survey of historians, filmmakers, critics and other industry professionals. The AFI and CBS produced this comprehensive DVD, which features clips from Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Star Wars (among others) and highlights the careers of directors Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet.

AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Stars

Documentary 1999 NR. Fifty of today’s hottest stars honor 50 of Tinseltown’s greatest screen icons in this primetime TV special hosted by Shirley Temple. The American Film Institute presents its list of top 50 stars — as determined by critics, filmmakers and historians. AFI’s list includes Buster Keaton, Katharine Hepburn, Orson Welles, Mae West, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Marlon Brando, among others.

100 Years of Comedy

Documentary 1997 NR. From Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope to John Belushi, Leslie Nielsen, Eddie Murphy and Jim Carrey, this compilation features a host of comedy legends and showcases 100 years of the funniest bits, gags, moments and scenes ever seen on-screen. Included are film clips from classic movies and hilarious footage of Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Lucille Ball, Richard Pryor and many other comedy superstars.

The Story of Film
An Odyssey

Documentary Series 2011 NR 15 Episodes. Guided by film historian Mark Cousins, this bold 15-part love letter to the movies begins with the invention of motion pictures at the end of the 19th century and concludes with the multi-billion dollar globalized digital industry of the 21st.

These Amazing Shadows:
The Movies That Make America

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 28m. Featuring exclusive interviews and dazzling archival footage, this insightful documentary shines a light on the work of the National Film Registry and the art of preserving aesthetically, culturally and historically significant cinema. On one level it’s a fascinating story of the National Film Registry, a Library of Congress program that celebrates American life as seen through the most extraordinary films, and a behind the scenes look at how that very unusual program works. It even includes some home movies. Who knew?! And on the level of sheer entertainment, it’s a feast of those special moments in movies that are so much a part of our lives. It’s a documentary that’s rich in humor, joy, and startling insight–a movie to love, that itself belongs in the Registry eventually. What everyone says about this one is that if you love movies, you’ll love These Amazing Shadows, and it’s true.

Hollywood’s Best Film Directors

Documentary TV Series 2009–2014, each 26 min. Looks at Hollywood’s best or luckiest directors. Could you handle enormous movie productions, megastar egos and box-office expectations with millions of dollars at stake? Top movie makers tell how theyve done it on Hollywoods Best Film Directors. Spend time behind the movie curtain learning how directors like George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola put their imaginations on screen and in your mind. Hollywoods Best Film Directors tell us the stories of the top contemporary directorstheir early lives, their education, their influences, the first films they directed, how they became involved in projects that became huge blockbusters. Disc 1 Randal Kleiser Curtis Hanson Robert Benton Milos Forman Paul Schrader Alan Parker James Mangold Disc 2 Taylor Hackford Rob Cohen Joe Dante Mark Rydell John Glen Norman Jewison Disc 3 John Singleton Mike Figgis Michael Apted Mike Newell Ron Howard Atom Egoyan Michel Gondry Disc 4 Dennis Dugan Wes Craven James L. Brooks Roland Emmerich John Landis Paul Greengrass Disc 5 David Zucker John Badham Andy Tennant Michael Mann Bryan Singer Doug Liman.

When the Lion Roars

Documentary 2008 NR 2 discs. Patrick Stewart hosts this Emmy-winning examination of the creation, rise and decline of legendary Hollywood studio MGM, which, at the height of its success, claimed to have “more stars than there are in the heavens.” Stuffed with film clips, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage and lore, the film features appearances by Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly and many others.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Documentary 2003 UR 118 minutes. Based on former Premiere Magazine writer Peter Biskind’s best-seller about moviemaking during the tumultuous, golden era of the 1970s, this film offers insightful comments from many of the luminaries who did their best work during that decade. Included among the high points are the scandals that rocked so many careers. Narrated by William H. Macy, with comments from Martin Scorsese, Ellen Burstyn, Richard Dreyfuss and many others.

A Decade Under the Influence
The 1970s Films that Changed Everything

Documentary 2003 R 180 minutes.  This explores American cinema in the 1970s, a decade often described as the best years in film. What results is an ode to the art form, one that pays homage to the “auteurs” that emerged from that distinctive time period, such as Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. Director-writer Ted Demme passed away in the middle of the project; Richard LaGravenese stepped in to finish it. The film premiered at Sundance in January 2003.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
(Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold)

Documentary 2011 PG-13 90 minutes. Intrepid filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) directs this bitingly ironic documentary, which scrutinizes the pervasive marketing, advertising and product placement practices that have become standard in the entertainment industry. Highly enjoyable. He decides to make a movie that is totally funded by product placement. He takes us through the process, and it is great to watch both the events as they happen as well as the thoughts and comments about what is going on. Following the process is enlightening even if you understand how much advertising is part of the process. The film industry has capitalized on companies’ desire to be ingrained into the pop culture for decades. Is there anyone who is shocked that companies pay to get their products in movies? But this is the first movie that has commercials within to prove a point. Who controls the content of a film? Is it the director? the corporate lawyers? or the sponsors and investors of the film? So this movie provides an inside look at the product placement, marketing, and advertising world of cinema, with hilarious results! It analyzes the ways advertisers are working day and night to get into our craniums in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. But it also lays before us just how commercialism has permeated every corner of our lives. The most interesting part was learning that Sao Paulo Brazil has banned all public print advertising from the city.

My Voyage to Italy
(Il Mio Viaggio in Italia)

Documentary 1999 PG-13 123 minutes. Director Martin Scorsese acquired his love for film as the son of Italian immigrants who watched movie after movie as a child in New York City. As host of this special documentary, Scorsese provides a glimpse into his personal affection for Italian films, with favorite clips and thoughts on the careers of many Italian stars.

