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Filmmaker
For the aspiring filmmaker. Director, actor, writer, producer? Share the knowledge.
20

101 Top Screenplays
Topic by: JGereben
Posted: April 7, 2006 - 10:37 PM PDT
Last Reply: November 10, 2006 - 2:41 PM PST

author topic: 101 Top Screenplays
JGereben
post #1  on April 7, 2006 - 10:37 PM PDT  
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1684

101 Greatest Screenplays + "Find the MacGuffin" and "Top 10 Trivia"

The Godfather, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Chinatown, Schindler's List - the greatest films of all time have one thing in common: each began as the vision of writer. Long before the parts were cast and the cameras rolled, a writer gazed upon a blank page and set in motion a classic story.

For the first time ever, the Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) are celebrating the best screenwriters and their timeless works with the release of the 101 Greatest Screenplays list.

101 Greatest Screenplays compiles the finest achievements in film writing, as voted upon by professional film and television writers. In the summer of 2005, ballots were sent out asking WGA members to list up to ten of their favorite produced screenplays. Any film, past or present, English-language or otherwise, was eligible. The resulting list is like a travelogue of the greatest films of the century, with all decades from the 1930s on represented among the rankings.

Like a composer of a classic symphony or an author of a beloved novel, the most memorable and moving pictures would not exist without their principal architect: the screenwriter. Too often classic films are linked only to their stars or directors, overlooking the original artists who first put pen to paper - or more recently keyboard to laptop - to create the kind of enduring works that have entertained and inspired generations of movie-going audiences around globe.

101 Greatest Screenplays will finally set the record straight [good luck with that! JG] by celebrating the best in film writing and bringing recognition to the wizards behind the curtain: the men and women who wrote the greatest films of all time. And now, on with the list...

1. CASABLANCA
Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. Based on the play
"Everybody Comes to Rick's" by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1906
2. THE GODFATHER
Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola. Based on the novel by Mario
Puzo
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1910
3. CHINATOWN
Written by Robert Towne
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1907
4. CITIZEN KANE
Written by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1908
5. ALL ABOUT EVE
Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Based on "The Wisdom of Eve," a short story
and radio play by Mary Orr
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1870
6. ANNIE HALL
Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1905
7. SUNSET BLVD.
Written by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman, Jr.
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1914
8. NETWORK
Written by Paddy Chayefsky
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1914
9. SOME LIKE IT HOT
Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond. Based on "Fanfare of Love," a
German film written by Robert Thoeren and M. Logan
FACTS ABOUT THE FILM
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1912
10. THE GODFATHER II
Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. Based on Mario Puzo's novel
"The Godfather"
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1909

11. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
Written by William Goldman
12. DR. STRANGELOVE
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern. Based on
novel "Red Alert" by Peter George
13. THE GRADUATE
Screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Based on the novel by Charles
Webb
14. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
Screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. Based on the life and writings of
Col. T.E. Lawrence
15. THE APARTMENT
Written by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond
16. PULP FICTION
Written by Quentin Tarantino. Stories by Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary
17. TOOTSIE
Screenplay by Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal. Story by Don McGuire and Larry
Gelbart
18. ON THE WATERFRONT
Screen Story and Screenplay by Budd Schulberg. Based on "Crime on the
Waterfront" articles by Malcolm Johnson
19. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Screenplay by Horton Foote. Based on the novel by Harper Lee
20. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Screenplay by Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett & Frank Capra. Based on short
story "The Greatest Gift" by Philip Van Doren Stern. Contributions to
screenplay Michael Wilson and Jo Swerling
21. NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Written by Ernest Lehman
22. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
Screenplay by Frank Darabont. Based on the short story "Rita Hayworth and the
Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King
23. GONE WITH THE WIND
Screenplay by Sidney Howard. Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell
24. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman. Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry &
Pierre Bismuth
25. THE WIZARD OF OZ
Screenplay by Noel Langley and Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf
Adaptation by Noel Langley. Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
26. DOUBLE INDEMNITY
Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Based on the novel by James M.
Cain
27. GROUNDHOG DAY
Screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis. Story by Danny Rubin
28. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
29. SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS
Written by Preston Sturges
30. UNFORGIVEN
Written by David Webb Peoples
31. HIS GIRL FRIDAY
Screenplay by Charles Lederer. Based on the play "The Front Page" by Ben Hecht
& Charles MacArthur
32. FARGO
Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
33. THE THIRD MAN
Screenplay by Graham Greene. Story by Graham Greene. Based on the short story
by Graham Greene
34. THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
Screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman. From a novelette by Ernest
Lehman
35. THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Written by Christopher McQuarrie
36. MIDNIGHT COWBOY
Screenplay by Waldo Salt. Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy
37. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY
Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart. Based on the play by Philip Barry
38. AMERICAN BEAUTY
Written by Alan Ball
39. THE STING
Written by David S. Ward
40. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
Written by Nora Ephron
41. GOODFELLAS
Screenplay by Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese. Based on book "Wise Guy" by
Nicholas Pileggi
42. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan. Story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
43. TAXI DRIVER
Written by Paul Schrader
44. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
Screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood. Based on novel "Glory For Me" by MacKinley
Kantor
45. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
Screenplay by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman. Based on the novel by Ken Kesey
46. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE
Screenplay by John Huston. Based on the novel by B. Traven
47. THE MALTESE FALCON
Screenplay by John Huston. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
48. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
Screenplay by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson. Based on the novel by Pierre
Boulle
49. SCHINDLER'S LIST
Screenplay by Steven Zaillian. Based on the novel by Thomas Keneally
50. THE SIXTH SENSE
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
51. BROADCAST NEWS
Written by James L. Brooks
52. THE LADY EVE
Screenplay by Preston Sturges. Story by Monckton Hoffe
53. ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN
Screenplay by William Goldman. Based on the book by Carl Bernstein & Bob
Woodward
54. MANHATTAN
Written by Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman
55. APOCALYPSE NOW
Written by John Milius and Francis Coppola. Narration by Michael Herr
56. BACK TO THE FUTURE
Written by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
57. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
Written by Woody Allen
58. ORDINARY PEOPLE
Screenplay by Alvin Sargent. Based on the novel by Judith Guest
59. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT
Screenplay by Robert Riskin. Based on the story "Night Bus" by Samuel Hopkins
Adams
60. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL
Screenplay by Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson. Based on the novel by James
Ellroy
61. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
Screenplay by Ted Tally. Based on the novel by Thomas Harris
62. MOONSTRUCK
Written by John Patrick Shanley
63. JAWS
Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb. Based on the novel by Peter
Benchley
64. TERMS OF ENDEARMENT
Screenplay by James L. Brooks. Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry
65. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
Screen Story and Screenplay by Betty Comden & Adolph Green. Based on the song
by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown
66. JERRY MAGUIRE
Written by Cameron Crowe
67. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL
Written by Melissa Mathison
68. STAR WARS
Written by George Lucasn
69. DOG DAY AFTERNOON
Screenplay by Frank Pierson. Based on a magazine article by P.F. Kluge and
Thomas Moore
70. THE AFRICAN QUEEN
Screenplay by James Agee and John Huston. Based on the novel by C.S. Forester
71. THE LION IN WINTER
Screenplay by James Goldman. Based on the play by James Goldman
72. THELMA & LOUISE
Written by Callie Khouri
73. AMADEUS
Screenplay by Peter Shaffer. Based on his play
74. BEING JOHN MALKOVICH
Written by Charlie Kaufman
75. HIGH NOON
Screenplay by Carl Foreman. Based on short story "The Tin Star" by John W.
Cunningham
76. RAGING BULL
Screenplay by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin. Based on the book by Jake La
Motta with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage
77. ADAPTATION
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman. Based on the book "The Orchid
Thief" by Susan Orlean
78. ROCKY
Written by Sylvester Stallone
79. THE PRODUCERS
Written by Mel Brooks
80. WITNESS
Screenplay by Earl W. Wallace & William Kelley. Story by William Kelley and
Pamela Wallace & Earl W. Wallace
81. BEING THERE
Screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski. Inspired by the novel by Jerzy Kosinski
82. COOL HAND LUKE
Screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson. Based on the novel by Donn Pearce
83. REAR WINDOW
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes. Based on the short story by Cornell Woolrich
84. THE PRINCESS BRIDE
Screenplay by William Goldman. Based on his novel
85. LA GRANDE ILLUSION
Written by Jean Renoir and Charles Spaak
86. HAROLD & MAUDE
Written by Colin Higgins
87. 8 1/2
Screenplay by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, Brunello Rond.
Story by Fellini, Flaiano
88. FIELD OF DREAMS
Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson. Based on the book by W.P. Kinsella
89. FORREST GUMP
Screenplay by Eric Roth. Based on the novel by Winston Groom
90. SIDEWAYS
Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor. Based on the novel by Rex Pickett
91. THE VERDICT
Screenplay by David Mamet. Based on the novel by Barry Reed
92. PSYCHO
Screenplay by Joseph Stefano. Based on the novel by Robert Bloch
93. DO THE RIGHT THING
Written by Spike Lee
94. PATTON
Screen Story and Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North. Based
on "A Soldier's Story" by Omar H. Bradley and "Patton: Ordeal and Triumph" by
Ladislas Farago
95. HANNAH AND HER SISTERS
Written by Woody Allen
96. THE HUSTLER
Screenplay by Sidney Carroll & Robert Rossen. Based on the novel by Walter
Tevis
97. THE SEARCHERS
Screenplay by Frank S. Nugent. Based on the novel by Alan Le May
98. THE GRAPES OF WRATH
Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson. Based on the novel by John Steinbeck
99. THE WILD BUNCH
Screenplay by Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah. Story by Walon Green and Roy
Sickner
100. MEMENTO
Screenplay by Christopher Nolan. Based on the short story "Memento Mori" by
Jonathan Nolan
101. NOTORIOUS
Written by Ben Hecht

