Following the news that Ben Affleck is going to direct an adaptation of the Sam Wasson book “The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Days of Hollywood,” we’ll have an entry about the small but fascinating group of films that center on the behind-the-scenes drama on the set and beyond. Here are 10 fascinating examples of moviemakers inspired to document, recreate or pay tribute to past productions, even if the result isn’t always a classic in the traditional sense.
The watershed 1971 indie classic, “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” was a volatile labor of love from filmmaker and star Melvin Van Peebles and is widely credited with kickstarting the modern black cinema movement in America. The director’s son, actor Mario Van Peebles, paid tribute by directing, producing, and co-writing this look at the creation of the film—and even took on starring duties as his father, creating a cinematic tribute unlike any other.
The Disaster Artist (2017) (Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play)
One of the weirdest stories in recent movie history is the midnight cult success of Tommy Wiseau’s confounding passion project “The Room,” which he personally promoted and released in a limited run with billboards studding Sunset Boulevard. That wildly eccentric — and very quotable — film, in turn, inspired this look at the behind-the-scenes story, starring James Franco on set and in the director’s chair, focusing on Wiseau and his relationship with friend Greg Sestero — portrayed by Dave Franco — who co-authored the sourcebook as well. Unlike “The Room,” this actually went on to earn an Oscar nomination.
Ed Wood (1994) (iTunes, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play)
Speaking of Oscars, Martin Landau deservedly won the supporting actor statuette for his incredible turn as Bela Lugosi in his final years as he worked for the enterprising, angora-loving, Z-budget monster movie enthusiast Edward D. Wood Jr., played here by Johnny Depp. The result is one of director Tim Burton’s best films, as well as an affectionate salute to the DIY spirit that led to one of the most beloved “bad” movies in history — “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (2009) (Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play)
Thanks to a stuck elevator, documentarian and film preservationist Serge Bromberg discovered that footage existed from one of the most famous incomplete movies in history, “L’Enfer,” from legendary director Henri-Georges Clouzot (“Diabolique,” “The Wages of Fear”). That surviving material forms the heart of this priceless look at how bad luck and the fickle hand of fate can sabotage even the most promising of movie productions.
Hitchcock (2012) (iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime)
Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are the main reasons to check out this whimsical look at the making of the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Psycho,” focusing heavily on the involvement of the filmmaker’s wife, Alma Reville, a key player in nearly all of his productions. Along the way, you get a fun depiction of the birth of an all-time horror classic, including Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh.
My Week with Marilyn (2011) (Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)
Michelle Williams delivers an uncanny performance as Marilyn Monroe in this fascinating look at the making of “The Prince and the Showgirl,” a fizzy 1957 comedy directed by Sir Laurence Olivier — played here by Kenneth Branagh. The film depicts the experiences of aspiring filmmaker Colin Clark — played by Eddie Redmayne — who ended up spending time with the Hollywood star in London and got a very special look at the woman behind the celebrity.
Overnight (2003) (Tubi, Amazon Prime, iTunes)
Proof that having your dreams come true isn’t always a good thing, this jaw-dropping documentary follows the story of bartender-turned-director Troy Duffy, who got a lucky break to bring the cult favorite “The Boondock Saints” to life and ended up alienating his friends and colleagues in the process. Incredibly, Duffy himself commissioned the shooting of this warts-and-all portrayal — and later took the film’s editing to task — but what we have here is a portrait of showbiz ego run rampant you won’t soon forget.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013) (Disney+, Netflix, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play)
As feature-length corporate love letters go, this Disney-crafted look at the path of “Mary Poppins” from page to screen is actually pretty fascinating, with Tom Hanks giving it his all as Uncle Walt intent on filming the beloved books by P.L. Travers — portrayed by Emma Thompson. The question of authors’ rights and their role in how their work gets translated is a fascinating one. Be prepared to have some lively conversations when this movie is over.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000) (iTunes)
Not all making-of stories are true, as proven by this wild, fanciful story about the filming of the German silent classic “Nosferatu” by F.W. Murnau, with committed actor Max Schreck creating one of the screen’s most iconic vampires. In this version, Schreck is, in fact, a real bloodsucker — but he’s hardly the biggest threat, as the film must be completed at any price.
Under the Rainbow (1981) (Vudu, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play)
The rumored rowdiness behind the scenes of “The Wizard of Oz” is legendary, particularly among the actors cast as Munchkins, so someone had to make a movie about it eventually. That came to pass with this insane comedy starring Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher. This movie proved to be one of the most notoriously freewheeling productions of the early ’80s and now stands as one of the most astounding “what were they thinking?” productions you’ll ever see.