The Player

Satire 1992 R 123 minutes. Director Robert Altman’s wickedly funny masterpiece about a slick Hollywood studio executive named Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) — a hotshot whose life is falling apart — is packed with irreverence and myriad star cameos (including appearances from Steve Allen, Cher, John Cusack, Peter Falk and Jeff Goldblum). A rival wants his job, and he’s facing a murder rap. But will Griffin face the music or turn his liabilities into assets?See Full Review

Sunset Boulevard

Drama 1950 NR 110 minutes. Running from debt collectors, screenwriter Joe (William Holden) stumbles upon the crumbling mansion of former silent-film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). As he begins working for Norma, writing a comeback screenplay, their professional relationship evolves into something more. A provocative look inside Hollywood show business, Billy Wilder’s classic noir won Academy Awards for Art Direction, Music and Screenplay

Tales from the Script

Documentary 2009 NR 105 minutes. Dozens of acclaimed Hollywood screenwriters discuss their successes and failures, share amusing anecdotes and insider insights, and reveal their experiences with big-name actors and directors in this fascinating documentary. Writers include William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), John Carpenter (Halloween), Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) and many others.

Life Itself

Documentary 2014 R 2hr.  Follow Roger Ebert from his school newspaper days to his status as America’s premier film critic in this documentary drawn from his memoir.   It provides a great deal of information and footage from Roger Ebert’s professional life, ranging from his time as editor of The Daily Illini through his career at the Chicago Sun-Times and his television shows. The stories about him at the college paper show what a gifted writer he was, even at such a young age.  It features the solid documentary work you would expect (still pictures, voice overs, rostrum camera work, etc.) and some very nice interviews with film critics Richard Corliss, A.O. Scott, Martin Scorcese, and some lesser known filmmakers who were impacted by Roger’s advocacy. I wanted more of that.  Ebert estimated that he had seen 10,000 movies and wrote 6,000 reviews.  (To put that in perspective, if you watched one movie every day, or 365 per year, it would take three years to see 1,000 movies, and thirty years to see 10,000.)  (Or 300 years to watch all 100,000 movies available on Netflix.)   The movie reveals how the rivalry between Ebert and fellow critic Gene Siskel was even more contentious and persistent than it appeared on their television show.  But the film is missing something, it’s missing a genuine viewpoint on Roger’s role in the history of film criticism and of film itself, and this might have pushed it over the line into a truly great documentary. It’s made pretty clear at the outset that this was a collaboration between Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) and Roger Ebert himself, and Roger clearly wanted an unflinching window into what ended up being his death process. It’s not quite as gut-wrenchingly intimate as what Farrah Fawcett did, but it does come awfully close.  But in the end I can’t blame Ebert for wanting to retain control, and he got exactly what he wanted, a fitting and quite moving tribute. But it’s not for everyone, this much is certain.


Documentary 2014 TV-PG 1hr35m.  Ron Mann chisels a well-crafted tribute to maverick auteur Robert Altman, whose fertile career encompasses huge hits, big misses and controversy.   It is a fascinating Forest Gump-like tale of a World War II vet who started in “the biz” directing oil company industrials and cheesy ’50s crime serial TV. Then in 1970 Altman brought the counterculture classic M*A*S*H to the screen.  My personal favorites are McCabe and Mrs Miller (in my top 10 of all time), and The Player.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

Docudrama 2015 NR 1 season.  Chronicling the glittering but tragic life of movie star and glamour icon Marilyn Monroe, this two-part miniseries delves into her troubled relationship with her mother, who was mentally ill — a dark secret long concealed from the world.


Dramedy 2014 R 119 mins.  Michael Keaton delivers a winking performance in this dark comedy about a cinematic superhero trying to forge a comeback with a Broadway play.  With none of the super-powers of his former character, the actor struggles to rebuild his career and life.  This high-strung former movie superhero (Michael Keaton’s character) decides to write, direct and star in his own Broadway play.  The premise strikes fairly close to home with Birdman = Batman, who was played in a film of that name by the lead in this one – Michael Keaton.  In this film, Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is most well-known for playing superhero Birdman in several blockbuster flicks.  But those years are gone.  Nowadays, a divorce behind him, Riggan is aging, struggling to connect with his daughter, and hoping that his direction and starring role in an adaptation of a Raymond Carver play will make him feel like he has value once more.  He scores a win for the play when star Mike Shiner (Norton) joins the cast; nevermind that Shiner is a nightmare, pushing Thomson’s dream into chaos and casting light on things that were better left idealized.  As things proceed, Thomson’s life begins to mirror the Carver play; Shiner becomes a twisted parallel for Riggan.  This film won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2014, although it is disliked in many reviews on Netflix.  (Although one reviewer there had this to say about that:  “I know the Netflix film review section is mainly a place where ordinary folk who aren’t all that sophisticated and who generally hate movies that require paying close attention can get together and read each other’s barely literate opinions.”)

Mel Brooks:

Make a Noise

Documentary 2013 TV-PG 1hr24m.  This career-spanning documentary journeys through the comedy icon’s professional and personal ups and downs, providing a rare look at a living legend.  You’ll have some fun watching this. No slow parts — the jokes and comic bits are among his best and probably your favorites too, and they come one after another and never stop. An interview (of sorts) punctuated with a steady stream of comic gems and clips.

