Creative inspiration comes from all sorts of places — even from Netflix. If you’re stuck in a creative rut, in need of a new way of looking at things…or just looking for a foolproof excuse to spend a few hours in an airconditioned house on a hot summer day, here are six films that explore the idea of creative genius.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
We often automatically think of math or science or writing when we think of the term “genius,” but culinary creativity and innovation are every bit as impressive. This 2011 documentary captures the skill and artistry of 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Uno as he continues to strive for new creative heights.
Watch it if… you have a takeout menu (or a kitchen) handy. This film might inspire you to cook and create, but it will definitely inspire you to eat.
This 2005 film packs a double-punch: it’s a film about a creative genius (Truman Capote) played by a creative genius (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). As it explores the period of time during which Capote wrote his best work, you’ll learn what it truly takes to make a work of genius come together. You’ll be equally inspired by Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as you are by Truman Capote’s ability to live large, connect deeply, and create wholly unique work.
Watch it if… you’re a book lover — but be prepared to add In Cold Blood to your summer reading list.
The Punk Singer
Without Bikini Kill and Le Tigre fronter Kathleen Hanna, there wouldn’t have been a riot grrl movement. This 2013 documentary chronicles Hanna’s insanely diverse career, from performing as a spoken word artist to coining the term “smells like teen spirit” to creating zines to fronting bands and much, much more. You’ll come away inspired by all she’s managed to be and do — and by her struggle to continue to create and perform as she grapples with chronic Lyme disease.
Watch it if… you still know all the words to “Star Bellied Boy” and “Deceptacon.”
James and the Giant Peach
Even little ones can find creative inspiration at the movies (and, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s nice for adults to watch a film that’s “for kids,” too). A small boy who lives in a piece of flying fruit might seem like a strange creative role model. But James is a boy who looks at a big problem and, instead of standing still, works with his friends to solve it. That’s true creativity.
Watch it if… you owe your kids (or yourself!) some screen time.
My Left Foot
In this 1989 biopic, powerhouse Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Irish artist Christy Brown, who was born only able to control his left foot as a result of his injury. The film explores what it takes to thrive as a painter — and a human — in the face of insurmountable odds and how the ability to create is deeply enriching.
Watch it if… you’re prepared to be emotional for the rest of the day. Daniel Day-Lewis’s commitment to the role is admirable but wrenching.
Katy Perry: Part of Me
Sure, Katy Perry’s not for everyone, and concert-style documentaries might not be either. But however you feel about her music, there’s something truly inspirational about her unique vision and the team she’s built in order to bring it to life. Costume designers and other textile craftspeople will find particular inspiration in Katy’s endless string of outfits.
Watch it if… your tolerance for glitter, emotion, and ear worm-y pop music is higher than average.