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10 films about imperfect, passionate creatives

[Trigger warning: Some of these movies tackle abuse and trauma.]

As fellow creatives, we at Scout have written about the struggles that come with carrying the label and even fearing it in the first place. Being an artist is a two-edged sword, but it feels more like a curse whenever you think about mediocrity—and how you can never afford to be. 

But artists, like their work, are imperfect. When privilege, power dynamics and a whole lot of identity crisis come into play, success is a tricky thing. So sometimes, all you want is acceptance.

From carefree dreamers to obsessive perfectionists, we’ve listed movies that will make every creative feel seen. If you enjoyed Whiplash and Black Swan, you might want to add these titles for your next self-debriefing session.

“I, Tonya” (2017)
Dir. Craig Gillespie 

A child prodigy on ice, famous figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) succumbs into distorted self-perception when her ex-husband develops a scheme that gets her kicked out of the national championship. This black comedy, which is based on a true story, explores how the patriarchy treats women’s reputations as fickle as a smile. 

“Sunset Boulevard” (1950)
Dir. Billy Wilder

In the mood for some time-travel? Film noir Hollywood might be a good place to start. Comeback is real for Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a former silent film star who gets another shot at fame, thanks to a screenwriter who pens a script for her. 

“Hairspray” (2007)
Dir. Adam Shankman

Ah, a musical about auditions and friendship. As plump teenager Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) lands a fulfilling role in The Corny Collins Show, she joins forces with her friends to fight racial discrimination. Side note: Maybe Zac Efron in “High School Musical” walked so Zac Efron in “Hairspray” could run.

“Perfect Blue” (1997)
Dir. Satoshi Kon

It’s Mima Kirigoe’s (Junko Iwao) world and we’re just living it. But what exactly is happening in it? When the pop singer retires from her J-pop group Cham! to pursue full-time acting, her good girl image does too. But her fans aren’t happy about it—especially an obsessive one who reveals a website called “Mima’s Room.” Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, this ’90s cult classic is probably more horrifying than 10 horror films combined (especially those with maxed out jumpscares).

“Rakenrol” (2011)
Dir. Quark Henares

Sorry to bring it up, but this film has everything we miss: late-night gigs, friends outside video calls, barging into our friends’ rooms and booze. Apart from that, this era has a more solid image of a “future.” When Odie (Jason Abalos) and Irene (Glaiza de Castro) decide to form a band, it’s pure blissful chaos from there. 

“Madeline’s Madeline” (2018)
Dir. Josephine Decker

Madeline’s special spot in the theater troupe ensnares her with more unrealistic expectations, no thanks to her director’s gaslighting. From this, the line between real life and performance begins to blur, affecting her personal life and robbing yet another young dream. 

“Markova: Comfort Gay” (2000)
Dir. Gil Portes

A period drama about drag queens? Check. A deep dissection of comfort gays’ struggles? Check. A well-paced story with magic realism on the side? Check. After seeing a documentary on women’s suffering during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines, Markova (Dolphy) tells his own painful story of living through deprived acceptance. 

“The Red Shoes” (1948)
Dir. Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell

It’s charming and soulful, but also straight to the point and harsh. The obsession with dance is skillfully portrayed by Victoria Page (Moira Shearer), a young ballerina torn between her desire to dance and desire to love. I’m seeing viewers dubbing this “The Black Swan’s” grandma, and I guess they’re not wrong.

“One Cut of the Dead” (2017)
Dir. Shinichiro Ueda

Behind this enjoyable comedy film is a low-budget zombie movie. And behind that movie is a film team who experiences misadventures while shooting in a barren Second World War Japanese facility. Whether it gives you catharsis or another creative block is uncertain, but it’s quite a trip. 

“Big Eyes” (2014)
Dir. Tim Burton

Filed under: Credit-grabbing patriarchy. Once upon the 1960s, painter Margaret (Amy Adams) finds out that her husband has been stealing her works and getting fame out of them. Though dropping the truth bomb isn’t easy, she eventually develops the courage to do so. Bonus element: Whimsical and warm vibes.

Read more:

5 films to watch if Wes Anderson is the only director you know

Here are 8 sappy films if life is just too damn much 

Films you need to watch alone, as told by the Scout team 

Still from “Perfect Blue”

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Jelou Galang
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