The Legend of Shep Gordon

Documentary 2013 R 1hr25m.  Mike Myers turns documentarian with this film on his friend, legendary manager Shep Gordon, whose client list ranged from Alice Cooper to Blondie.  I didn’t know who Shep Gordon was but decided to watch this since it was done by Myers. What a surprise! This is a great entertainment industry documentary about a manager who was responsible for the the success of many of the people who gave testimony to his prowess throughout this film.  A charming and likable documentary portrait of a charming and likable man. Shep Gordon has managed many huge acts, first in the music business, and then in other areas ranging from film to cooking. He has also befriended just about every heavyweight in Hollywood. And yet it seems he’s managed to do so while still being a good guy, a nice guy, an honorable guy. There are on camera interviews with Alice Cooper (who was Shep’s 1st client, and who he has managed for 45 years!), Mick Fleetwood, Michael Douglas, Tom Arnold, Emeril Lagasse, Anne Murray, Mike Meyers, Willie Nelson, Sylvester Stallone and Steven Tyer. But the best interview subject is Shep himself, who is tremendously entertaining, with funny and occasionally tragic anecdotes about his many years in show business. Among the most interesting are the various clever and sometimes amusingly devious ways Shep would raise his clients’ public profiles and help make them stars. There’s a genuine wisdom and even a spiritual side to Shep, who befriended the Dali Llama, and spent a week cooking for him as a way of giving back. Ultimately Shep realized, sadly late in the game, that there was more to life than work, and that he was missing out on having kids and a family. Not a ‘change your life’ film, but it’s always engaging, like listening to the most fun and intelligent guest at a great party.  It was entertaining and educational without being self-serving. I got to learn a bit about how show business was conducted, how talented artists benefited from good management, and how Gordon was smart enough to not get sucked into the seedy side of the business, surviving intact simply because he was such a mensch. Catch it!

Everything or Nothing:
The Untold Story of 007

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr38m. This documentary examines the James Bond legend to uncover how a series of spy stories became one of the most iconic franchises in cinema history.


Docudrama 2012 PG-13 98 minutes. Iconic filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock struggles with his marriage, the censors and the financiers of his 1960 film Psycho in this biopic. Driven to prove he still has an edge, Hitchcock crafts what would become one of the greatest thrillers of all time.


Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 43m. Influential and controversial filmmaker John Milius worked on prominent films such as Apocalypse Now and Jaws before being ostracized by Hollywood.

I Know That Voice

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr35m. Seldom seen and often heard, voice actors discuss their craft. Featuring John DiMaggio (Bender, Futurama) and several other voice stars. This is a look at what it takes to make an animated feature from the voice-acting perspective. If you didn’t appreciate their craft already, you will after seeing this. Each actor is talented. In fact, you see some well-known screen actors who also do voice over work for animation, games, commercials, etc. in this documentary. They each describe their experiences and techniques and offer insights into the industry for those who have aspirations of doing it themselves. Seeing so many of the actors behind the famous voices is a real treat.

In a World…

Romantic Comedy 2013 R 93 minutes. Vocal coach Carol Solomon lives in the shadow of her father Sam, Hollywood’s go-to movie trailer voice, as she tries to break into the field herself. Aided by her sister and a sound whiz friend, Carol jumps into an unexpectedly strange new career.

Casting By

Documentary 2012, TV-14, 1h 29min. The surprising, never-before-told tale of the role played by indispensable yet unsung Casting Directors, iconoclasts whose keen eye, exquisite taste and gut instincts redefined Hollywood. This documentary focuses on the role of casting directors in movie making and particularly on Marion Dougherty. She began work in the late 1940s sending up-and-coming young actors to be cast in the then-new medium of television. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the contribution on casting directors was recognized in film credits, but even today there is no Oscar awarded for that role in filmmaking.

That Guy… Who Was in That Thing

Documentary 2012 TV-14 1hr 18m. Sixteen male actors — who are highly recognizable but not stars — detail their ups and downs as they struggle to forge careers in Hollywood. It’s just a series of interviews with character actors talking about their work and, to a lesser extent, the nature of the industry. I enjoyed that the anecdotes about hardships and joys were kept succinct. Good pro and con inside look at what it’s like to be an actor as your chosen profession. Not boring, but not fascinating either. But it held my attention and made me glad I did not choose Hollywood as my employer, where the average actor earns only $5,000 yearly!

Side by Side

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 38m. Keanu Reeves produced and narrates this engaging documentary about the history of digital cinema technology and its vast impact on the movie industry.

Woody Allen:
A Documentary (2012)

Documentary 2012, 1h 53min. Iconic writer, director, actor, comedian, and musician Woody Allen allowed his life and creative process to be documented on-camera for the first time. With this unprecedented access, Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Robert Weide followed the notoriously private film legend over a year and a half to create the ultimate film biography. Woody Allen: A Documentary chronicles Allen’s career – from teen writer to Sid Caeser’s TV scribe, from standup comedian to award-winning writer-director averaging one film-per-year for more than 40 years. Exploring Allen’s writing habits, casting, directing, and relationship with his actors first-hand, new interviews with A-listers, writing partners, family and friends provide insight and backstory to the usually inscrutable filmmaker.

Woody Allen:
A Documentary  (2011)

Documentary 2011 NR 1 season.  Iconic and influential director-writer-comedian Woody Allen granted unprecedented access for this in-depth profile of his award-winning career and controversial personal life. Highlights include interviews with collaborators and noted film critics.

Corman’s World
Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

Documentary 2011 R 89 minutes. B-movie maestro Roger Corman is celebrated in this star-packed documentary. While trafficking in movies featuring lots of blood, violence and nudity, Corman nonetheless managed to tackle issues like race and sexism with his independent features. Luminaries including Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Robert De Niro and Jonathan Demme offer their reflections on the legacy of this purveyor of thrills and chills.

My Week with Marilyn

Docudrama 2011 R 1hr 38m. While filming a movie in England, Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe slips away with a young Brit for a week of self-discovery and frivolity.

Nightmare Factory

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 34m. This film gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the role Hollywood makeup departments play in bringing horror movies to life on the big screen.