FIND THE MACGUFFIN!
Test your knowledge
of the 101 Greatest Screenplays.
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1865

TOP 10 TRIVIA
Read fun facts about the Top 10 Screenplays of all-time.
http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=1807

~~~~~
Janos Gereben/SF
www.sfcv.org
janosG@Gmail.com
hamano
post #2  on April 8, 2006 - 4:39 AM PDT  
Wow, Woody Allen is in there 4 times! I can't really believe the line, "Any film, past or present, English-language or otherwise, was eligible. The resulting list is like a travelogue of the greatest films of the century" though... There's only one foreign language film there that I can see, and it's La Grande Illusion, way down at #85... No way! Why didn't they just leave that film out and call the list the 99 top English Screenplays? That would have been more honest. Why on earth wouldn't there be a Hayao Miyazaki film in there, let alone one by Kurosawa or Ozu? And nothing from Italy, Sweden or Germany?

And where the heck is The Gods Must be Crazy???
^_^
hamano
post #3  on April 8, 2006 - 4:52 AM PDT  
> On April 8, 2006 - 4:39 AM PDT hamano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> And nothing from Italy, Sweden or Germany?

Oops! There's OTTO E MEZZO all the way down at #87. So that takes care of Italy? Weird considering that Fellini is probably the least screenplay-dependent great Italian director. If they really wanted to gain cred by throwning in a Fellini film they shoulda picked La Strada or something. But really they should have picked The Bicycle Thief or a script from a Bertolucci or an Antonioni film...

Surely they could have included The Seventh Seal or something else by Bergman... I'm sure Woody Allen wouldn't have minded giving up one of his spots for Bergman!

A bad list like this might have the unintentional effect of pointing out how little effect a screenplay might have in defining a film as "great"...
Eoliano
post #4  on April 8, 2006 - 9:52 AM PDT  
> No way! Why didn't they just leave that film out and call the list the 99 top English Screenplays?

Agree entirely, hamano. Pfft!
woozy
post #5  on April 8, 2006 - 12:36 PM PDT  
> On April 8, 2006 - 9:52 AM PDT Eoliano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> > No way! Why didn't they just leave that film out and call the list the 99 top English Screenplays?
>
> Agree entirely, hamano. Pfft!
> ---------------------------------

Yeah, me too. The top ten are pretty straightforward and standard (although I don't think Annie Hall or Godfather II deserve top ten) but after that it seems utterly arbitrary. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"? Not a bad film and I guess not a bad screenplay but in the top 25? And what the heck is "Adaptation" doing in there at all?

hamano
post #6  on April 8, 2006 - 12:59 PM PDT  
> On April 8, 2006 - 9:52 AM PDT Eoliano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Agree entirely, hamano.

Hee hee, a fellow Gods Must Be Crazy fan! It's rainy here in MD but I've got my baby kettle grill out on the front stoop/porch and I'm roasting an eggplant for Baba ganouj... whatcha cookin up in CA?
Eoliano
post #7  on April 8, 2006 - 5:18 PM PDT  
> It's rainy here in MD but I've got my baby kettle grill out on the front stoop/porch and I'm roasting an eggplant for Baba ganouj... whatcha cookin up in CA?

Oh no! The baby is on the kettle grill! Here in the desert the sun is shining and as the season progresses the temperature rises but it's still quite pleasant. Tonight it's a simple meal as am by myself again & just washed some rice so it's either gonna be oyakodon or unagi donburi, but should really be the latter 'cause I'm supposed to be watching the calories...
Eoliano
post #8  on April 8, 2006 - 5:23 PM PDT  
Oh, and I forgot to say that I'm getting weary of lists.

"Guild members are either xenophobes or completely ignorant of foreign language films and might just as well have omitted Grand Illusion and 8 1/2 and called their list The 100 Greatest English Language Screenplays."
underdog
post #9  on April 9, 2006 - 2:19 PM PDT  
I actually liked Eternal Sunshine being on the list (but agree it's ranked too high - though these rankings always seem so arbitrary), and also agree that Adaptation doesn't belong on it, either. Was glad Groundhog Day made it, and Sideways (though I prefer the script for Election). And of course it's hard to argue with Network.

So, many worthy films, but yes, many notable omissions. And definitely a decidedly overly American bent here. No Bergman scripts? No Kurosawa films? Or Asia in general? German cinema?

How did Star Wars make this list? Not that the first one doesn't feature the best script of all those movies (though some could argue for the second) but seems a little out of place, still.

So it looks really good as a Best American Screenplay list but as a world list it's pretty dubious.

Aren't lists created to start arguments and get people thinking about what they'd put on it? Seems that if nothing else, this gives them a valuable - as long as people don't take them completely seriously.
underdog
post #10  on April 9, 2006 - 2:24 PM PDT  
Gives them a value, rather.

Btw, I'd have put PT Anderson on the list (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) or Wes A's Rushmore.

Oh, we could go on and on...
hamano
post #11  on April 9, 2006 - 4:07 PM PDT  
> On April 9, 2006 - 2:19 PM PDT underdog wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Aren't lists created to start arguments and get people thinking about what they'd put on it?

