15 Movies That Are Secretly About Moviemaking
Many movies — including some of the greatest in history — are about the world of movies and moviemaking: 8 1/2, Day For Night, Singin’ in the Rain, The Stunt Man, Sullivan’s Travels, The Player, Barton Fink, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Hooper, Sunset Boulevard, Contempt, and Hail, Caesar! to name just a few. These films are set in Hollywood or at international film studios; their characters are directors, writers, and actors. There is no mystery around their subjects. They’re about The Movies™, in all their rich and glorious splendor.
But there are other movies that are nominally about other things — cooking, or fashion, or genetic engineering, or high-stakes sports betting — whose deeper ideas and themes all reflect back on their own creation. These films allow their creators to express their feelings about cinema in more subtle (and sometimes invisible) ways.
These movies are not quite a genre unto themselves, or even a subgenre — and in fact these types of allegorical tales can appear in almost any other genre, from horror to comedy to action to sci-fi to biopic. But collectively, they represent a really interesting corner of cinema, and one of my favorite types of films to watch — if only because the degree of distance and abstraction seems to free directors up to speak honestly about their work, even if (or perhaps because) a lot of people will never quite recognize what they’re doing.
Here are a few of the more interesting examples of movies that are thinly-veiled metaphors for movies.