Ray Harryhausen:
Special Effects Titan

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr33m. Stop-motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen inspired a generation of directors and special effects experts, as this documentary illustrates.

Miss Representation

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 30m. Explore how the mainstream media’s often disparaging portrayals of women contribute to the under-representation of females in positions of leadership. This film presents startling facts and gives you information that you may have known on some level, but that also needs to be brought to the forefront for anything to change. Men should see this film to help realize how engrained sexism is in our society and how to change it, and women should watch this film to help empower themselves. Everyone should see this film to understand how to treat people (especially women) with the respect they deserve.

Great Directors

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 26m. A collection of in-depth interviews with David Lynch, John Sayles, Catherine Breillat, Bernardo Bertolucci and six other acclaimed film directors.

Two in the Wave
(Deux de la Vague)

Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 32m. Emmanuel Laurent appeals directly to fellow film buffs with this absorbing portrait of French new wave icons François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.

Nightmares in Red, White and Blue
The Evolution of the American Horror Film

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 36m. This examination of American horror films explores the earliest monster movies of the silent era up to the scariest modern-day masterpieces.

For the Love of Movies
The Story of American Film Criticism

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 20m. This insightful documentary examines the oft-misunderstood world of film criticism and explores what the future holds for it in the Internet era.


Satire Series 2004-2011 TV-MA. HBO’s raunchy skewering of the movie biz follows hot young actor Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) and the pals who trade on his celebrity status for perks, including best friend and manager Eric (Kevin Connolly), ne’er-do-well Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and C-list actor Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon). While Vincent copes with fame, razor-sharp agent Ari (Jeremy Piven) micromanages his escalating career and keeps the leeches in line.

No Subtitles Necessary:
Laszlo & Vilmos

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 26m. After chronicling the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, László Kovács and Vilmos Zsigmond fled to America, where they became influential cinematographers.

Thou Shalt Not:
Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood

Documentary 2008 This film reveals the sizzling early days of Hollywood. documentary on the pre-code era of Hollywood films during the early ’30s. a rundown of various films that pushed the envelope before the Hays Office came into existence and censorship in films began with some rigid codes about what could and could not be shown. A lot of films are included with reference to racy dialog that got past the censors, even in innocuous Laurel & Hardy comedies. Of the films mentioned, we get fleeting looks at Night Nurse, The Divorcée, The Public Enemy, and other such films that were considered risqué at the time but got past the censors. There’s barely a mention of Mae West and her many one-liners, so there’s a lot of material that isn’t covered in the documentary’s brief running time. Comments from people like Camille Paglia, Rudy Behlmer, Leonard Maltin and others are incisive and to the point. Most amusing is the fact that twin beds always had to be shown in the budoir and there were rules about bedroom etiquette that included something about a man’s foot had to be shown on the floor. Curious do’s and don’ts ruled the day as soon as censorship boards were taken seriously.

Crap Shoot:
The Documentary

Documentary 2007 NR 97 minutes. Join filmmaker Kenneth R. Close and his trusty narrator, James E. Horton, for an unorthodox investigation of the movie business. Their noble mission? To understand why Hollywood films have become so consistently “crappy” for lack of a better word.

The Deal (2007)

Satire 2007 R 100 minutes. William H. Macy stars in this irreverent comedy as a desperate movie producer who lands himself in hot water when the star of his big-budget biopic on British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is kidnapped from the set. Based on Peter Lefcourt’s novel of the same name, this outrageous look at the zany world of filmmaking also stars LL Cool J, Meg Ryan and Jason Ritter.

Tom Hanks
The Luckiest Man in the World

Documentary Biography Series 2007 NR 50 minutes. From “Bosom Buddies” to back-to-back Oscars, Tom Hanks effortlessly made the transition from small screen to large and has even found success as a director. This documentary follows the beloved star’s phenomenal career. Included are clips from lesser-known roles and interviews with colleagues Gary Sinise, Peter Scolari, Steven Spielberg and more. Childhood friends and photos also reveal the humble, dedicated family man behind the screen icon.

The Outsider

Documentary 2006 NR 1hr 24m. Following director James Toback as he made his drama When Will I Be Loved, this documentary provides a look inside the world of filmmaking.

The Slanted Screen

Documentary 2006 NR 1hr 1m. Filmmaker Jeff Adachi salutes groundbreaking entertainers while turning a critical lens on the ways in which American cinema has depicted Asian men.

The Sci-Fi Boys

Documentary 2006 NR 1hr 19m. This cool documentary celebrates science-fiction cinema’s trailblazers, including special-effects maven Ray Harryhausen and scribe Ray Bradbury.

Tinseltown’s Bombs & Blockbusters

Documentary 2005 NR 76 minutes. With a zillion things that can go wrong (and often do), the line separating blockbusters from bombs in Hollywood is thin indeed. A bevy of industry heavies sheds light on the elements that combine to make or break a film in this documentary from award-winning filmmaker Bill Couturie. George Clooney, Robert Evans, Steven Spielberg, Charlize Theron, John Singleton and others discuss their successes and failures — and the ramifications of both.

Clint Eastwood

Documentary Biography Series 2005 NR 87 minutes. Via interviews and home movies, this riveting episode of “Biography” charts Clint Eastwood’s extraordinary life and career, including his California childhood, military service in the Korean War, early film roles and his steady path to superstardom. A Depression-era kid who once worked as a hay baler, the iconic Eastwood conquered Hollywood not only as an actor but also as a producer and an Oscar-winning director.


Documentary 2005 NR 90 minutes. Featuring clips from some of the best films ever committed to celluloid, this 2005 documentary from Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman examines how road movies have affected and mirrored American culture throughout the years. A host of distinguished directors, stars, screenwriters and critics — including Dennis Hopper, David O. Russell, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Benton, Alexander Payne and Karen Black — provides insights via interviews.