Of course, but a list of the "98 Best English Language Screenplays" would still have generated a good discussion, minus the arbitrary pair of foreign films.

To explicitly say this list was open to "any film, past or present, English-language or otherwise" just sounds ridiculous and casts doubt on the integrity of the folks who put the list together. We don't want the discussion to be about THAT, do we? Or maybe this is just their way to guarantee a little "controversial" buzz about the whole endeavor... that just seems like a craven attempt to attract attention.

What did you think of this list, Janos? You posted it... do you agree with it?
woozy
post #12  on April 9, 2006 - 5:02 PM PDT  
> How did Star Wars make this list? Not that the first one doesn't feature the best script of all those movies (though some could argue for the second) but seems a little out of place, still.
>
Making a list based on screenplay would imploy that it is the script and storyboard that is good about the movie and I'd rule out all the Star Wars movies that of all the virtue and enjoyment they arguable contain, a well constructed screen-play is not high up there.

I liked Eternal Sunlight and even more so Being John Malkovitch (Human Nature isn't up there nor should it be although its a personal favorite of mine) but when it is the top 100 of *ALL* films *ANY* language *ANY* time it just seems that among the scores and scores and richness of the brilliant dialogs of the movies silver age (anything by Faulkner, Bringing Up Baby, any Preston Sturges movie, etc. and Foreign Classics of the Ages, Any Bergman, any Kurasawai, Jules et Jim [I think its one of the most brilliant screenplays ever]) Make the inclusion of anything less then brilliant and sparkling suspect. Considering how many tens of thousands of movies have been made, 100 represents at most .005 percent of all titles so can anyone say with a straight face that Star Wars is in the top .005 percent of all screenplays.

Although I guess screenplay includes story as well of dialog so... But this seems less well thought out than the average list.
ALittlefield
post #13  on April 10, 2006 - 7:08 PM PDT  
I think that they should have done two lists, one for original screenplays, and one for adapted ones, like the Oscars do with the nominations. It makes sense to me, since there's quite a different set of writing skills being used.
Otherwise, I really like the list, although I agree that the near omission of foriegn films (and animated films) is lame. But I like the fact that they don't just include classics; they also have some ringers like ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and LA CONFIDENTIAL, both of which I think belong. And on a personal note, I love seeing CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS on the list.
speakreflection
post #14  on November 7, 2006 - 1:51 PM PST  
That top 10 should be mandatory reading for any person looking to write a script.
underdog
post #15  on November 9, 2006 - 1:44 PM PST  
> On November 7, 2006 - 1:51 PM PST speakreflection wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> That top 10 should be mandatory reading for any person looking to write a script.
> ---------------------------------


I agree. Anytime I'm starting a new script, or having problems with a current one, I usually pull out my now yellowing, folded copy of Chinatown to inspire me again. (Or make me feel inadequate.)
speakreflection
post #16  on November 10, 2006 - 6:22 AM PST  
> On November 9, 2006 - 1:44 PM PST underdog wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> > On November 7, 2006 - 1:51 PM PST speakreflection wrote:
> > ---------------------------------
> > That top 10 should be mandatory reading for any person looking to write a script.
> > ---------------------------------
>
>
> I agree. Anytime I'm starting a new script, or having problems with a current one, I usually pull out my now yellowing, folded copy of Chinatown to inspire me again. (Or make me feel inadequate.)
> ---------------------------------


Anytime I read a script it usually kinda brings me way down.. Like how am I supposed to compete with that.. But then after a second go.. It just starts to sink in about the history of it all. Of course that is probably why i'm still struggling with my first one. lol
underdog
post #17  on November 10, 2006 - 2:41 PM PST  
> On November 10, 2006 - 6:22 AM PST speakreflection wrote:

>
> Anytime I read a script it usually kinda brings me way down.. Like how am I supposed to compete with that.. But then after a second go.. It just starts to sink in about the history of it all. Of course that is probably why i'm still struggling with my first one. lol
> ---------------------------------

I hear ya. You know what helps as an exercise? Taking a scene or part of a favorite screenplay, copying it (helps if you can download it from somewhere) and then retyping it as your own, just to get the flow of writing as they did. Change the characters, names, locations, dialogue, which sounds like it changes everything, but you can sort of channel the great ones that way. This has to become your own work for you to use it of course, but as a writing exercise it can help.

Pick a film from a genre that you're working in, or trying to emulate.

Or, after you're done reading a great script, just forget about it and do something you're comfortable with. Honestly, our first scripts are usually are worst. So after you write your first they get better and easier.

Well, not really easier, they're always painful. But this is my 5th script and it's the only one I'm not ashamed of.

Keep writing!

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