The Last Mogul
The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman

Documentary 2005 PG-13 1hr 42m. For more than half a century, MCA president Lew Wasserman controlled Hollywood. This documentary reveals the story behind the movie mogul’s rags-to-riches journey, from his Mafia ties to his role in Ronald Reagan’s political career.

Louis B. Mayer

Documentary Biography Series 2005 NR 50 minutes. Many award-winning actors may not realize that when they’re thanking “the Academy,” they really should be thanking Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer, who hatched the idea for the Oscar-bestowing organization. This fascinating episode of “Biography” explores the life of a Russian immigrant who built a fortune in the American movie business — and built his reputation on producing classics such as Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925).

Film Geek

Comedy 2005 NR 1hr 10m. You might know a lot about movies, but “film geek” Scotty Pelk (Melik Malkasian) knows more — and he isn’t afraid to say so. Unfortunately, his outgoing personality isn’t winning him points with the ladies, until a pretty hipster named Niko schools him in a subject he knows nothing about. This quirky independent comedy from writer-director James Westby is based in part on Westby’s own experiences working in a video store.

The Last Shot

Docudramedy 2004 R 94 minutes. Eager to shoot his debut film away from meddling Hollywood fat cats, a young filmmaker (Matthew Broderick) accepts generous funding from a mysterious investor (Alec Baldwin). But the novice director gets more than he bargained for: Mr. Deep Pockets is actually an undercover agent who uses the movie shoot to camouflage a sting operation. Based on a true story, the Extras include an interview with the real FBI agent who was in charge of the sting, as he meets with the two real producers from Hollywood who were duped into participating in this FBI operation. Toni Collette, Calista Flockhart, Ray Liotta and Tony Shalhoub co-star.

The Cutting Edge
The Magic of Movie Editing

Documentary 2004 NR 99 minutes. While actors and directors certainly are instrumental in making a movie memorable and weaving story lines together, it’s the film editor who strings the scenes into a seamless, artistic whole. This fascinating movie, narrated by Academy Award winner Kathy Bates, unmasks the mystery of film editing with the help of such fine examples of the art form as Birth of a Nation, The Battleship Potemkin and Bullitt.

Imaginary Witness:
Hollywood and the Holocaust

Documentary 2004 NR 1hr 32m. A filmmaker examines Hollywood’s depiction of the Holocaust and its incomprehensible atrocities in this award-winning documentary.

Los Angeles Plays Itself

Documentary 2003 NR 2hr50m.  The setting for numerous films, Los Angeles has become a key player in cinema and television alike.  CalArts professor Thom Andersen directs this digital video essay film, using clips from well-known mainstream movies to lesser-known obscurities.  Andersen explores the myths and realities of the city as produced by Hollywood. He divides the film into three segments: “The City as Background,” “The City as Character,” and “The City as Subject.”  Thom Andersen wants to tell you about what he liked (and mostly, didn’t like) about almost every film that involved Los Angeles in one way or another, and he takes three hours to show it.  Watching the hundreds of interesting movie excerpts made me want to see those films.

The Kid Stays in the Picture

Documentary 2002 R 93 minutes. Based on the 1994 autobiography of film producer Robert Evans, this documentary follows Evans’s career as he went from fresh-faced clothing executive to Hollywood actor to Paramount executive to legendary producer (Marathon Man, Chinatown). We also follow Evans through a cocaine controversy, into disrepute and low times, and finally to his comeback producing several 1990s films. Evans himself provides the narration.

I’m a Born Liar
(Fellini: Sono un Gran Bugiardo)

Documentary 2002 R 105 minutes. Take a look at the life and successful career of celebrated Italian Federico Fellini (1920-1993). Commentary from actors who worked with the late director, scenes from his famous films and an interview with Fellini himself are included. Fellini was lauded for his distinct cinematic style, which mixed fantasy and baroque images. His films included La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. Damian Pettigrew directs this intriguing documentary.

The Monster That Ate Hollywood

Documentary Frontline 2001 The box office is booming. New international markets are opening weekly. Amazing advances in technology hold the promise of new delivery systems. Yet there’s trouble bubbling just below the surface in Hollywood today as movie industry creative types struggle to adapt to new business realities. On the eve of one of the biggest weekends for new movie releases, Frontline explores the changing Hollywood, revealing how once-fiercely independent studio bosses must now answer to the megacorporations that have swallowed the industry whole.

The Cat’s Meow

Docudrama 2001 PG-13 1hr 53m.  This historical fiction concerns the death of film pioneer Thomas Ince, who died during a weekend outing on mogul William Randolph Hearst’s yacht.

State and Main

Satire 2000 R 106 minutes. When frenzied filmmakers descend on the town of Waterford, Vt., they shoot first and ask questions later in writer-director David Mamet’s scathing satire of moviemaking, acting and the business of being famous. There’s the egomaniacal star (Alec Baldwin) who can’t keep his pants zipped, the starlet (Sarah Jessica Parker) who won’t take off her top and the impotent writer (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who’s summarily ignored by everyone.

Welcome to Hollywood

Mockumentary 2000 PG-13 89 minutes. Featuring appearances by A-list stars such as Will Smith, Halle Berry and John Travolta, director Adam Rifkin’s incisive mockumentary about Hollywood follows aspiring young actor Nick Decker (Tony Markes) as he struggles to make it big in Tinseltown. Rifkin hopes to capture Decker’s rise to stardom on celluloid, but he can’t seem to catch a break and keeps losing plum roles to actor David Lake (David Andriole).

Directors: Robert Altman

Documentary 2000 NR 60 minutes.  The American Film Institute series “The Directors” provides one-hour glimpses into the careers of directors whose films have significantly influenced world cinema. Robert Altman’s MASH, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts and Gosford Park have made him a worthy subject, not to mention a critics’ favorite and industry “maverick.” Film clips and interviews provide insight into Altman’s long and controversial career.

Forever Hollywood

Documentary 1999 NR. In this documentary about the California town where stars are made, 23 prominent celebrities — including Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges — tell their personal stories about what drew them to the city. Also included are anecdotes from the likes of Kevin Spacey, Angela Lansbury, Warren Beatty and many more — all a testament to the city’s undeniable charm and allure, even after all these years.


Satire 1999 PG-1397 minutes. Lame producer Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) has a script that’s brimming with possibilities, and dreams of making his first big hit. The catch? To get seed money to produce the film, it must feature Hollywood’s leading box-office star, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). Of course, Kit would never be in such a disaster, so Bobby and his cast of misfits — including Kit’s brother (Murphy in a dual role) — trick Kit into unknowingly starring in the film.

Kingdom of Shadows

Documentary 1998 NR 1hr 7m. Narrated by Rod Steiger, this documentary examines the frightful conventions from which the modern-day horror movie has evolved.

Just Write

Romantic Comedy 1997 PG-13 1hr 44m. Harold McMurphy operates a Beverly Hills tour bus, pointing out the stars’ mansions. But when he meets Hollywood “it girl” Amanda Clark in a bar one night, he’s so starstruck that he can’t correct her mistaken assumption that he’s a screenwriter.

Forgotten Silver

Mockumentary 1996 NR.  In this insidiously funny yet utterly believable mockumentary, acclaimed director Peter Jackson uncovers the life and films of Colin McKenzie, New Zealand’s forgotten film pioneer and inventor extraordinaire. With glee, Jackson reveals how the young genius McKenzie invented a glut of important cinematic techniques. Also revealed is McKenzie’s Biblical epic Salome, for which he re-created ancient Jerusalem in the New Zealand jungle.  This film was released to the general New Zealand public without them knowing that this was a mocumentary and they completely felt that it was a real occurrence. They took the bait … hook, line, and sinker. It reminded me of the fear that Orson Welles was able to conjure when he did “The War of the Worlds” broadcast in 1938. Welles was able to create a mythological occurrence that was packaged so well that audiences bought it. This is the same with Peter Jackson’s creation, Forgotten Silver. Jackson’s attention to detail and excitement behind this project is seen with every digitized photo, every sound bite, and every word of the story. Overall, I thought that this film was beautiful. Midway through this film you will loose track of reality and think that you are watching a true documentary, and that is when you can realize that you have a master director giving you a perfect “gem”. This was not a film filled with violence and annoying Gollems, but instead cunning wit and satire.

Get Shorty

Comedy 1995 R 105 minutes. When Miami loan shark Chili Palmer (John Travolta) travels to Los Angeles to get money from a “client,” he ends up getting involved in the film business. His foot in the door is washed-up producer Gene Hackman, who owes the mob megabucks. But Palmer must juggle a Miami rival, an egotistical star (Danny DeVito) and a local loan shark chasing Hackman in this comic cocktail.

Living in Oblivion

Comedy 1995 R 92 minutes. This clever comedy takes you through one hellaciously funny day in the life of small-time independent filmmaker Nick Reve (Steve Buscemi), who has one goal: to realize his artistic vision within the confines of an extremely low budget. Unfortunately, Nick keeps encountering a maddening number of obstacles, both real and imagined, that keep him from getting what he wants out of life. Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney and James LeGros co-star.

Swimming with Sharks

Drama 1994 R 101 minutes. Naive Guy lands a job as assistant to Buddy Ackerman, a repulsive studio exec who turns Guy’s daily routine into a pride-swallowing siege. Guy is eager to climb the ladder of success, but Buddy stops at nothing to grab credit and foil Guy’s plans.

Natural Born Killers

Satire 1994 NR 1hr58m.  Mickey and Mallory Knox hit the road on an interstate killing spree that triggers a manhunt and garners amazing ratings for a tabloid TV star.  The film tells the story of two victims of traumatic childhoods who became lovers and mass murderers, and are irresponsibly glorified by the mass media like a Bonnie-and-Clyde couple.  Don’t let the DVD cover or the film’s surface level violence fool you.  It’s not just about murder…the whole production is a metaphor for our world, even today.  The media. Popular opinion.  Ethics.  Morality.  A country full of sheepish humans.  Everything’s analyzed and ridiculed here.  This film is an intense commentary on our “sick” “normal” American society.  Robert Downey as reporter Wayne Gale on a series called ‘American Maniacs’ does a seeming parody of TV reporter Geraldo Rivera that is a brilliant exaggeration of his excesses and a satire of American media practices.  I’ve always loved this movie and its statement on how the media glorifies society’s monsters.  Much of the film is told via parodies of television shows, including a scene (‘I Love Mallory’) presented in the style of a sitcom about a dysfunctional family.  Commercials that were commonly on the air at the time of the film’s release make brief intermittent appearances.  Throughout the film, background scenes show psychedelic versions of violence from movies, TV shows, comic books, and media coverage of criminals and mass murderers.  The movie is shot and edited in a frenzied and psychedelic style consisting of black and white, animation, and unusual color schemes, and employing a wide range of camera angles, filters, lenses and special effects.  This exaggerates the daily bombardment of modern life by the mass media, especially TV.  The film emphasizes the influences on the common masses in America, primarily via the media.  Natural Born Killers ends with the couple symbolically destroying the mass media, as represented by reporter Wayne Gale, and successfully fleeing together to live a relatively “normal” life, with kids and a Winnebago.  Director Oliver Stone considered Natural Born Killers his road film, specifically naming Bonnie and Clyde as a source of inspiration.  Furthermore, both films fall under the road film genre through their constant challenges of the society in which the characters live.  The characterizations in the film are over-exaggerated.  The killer couple showing exaggerated glee in their murder spree.  Robert Downey Jr. as TV reporter Wayne Gale in his tasteless and relentless pursuit of scandal and ratings.  Rodney Dangerfield as the child-molesting father of Mallory who is beyond menacing and into farce.  Tommy Lee Jones as a prison warden who is entertainingly manic.  The killing culture that Natural Born Killers pushed to an absurd extreme has become reality.  Much of the “violent media makes violent children” hysteria of the 90’s no longer exists.  Now we don’t seem to care how watching violent acts affects us.  Instead we’ve moved on to a sort of violence one-upmanship.  The most popular TV shows are often the most violent.  PG-13 movies are incredibly violent, as long as there’s no blood.  R-rated movies take on-screen violence to new heights with clever CG effects.  So with this film Oliver Stone did not shock society into becoming a bit more introspective about our appetite for violence, and instead gave some permission to revel in it.  But I think highly enough of myself to expect that I will be revolted by violent psychopathy, whether or not someone else tells me I should be.  From almost the moment of its release, the film has been accused of encouraging and inspiring numerous murderers in North America, including the Heath High School shooting and the Columbine High School massacre.  Stone has continually maintained that the film is a satire on how serial killers are adored by the media for their horrific actions and that those who claim that the violence in the film itself is a cause of societal violence miss the point of the film.  Great movie on the morals of our society — sorry if you don’t “get” this movie.  Many critics said that Oliver Stone was a hypocrite for making an ultra-violent film in the guise of a critique of American attitudes.  Is this film just banal post-modern garbage that indulges in mindless violence that masquerades as social commentary?  One critic noted that the movie “hits the bulls-eye” as a satire of America’s lust for bloodshed, but it repeated Stone’s main point so often and so loudly that it became unbearable.  Other critics also found the film unsuccessful in its aims.  Instead of letting the viewers make up their own minds about the characters and their actions, the director imposes his own morality with heavy-handed satire.  So the result just doesn’t click, and overall I think it’s a flop.  Notorious for its violent content and inspiring “copycat” crimes, the film is controversial.  The frank truth is, this is a cult classic, and you’re going to either love it forever, or turn it off in the first 15 minutes.  Technically it’s great; the casting’s great, the acting’s great, the camera work is great.  Have fun!  Not for the faint of heart, but not a film to be ignored.  Film critic  Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four and wrote, “Seeing this movie once is not enough.  The first time is for the visceral experience, the second time is for the meaning.”

The Movie

Docudrama 1992 PG-13 145 minutes. Through flashbacks and other nonlinear devices, director Richard Attenborough recounts comic icon Charlie Chaplin’s (Robert Downey Jr.) poignant journey through triumph, failure, infamy and government persecution. The large cast of characters includes George Hayden (Anthony Hopkins), Douglas Fairbanks (Kevin Kline) and Chaplin’s mentally unbalanced mother (Geraldine Chaplin). Downey’s performance earned both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.

Barton Fink

Black Comedy 1991 R 117 minutes. Idealistic playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) believes writing should reveal the hopes, dreams and tragedies of the common man. When Hollywood taps him to write a movie, Fink develops severe writer’s block and soon falls victim to a strange sequence of events. Unable to combine his deep-seated ethics with Tinseltown’s frivolity, the disillusioned and desperate Fink winds up involved in a murder investigation in this Oscar-nominated dramedy.

Hearts of Darkness
A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse

Documentary 1991 R 96 minutes. It’s Francis Ford Coppola vs. natural catastrophe, crazy actors, the Philippine government and crushing self-doubt in this unbelievable account of the making of the 1979 classic Apocalypse Now. Behind-the-scenes location footage is combined with candid 1990 interviews of cast and crew members; the result is a fascinating portrait of a director plunged into the very obsession he sought to portray on film.

The Big Picture

Comedy 1989 PG-13 102 minutes. Hollywood is the satiric target of this directorial debut by actor-writer Christopher Guest. Kevin Bacon plays a “boy wonder” director whose willingness to compromise his ideals allows him to thrive in Tinseltown. His corruption begins when his first project, a black-and-white experimental film, is distorted beyond recognition into a color, big-budget “youth trip.” A prolonged inside joke with tons of unbilled celebrity cameos.

Hollywood Dreams

Documentary Frontline 1986. Hollywood is called an industry, a place, a state of mind. But making it in Hollywood, and making movies, persists as part of the American dream. In the real world of agents, casting directors, aspiring actors, and studio executives, how are movies made? Frontline examines the fantasy and reality of Hollywood’s five billion dollar a year industry.

Burden of Dreams

Documentary 1982 NR 95 minutes. This feature-length documentary from filmmaker Les Blank paints a riveting portrait of megalomaniacal German director Werner Herzog as he worked against almost insurmountable odds in the Amazon jungle to craft his epic movie Fitzcarraldo. Besides capturing the seemingly hexed production’s myriad adversities, Blank’s camera exposes Herzog as a man obsessed with his art and pressed to the brink of insanity to see his cinematic vision fulfilled.

Real Life

Mockumentary 1979 PG 99 mins.  In his directorial debut, actor and funnyman Albert Brooks plays himself, a comedian who sets out to film a documentary about the typical American family — in this case, a family of four headed by Arizona veterinarian Warren Yeager and his wife.  Albert Brooks stars, directs and writes his debut film where he plays himself as filmmaker. His character chooses a normal American family in Phoenix, and documents their natural day-to-day living experience for a movie — reality entertainment before its time. Charles Grodin and Frances McCain are the supporting players in this film along with their two children, and they are constantly invaded by Brooks and his film crew interrupting their privacy. The film was revolutionary for its time, since nowadays the reality genre has become everyday popular entertainment with the rise of TV reality shows and mockumentary films.

Inside Daisy Clover

Drama 1965 NR 128 minutes. When teenager Daisy Clover (Natalie Wood) rises from beach-dwelling obscurity to Hollywood celebrity overnight, she quickly discovers that the glitter of 1930s-era Tinseltown hides a dark side of exploitation and fear. Now she must learn to smile for the cameras as she navigates the twisted world of manipulative studio executives, empty relationships and disintegrating mental health. This is a film set in the 1930’s at the height of the studio star system, when each studio felt like their star was a part of their property. Not only were people’s names changed, but sometimes even their backgrounds were whitewashed to insure the best public image, which happens to Daisy. Daisy is a 15 year old tomboy who dreams of stardom, and almost overnight she becomes the IT girl. The writer may have had stars like Judy Garland or Frances Farmer in mind when he conceived the role of Daisy Clover.  But this isn’t a feel-good movie and thankfully doesn’t have a Hollywood ending. A good find for film buffs and those looking for atypical Hollywood fare. Robert Redford, Christopher Plummer and Ruth Gordon co-star. What makes this worth watching is the mid-60s take on the formula of “A Star is Born” (a 1954 American musical film starring Judy Garland, which was an adaptation of the original 1937 film.)

8 1/2
(Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 / Otto e Mezzo)

Drama 1963 NR 138 minutes. Dog-tired movie director Guido Anselmi retreats to thoughts of yesteryear when his producers, his wife and his mistress all pressure him to start making another movie in director Federico Fellini’s rumination on the joys and rigors of filmmaking.  Its title refers to Fellini’s eight and a half films as a director. His previous directorial work consisted of six features, two short segments, and a collaboration with another director, the collaboration accounting for a “half” film.  Stalled on his new science fiction film that includes veiled autobiographical references, he has lost interest amid artistic and marital difficulties.  As Guido struggles half-heartedly to work on the film, a series of flashbacks and dreams delve into his memories and fantasies; they are frequently interwoven with reality.  Won two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design (black-and-white).  Acknowledged as an avant-garde film and a highly influential classic, it was among the top 10 on BFI The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time, ranked third in a 2002 poll of film directors conducted by the British Film Institute and is also listed on the Vatican’s compilation of the 45 best films made before 1995, the 100th anniversary of cinema.

What Makes Sammy Run?

Drama 1959 NR 105 minutes. Fibbing, backstabbing and plagiarism are just part of the job for unscrupulous screenwriter Sammy (Larry Blyden), who will do whatever it takes to climb to the top of the entertainment industry in this powerful story set in 1930s Hollywood. The 1959 television production, part of NBC’s “Sunday Showcase” series, is considered one of the best interpretations of Budd Schulberg’s famous novel. John Forsythe, Barbara Rush and Dina Merrill also star.

A Star Is Born

Drama 1954 PG 176 minutes. When small-time stage and lounge singer Esther Blodgett is discovered by famous actor Norman Maine, she rises to the top while he drinks himself to the bottom — leaving her with a heartwretching choice: love or her dreams.

The Bad and the Beautiful

Drama 1952 NR 118 minutes. Charismatic but ruthless film producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) needs a blockbuster after producing three consecutive flops and falling out of favor with the studio. To help him make a comeback, he appeals to three Hollywood heavyweights — a director (Barry Sullivan), an actress (Lana Turner) and a writer (Dick Powell) — who owe their success to Shields. Unfortunately, they all hate his guts and have vowed never to work for him again.

Singin’ in the Rain

Musical Comedy 1952 G 103 minutes. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor combine their talents in one of the greatest big-screen musicals ever made, a two-time Oscar nominee that includes the songs “Good Morning,” “Make ‘Em Laugh” and the iconic title tune. When Hollywood attempts the transition from silent films to talkies, a matinee idol (Kelly) hopes to make the cut. But he’s hampered by a silent-movie queen (Jean Hagen) with a voice like fingernails on a blackboard.


Drama 2011 PG 2hr 6m. When his father dies, 12-year-old orphan Hugo takes up residence behind the walls of a Parisian train station. There, he meets Isabelle, the daughter of filmmaker Georges Méliès who is based on true facts…a forgotten legend in film-making. It is really two stories, only one of which is the boy’s; the other is the early history of film-making. I enjoyed the mix of history and fiction that ran throughout the film. I really enjoyed the early 20th century Paris cityscape scenes. This film will remain high on lists of the most visually beautiful movies for a long time. This is a moving work of art — the cinematography alone is breathtaking. Scorsese has created an absolute masterpiece here. Wow. See this movie.

And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself

Docudrama 2003 UR 115 minutes. Antonio Banderas stars as the legendary Mexican revolutionary in this epic HBO production about the man and his myth. To raise money for his cause, Pancho teamed up with filmmaker D.W. Griffith to give Villa the attention he sought for ages.

Ed Wood

Docudrama 1994 R 127 minutes. In a critically acclaimed performance, Johnny Depp plays Ed Wood, a grinning goof with a sunny disposition who was heralded as the “worst director of all time” — and certainly made the movies to prove it.

Best Worst Movie

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 33m. Most people don’t set out to produce a horrible film, so how exactly does it happen? This documentary about 1989’s Troll 2 — often referred to as the “worst movie in history” — attempts to answer that question.


Custom Search


Must-See Movies—For What You Need to Know


Comments are closed.